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Editorial: My year as a woman in a city of bikes

Posted by on January 12th, 2010 at 10:01 am

But even here in Portland, particularly in parts of the bike scene with a strong connection with sports and business, assumptions about gender often remain unquestioned.

February: I am asked to volunteer on a committee for a bicycle organization “because we need more women.” The person who invites me says that he had been frantically calling every woman he knows in the bike scene, and explains that at this point, expertise matters less than gender.

April: A local bike shop opens a new women’s section. I attend the grand opening and am one of only a few women present. The section has a separate entrance and features house and home decor and a selection of pastel hybrid bikes.

August: I email an acquaintance to tell him it isn’t okay to call other commenters “pussies.” He responds angrily. “Are you really that prudish? Seems like you’re just picking on me. Do you have some sort of problem with me?” he asks. Jonathan reads this and is surprised. “I don’t think he would have reacted that way if I’d been the one to tell him that.”

What do these incidents have in common? They’re only a few selected highlights from my education in the past year about what it means to be a woman in what is very much a man’s world.

The gender imbalance in bicycling — at least, in the numbers — was brought into the spotlight this year by a Scientific American article that found that men’s cycling trips outnumbered women’s two or three to one. In Portland, according to a leaked report about the 2009 bike counts, 31% of riders were identified as female.

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The resulting discourse focuses primarily on why so few women choose to ride, concluding that the primary factors are safety concerns — read, greater fearfulness — and image consciousness. More astute observers have pointed out that the majority of errands and kid-toting, even in households with two working partners, falls to women, leading to limited transportation choices.

A very good sign-1-2.jpg
Use of this photo on BikePortland
as a harbinger of spring in 2008
rubbed some readers the wrong way.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Less discussed is the experience that women have not just as individuals riding, but participating — and in leadership roles — in the broader world of bicycling: as employees or customers in shops, at races, in the industry, in advocacy, and in conversations on the road, on the internet, and over coffee and beer.

True, it’s growing less and less common for someone to find I’ve arrived by bike and be shocked — am I not worried about my safety alone out there at night? But even here in Portland, particularly in parts of the bike scene with a strong connection with sports and business, assumptions about gender often remain unquestioned.

It wasn’t meant to be this way.

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” -Susan B Anthony, 1896

Barb Grover, who until recently worked in marketing and outreach for a local bike shop, said in a comment on (of all places) my Facebook wall:

“That the bike industry is so male-dominated is ironic in a way, considering the role the bicycle played in liberating women. I for one am grateful for the path laid by those rebellous, split-skirt wearing, escort-shunning women of the 1890s but wonder how that momentum was lost in the following century to the extent that bicycling and bike biz become so male-dominated?”

Sexism is often portrayed as a fairly straightforward dynamic of men acting while women remain passive and oblivious. But it’s rarely so simple. Grover added:

“I’ve seen the sexism doled out by women too – I’ve experienced women assuming I didn’t know much about bikes because of my gender- not too recently, or here in P-town, but it happened oft enough when I worked bike retail in the burbs.”

The phenomenon of internalized power imbalances is hardly confined to gender, as I have reason to contemplate daily while riding around town.

Even if you can’t relate to the grimace-inducing experience of having a bike shop employee explain to you, unasked and with exaggerated patience, the difference between a presta and schrader valve, you’ve probably been at some point demeaned, belittled, and brushed aside by virtue of being on two wheels.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on the parallel between two systems where ingrained entitlement leads people to not simply be unaware of their power but to exercise it at the expense of others.

Consider the experience of riding on the streets — yes, even in Portland. You relax as you’re waved through one intersection with a smile; a hundred feet later someone accelerates past you inches away screaming obscenities out the window. Whenever you take the lane, you’re told to get off the road; meanwhile the media, police, and the courts tell you that you have no right to mobility or personal safety unless you behave like you’re driving a car. Worse, these mixed messages and double standards are as likely to be upheld by allies as others.

Feminism is farther along than this — at least that’s what I’ve always thought.

But this past year as a blog writer and editor covering the bike world I’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on the parallel between two systems where ingrained entitlement leads people to not simply be unaware of their power but to exercise it at the expense of others.

I’ve learned that nobody likes to be called out. Especially by a woman.

I emailed a representative of a cycling apparel company to tell him I did not like the sexist and homophobic comments he had made at a public event. “It’s cycling,” he responded, “so if you don’t like the off-color, I think you might have far bigger issues than with the ones you have with me.”

It’s true — one of the rewards of calling out sexism is that people often respond by airing their prejudices and stating things pretty much exactly as they are.

Each time we publish a story that touches on gender (or race, for that matter), a collective scream of confused anguish reverberates. A representative range of responses figure large among the eighty comments on a story on this site back in 2007 about a group that was forming to address gender inequality in the bike world.

Similarly, I know there will be commentary on this post that well illustrate my points here. But I’d like to ask all skeptics to honestly examine yourselves and what you see around you before responding.


For more on issues of being a woman in the bike world, read Heidi Swift’s post (and resulting discussion) from last week: Ladies: Are bike shops *still* failing us?]

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  • michael downes January 12, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Elly,

    Excellent commentary! Thank you.

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  • Mark January 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Hear, hear. Well reasoned and insightful writing about a subject that most of us would assume doesn’t exist. It would be easy to believe that using a bicycle for fun, commuting or sport crosses all bounds with no regard to gender, but it clearly isn’t so based upon experience reported here. Well done, Ms. Blue.

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  • Dave January 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Thanks, Elly, for a really thoughtful post. I agree that this is a really complicated issue, and one that a lot of people simply don’t understand exists at all.

    I think all of what you mentioned goes into it, and probably a score of other issues as well. The biking industry in the U.S. having become entirely focused on the pursuit of sport (which is essentially the pursuit of dominance), it probably isn’t surprising that this unbalanced relationship has developed, and that a lot of people simply aren’t aware of it.

    It is often propagated by those it oppresses as well (oppression often is) – as you mentioned, by carrying certain assumptions themselves, or feeling the need to sort of become “hard core” to be accepted or legitimate. Kind of a means of self-preservation (like going helmet-nazi when the real problem is the crazy drivers).

    But the simple fact is, it’s something that needs to change, simply because people deserve to be treated as people, not stereotypes or categories or statistics or objects.

    Thanks for writing this, even though you’re risking a lot of lash-back. Please feel free to speak your mind, you do it respectfully and you have particular insight in this area, and that’s good for all of us.

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for bringing this up. I’m looking forward to any discussion that ensues as a result. Nice job!

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  • Angela V-C January 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for this great post. I particularly like the parallels you draw between sexism and car-centric behavior. A lot of women on bikes, including myself, don’t really participate much in “bike culture” in part because we don’t feel welcome.

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  • Sonia Connolly January 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for writing and posting this! Thank you for being out front in the Portland bike scene, encountering the sexism, and challenging it at the same time.

    It’s a relief to see this openly addressed.

    I’m curious what prompted the use of an admittedly problematic photo to go with this article, since it wasn’t addressed in the text.

    PS: The 2007 “story” link isn’t working for me.

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  • melissalion January 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I’m a woman cyclist. I ride with my 4yo son in a bike trailer to do my errands. It’s my only source of exercise, and I appreciate it.

    I get nervous on the streets because I see people cut me off far more brazenly than they do others because they think I’m slow with the trailer. I probably am. But it’s twice as scary when I have my son with me. I wish people would simply wait the five extra seconds than take advantage of a slow cyclist.

    I’ve also had some particularly scary run-ins with motorists who are very vocal about my being in the street. On streets without bike lanes. Never mind that I’m in my rights, but screaming obscenities at me while I have my kid in a trailer, well, that’s scary.

    There is a very supportive Mama Bicycling culture on Twitter, but yes, the rest of the world needs to get caught up with women on bicycles.

    Loved that quote by Susan B Anthony.

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  • are January 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

    “Feminism is farther along than this — at least that’s what I’ve always thought.”

    both the feminist and the anti-racist energies have long since been co-opted by the consumerist capitalist hegemony, which has sold the idea that the objectives of these movements have already been accomplished, nothing to see here, go on about your business. while it may be true that “you’ve come a long way, baby,” there is still a very long way to go, but complacency has set in, and if anything we are losing ground.

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  • Tony Fuentes January 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Unfortunately your experiences are hardly unique to “the bike world”. Just as we are not living in a post-racial society, we are not living in a post-gender society…

    But we will get there.

    BTW – I couldn’t get the link in to the 2007 story to work.

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  • anonymous male commenter January 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Something that makes me a little uncomfortable is all the “cycle chic” business – yes it’s great that attractive people ride bikes in normal clothes – but is always women, and the bloggers are men, and it feels a little like a kind of “acceptable sexism” to continually objectify women in order to promote bicycling (much like “burlesque” has become a respectable alternative to strip bars!).

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  • Craig January 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

    That is right on the button. I also think some of the women (and I could name a bunch) in Portland who have adopted and promoted a bike lifestyle and who have advocated so effectively for bikes and transportation alternatives for many years have really set the gold standard for community leadership. Keep it up.

