First off, I would just like to issue a trigger warning for sexual harassment, if this is something you feel is an unsafe topic for you, please skip this piece. However, there are support links you can skip to at the bottom if you feel you could benefit from such services.
Around this time last year, while mindlessly searching the internet like the millennial-Gen Z cusp that I am, I happened to stumble across a Reddit feed that, at first glance, seemed to be a cycling fan page dedicated to posting photos of female cyclists: exposure and support of women’s cycling being something I can happily endorse, I thought it was a positive occurrence. I’m glad to see such pages.
While skimming through on auto-pilot, I noticed that I was actually featured on this feed: as a rider who’s been based only in the UK with minimal exposure to the wider world of cycling at the time, I found this particularly odd. I don’t have a huge social media following like some of the riders I saw either, so I felt I was a niche option for cycling fans. But again, I do sometimes get fans coming up to me while racing in the UK and mainland Europe so it’s not totally unheard of, and exposure on a personal level is also good for me. I continued on.
What I found during my deep-dive
While searching through, I saw photos that, at the time, were from a recent photo shoot in London that I had modelled in, and one of the users of this Reddit feed had placed them on the page. Initially, I thought, legally, they’d just stolen some photos that don’t belong to them, nor to me. Intrigued and somewhat annoyed that legal rules had not been followed, I scrolled deeper, hyper-focusing on what was now on my screen. What I found was simply sickening.
After a full-on deep dive, I found that this cycling Reddit feed, which moderators have since taken down, rated and commented on the looks of female cyclists. People (who remain anonymous on the platform thanks to made-up usernames) had taken photos from social media platforms as well as from race photographers and proceeded to post them on this Reddit feed purely to discuss our looks and what they’d “do to”’ us. It goes without saying that this is not the sort of exposure or ‘support’ I can get behind – but sadly, the content I found on this feed gets worse.
One member had even posted a now-deleted video of themselves doing something unspeakable with their appendage over a photo of a female rider that they had on their phone screen….
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