Calling People In Within Your Small Bike Community

I’m going to be real right now – I’m a bike feminist who spends a lot of time riding bikes with dudes. I do a lot of organizing in the FTW (femme/trans*/women) bike community, and I’m constantly trying to find more non-cis male riding partners (and I’m having a lot of success recently!). But I spend a lot of time riding, wrenching and talking shop with bike bros in a variety of circumstances – at polo, on the mountain, on the streets, in the shop, etc. I love them, have learned a lot from them, and generally feel respected and supported in those spaces.

And sometimes I don’t. And when that happens it feels like shit.

It all starts with this image (I’m not going to post it because I don’t really want it on my blog).

First, let me say that female nudity is not inherently objectifying. In fact, this is my fav bike feminist image of all time:

My personal favorite.

She’s got lazerz shooting out of her boobs! She looks fierce! She’s standing over a crazy, rad bike! It literally has FEMINISM written across the bottom! It says so much about what I love about biking, and why I feel empowered by biking.

But the image in question, the one that makes me mad, shows a woman in just about the most ridiculous situation ever – she’s bent over a downhill bike in a thong. Who would ever ride a downhill bike with no pants on? Have you ever eaten shit riding down a mountain? I have. It hurts. And if I hadn’t been wearing pants, pads and other protections it would have hurt even more. As I said earlier, it’s not nudity that bothers me, it’s when the nudity feels like it’s for male sexual pleasure, and doesn’t empower the object of the photo that bothers me. In full disclosure, I don’t know the history of this photo – who knows, she might (and I hope she is!) a bombass downhill mountain bike racer, who directed that photo and wanted it to look like that. That is totally her call. Because this rant isn’t (really) about this photo, it’s about the context of the photo. Continue reading “Calling People In Within Your Small Bike Community”

Hollaback Tweet Panel on Street Harassment

IMG_5934

Tuesday I participated in my first ever twitter panel hosted by Hollaback Boston on street harassment of cyclists. It was a cool format where questions were tweeted every 6 minutes and panelists responded to the questions as they came. Questions ranged from what’s your favorite thing about biking in boston, to how do you experience street harassment differently on bikes, the T, or walking.

I was tweeting both from my personal @womanonawheel handle and also from the @bikesnotbombs handle – and let me say – tweeting from two different handles, with questions every 6 minutes, and trying to respond and interact with other panelists was a struggle. I’m not sure how much of that was tweeting from two handles at once, or if it would have been easier with questions spaced out a little more. I just wish I could have interacted more with the other panelists and responded more directly to some of their tweets. Lessons for next time!

You can check out the ‘storified’ summary of the panel here. It’s a great summary of the panel, and captures the general feel of the conversation. One of my favorite parts of the summary is this reflection about criminalization of street harassment:

We always want to remind people that criminalization doesn’t have to be the answer. Legal recourses can be helpful and empowering for some, but criminalization often negatively impacts already marginalized communities. Which is why we’re happy to be a resource for reporting street harassment, including bike harassment, that doesn’t involve getting authorities involved! Community-based solutions via story sharing and accountability are great.

I think it’s so important in conversations about street harassment to emphasize that police and criminalization is not the solution. Education and trying to change culture will create more lasting change than supporting a racist/classist/sexist/homophobia/transphobic prison system.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 9.40.41 AM

There is going to be another global panel on street harassment next week, Tuesday May 20th, at 3pm. Follow Hollaback! Boston for more information!

Boston Bikes Update

BNB Youth Employees receiving the 'Organization of the Year' Award
BNB Youth Employees receiving the ‘Organization of the Year’ Award

Last night at the Boston Bike Update Bikes Not Bombs received the ‘Organization of the Year’ Award. I’m proud to work at an organization that gets recognized as ‘working on issues of inclusion before equity was the buzzword of the bike movement.’ Bikes Not Bombs has been working on issues of equity and biking in Boston for 30 years, and is still going strong.

We got the only standing ovation of the night when we went on stage to accept the award.

It would have been even cooler if Boston Bikes, after spending much of the presentation focusing on how important equity is, had been able to really answer two well phrased questions about how Boston Bikes is concretely working to further issues of equity and biking in Boston. Instead they really side stepped the questions. That was disappointing.

But otherwise it was an interesting night – and my first experience seeing the bike advocacy scene in Boston.

24 Hours and Counting

SONY DSC

The scenery may change, the country, continent, and time zone may differ, but when you ask bike activists, organizers, and advocates what first got them into biking, a familiar smile will spread across their faces. And then they will almost always say something along the lines of, ‘Biking has changed my life. I’ve met the best people in my life because of biking, and I can’t imagine my life without it.’

24 hours til the forum officially starts!

Bikes Not Bombs represent!
Bikes Not Bombs represent!
Volunteer organizing meeting.
Volunteer organizing meeting.

SONY DSC

From the overall organizing meeting on Monday night.
From the overall organizing meeting on Monday night.