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

    There is another reason why women don’t bike as much as men and it is related to the split in the world of bike between those who bike by choice and those who bike because they cannot afford a car or public transit. If you are poor going places by bike has this extra stigma. Strangely, it is reveres for the middle class and rich who, when they *choose* to bike, as seems as doing a good deed. This group of people is mostly white men and right now it’s the group that is leading most of these initiatives for better biking infrastructure. To be poor and on a bike has this extra social stigma of not being able to get “better” alternatives. Women have lower incomes than men, so like some minorities this will apply. Women face harsh criticism if they transport their kids by bike as one mother I know was called reckless for taking her kids 3/4ths of a mile to school in a boxbike in Manhattan.

    I have family members who are more working class and they seem to regard my biking as “elitist slumming” –and I have to stop and think: is it? Would I still be able to do this if I had two jobs? Kids? etc. I don’t know.

    We do so little to accommodate cyclists that if you have little money or less political or social power taking extra risks and being seen as an ‘outsider’ seems less worth it. You already are an outsider– why isolate yourself more by rejecting the core American value “love thy car” to take on what often becomes an unsupported political statement rather than a means of transportation?

    I have had a boss who wondered if I was “stable enough to teach high school students” if I “rode a bike around like that” — I wonder if she would have said the same to to a man. Maybe. But most teachers are women anyway– like many jobs filled mostly by women there is a moral dimension to the work– and expectation of purity and stability. Iconoclastic roles as “daring innovators” are more open to men. There is more of a place for men to be “that wired bike guy” than for women.

    Not that I’ll let it stop me from trying. But yeah– lets be open bout how this is really working!

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  • Jackattak January 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Excellent article, Elly! As the husband of a “grrrl” I can say that I hear my fair share of these types of issues (to which, of course, I agree wholeheartedly with absolutely zero argument, mostly out of fear of getting kicked in the junk…j/k honey I love you and agree with you because YOU’RE RIGHT). ;)

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  • patrickz January 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Thanks Elly;
    most of what I would have said is already in the comments, so I’ll keep on reading and learning.
    Happy riding.

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  • bahueh January 12, 2010 at 10:57 am

    on the other hand, I know ladies who repeatedly rip the legs off of their male counterparts in many races all season long, in all disciplines…..know more about bike parts, fit, geometry, branding, industry standards, and training than I, or my friends, ever will…

    different viewpoints for different conclusions.

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  • MeghanH January 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Maybe I’m insulated from the sexism around the “bike community” by my choices. I don’t compete in any races (road or cross). I participate in a few organized rides (Worst Day, Reach the Beach, not many others). I mostly just use my bike to get to work and get home, and occasionally use it for self-inflicted pain on the odd weekend.

    This may explain why I don’t often see or hear the overtly sexist comments and attitudes you describe, Elly.

    It is probably true that the high-end competitive world of bike racing/merchandising is testosterone-heavy and ignores women. But who are those people anyway? I have no connection with them, any more than I connect with a pro football team…

    I do notice one gap — bike shops I’ve visited here carry little or no women’s casual and commuting bike clothing. But that’s why I buy stuff from Terry.com…

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  • K'Tesh January 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

    One of the things I noticed about my Mom’s bike is that the brakes and shifting levers are huge compared to her hands. I wonder why the manufacturers failed to consider smaller components for small adult bikes.

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Dave, I think you are right about the way sports plays in to this. You think commuting is bad– the world of sports biking is horribly sexist. Though, I think the fact that biking is all about sports in the US is not becuase sports is getting to much attention– sports are great! It’s becuase the concept of bike commuting is almost non-existent out side of a few cities– and even in those cites it is still “weird” (PS. I’m in NYC, did not mention that in my last comment.)

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 11:01 am

    MeghanH, we don’t need to experience sexism to know it is there– it shows up in the numbers. *Something* is keeping women on bikes off of the street in the numbers we ought to be seeing.

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  • Jeme January 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Interestingly, when I think of the “Portland bike scene”, most of the folks that come to mind are women. Sure, there are plenty of guys hanging around, but if I were to sit and list the key players from my perspective, there would be at least as many men as women. My most trusted mechanic in Portland is a woman and there are women in dominant leadership positions in every bikey group that matters (to me).

    There is some pretty sick and sad sexism out there, certainly (the women’s section at that unnamed shop horrifies me). But I would also like to point out that many of the dudes working in bike shops are just kind of arrogant pricks and they’ll try to explain the difference between schraeder and presta to me for five minutes and then stare blankly when I ask for quill pedals (“um… you mean a quill stem?”).

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  • Chris Smith January 12, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I’m reminded of some recent testimony at Planning Commission where a developer testified that a certain category of house types “had to have garages” so wives and daughters could drive directly into the house to be safe. Apparently women would not be safe on the sidewalks in front of their homes…

    Thanks for doing this post, Elly!

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  • Kathryn Moore January 12, 2010 at 11:18 am

    We’re bike people. Every time we get on two wheels, we are telling the world we care about people, the environment and living in unison with our ideas. This is why I was always blown away by the way many male cyclists treated me in Portland – and why I still don’t understand how being off-color / status-quo has such a place (any place) in our blogs & advocacy. Interesting to me is that in Miami, where the community is smaller, women get harassed less by fellow cyclists, in my experience. Perhaps that is just a corollary to our small numbers?
    If the US is ever going to make a real dent in the number of trips by car (1% doesn’t cut it), cyclists need to be encouraging to all people (including 51% of the population).
    Thank you, Elly.

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  • EB January 12, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for the insights in this article. I ride in New Zealand, which is one big shrine to internal combustion, and I had always assumed that the hostility I encountered was simply the result of travelling on two wheels rather than four. Thinking about it in light of this article, though, I can see now that there is definitely a sexist component to the abuse I’ve received at times, as well as to the veiled threats expressed as concerns about my safety.

    The best thing women can do is keep riding and making ourselves visible–and get more of our women friends out there on bikes.

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  • Barney January 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

    This article is excellent, thank you for this.

    I’d like to give a shout out to the bike shops that employ a good gender balance (like Citybikes) and shops that offer services for women that are actually helpful and not just pastel (such as Portland Bikeworks’ women/trans open workshop nights).

    Men also need to contribute vocally to reversing the trends Elly describes. As Jonathan astutely pointed out in his August comment, some men will deny their sexism when a woman calls them out but will be deferential or even thoughtful when a man does. If you see a man in a shop or on the road behaving in a clearly sexist manner and the woman doesn’t seem comfortable or interested in addressing the matter, call out the sexist behavior and say you’re not cool with it. I’m not saying we should completely take over the dialogue from women and silence them while we men debate how messed up sexism is, I’m saying we need to participate in thoughtful and supportive ways that include all voices.

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  • Anne Hawley January 12, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I’m a proponent of the “cycle chic” esthetic in that I ride to work in the best-looking street clothes the weather will permit, on an upright city-style bike. I’m not young or scenic, and I agree that the cycle chic movement has a disturbing “men’s gaze” quality.

    But it IS true that I was put off bike-riding by the perception that I had to approach it as an athletic event, with all attendant (and very unflattering) gear, and I bought a bike again at age 53 because I saw (on the internet) that there was another way of approaching it.

    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.

    But I am unusual.

    My own experience in finally buying a bike was excellent–thank you, Katie at River City–and I was fitted with a large-framed comfort bike without any of the unease I had anticipated. But it took me TWO YEARS of thinking about it before I got up the courage, and plenty of women like me never will get there because it’s not an easy step to take.

    Making bike retailing more woman-friendly (and I don’t mean just friendly to athletic, hardy women, but to women like me) won’t redress the 30/60 split in bike ridership, but it’ll help.

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) January 12, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion, you all — and just to be clear, as Jeme says, in much of the bike scene in Portland gender is rarely an issue. Many of the leaders in grassroots and advocacy worlds are women. Besides occasional bad experiences in bike shops, I never thought much about gender and bicycling until the past year, when I branched out to more aspects of the bike world. It definitely is not a homogenous scene.

    I really like Susan’s insights about sexism relating more to class than to identity politics. That’s a key point.

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  • fredlf January 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

    When I worked in bike shops doing sales, I was always amazed by how very early gender roles get inscribed. Six-year-olds are very vocal and concerned that they get a proper “boy’s” or “girl’s” bike, even when the only difference is the color scheme. I learned early on that even the most subtle attempt on my part to change this perception would be vigorously rebuffed, usually by both child and parent.

    Bikes are like cars in that so much of a person’s identity can get wrapped up in them. They become totems.

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  • carye bye January 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Great piece Elly! I mostly hang out in the Shift-Bike Fun scene that seems fairly gender balanced these days. Your job puts you in touch with all sorts of people in relation to bikes, so you see and hear it all.

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  • Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels January 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Well said. Until the bike industry and advocacy groups realize women are the future, they’ll be stuck with flat sales and stagnant mode share numbers.

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  • Jeme January 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

    *sigh* I wrote “at least as many men as women” when it should obviously be “at least as many women as men”. Apologies to all. If an editor wants to fix that and delete this, I’d be grateful.

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  • Meghan January 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Susan Donovan: You are absolutely right that sexism exists, whether someone treats me personally in a sexist manner or not.

    I try not to be intimidated by the obviously-much-more-athletic riders who pass me at Grand Ave & the Hawthorne Bridge each morning, but I admit they are mostly men. Just making high-traffic areas less high-pressure, more welcoming places to ride (for people of all genders and abilities) would probably get more women out and riding.

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  • matt picio January 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Great starter, Elly (I say “starter” because I think there’s a lot of room to explore this topic further). Cycle Wild has been lucky, we frequently have 30-50% female participation in our events – I have to wonder if that will hold true as we become better known and draw a (hopefully) larger cross-section of society.

