Tour de France, or the men’s tour…where are the women? 

Why are there no women in the tour?

A few years ago our local bike club screened a documentary about the Tour at a local cinema. I’m not sure exactly which one it was. I think this one, Chasing Legends.


The movie isn’t that memorable aside from the days of the big climbs. One rider hushed reporters, “Be quiet. Don’t you know there are people suffering out here.”

I was shocked at how hard, on close inspection, the hills are for the larger riders, the sprinters. I loved the reporters, themselves former tour riders, saying there were days they missed racing but the big climb days? Not at all. They were glad to be in the car, though frankly even that looked harrowing.

Okay, aside from hills, suffering, and sprinters what was most striking was the reaction of my son to the film. He’s a sporty kid and he’d grown up surrounded by cyclists, lots of the racing ones women. What he said, loudly, about fifteen minutes in, was “Where are the women? Aren’t there any women in this race? ”

(An aside: This also make me realize how fast we generalize. My kids also thought that philosophers are almost all women. After all, that’s the group they’d met.)

I explained that no, it was a men’s race. Smart kid, his next question, “Then why isn’t it called that, The Men’s Tour?”

He’s right. There have been attempts, of course, to launch a women’s race in France, like the Tour. (I’ll write about that Wednesday.)

And of course it’s been named as a women’s race, Le Tour de France Feminin.

Now arguably the Tour de France isn’t a men’s race at all. Women aren’t forbidden from taking part. It’s just a race of the best cyclists in the world. Power to weight ratio, muscles, etc.

This discussion broke out on Facebook the other day, why aren’t women racing the Tour?

Sandra Polifroni had fun with it. I’m sharing her responses here with permission.

  • Their uteruses would fall out.
  • There are no fainting couches in case they had a case of the vapours.
  • Their presence would distract the male racers, causing accidents.
  • There are no bicycles adapted to the fragile female body.
  • If they suddenly got their periods, the roads would get covered with blood.
  • What if one of them were pregnant and gave birth during the race?
  •  They could use their feminine wiles to give them an advantage over the men.
  • Their vaginas would get bruised from the bicycle seats.

What’s your answer to the question, why don’t women race in the Tour? Serious and not so serous answers welcome.

Oh, and then there is bicycle face!

About Sam B

Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist!

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