Continue reading “24 Hours and Counting”

This Week in Bike Polo and Sexism

It’s been a bad week to be a person who cares about bike polo and sexism. Which should mean that it’s been a bad week for most polo players. First, Mr. Do’s video was published for the NAH as an outreach tool for sponsorship and failed to meaningfully feature a single female player for more than one second. And then, GQ published a feature on the Beavers, which contained one line that had me fuming for hours. In the article, the three are watching the London Ladies Adidas ad (video further down) and Dillman says,

“They found like the six attractive girls in the sport and put them in one room.”

There are a lot of things that can be said about these two incidents, but what I find important is these incidents represent explicit and implicit sexism in the polo community. There is sexism by omission, and sexism by boiling down women to sexualized bodies. And as a community we should care about this.

The first scenario with Mr. Do’s video is sexism by omission. Mr. Do and his team put together a top-notch video to do outreach to potential sponsors, and failed to meaningfully include women and women’s voices in the video. When activists talk about various forms of privilege one of the first indicators of privilege is being able to open the newspaper, turn on TV, and look at your elected officials and see people of your gender/race/class/sexuality/etc. Now, you’re unlikely to open a newspaper or turn on TV and see anyone playing polo period, but it’s a hard hit when your own community is producing their own media and fail to highlight people of diverse identities. Sam Bell wrote an excellent article on this, as did Crusher, and Dany wrote a related article as well a while back. Long story short, shit blew up on the internet, and Mr. Do and the NAH offered a sincere apology, which I saw as an incredibly positive step forward.  I give them a lot of credit for recognizing their mistake and taking responsibility for it.

And then GQ published the Beavers’ article, and I angrily stomped around my apartment for a while. Because what Dillman said about the Ladies London Polo ad is explicit sexism by saying that women’s worth comes from their sexualized bodies and their attractiveness.

Now to be entirely fair, it’s totally possible that this quote is out of context or makes it seem worse than it really was. I wouldn’t put that past GQ. And I don’t know the Beavers personally, so I don’t know if that is part of their fuck-everyone attitude. But I think the bigger problem is that women in polo are so often referred to in terms of their attractiveness. Dany points out in his article that when you type in ‘female bike polo players’ into google, within the first page or two of results is ‘who’s the best looking player.’ That’s whack. It’s hard enough to see women’s bodies be sexualized by the media all the time, but it’s even harder to see that in a small community that I care about and put a lot of time and effort into it. It feels like a slap in the face.

This is all to say, it’s been a rough week for sexism and bike polo. And it’s Wednesday. Can we please post something that includes and validates other genders participation in polo in a way that isn’t sexualizing them?  I would super appreciate it. K thanx.

The Boston Globe is at it again

It seems like the latest trend in newspaper editorial writing is for ‘liberal’ leaning writers to pen an editorial saying ‘I consider myself liberal, climate-change believing (and therefore I am a saint – as opposed to you know, not crazy), but geez, these cyclists are disrupting me driving my car!’ All of these articles say the same thing – ‘I would support cycling, but cyclists are just crazy, non-helmet wearing jerks, who endanger me on me way to work!’ And now the Boston Globe has jumped on the bandwagon with an editorial entitled ‘Some Liberals Also Think Cyclists Are Annoying.’

This article has stirred familiar feelings of rage in me, because not all cyclists are the people who this article talks about. As a co-worker said the other day ‘Drivers never remember all of the cyclists they passed on the way to work who rode in traffic safely. They only remember the one cyclist who scared the crap out of them.’ And of course, as a cyclist, I have similarly selective memory. I rarely think about all the drivers who pass me safely, but I can remember the color, make, and model of the driver who passed me by 2 inches.

This article, however, brings in another element that previous editorials had not brought up:

More people are cycling, to get fit or to get to work. According to one recent study analyzing bicycle trends in large North American cities, bike commuters surged 64 percent from 1990 to 2009. In the United States, most of that growth is among men, in the 25-to-39 year age group. That demographic could explain a lot. I don’t want to turn a fake political war into a real gender war. But envision the typical man tailgating you in a pickup truck because he thinks you’re not driving fast enough. Now imagine him on a bicycle, propelled by the same attitude.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Well, no. I know how I feel. I don’t like it. Saying that ‘the typical man’ is an aggressive tailgating driver is gender stereotyping (being a man = being aggressive) in the same way that saying that all women are timid, bad drivers is gender stereotyping (being a woman = being passive/not assertive). I would also be interested to see the numbers breakdown of which demographics have experienced the largest growth in bike commuting. I know that men 25-39 is the largest demographic group, but I don’t know if that is the group that has experienced the greatest growth since 1990. Anybody know where those numbers might be?

The whole article just gets me going. When are we as a culture going to move past framing cyclists as a nuisance to drivers and not people who have an equal right to the road?

Here is the video she is referring to in the article. It features some amazing Boston accents.