    Our society has made great strides fighting some of the “-isms” (sexism, racism, ageism, classism) but still has a long way to go – it would be great if all of us can realize that to some extent we have pre-existing biases due to our upbringing, our environment, our choices, and our ignorance (whether willful or accidental). I believe we should strive to point it out to others, and when it’s pointed out to us, we should examine our own actions, attitudes and assumptions. There’s always opportunity to change ourselves, and create the world where we view people as individuals, and not by some arbitrary characteristic(s) shared with other members of some notional group.

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  • DJ Jazzy S January 12, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Regularly I find myself waiting in the bike lane, stopped at at red light, and a male cyclist will pull up from behind and place himself, and his bike, in front of me. I have always interpreted this action as sexist and often attempt to kick his butt (with my lightning fast speed) when the light turns green. Perhaps he isn’t sexist; maybe he looks at my bike and makes a judgment his is faster. Or perhaps he was never taught manners…

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  • beth h January 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, Elly.

    I have to say that, as someone who’s worked in the bike industry for 15 years and who’s worked in a number of male-centric atmospheres for close to thirty, I generally don’t bother to call out, or protest, or piss and moan anymore when these sorts of things happen. (I draw the line at rape jokes, which are so unfunny that I’m still amazed whenever one is told.)

    After years of working in male-centric scenes I guess more crap rolls off my back than in the past, and the fact is that change moves at an anemic snail’s pace. For me, it’s just a question of which hill I really feel willing to die on at a given moment. Gender is messy and complicated and really, really old. And it will continue to be messy long after I’m gone.

    I’d much rather die on the hill of bringing about the demise of the car culture than worrying about how many X and Y chromosomes are in the room. But that’s me.

    I respect your perspective and I appreciate your sharing it here.

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  • DJ Jazzy S January 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Regularly I find myself waiting in the bike lane, stopped at at red light, and a male cyclist will pull up from behind and place himself, and his bike, in front of me. I have always interpreted this action as sexist and often attempt to kick his butt (with my lightning fast speed) when the light turns green. Perhaps he isn’t sexist; maybe he looks at my bike and makes a judgment that his is faster. Or perhaps he was never taught manners…?

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  • Dave January 12, 2010 at 11:49 am

    @Susan Donovan: I totally agree with you – it’s not that sport is bad, but when the entire “culture” of people riding bikes is based around sport, of course the industry is going to be entirely focused on the sporting aspect, which just has a tendency to lean towards an attitude of dominance (I even feel this some from portions of the bikey crowd, being a male and entirely a transportational cyclist – I’m not a *real* cyclist).

    Similarly, it’s not that all people who drive cars hate cyclists, it’s just that when the culture you are immersed in is based on driving cars, there is a tendency for a person to treat cyclists as oddballs, sub-par, outsiders, etc – whether it’s conscious or not, just because it’s the ubiquitous point of view in their frame of reference.

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  • nathan_h January 12, 2010 at 11:53 am

    “Whenever you take the lane, you’re told to get off the road; meanwhile the media, police, and the courts tell you that you have no right to mobility or personal safety unless you behave just like a car.”

    Thank you, I’ve never seen this put so succinctly. The usual response of road-hardened cyclists to this built-in conflict is to “assert yourself”, a self-help way of saying you should swagger out into 50 mph traffic and beat your chest in response to honking SUVs. All that just to fetch a quart of milk? It’s no wonder the American cycling participation rate is pathetically low generally, and particularly depressed among women.

    On the bright side, it shows that only a small portion of humans are hell-bent on macho posturing. As we expand the opportunities for safe, healthy, and pleasant riding—things that cycling naturally is—it will not be riding a bicycle that is a fringe but the treatment of it as some kind of hazing ritual.

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  • Esther January 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Excellent points. It is reasons like this that I have worked long and hard to find a mechanic that I trust who doesn’t over- or under- sell me, and acts like I am as knowledgeable (or as ignorant) as I come across in the actual knowledge & skill I evince– rather than assuming what he thinks I (don’t) know. I don’t get work done at one local shop because I had one male employee there point out the quick releases on the canti brakes on my then-new-to-me bike, look at my boyfriend who was with me, and say to him “You can explain to her what a quick release does, right?”

    I do think a lot of it comes down to the typical gender discourse problems. In any ‘specialized’ field that’s based around mechanical or electronic consumer objects (think: car mechanic/classic car/lowrider cultures, high tech gadget, photography, music recording cultures) a lot of the same issues of male ‘dominance’ come into play. Hopefully cycling being on the path to being more mainstream will change that – car culture is mainstream enough that most women have opinions about types of cars they want, the image their car portrays for them, how they want to use their cars; even if the subculture is still talking about mechanics, most men & women in the mainstream talk about the big picture issues.

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  • KJ January 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Great piece Elly!

    I have been relatively amazed at how little sexism or gendered attitudes I have encountered in the bike fun community, I feel like this is a group that gets it for social equality… but although I never give it thought, I never get the same negative interaction my partner does while out on a bike. I wonder if it’s because I ride in a skirt or have a ‘girly’ bike? I donno.

    Something small related to businesses that has bugged me, because I would but from them otherwise, is all the love Icebreaker gets for their clothing, but their advertising is AWFUL in it’s sexism. (not just for women…and subtle racism as well)http://shalottianshards.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/baaaad-icebreaker/I just can’t get past it. That’s ok, Ibex is awesome.

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  • Susan January 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Elly ,

    Excellent writeup. You might also take a an interesting article on the gender imbalance from a good blog.

    Open Letter To Velonews

    The author blasted Velonews for male-centric news and commentary. I wonder if he got a response back from them. Ofcourse, thats not saying that other publications in the stands are any better.

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  • Erinne January 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for addressing this issue. It makes me feel more sane to have other women call out this sort of behavior that I’ve also experienced.

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  • anonymous January 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Link to a related thread from the Oregonian’s Heidi Swift:

    http://gritandglimmer.com/ladies-are-bike-shops-still-failing-us/

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  • Tara McKee January 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I agree with you Elly. Its true, some things are changing but it continues to be an issue in the cycling world. I try to give guys the benefit of the doubt at times in the bike shop. Maybe they are shy around women? (Ok, I know one who is a real jerk) Or at one of the various bike activist meetings where a small number of guys talk down to the few women there. Century rides, triathlons, and fun cycling events are doing a good job of reaching out and including women and women’s only events extend a comfort level to some women who can be intimidated by racing against aggressive guys. Yet does anyone follow the Grand Boucle Feminine? It’s the women’s version of the Tour de France.
    Finally, if we think the 30/60 ratio is lopsided with adult cyclists–what do you suppose the ratio is with teen girls vs. boys? I believe we as a cycling community need to focus on our young girls–and encourage them to be cyclists.

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  • BURR January 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    on the other hand, I know ladies who repeatedly rip the legs off of their male counterparts in many races all season long, in all disciplines…..know more about bike parts, fit, geometry, branding, industry standards, and training than I, or my friends, ever will…

    it’s called overcompensation, and it’s what some women feel they have to do to compete in a man’s world, on men’s terms…

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I think you have a valid point, BURR, but it’s a bit of a generalization. A lady can be a capable super bike-jock for reasons other than keeping up with the dudes!

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  • Michael M. January 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Great piece! It’s a big topic, with lots of nuances and variations in experience depending upon where you come from or come to in the bike world, broadly defined. And even bigger when you toss in the racial divide in attitudes, toward biking and from people involved in biking. But it’s wonderful to get a little first-hand perspective from someone involved a little more deeping in bike culture & business than most of us are.

    Myself, I hope I long ago abandoned any presumptions I might have made about female cyclists based only upon their gender, ever since me & my boyfriend were rescued in the Provincelands (Provincetown, MA) from mechanical failure on our rented bikes by two women cyclists who, luckily, had tools and the knowledge to use them.

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  • are January 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    joe rose has picked this up over on hard drive.

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  • Ryan G. January 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    @ BURR, #42: Or it could be that they are just more knowledgable and/or better riders.

    For example, I know a woman in the Mazamas who is more knowledgable than and can outclimb all but maybe 20 guys in the Pacific NW. She’s not overcompensating, she’s just one hell of a climber who loves being out in nature and who loves climbing hard.

    Assuming that a woman who is a great athlete or really knows her sh!t is overcompensating seems to me to smack of just the kind of discrimination we’re talking about here.

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  • April January 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Yay! You used the Susan B. quote! I swear to god, I choke up whenever I think of it.

    I’d like to echo some people’s responses:

    In the local bike fun community, especially Shift events, there is often a good gender balance. I think it’s part of why I enjoy them so much.

    Only one form of racing appeals to me at all, and that’s cyclocross. And I’ve realized that part of the reason it appeals to me is that there are so many awesome women racing ‘cross in and around Portland!

    The bike shops I’ve been to in Portland don’t treat me like an idiot just because I’m female, which is something I really appreciate.

    On a downer: When I first started riding as transportation, a coworker asked “Aren’t you afraid to ride at night?” I told her, well, I wear a helmet, I have lights, I try and stay aware of traffic…she interrupted me to ask, “No, aren’t you afraid of being raped?” I was so surprised I just stared at her. I finally had to point out that if I wasn’t on a bicycle, I’d be walking or waiting at bus stops, and that at least on a bike I could probably get away. But the truth is, it’s just not something I’m generally worried about!

