Tuesday, 15 June 2010
majoring on the machismo
I love Big Ring Riding - "It's not just a chainring, it's a state of mind". Luminaries such as Merckx, Lapebie, Ullrich, Yates, Cipollini and VDB - they're all there in their macho glory. Big legs, big achievements and big egos. Not to mention big gears. And the machismo comes across unashamedly, even for the women featured! Outside of Bing Ring Riding and in a cosmopolitan peloton, Jens Voight is celebrated as the toughest of strongmen in the peloton, and compared in some circles to Chuck Norris.
I've posted before about this as well as such 'male' concepts as glory through suffering - it's not that women can't and don't take part and embrace them, just that the language, vocabulary and whole ethos seem particularly male to me. I am happy to be corrected on this, by the way, by anyone who wants to de-mythologise such constructs, being only able to view it clearly from my own, male perspective.
For me however, this macho, and mostly male led image that much of cycling likes to portray for itself, contrasts starkly with the reality of the visual images attached.
I'm talking men in lycra, men with shaved legs, above all men being acutely aware of tiny variations in style and body form. Is this really the macho element to the sport we all recognise or something that is glossed over?
"You shave your legs to go faster right?" Err, no. I mumble something about ease of massage and hygiene but I have no soigneur. No personal masseuse and I crash once in a blue moon as I race once in a blue moon.
So why the shaving? Such practical considerations? Emulation of my heroes (not heroines as they are mostly doing it anyway)? Or do I do it if I am honest, because it just feels nice, sensual, sexy even. Oh come on?! All you male leg shavers out there - are you telling me you have never looked admiringly down at your freshly shaven legs and liked what you saw? Liked what you felt. Or gone the whole hog and waxed like a nameless, but intrinsically more honest friend? Maybe that was a practical response to a practical problem but hey, only a tiny minority of men and mad bodybuilders wax, right? It just doesn't fit in with our preconceptions of manliness.
I possibly hear a groundswell of noise from many riders who deliberately cultivate the hirsuite look - but tell me that you have never considered shaving at some point, only to be dissuaded by societal pressure, your other half who married a 'real' man, not to mention the faff of getting it done? No??
Macho man indeed with your lycra, your svelte legs and your obsession with shape and weight.
Are cyclists fundamentally metrosexual then, breaking down barriers between what is male/female/other?
Metrosexual, a portmanteau of metropolitan and heterosexual, is a neologism of the 2000s, one definition of which is a man (especially one living in a post-industrial, capitalist culture) who has a strong concern for his appearance or a lifestyle that displays attributes stereotypically associated with homosexual men, although he is not homosexual.
Somehow, I don't see cyclists leading the way for a re-classification of sexuality and gender through the use of 2 wheels - they are far too obsessed with their own little corner of the world and watts, tire pressure and gearing will always trump more arcane theories of social order and sexuality.
For me though, I am secure enough in my own construct of masculinity to carry on camping it up with shaved limbs and body hugging lycra, tastefully done of course. Why even today a gay colleague asked curiously whether I shaved or used Veet. The answer came easily without any trace of embarrassment or hesitation on my part. My transformation to cyclosexual is complete.......
It appears that Cycling Weekly have pinched my idea and run a feature this week about leg shaving..... You heard it all first though. Plagiarists.