Women, Cycling, and Butt Grabbing

A good friend of mine, posted this article on her newsfeed:

Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan rapped for bottom-pinch on podium after Tour of Flanders

HIGHLY rated Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan has been accused of sexism and harassment after he was pictured pinching the bottom of a podium girl after the Tour of Flanders.

Sagan, 23, smirked towards the camera as he grabbed the bottom of a blonde hostess, one of two girls giving congratulatory kisses to race winner Fabian Cancellara.

Poor Sagan.  So charming and cheeky.  Just having a bit of fun, right.  He even non-apologized:

Having had my ass grabbed in a club and at school, let me take a minute to assure any men who might read this who might be inclined to shrug off butt-grabbing as a harmless little prank that it’s anything but.  It is really scary.  Really, really scary.  It leaves you feeling shocked, violated, and afraid.  It is assault, plain and simple.

That said, in the context of this, I am having a hard time understanding the furor that this has caused.  Why is anyone surprised by this? Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the context of this situation.

What I find far more disturbing than the fact that Sagan assaulted that woman is that “podium girls” exist in the first place.  Do race organizers really pay women to stand on the podium and kiss the winner of the race?  That is objectification at its mightiest.  These nameless women exist purely as spoils of war here.  No wonder Sagan felt like he could grab a little ass.  They’re not people, just podium girls.

Does this excuse Sagan’s behavior?  Absolutely not.  But let’s be sure to focus some attention some attention on the bigger issue here: The institutionalized degradation of women in sport.  It’s not just cycling, and it’s not just Sagan.

Rape culture is rampant in sports, and until we as a society stand up and start treating women as human beings and stop promoting this kind of degradation, the Sagans and Steubenville rapists of the world will continue blundering along assaulting women and apologizing for getting caught.

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