    In any case: Bravo to Elly for posting this. And the commentary so far has been great!

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  • [...] I was alerted to this editorial on BikePortland: My Year as a Woman in a City of Bikes. Not every part of the essay resonated with me, but there were a few parts I think are definitely [...]

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  • nathan_h January 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    “Whenever you take the lane, you’re told to get off the road; meanwhile the media, police, and the courts tell you that you have no right to mobility or personal safety unless you behave just like a car.”

    Thank you, I’ve never seen this put so succinctly. The usual response of road-hardened cyclists to this built-in conflict is to “assert yourself”, a self-help way of saying you should swagger out into 50 mph traffic and beat your chest in response to honking SUVs. All that just to fetch a quart of milk? It’s no wonder the American cycling participation rate is pathetically low generally and even more depressed among women.

    On the bright side, it shows that only a small portion of humans are hell-bent on macho posturing. As we expand the opportunities for safe, healthy, and pleasant riding—things that cycling naturally is—it will not be riding a bicycle that is a fringe but the treatment of it as some kind of hazing ritual.

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  • My year as a man in a city of bikes January 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    These females. So.Self.Absorbed. My head hurts.

    Confidence. DO IT!

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  • Christa January 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Great commentary, thank you.

    Yes, both cities and the bicycle industry would benefit from considering women’s and family perspective.

    Would love to see more women-friendly bicycle retail. A store that is in a strategic location and promotes community.

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Care to elaborate, #52?

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  • melinda January 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you! This is, of course, a big issue in Seattle, where I live, too. I don’t like riding bikes with men who I don’t know very well- it’s my way of avoiding potential macho crap. Also, I ride 7 miles and up 400 feet of hill to go to the bike shop where they treat me like a person, not an idiot.

    I see lots of women on bikes in Seattle and it makes me happy, but men still assume that I’m going to be slow or stupid. And what if I am, anyway? Everyone starts off being slow and not knowing anything about bikes, and acting better than such people isn’t a way to get more people to ride, now is it?

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  • Jeff January 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Sexism, Racism, etc. All very wrong and there is no place for them.
    Although unless you are a white protestant woman you’re in the minority. I think there’s two issues mixing here. Don’t confuse issues of sexism with minority issues.

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  • My year as a man in a city of bikes January 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Stop acting like pussies and adapt to a man’s world. By pussies, I’m referring to pussy cats, not the female anatomy. Don’t take offense to anything men say. We’re not sophisticated and respect other races, women, gays or whomever if they are confident and don’t take things so personally. Be a hillybilly female around men perhaps? Belch, cuss, throw things, then be nice around your female friends. And don’t be nuts. Please for the love of humanity don’t be nuts.

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  • Helen McConnell January 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Great post, Elly! Without a doubt, “ism” comes in many forms. My experience is as a female bike-riding person over the age of 50! I usually take my business to Bike Gallery in Hollywood, where every employee has ALWAYS treated me like a person. Period. I tried some of the smaller shops and encountered what I previously assumed was ageism. Maybe the attitude was just because I’m a girl! (Somehow that makes me feel better!)
    Sexism, ageism, racism and classism are frequently practiced throughout our society, so it’s not surprising that we find it in our sub-cultures. Ignorance and fear are at the root. Our best “defense” is to continue the dialogue. Open minds. Challenge the status quo. Rock on Elly Blue!

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    “We’re not sophisticated and respect other races, women, gays or whomever if they are confident and don’t take things so personally.”

    Hate to say it, but that’s just not true.

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  • My year as a man(sort of) in a city of bikes January 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I apologize if I seem to brash.

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  • rixtir January 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Just saw this, it seems appropriate:

    Girl Meets Bike

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrL7U0IXIWY

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  • spare_wheel January 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    “On the bright side, it shows that only a small portion of humans are hell-bent on macho posturing.”
    Risk taking does not equal macho.

    “you should swagger out into 50 mph traffic and beat your chest in response to honking SUVs”
    With all due respect, this sentiment is FUD. I’ve experienced more hostility downtown than on Sandy or SE 39th. I am willing to bet that on a per trip basis there are fewer bike accidents than car accidents on even the busiest streets. If there were less hysteria/posturing about biking safety, participation by fearful riders would increase dramatically.

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  • Susan January 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I managed to provide the wrong link Open Letter To Velonews

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  • BikeR January 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Women in the US, just recently, surpassed men in holding the majority of jobs in the US, and more women have college educations.

    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15174489

    I like the comments by Anne Hawley. I think getting bike use to the next level in Portland is more than a gender issue. I would love to see more non-sportif, elderly, overweight, children (Parents of children), office workers, high income “can drive my car”, etc. on bikes. Ayleen Crotty on the KBOO bike show, mentioned one of her bike highlights of 2009 was getting her parents on bikes. I liked that.

    Bicycle goods&service providers already see the profit potential in catering to the non-cyclist bike riders, and I think this will continue. I also expect to see the economics for bike transport to improve through cost of car parking, $4.00/gallon gas, and increased gas taxes. Why not charge cars for parking on city streets throughout the city. Removing thousands of parked cars off neighborhood streets would allow more people to use the streets for transportation.

    Another point I always like is getting car drivers to just bike to the store on the weekends will help all bikers get more consideration and respect on the roads.

    Thanks Elly for prompting all these and comments.

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  • Steph Routh January 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Great story, Elly! Thanks.

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    #52/60–

    Your statements are pretty brash, but that in itself doesn’t warrant an apology.

    The problem here is that your statements are A) imploring us to shut up & deal, and B) utterly trivializing the issues that we’re discussing, ones that affect us directly (which I’m guessing is not the case for you, judging by your insinuation that these issues are either figments of our imagination or blown wildly out of proportion).

    I’m not going to going to deal with condescension, whether it’s a matter of routine or a specific instance, regardless of who it comes from.

    There, is that the kind of confidence you were asking for? I hope so, because it’s what you’re going to get.

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  • Brad January 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Justa – there is a lot of truth to that.

    Strength and confidence are respected qualities. If you portray yourself as weak or fearful then you will become a victim.

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  • middle of the road guy January 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    There are no victims, only volunteers.

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  • My year as a half man in a city of bikes January 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Males share to elicit solutions to their problems. Females share to gain empathy.

    As a boy I was scared witless to ride out of fear of being hassled or run over. So I started lifting weights and that changed my hormonal balance to the point of overconfidence, where I ride in traffic and faster for the adrenaline rush of dodging cagers. So in conclusion, women should lift weights to induce a hormonal surge of confidence? I don’t know, that’s what I did and I’m a nut cyclist today. Also grabbing every book in the library regarding cycling helps in self education.

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  • Justa January 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I agree with that, Brad. Unfortunately in my experience, embodying strength and confidence is not a guaranteed ticket to being regarded equitably in spite of my gender (or any number of the infinite variations that people come in).

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  • middle of the road guy January 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I have to add, just becaue it is one’s perception does not make it so.

    Susan Donovan: “MeghanH, we don’t need to experience sexism to know it is there– it shows up in the numbers. *Something* is keeping women on bikes off of the street in the numbers we ought to be seeing.”

    So that SOMETHING must be sexism? Somehow lower ridership just HAS to be sexism (as compared to choice?). What a scary abdication of critical thinking.

    Why is the assumption that men and women make the same decisions in equal percentage? So much for diversity if that is the theory here.

    This type of thought is pretty dangerous……that any disparity in behavior is due to an “*ism”. Men and women are different – our thought processes, our physical abilities, etc. By that very nature our decision making processes and perceptions will differ.

    By and large, I think people will see what they want to see. And if you want to see an *ism, you’ll likely find it. But it might just be “difference”.

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    middle of the road guy, I don’t see how my comment “abandons critical thinking” sexism is a very powerful force and when you see a disparity it makes sense to look for sexist influences.

    I also don’t see how it is “dangerous” to recognize the ways that sexism and racism manifest themselves. I don’t see how women feeling less safe on the road is an example of “diversity” — of course, men and women are different, but what are you suggesting? That some kind of gender “diversity” causes women to ride bikes less? I’m not really following that part of what you are saying. We have women saying they experience sexism and we have numbers to back it up. It’s not that mysterious.

    (Perhaps my comments are confusing to you since I am speaking about sexism as a broad social force? Rather than some kind of conspiracy by “evil men” to oppress women. Sexism can be built in to the actions of people who do not think of themselves as sexist.)

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    My year as a half man in a city of bikes, you’re cracking me up. LMAO!

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  • Joe January 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    thanks elly, you have a way with words! :)
    i would let you draft me and if we we’re in a race would lead you out for the sprint.

    have fun all be safe enjoy the ride!

    Joe

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  • Caroline January 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

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  • Susan Donovan January 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    FWIW I don’t think “My year as a half man in a city of bikes” is serious… I hope.

    You OK, Caroline?

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  • Ryan G. January 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I think “My year as a half man in a city of bikes” is trolling. Maybe if we ignore him long enough he’ll go back under the bridge where he belongs.

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  • bobcycle January 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    4 hours later 76 comments. You may have hit on a popular subject. Only saw Elly Blue live and in action once….. and all I’ll say is I’m glad she’s on our side. (i.e. incredibly smart and articulate) Elly keep up the good work!

