With the increasing feminist agenda that has been witnessed in recent times, the sporting world has been forced to make adjustments to practices that are seen to objectify women. For instance, broadcasters of the World Cup last year were discouraged from zooming in on “attractive ladies” during the matches.
And despite all this pressure to respect and empower women, the Tour de France seems not to have received the memo. This is because the event organizers have decided to retain the controversial “podium girls” who appear alongside the winners of every stage of the competition.
Podium girls, officially known as “Tour hostesses” are basically beautiful women dressed in high heels and evening gowns who are popularly known for presenting awards and kisses to the male race winners while still in their tight-fitting bike shorts. This is a common practice in major cycling competitions like the Tour de France, as well as the Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia.
For many women, the routine comes across as out of touch and offensive in this century, given that it focuses more on the sexuality of the young ladies. At a time when women’s roles at work and their subsequent treatment on the job is being closely scrutinized and challenged, the Tour de France is increasingly getting isolated.
Apparently, the world’s most famous cycling event is turning a blind eye to all the critics with the move to uphold this tradition. This is even after being rocked with a scandal in 2013 when a former champion was captured on camera playfully pinching the backside of a podium girl.
But the Tour de France isn’t the only sporting event pushing back against criticisms of their allegedly sexist traditions. The PDC Darts Championship was also in the spotlight for its “walk-on-girls” who accompany male players to the stage.
And while the PDC announced that it would stop featuring the girls after pressure, the majority of darts fans did not seem to agree with this move. Within hours of the announcement, an online petition to reverse the decision had already garnered as many as 48,000 signatures in support.
For most of the online petitioners and those who were for the petition, all seemed to suggest that the girls are part of an institution and have been an integral part of the whole sport. Others argued that it is their work as models and that there was no need to get them unemployed.
Just four days after the PDC stated that it was doing away with its walk-on- girls, Formula 1 also announced they would stop using “grid girls”. These are the ladies who hold up a board showing the name and number of drivers during the different grand prix events. This decision, nevertheless, was not wholeheartedly received by many fans and even drivers in the sport.
This seems to be the same view that the Tour de France is holding. However, some progress to eliminate women objectification has been witnessed in some parts of the cycling world. The Vuelta a Espana, for example, now has both women and women presenting prizes on the podium at the same time.
The Tour of California also followed suit later on and adopted this new system of prize presentation. Meanwhile, Australia’s Tour Down Under decided to substitute its female podium presenters with young cyclists after one of its ceremony sponsors pulled out their funding for the event. Additionally, the International Cycling Union decided that it would use the Vuelta’s method in its upcoming world championships.
The Tour de France is not alone in the sports world when it comes to clinging to traditional philosophies that seem to rub gender activists the wrong way. Such instances are seen across the board, with scantily dressed cheerleaders entertaining spectators during breaks at NFL and NBA games.
The story is the same in Boxing and MMA where beautiful young ladies walk round the boxing ring displaying numbered boards before each round begins. And let’s not forget the WWE. They are even considering getting them for in Paintball Tournaments for god sake!
In an era defined by increased gender and social activism, with groups like the #MeToo movement springing up every day, you can expect the monitoring and scrutiny continue. It remains to be seen whether the Tour de France will finally yield to the pressure and remove their beautiful euro girls from the podium, or remain steadfast in upholding its traditional philosophy of podium girls.