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Unintentional maverick, that's me

I was excited this morning to find an editorial on BikePortland about one woman's experience with the Portland bike scene this past year.

Then I read it and found that the author doesn't include women like me in her thinking about women on bikes. So I left a longish comment about why I think more women don't ride bikes regularly, part of which was this:

I'll mention another feminist issue that nobody in bike-riding wants to talk about: fat. Many women like me feel that fatness prevents them from going into a bike shop and getting fair service from a wiry 19 year old athlete, or finding a suitable bike. And it's absolutely true that no bike apparel is available for women of size--though it's apparently fine to be a big guy. So my wearing street clothes is partly just out of necessity. And then I decided to try and look a little nicer doing it. And now it's a kind of cheerful "f*** you" to anyone who thinks maybe someone like me shouldn't be on a bike.

Not surprisingly, neither the author nor anyone else has commented on my comment or expressed any similar experiences. I can't decide whether it really is too taboo to discuss, or I really am in a class by myself.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
That was an interesting article, and your astute comment makes an important point, I think. One that's too little discussed, even in feminist circles, though that is changing. (Oh, and you got a "seconded" at comment #64. AND I saw Helen commented, too! :)

As with anything else, it's not any single cause, but a whole host of them that contribute and feed off each other. Those initial stages of opening up a previously insular world of privilege -- whether it's gender, class, race, sexuality, whatever, though in most cases a combination of all three, i.e. male, comfortable/wealthy, white, het -- are always full of growing pains as the privileged resist the change and the unprivileged assert their rights. And certainly in this case, the whole dimension of fitness adds another angle, including the always enjoyable (not) notions of body image (particularly for women, of course).

I think, too, there's the American love of the automobile adding its own special blend of herbs and spices, and I don't mean in the screamingly obvious way. Thinking about someplace like China, for instance, where the car culture is non-existent (or used to be...it's changed quite a lot in the last decade) and the bike is the default setting, gender and all the rest don't enter into it precisely because the bike is the only/main mode of transportation. There's no special clothing or gear, and indeed, not nearly the sports mentality that there is here, since here it's an optional thing rather than a necessity.

Anyway. Enough of my thoughts on yaoi. ;) Oh, and gotta love the dumbass who comments at 52 and 57 to show his ass. Way to prove the point, dickhead.
Jan. 12th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Re #52 and #57: Yeah *snort* He's talking about cats. Uh huh.

And look at that! I did get a response after all! I monitored the damn comment thread all morning and didn't see a flicker. Thanks for pointing it out.

In addition to the barriers of privilege you mention, bike-riding has also gotten itself a Blue-State tinge that probably keeps quite a lot of conservative people off bikes for reasons having NOTHING WHATEVER to do with safety or access. Silly humans.

I do love Susan B Anthony's statement about bikes and women, though. Irrelevant now, of course, since we can vote and drive and stuff, but a lovely sentiment all the same.
Jan. 13th, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)
I think you are in a class of your own in all kinds of good ways, but probably not in this one. I expect there's plenty of women who feel the same way about bike riding, although I imagine many of them let it discourage them from trying biking. I think it is every shade of awesome that you forged ahead cheerfully anyway!
Jan. 13th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC)
I'm certain that plenty of women don't consider riding a bike for all the reasons I didn't consider it, and I'm sure that there are a few women like me out there on bikes (though a visual survey during my morning and evening commute suggests the number is vanishingly small).

I probably shouldn't have suggested that I'm a maverick on the basis of my blog comment and the lack of response to it. A better metaphor might be the boy in the crowd pointing out the emperor's bare ass. Because what bothered me is that nobody already in the "bike scene" (i.e., that BikePortland editor and her readers--it's a big blog and that article had 75 comments by the end of the day) is yet acknowledging the particular barriers I was talking about. The community talks a lot about getting greater numbers of people to ride bikes, but when it comes down to it, "they" don't seem to really envision that including fat women. Or brown adults. Just athletes, athlete wannabes, pretty girls in dresses, and charming children (who will then magically not get fat because of magical bike-riding).

Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify my own thoughts on the matter! I'm sure I'll raid my own phrase-pile here to go back to BikePortland.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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