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  • My year as a bum January 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    #76 Yep.

    “Males share to elicit solutions to their problems. Females share to gain empathy.”

    It’s from the linguist Deborah Tannen’s “Gender and Discourse.” I didn’t make it up!

    Females definately have a harder time feeling safe out in the world. Militarized females feel less in danger — they’ve had a more strenuous regimen of combat training. Maybe females should upgrade their personal sense of safety by self defense courses?

    Most Portland women don’t have it as bad as some minority groups. Imagine being hasselled by the authorites every time you looked “out of place.”

    And don’t we want more of the population to traverse by bike? By any means necessary by 2030? We’re gonna have to take some drastic steps. Education and public safety campaigns of cyclists must be taken seriously and abruptly if we’re not to rely just on gas prices to reach that goal. Solutions people!

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  • Tom Daly January 12, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    My favorite bike mechanic(other than myself of course) in Portland is a lady.

    Just like thinking a small person would be easy to take in a fight, thinking a woman does not know what’s up is only because one needs to be schooled a few times. Women, by and large, seem fairly willing to tolerate patriarchy on deffering levels because it’s been in place for so long(thanks organized religion!). Strong, confrontational women are awesome because they cause men to think “gee, maybe a lady CAN do this,” or “wow, i never realized that i was being offensive.” ‘Pussy’ is a weird word, like calling something ‘gay,’ if it’s in the local vernacular when you’re a teenager, you tend to adopt it unquestioningly until someone tells you it’s offensive. In my case, it was my tenth grade drama teacher back in rural North Carolina. At first i was offended at what i saw as an overreaction. However, time passed and it sunk in deep. Now i would never think to use such vocabulary.

    I’m using gender-based stereotypes here and I’m sorry. I just want to point out that men oftentimes are operating on ooold assumptions and can easily be shown how wrong we are.

    The quote about women being treated like they don’t know what their own bikes are about rings so true it makes me uncomfortable. I am going to monitor every interaction I have with a woman to make sure I am not making gender-based assumptions.

    Is it really gender though? Or is it gender identity? I think it’s the latter, because I find myself explaining less to ‘masculine’ people and more to ‘feminine,’ regardless of actual plumbing. I don’t know for certain, but it gives me a lot to think about so thank you!!

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  • -ben January 12, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    awesome elly. just awesome.

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  • random rider January 12, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Wow, what a great topic! I have been a year-round bike commuter for the last 5 or so years. My wife never owned a bike in that time. Last year she decided she wanted to start riding again; our son was on his own bike and she felt encouraged.

    I almost feel like we could write a book on all of the sub-topics that have arisen in trying to get her geared up, trained, confident and successful in riding. We have spent a lot of time talking with a lot of friends about the barriers to bicycling for women in Portland and heard everything from excited empathy to total dismissal that it is in any way different for a newbie to get going based on their gender.

    It started for us when we went to one of the larger bike stores here in town (its name rhymes with Liver Kitty Bikes) to get her some basic gear- lights, seat, gloves, riding/rain jacket, etc. At first, the salesman kept addressing me even though she was the one shopping and asking questions. Literally, he asked me what kind of gloves she needed. When she asked a direct question he was generally dismissive and abrupt. She asked about putting on bar extenders so she could hold her hands in a more comfortable position. He was correct in telling her it wasn’t a good idea, but he acted like it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard and never gave her any kind of reasoning for why it wasn’t a good practice for a new rider. When she told him she wanted a larger and more cushioned seat than the standard saddle her bike came with he rolled his eyes and said something along the lines of “women always want a big huge seat”. It was at this point she told him we would just look on our own for a while.

    That’s just the first part of only one episode. I hope it illustrates that this is a legitimate topic and one that warrents a lot more conversation.

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  • are January 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    comment 57 quote “adapt to a man’s world.” if you just listen to yourself you can hear where the problem is.

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  • janis January 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the thought provoking article Elly. As someone said earlier this is a great start…

    Janis

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  • SlimSlamSam January 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Great post – although its depressing to hear that somethings remain the same. The good-old boy club is alive and well for those males who remain insecure around real women.

    I’m a guy who commutes by bike and don’t want to paint with a broad brush – but after trying a few club rides I decided the last thing I needed was to ride around with a bunch of dicks (pun intended)

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  • Anonymous January 12, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Here’s the perspective from a racing (road and cross) female:

    Wow, we are lucky to live in Oregon. OBRA bends over backwards to accommodate women in races and offers clinics and information about training groups and rides. Yes, the numbers of women who race are low compared to men, but I have rarely seen incidences of sexism in the racing scene.

    I have gone on training rides as the only female with a group of men and no one treats me any differently. I am expected to get up that hill, same as everyone else. I am only a Cat 4 racer (aka SLOW), so I am definitely not one of those women who can hammer with the really fast guys.

    The biggest barrier to getting women in to racing is the kids issue. When I look around the Cat 4 group, there are only 2-3 women who have kids, young or old. Which makes me wonder- all those guys racing? Who’s watching THEIR kids? (Oh yeah, their wives who aren’t racing.) Make racing (especially road) more kid-friendly, and it will suddenly be more women-friendly.

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  • Rob Knapp January 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    RT @bikepgh: RT: streetsblog Important, thoughtful op-ed by @ellyblue of @BikePortland about sexism in the bike scene: http://bit.ly/6SHh4X

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  • adriel January 12, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks, Elly and all for the discussion. I feel grateful for the Portland bike community. I have felt empowered by other cyclists sharing traffic-free commuting routes and learned simple bike maintenance (thanks BikeFarm!) that have made riding all the more fun and freeing.

    That said, I have been yelled at by motorists and cyclists often enough–and those yelling have always been men. Discouraging and infuriating, but not enough to keep me off two wheels.

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  • Steve Cayford January 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Interesting discussion on women in cycling: http://bit.ly/8EJI0y

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  • Danny J Page January 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    RT @streetsblog Important, thoughtful op-ed by @ellyblue of @BikePortland about sexism in the bike scene: http://bit.ly/6SHh4X

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  • 4000 more bikes January 12, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    brilliant rundown on women and the cycling world at the bikeportland blog. read this. really: http://tinyurl.com/yab2nov

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  • dick? January 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Why is it OK to use “dick” as an insult but not “pussy.” Elly, you’re awesome, but I find it hard to believe that you’ve never called anyone a “dick” before. :)

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  • Schrauf January 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t feel the cycle chic websites ( and the concept in general) are especially sexist. It could be made sexist, obviously, but at least the original generally does a good job – http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/

    Chic means “style”, by the way, and most of these websites include both men and women simply looking good on bikes. Don’t confuse “chic” with “chick”. Although that gives me an idea for a spoof site…

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  • Jym Dyer January 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    =v= I went on a bike ride and took photos of my companion and a robin’s nest. Guess which one has been my most-viewed photo for years?

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  • joe January 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I find it interesting that in the three spin classes I attend, the gender breakdown of the participants is about 80% female(sexism we can believe in?).

    The kids part is interesting, I wonder for similar, non child raising demographics(older folks and younger folks) if the gender split is closer to 50/50?

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) January 12, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Props to all for the insightful comments, spot-on examples, and articulate ways of saying where’s the fun? I’m learning a lot here.

    One thing to put out there is that gender equity might not always be correlated with having a 50-50 gender breakdown in whatever room/club/bikeway you’re in. Numbers can be an indicator something’s wrong, but you can’t use them to pretend the power dynamic is okay when it isn’t. Okay, I guess you can. But stop it!

    Also, “dick,” I ain’t saying anyone’s perfect here. It’s all about how you respond when someone brings it up. Do you listen or lash out? Is it okay for someone to bring it up in the first place? Key factor.

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  • [...] headphones when you can turn your helmet into a speaker? You do wear a helmet, right? Is there sexism in cycling? U.S. bicycling trips are up 25% — to a whopping 1% of all trips. Facebook refuses to remove the [...]

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  • reality January 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Sadly many women I know would never do anything that would mess up their hair and make them not wear heels, much less dress in bright green.

    My wife doesn’t care about those things but does not feel at all safe in traffic. Since I am almost hit everyday I guess she is right…

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  • Adonia January 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    How topical for me, I’m working on my dissertation proposal that deals with gender and class issues in cycling right this second. Thanks Elly!

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  • SlimSlamSam January 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Yeah – sorry about the “dick”. I just get pissed off on the issue of sexist jerks / old boys club mentality. My wife had to fight that battle on and off during her professional career. Great article keep riding and writing.

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  • John Reinhold January 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Even if you can’t relate to the grimace-inducing experience of having a bike shop employee explain to you, unasked and with exaggerated patience, the difference between a presta and schrader valve,

    So, what is the difference between a presta and a schrader valve? And you might want to start by defining them, cause I have no idea what you are talking about.

    :)

    So when does this become “over thinking” an issue?

    What if there is no “answer” – or “solution”? What if there isn’t a hundred “answers”?

    What if, I mean just what if – it is simply because fewer women like bicycling?

    I mean, why are there so many fewer men involved in say, scrapbooking? Or why are there so many fewer men involved in dance?

    Is it always gender bias or discrimination? Or could it just be differences in interests?

    I say the absolute best and most painless “solution” is just to keep riding. Ride normal. Ride in regular clothes. The more people ride the more people will become interested in riding.

