Last year I asked the GB performance analyst to change all of the data feedback sheets from reading ‘man one’, when describing a rider’s position in the team pursuit line, to ‘rider one’. I didn’t ask my team-mates, or take a vote, or canvass opinion in any way.
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I just decided it was annoying, and no one would notice either way, so what’s the harm in having it this way? It was the endurance analyst that I spoke to (Robi De, who has since moved on to work at the BBC) and so it’s likely the sprint team still have ‘man one’, ‘man two’, etc on their graphs and other training feedback.
I know the endurance men don’t. It was grammatically accurate for their squad, true, but life is easier if we use the same language.
That easiness is why ‘man one’ has stuck around for so long. Everyone knows that ‘man three’ in a women’s pursuit team isn’t a man, she’s in the third position of the starting line-up. But the reason you’re saying ‘man three’ is the vernacular was born when team pursuit was a man’s game. The event debuted at the Olympics, for men, in 1908. It turned up for women more than 100 years later, in 2012 as a shortened three-rider three-kilometre version. Finally in 2016, 108 years after the men, women were racing a four-rider four-kilometre team pursuit.
So we changed the graphs to read ‘rider one’ and, as expected, no one noticed. Ultimately, you can pretend that ‘salesman’, ‘chairman’ and ‘businessman’ have become gender neutral through common use, but they reflect a world that hasn’t included 50 per cent of the population, a world that’s treated women as less-than, for millennia. That world is changing, and the very smallest gesture you can make to help it continue to change, is stop calling me ‘man one’.
I tell you all this now because I just read a message in my family group chat about a time trial both my parents are riding at the weekend. It says my mum is my dad’s ‘minute man’. Bah. Here we go again.