For my two cents worth on bike shops and topless models.
This was originally published on The Roar.
Iconic Melbourne cycle store, Total Rush celebrated its grand reopening after extensive renovations last Thursday night. For the store owners, employees and loyal customers, Friday should have been spent still buzzing from the high of the reopening celebrations.
By Friday afternoon, social media in Melbourne was alive with what has become known, amongst other things, as #totalrushgate. By Friday afternoon the topic was well and truly trending on Twitter.
Total Rush got their marketing strategy completely wrong, by hiring topless models for the grand reopening of their store.
In fact, it’s hard to see how anyone could have approved such a ridiculous concept of hiring topless models wearing nothing other than pink g-strings and pink body paint.
What a faux pas.
It’s hard to conceive that this business has not gone through a process of planning out their business and marketing strategy. The decision to undertake the renovations should have been apart of a well thought out and long term business plan. This is a plan that at some point someone should have pointed out that topless models and positioning yourself as one of the cities leading bike retailers do not go hand in hand.
I find it utterly unfathomable that ‘let’s renovate and reopen with the concept of becoming Melbourne’s first cycling shop combined with strip joint’, was intentional.
To make it worse, part of the evening was acting as a fundraiser for the children’s (yes, children’s) charity, Freedom Wheels.
Oh, dear, dear me.
Total Rush has been thoughtless. It would seem they have not got someone in the organsation who is dispassionate enough to have suggested that perhaps this plan could back fire.
They have made an epic error.
However, cries of ‘misogyny’ are quite over the top. Misogyny seems to be the new catchword in Australia. It’s over use is really quite nauseating.
There is no doubt that some of the energy behind Friday’s social media outrage was certain personalities seeking to stir the all men are misogynists pot. Just because a man does something you do not agree with doesn’t make him a woman hater. This is a pointless attitude and does little to improve the arguments for greater equality for women in our society.
The owners of Total Rush have made a terrible mistake, but let’s stop bandying about the ‘M’ word. Misogyny is not hiring topless models. That decision was stupid but not misogynist.
Total Rush has been thoughtless and inconsiderate, but once again, that is not misogynistic.
To think that hiring topless models for the reopening of a cycling store is acceptable merely suggests the immaturity of those who made the decision. This appears to be more the fantasy of horny teenage boys than a sensible, well thought out business decision.
To make matters worse, the company has also made the mistake of deleting Facebook posts and tweets. This is just throwing more fire on an already intense inferno. Many of the comments on Twitter were actually referring to this action as much as to the offending models.
Total Rush saw this marketing strategy used elsewhere but they obviously did not consider the extent to which they opened themselves up to alienating a large portion of their customer base.
What they should have done is ask themselves important questions about just who their clients are and is their business the best place to replicate these strategies.
Women are the biggest growing sector for the cycling industry, and let’s be honest, cycling is an industry.
Total Rush do have a weekly organised ride for women and they do support a women’s cycling team in the National Road Series, but it would appear that even though they do this, they still don’t quite understand this segment of the market.
Hiring topless models is bound to be risky and as such, shouldn’t have been done.
At the core of the divide between men and women, is a lack of understanding.
Many men are still unaware of how women’s lives are still very different to men’s.
We can’t walk anywhere at anytime of the day. You can.
We can’t wear what we want. You can.
Didn’t you know, if we are assaulted it’s because we ‘asked for it’.
Of course you didn’t.
Tell me, how many jobs have you missed out on because you’re at an age where you may have a baby? None; that’s right.
These attitudes do not appear out of nowhere. They are built into society over a period of time. The sexual objectification of women is the prism through which discrimination against all women, in all areas of our lives, begins.
This is why so many women reacted so strongly against the topless models.
Total Rush has made a monumental mistake and it is a mistake I am sure they are genuinely sorry for.
They need to ensure that are not paying lip service to women in cycling by holding women’s shop rides and by supporting a team in the NRS.
They need to show a genuine understanding to what is perhaps their biggest market.
Total Rush can recover from this but let’s hope they’ve learnt some valuable lessons about the things that seem like a good idea at the time.
(Editor’s note: Rush Cycling Group’s Simon Coffin released a statement, which includes this short passage:
“Complementing the brand promotion on the evening were two female body-artists whose partly clad bodies were painted to resemble the Total Rush riding kit.
“While the body artists were topless, which is part of their artistic presentation, their support for the event was extremely tastefully executed and not sexually offensive. At no stage did any of the guests object to their presence and none departed early or complained. In fact the opposite was the case with comment made about the creative approach taken and many female guests requested that their photos be taken with the artists.
“Had Total Rush believed the use of body artists would offend, we would have sought an alternative promotion on the night.
“The concept for using body artists came from other organisations that have engaged the same talent who are booked through a professional agency. Such organisations include a major luxury car company and a breast cancer organisation, as well as many others. Total Rush adopted the concept because of its successful use by other organisations and believing it to be an appropriate way to communicate our brand; the concept was strongly endorsed by our guests.“