    That is true for both women and men. If more women ride – more women will see them and become interested.

    Just get on your bikes and enjoy yourselves. Don’t think about all the “issues”. Think about the scenery, and the people, and the weather, and all the amazing things that we get on bicycles that are lost on people riding around in cages.

    And if businesses want to attract you – they will figure out what works, and if they don’t you shouldn’t spend your money there.

    I think things can be over-thunk a bit.

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  • April January 13, 2010 at 12:05 am

    It’s been my experience, that if in a discussion of gender is going on, if there’s a lot of “It’s not discrimination/you’re overthinking it/you’re just a whiner” comments, it’s MEN saying those things, 95% of the time.

    Women are saying that there are situations in which people are openly discriminating against them, or treating them differently, because they are women. Pardon me for making generalizations here, but if you’re a dude, you haven’t experienced it! Why not accept us telling you, that that’s what happened? Dismissing our experiences is sexism.

    Mr. Reinhold: Why do you think less women are interested in bicycling then men? Among any group of small children I know, that’s not the case. It’s also not true in many of the world’s cities where cycling is a common and accepted activity. So it’s obviously not inborn.

    I would guess that you and I agree that bicycling is a positive thing for anybody–it’s wonderful exercise, it’s empowering, it creates a sense of community, it reduces traffic and pollution, etc etc etc. Ergo, we want lots of people on bicycles. However, less women ride bicycles than men. Ergo, we should find out WHY less women ride bicycles. It’s not “over-thinking.”

    Less men do dance and scrapbooking because they’re shown that those activities aren’t something men do.

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  • Peter Smith January 13, 2010 at 1:36 am

    i dig the discussion — especially if it can lead to something actionable. that is, too much talk of the ‘isms’ is just about stating one’s case. that’s a great start. but that can’t be the end of it. otherwise it’s just a fun little exercise in powerlessness, hopelessness, futility.

    for instance, how about someone volunteer to put together an ‘anti-sexism’ illustration/cartoon card for local bike shops? every shop gets one. if they’re cool, they can post it in whatever serves as their break room — along with all the other legal papers. some simple and/or funny illustrations would be cool/interesting. you could use simple comic-strip like layouts for mini-sequences.

    also, what about other forms of sexism that may be going on on the streets that may be being condoned, explicitly or otherwise, by well-intentioned folks? what usually happens, and what should happen in an ideal world? Spacing Toronto is putting together a work on social etiquette — i’d like to see the same for biking, transit, etc. we can start with biking. is it ever ok for a dude to compliment a cyclist on his/her nice cyclist-shaped body? should you slow down and/or stop if someone has a flat? is it ok to go in front of someone at a red light or stop sign? is it ok to roll into the crosswalk on your bike? what if you move beyond the crosswalk? etc.

    if there’s not consensus, then so be it — write it up, so at least we’re all working from the same page.

    the nice thing about ‘illustration cards/posters’ is that you can serve up a nice lesson in mutual respect without forcing someone to read the SCUM Manifesto. dudes are not generally exposed to the myriad ways in which sexism exhibits itself in daily life — so calling them out publicly/directly/etc. is not always that productive, and causes extreme anger, and the message doesn’t get through. the anger is for several reasons, i suppose, but one is because men/we/i feel attacked for a ‘crime’ we committed but had no idea we were doing wrong — that leads to humiliation, etc. — generally-speaking, not fun emotions to experience. modern society is so jacked, and roles changing so quickly, that we need to find more effective ways of teaching each other how to respect one another. ideally it happens formally, at a young age, but that’s another story. dudes are also generally skeptical that sexism even exists in any significant way, so the charges just bounce off us. plenty of reasons for that, but the point is that we need more and better ways to teach basic feminist/humanist concepts. pictures are good.

    as far as stopping at red lights and other car-centric devices — i don’t have time for them. i pass people, go in front of them, and they do the same to me — guy, girl, doesn’t matter — it’s not hating, sexism, etc. – it’s just people doing what they want to do.

    as far as women being ‘more fearful’ — thank god. it seems increasingly likely that the world will end in my lifetime, but if it does not, it will probably be because women were finally able to play a larger role in society. call it ‘more fearful’, ‘more careful’, ‘more caring’, ‘more just’, ‘less criminal’, whatever you want — i’d call it ‘a very good thing’.

    as far as what is ‘keeping women off bikes’ — i think the answer is clear, and it has little-to-nothing to do with ‘sexism’. i would guess the women of copenhagen and amsterdam experience plenty of sexism, too, but they’re still riding. we build real bike infrastructure, and in the process we rid ourselves of the 21st Armored Helmet Brigade, and we’ll be well on our way to making cycling more equitable.

    p.s. +1 for guys and girls who give me props when i’m riding my bike. i’ll take compliments however i can get them! :)

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  • Mike January 13, 2010 at 3:10 am

    I think it’s great that Elly wrote this article. Though I have to admit, when I first read it I was a little confused as to the target: is she saying the entirety of Portland’s bike culture is sexist? Is she just making a general statement that sexism exists in every segment of society and bicycling is no exception?

    Her comments have cleared this up a little, but I think it goes to show that this is a HUGE topic of a conversation – and one that people are really passionate about, which is awesome.

    Elly, I think this topic is too big for one post. Have you thought about doing a monthly, or maybe even bi-monthly blog column on this topic? I always love when people start discussions about how isms impact our lives, but there’s never enough of it. One article is only enough to skim the surface of any of these complex issues, but to actually process and digest these implications and build introspective tools that all of us can use in our daily lives we NEED to have a much more sustained dialog.

    Maybe you and your platform at bikeportland.org can help?

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  • Marc January 13, 2010 at 3:12 am

    April, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    For Mr. Reinhold and my other fellow men who find these claims are unimportant “issues” and should just get over it, I ask you to think about the nature of privilege.

    I’d like to challenge us to step up and set a better standard for how we as men can not only conduct ourselves, but also be able to call out other men for sexist actions like those described in this post.

    I’ll offer one possible idea to start the discussion: I will think twice before assuming a woman needs my help when her bike is having trouble. And if she asks for my help, I will offer to pass on my knowledge and skills to her so she can be more independent in the future.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 5:20 am

    April, thanks for your excellent comment.

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  • Oscar January 13, 2010 at 6:13 am

    August: I email an acquaintance to tell him it isn’t okay to call other commenters “pussies.”

    I love the matter-of-factness of this. I bet the acquaintance knows it’s not ok to fart in people’s faces, drop trou at the symphony (wait, there’ll a special day for that soon), or threaten the lives of slow people in line at the supermarket. It’s stupid you have to tell people what offensive behavior is. It’s not hard to know what behavior is at least questionable, while no value is objective, many are nearly universal. And it’s offensive to defend offensive behavior when someone confronts you with it.

    I really don’t understand the angry defensive behavior in response to being confronted with one’s own offensive behavior. “I’m sorry” and some thought is so much more valuable.

    All this said, I think “pussy” has a privileged place as an insult in the cycling community. I’ve heard it more here than in my other communities. Time for a new one. Personally I like “driver”.

    Maybe someone should write a little book of manners for cyclists as the sport/transport mode/community expands so that new people won’t all end up looking and acting like the people in “performance”.

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  • Matt Haughey January 13, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Sometimes I think this is rotten from the top down. I just interviewed one of my cycling heroes, the current #1 ranked Women’s Elite cyclocross rider in the entire world only to find out at some US races she’s won, she’s been awarded barely more than 10% of what the Elite Men get for winning the same race.

    It costs her just as much to fly to these national events but she loses lots of money on the sport even though she’s basically the Lance Armstrong of it for women crossers. It seems unbelievable in this day and age, 30 years after Title IX sports rules that we have an American champion of cycling that has to face this kind of gender discrepancy.

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  • dick? January 13, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Keep in mind there may be a bit of confirmation bias here.

    If I see anyone walking their bike I slow down and ask if they need any help. I’m not pushy, but I do ask. Male or female. I would hate to think that all this time the women that I’ve asked have been thinking “sexist dick” in their heads.

    Some people are just overly nice to everyone, and other people treat everyone like children (a few bike shop employees.) Please realize that your observations are unscientific and subject to biases unless you are observing how they treat everyone. I’ve definitely observed shop guys treat other men like they are smart and then treat me like an idiot. It obviously wasn’t my gender, they had attempted to assess my experience and gotten it wrong. It happens and it’s a hard job. I’m sure there are sexist shop guys, but we shouldn’t jump to conclusions as to what the ratio is. We don’t really have any scientific data on this, just anecdotal.

    I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist. I did a x-country in a group of four with three women. Throughout the 2.5 month tour almost everyone we met assumed I was the leader and would address any important questions to me. It was off-putting because I certainly was not the one making the decisions in the group.

    On the other hand be careful not to contribute everything you experience that seems “off” to sexism. There are many other things going on in the world. The backlash could be a society where people are nice to everyone BUT women, for fear of being called a sexist.

    I’m a scientific purist, and what I would hope for is a scientific study on this. Since women have been discriminated against for thousands of years by men the two groups certainly aren’t going to observe their current interactions without equal helpings of bias. The “You just don’t see it because you’ve always been privileged,” argument is easily countered with “You misunderstand my intentions because you’ve always been discriminated against.” With this understanding everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

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  • tom January 13, 2010 at 8:40 am

    The author’s examples are ultimately about power. Usually the majority (numbers) holds more than the minority. But not always …see South Africa during apartheid period.

