The Patronizing Tradition Of Britain's Podium Girl

Illustration for article titled The Patronizing Tradition Of Britains Podium Girl

The Tour of Britain is seeking a "presentation hostess," aka a "podium girl." Part of the job description includes kissing the winning cyclists. Sexist? Not really, says tour officials.

Tour commercial manager Alastair Grant defends the tradition, arguing mainly that, while obnoxious, the podium girls are already an established part of British cycling - so why change it now? He tells the Guardian:

It's very much part of the history and culture of cycling - for better or worse - that there are presentation hostesses involved in the podium presentations at the end of the stage. Their role is not to stand there and look pretty by any means; they are there to coordinate the activity that goes on. They will be bringing our VIP dignitaries on the stage, handing the trophies to them to hand to the cyclists, they help the riders to put the presentation jerseys on.


Sounds important. For £50 per day, the "aspiring model or drama student" will hand out awards and smooch the winners. Tour officials note that "it's not all glamour and kissing the winning cyclists;" the "lucky" woman also gets to become the "face" of the Tour. And they are needed to help the riders dress themselves, because god knows most men can't accomplish that without our help, amirightladies?

However, Helen Pidd points out that there is one more glaring problem—and it's not just the obvious sexism of having a woman presented as a prize for athleticism. No, the "crushingly depressing" fact is this: the hostesses are often top cyclists themselves. The Tour of Britain is the nation's most important cycling event. It is also all-male. The only way women can participate is through capitalizing on their looks and handing out awards. Most of the podium girls are not aspiring models or actresses—they're athletes, looking for a way to participate in the biggest event of their chosen sport.

Wanted: Top Women Cyclists (To Look Pretty) [Guardian]

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I noticed the point about the event being all male. Would most women be able to compete with men in cycling? I know little about the sport. Would the answer be to integrate cycling? Or to have a separate women's race at the same event?