    The author equates sexism to affronts towards women much like we read in the media that racism consists of prejudices versus blacks. We hear few (if any) examples of sexism towards the majority group(s) although we all know it exists.

    Mike in comment #100 nailed it. Elly’s post sensationalized the issues important to her (it is her commentary) but was also an attack on the two men referred to (and the men in power).

    There is sexism and racism and prejudice in every branch of society (ask a male nurse) towards every race (whites can’t dance or white basketball players can’t jump)

    When it’s extreme it’s harmful … ie blacks are 3/5 of a person, separate bathrooms, etc.

    I don’t think there’s any way to get rid of it all of it….some group is always going to find what another group does as unfair.

    It’s ultimately about power (which is in most cases ultimately about numbers)

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  • tom January 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Esther in post#38 also hit the relevant point.

    “I do think a lot of it comes down to the typical gender discourse problems. In any ‘specialized’ field that’s based around mechanical or electronic consumer objects (think: car mechanic/classic car/lowrider cultures, high tech gadget, photography, music recording cultures) a lot of the same issues of male ‘dominance’ come into play. Hopefully cycling being on the path to being more mainstream will change that – car culture is mainstream enough that most women have opinions about types of cars they want, the image their car portrays for them, how they want to use their cars; even if the subculture is still talking about mechanics, most men & women in the mainstream talk about the big picture issues.”

    She left out the areas of female dominance to lend her comments greater objectivity (looking at things as an unimpassioned observer) … but other wise the most insightful one of the thread IMHO

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  • Scott Ossington January 13, 2010 at 8:56 am

    As a owner of a small repair shop in Toronto, Canada I hear many stories of how woman are treated when they go into other bike stores. Usually it starts from the mechanics treating them like idiots, to the sales people lying to them. I find this sad and infuriating. At our store we treat everyone equally regardless of race, gender or what their roommate who tinkers with bikes told them.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 9:02 am

    “The backlash could be a society where people are nice to everyone BUT women, for fear of being called a sexist.”

    Is that a threat or something? Sexism is far too pervasive to get bogged down in a discussion about weather or not it exists. Even though you say:

    “I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist.”

    You still have written a very long comment that’s mostly cautioning that by simply talking about our own experiences with sexism we are somehow at risk of “blowing this out of proportion” — but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a topic that is not talked about enough. There is a long history of silencing people using just the arrangements you are employing now. That doesn’t mean that *anyone* who says they see sexism is automatically right– that would be totally illogical but it’s a real diversion for these serious problems to spend time on what are, in the end exceptions.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Tom, what are “the areas of female dominance”?

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  • Diane from SF January 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

    In a heated discussion recently on Streetsblog, several men used the expression “Get some balls.”

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Oscar, I like how you take on the (seemingly) trivial matter of language. What I’ve found is that it’s not that tossing a word like “pussies” around as in insult is always done to enforce sexist ideas– some of the time people just don’t think. But, where sexism gets enforced is when people resist change. When a person gets very angry at the criticism and fights for their right to keep saying it. You see, that’s insulting becuase it’s saying “I don’t really care what I’m saying according to you. Your opinion is worthless.”

    I really don’t understand the angry defensive behavior in response to being confronted with one’s own offensive behavior. “I’m sorry” and some thought is so much more valuable.

    It’s simple to say and hard to do. None of us is perfect. Who wants to be confronted with that? It’s easier to fight back deny, or say something like “Well, just as much sexism comes from women as men!” Even if that were true, who cares? But, in these conversations it is tempting to do anything to change the subject and avoid introspection or self-criticism.

    Because, you know, do that could lead to change. And we can’t have change! No, no!

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  • tom January 13, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Nursing is the obvious one. Here’s an article that talks about the difficulites men have in a female dominated field.

    http://www.progressiveu.org/002216-hey-i-should-be-able-do-job-too-gender-discrimination-work-place

    From the article:

    “[M]en who work in child care might be viewed as molesters or criminals; those in health care, especially in areas such as maternity or gynecology, might be seen as voyeurs” (Armour, par. 29).

    Honestly how many people would hire a male nanny? According to Stephanie Armour, “fifty-eight percent of families would not consider hiring a man to provide in-home care for their children” (par. 20). Female nannies are more likely to find a job within five to ten interviews, while it may take a male dozens before even being considered (par. 20).

    Some people do not realize that hospitals and daycares run extensive background checks on all applicants; Jerry Lucas, a nurse supervisor, stated, “[as male nurses] we have to explain what we [are] doing, but if I [were] a doctor, there would be no questions asked. The perception that we are all… sex-crazed maniacs hurts recruiting…” (qtd. in Armour, par. 34). Not only does this perception harm recruiting, it harms the images of the men who are doing their jobs well.””

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Tom, It is interesting, though, how professions that are dominated by women pay much much less than those dominated by men– and you are right they often related to taking care of others.

    Sexist stereotypes can and do hurt men. I think our limiting notions of gender inhibit people form expressing themselves fully in a wide variety of ways.

    But again back to the issue of pay and autonomy. There is a term for what you describe “Pink Ghetto” it refers to work in an industry that is dominated by women. Known as “pink-collar” professions, the jobs include childcare, nursing, and secretarial and administrative work. The term was coined to describe the limits women have in furthering their careers, since the jobs are often dead-end, stressful and underpaid. When pay increases are won men often move in to the profession.

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  • Anna Mumford January 13, 2010 at 9:55 am

    thanks elly @bikeportland for telling it how it is: http://bikeportland.org/2010/01/12/editorial-my-year-as-a-woman-in-a-city-of-bikes/

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  • andrew c. January 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Elly,

    Thanks for the great article.

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  • Kris January 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Elly, this opens my eyes. I hadn’t considered the liberating aspect of bicycling that Susan B. Anthony described, but mostly I hadn’t stopped to consider the experiences that women may feel as bike people.

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  • melinda January 13, 2010 at 10:27 am

    April and Susan Donovan: thank you.

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  • April January 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

    You’re welcome!

    Dick?: I love you admit in one sentence that sexism exists, and that you’ve seen it in person, and then tell us that if we experience what we feel is sexism, it’s confirmation bias. So if you see it, that’s sexism, but if we see it, we’re wrong?

    What’s interesting about that, is that to a certain extent I have the opposite of confirmation bias when it comes to sexism. I so rarely experience blunt outright discrimination, that when I do, I’m truly startled. And I do second-guess it–maybe that guy just doesn’t think I’m a serious cyclist because I have an older/banged up bicycle. But if he then doesn’t talk condescendingly to the guy who walks in, who is about my age and also riding an older/banged up bicycle, then I’m right to at least suspect it’s because I’m a woman.

    Whether or not to offer help is tricky. I know it’s hard to make fast decisions, but does the person on the side of the road having problems look confused or frustrated? Or do they look like they know what they’re doing? I make a point of stopping to ask any cyclist having trouble if they’re okay or need help. I’m not a great mechanic by any means, but I know how to fix flats and get chains back on, and sometimes all you need is an extra hand or pair of eyes, someone to hold a light up, or maybe they need to use my cell phone. Plus it’s been my experience that just having someone care enough to stop and ask if I’m alright, can cheer me up a little.

    Last but not least, a cute story! Because I like to tell stories.

    When I first started riding everywhere, I had a heavy old bike (1961 Raleigh), and I took the max train from downtown to Beaverton for work. I could not figure out how people got their bikes on the hooks! My bike was so heavy! So I just stood with my bike instead.

    About a week in, I got on the max going back downtown to find it was mostly empty. Relieved that I could attempt it without stares, I tried to get the bike on the hook. No luck. Then a gentlemen gets on the same train with a bike. Now, I’m wearing corduroy slacks and a hoodie and sneakers and riding an old three-speed. This guy is riding some carbon monster and is covered in matching spandex and has clompy bike shoes. He spies me struggling, and after a couple seconds says “I hate to be a stereotypical guy, but…do you need help with that?”

    “I just can’t figure out how to get it on there.”

    So he showed me. It turns out the trick is to get your knee underneath the saddle and push up that way. I thanked him profusely. And I never have trouble getting my bike on the max hooks now, whether I’m riding a heavy bike or a lighter one.

    The crux of the matter here: He asked if I needed help instead of just assuming. He then showed me how to do it myself.

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  • nina January 13, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Not surprised by the backlash on being called out. Whenever you point out prejudice in communities that consider themselves progressive and outside the norm…there is this sudden blindness to looking internally and realizing “oh shit, though we are fighting a gas-guzzling mainstream, we’re still perpetuating mainstream bigotry!” My favorite example of this includes a recent flair up in the computer programming world when a male programmer called out his compatriots for sexism and was called a homosexual! Oh yeah, me thinks they doth protest too much! (plus, we all know that homophobia is another reflection and extension of misogyny…)Another example is when a dear friend of mine said, “I’m bi-racial! I can’t be racist” after making a completely racist remark about a Chinese store-clerk. Same person, who is ex-military, commented about the high rate of sexual assaults perpetrated on female soldiers by their fellow soldiers and said “but the other side of THAT coin is that there are a lot sluts in the army” referring to women. He didn’t think that was sexist because he himself had once been called a male-slut. It’s time to get humble and look inward people. We all perpetuate bigotry, racism, sexism,and prejudice. But it can stop right now by becoming aware that we are doing it.

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  • Jim Lee January 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Susan–110:

    Education–more women than men in colleges and universities.

    Consumer spending–women outspend men two to one.

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  • worthless January 13, 2010 at 11:35 am

    @ Susan Donovan #112
    “When a person gets very angry at the criticism and fights for their right to keep saying it…that’s insulting becuase[sic] it’s saying ‘I don’t really care what I’m saying according to you. Your opinion is worthless.’”

    The problem with your argument is that you assume that whomever is fighting back finds your opinion worthless because you are a woman. That’s just a baseless assumption.

    To me, for example, you’re opinion isn’t worthless because you’re a woman, it’s worthless because I don’t know you, I have no reason to value your opinion, and, thus, I don’t care what you think.

    Furthermore, you might consider that a person may fight back not because your opinion is worthless, but rather because they simply disagree with you.

    Perhaps you should try giving others the same credit you demand.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

    “He didn’t think that was sexist because he himself had once been called a male-slut.”

    LMAO! Ok it’s not really funny– but, please this isn’t kindergarten! *shakes head*

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  • I'm a minority January 13, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Most Portland women don’t have it as bad as some minority groups. Imagine being hassled by the authorities every time you looked “out of place.”

    #79- Not “as bad” is GOOD?

    I do have to say something about the photo. I appreciate you using the one you did. The women in the picture looks as beautiful on the bike as she will when she gets where she is going. I think a lot of people think that wearing a dress or heels on a bike is done to attract attention, and while that may be the case with some individuals, it is not the case with others. Example: I ride my bike everyday to work. When I do I wear bike shorts/ Knickers and a jersey. When I go to the grocery store, or ride to meet my husband for happy hour, is it really necessary for me to put on my bike shorts? Common sense tells me to wear what I intend to be wearing when I get where I am going and to ride in a more relaxed manner so that I look fresh when I get there. If there are people that think I am dressed the way I am for THEIR benefit or for the SEX APPEAL, I would have to think they may be a little conceited and narrow-minded.

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  • sarainsanfran January 13, 2010 at 11:46 am

    RT @streetsblog Important, thoughtful op-ed by @ellyblue of @BikePortland about sexism in the bike scene: http://bit.ly/6SHh4X

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) January 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Folks — differing perspectives are great, but please respect this forum and your fellow commenters by disagreeing without telling people that you find them or their opinions, experiences, or feelings worthless. For whatever reason.

    Thanks again for all the thoughtful discussion.

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  • Ryan G. January 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    @ worthless, #121: The only worthless opinion is that someone’s opinion is worthless.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    “The problem with your argument is that you assume that whomever is fighting back finds your opinion worthless because you are a woman.”

    I don’t assume. I know that is what is going on because the same person will treat men in a different way. Or the same person when asked to be polite with respect to some issue that isn’t related to sexism will respond in a more normal, less emotional and less reactionary way.

    “To me, for example, you’re opinion isn’t worthless because you’re a woman, it’s worthless because I don’t know you, I have no reason to value your opinion, and, thus, I don’t care what you think.”

    Though, if you think anything I write is worthless I don’t even know why I’m bothering to respond to you. I suppose I hope you will hear some of what I’m saying. I used to have my fingers in my ears with respect to the issue of sexism (it’s possible for a woman to do that as much as a man) — but, because people took the time to explain things to me I began to see just how big of an issue it is. So, I guess staying in these conversations is a way of paying my dues.

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  • chelsea January 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    April #98: I agree completely. You took the words out of my mouth.

    Peter: Ummm…actually women in Netherlands/Denmark face far less sexism than women in the U.S. Almost any way you measure it. More women represented in government, less of a gender based income gap, less domestic violence, etc. Don’t be so presumptuous.

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  • chelsea January 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Fabulous article! Thanks
    April #98: I agree completely.
    Peter: Ummm…actually women in Netherlands/Denmark face far less sexism than women in the U.S. Almost any way you measure it. More women represented in government, less of a gender based income gap, less domestic violence, etc. Don’t be so presumptuous.

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  • beth h January 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Not too many folks discussed it here but a couple did and I want to take it up myself:

    1. Ageism — especially among women — remains an issue in bicycle marketing AND in bike-centric social, athletic AND political activities. Most discussions around infrastructure tend to ignore or even dismiss the idea of making bicycle amenities friendly to the over-50 set — who tend to be slower and often more timid about taking their place in traffic. BEWARE! Many more of us (I’m speaking now to my fellow Boomers) will be turning 55-60 in the next five years. Planners, bike retailers and all the rest need to anticipate that and be ready for the shift.

    2. ONE person addressed the issue of fat riders. Allow me to chime in. My partner is a sexy, smart, drop-dead-gorgeous woman of size, who rides her bike on a limited basis and only in fair weather. She lives with someone who works in the bike industry and rides year-round. What’s keeping her from following my lead? Three things:

    a. She doesn’t feel comfortable in a crowd of slender, fit bike geeks. This is about the larger societal bias against fat people (ESPECIALLY against fat women) and the havoc it wreaks on one’s mind. On the plus side, she does feel comfortable around my best biking buddies, who have all welcomed her into the idea of bicycling more.

    b. She doesn’t like going into bike shops because she knows that absolutely NOTHING in there will fit her, especially rain gear. Her comment? “I won’t ride in the rain if all that’s available to fit me is something that looks like it came from the tent department at REI.” And I don’t blame her. It’s high time to produce a bike-cut rain jacket that a big-hipped, well-endowed woman can wear! We’re not all 5′ 3″, 110 lbs. and flat-chested!

    c. Bikes are not mass-produced to fit women of size — taking into account the additional room needed to comfortable and safely pedal and steer with large legs and thick arms and a decreased ability to lean towards the handlebars. Custom bikes are available but they cost a fortune. The industry needs to make smart bikes with decent components that will fit bigger bodies AND offer good performance — and durability.

    **********

    There are many reasons for being fat, and not all of them have to do with the choices we make about food or inactivity.

    If the bike industry was serious about wanting to get more people onto bikes it would do something real to go after this segment of the market — many of whom are dying to ride a bike comfortable and would willingly pay money if the products to meet their needs existed.

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  • April January 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    beth h: bikeforums.net has a forum for “clydesdales and athenas,” as they put it. It’s unfortunately aimed at people attempting to lose weight, but there’s discussions on finding a good bike etc.

    A woman named Robin holds a Big Girls Ride during Pedalpalooza, although I think it was canceled this last year because she was ill.

    Any particular advice on how to make the bike “scene” more welcoming to zaftig women?

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  • Tara McKee January 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Beth,

    Thank YOU for your very apt points about older and bigger women. I am totally taking your comments to heart. I wonder how we as a cycling community can truly meet the needs of all–and you have really pointed out some needs. I appreciate it. This is so much better and more productive than the previous gender name-calling battles in a few of the previous comments!

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Great points, Beth. Thank you.

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  • John Reinhold January 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    t’s been my experience, that if in a discussion of gender is going on, if there’s a lot of “It’s not discrimination/you’re overthinking it/you’re just a whiner” comments, it’s MEN saying those things, 95% of the time.

    I knew someone would say this, I actually almost mentioned it at the end of my comment but decided not to be inflammatory.

    So my experience, knowledge, and opinion don’t count because I am a male. Got it.

    Nice double standard.

    For Mr. Reinhold and my other fellow men who find these claims are unimportant “issues” and should just get over it, I ask you to think about the nature of privilege.

    Please, go back and read what I wrote. I never said it was unimportant, or that people should just get over it.

    I merely commented that sometime – gender preferences happen. It doesn’t HAVE to be a *fight* about it.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    John, the author of this article and other women have all commented that they have experienced things that make them feel unwelcome– this combined with the statics indicates that it’s not just a preference.

    I mean maybe it will come down to a 48/52 split some day– or maybe women will bike more than men- (Funny how that never occurs to people who insist it’s a matter of preference, the way things are now must be due to our “natural preferences” — this is the conservative view.) Right now we don’t know what the “preference” is since many women are not making choices based on what they like but rather the choices are based on artificial social pressures some of which are very ugly.

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  • April January 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    John: I was pointing out that this kind of thing happens repeatedly:

    -Women (and some men) notice sexism occuring
    -Some men tell them they’re wrong

    I didn’t say that your opinion didn’t matter because you are a man. But you’re not the group being discriminated against here. Which means, among other things, that you are less likely to notice it.

    If it was “just preferences,” you would not have a list of women (and men) telling their stories of women being actively discriminated against. Did you read the other comments? Because jerky mechanics/salespeople and unequal racing purses are something to “fight” against in my opinion.

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  • dick? January 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Susan,

    I wasn’t 100% clear, I guess, because some of what I said was misunderstood. I agree with much of what you are saying, but I implore you to be careful with assumptions.

    You can assume what you want about me, but normal gender roles were not a huge part of my upbringing. My Mother and Father were the opposite of the usual gender roles, and I was raised by feminists. I grew up playing with dolls and seeing women as the group that were in charge. I’m the last person you’d want to assume is sexist or who would deny it exists. Certainly there are tons of facts out there that prove it – like wage gaps and racing rewards.

    However, you must be careful with your assumptions ABOUT INDIVIDUALS or you turn in to a sexist.

    If I offer a woman help when walking her bike and she assumes I only asked because she is a woman, then she is sexist. (because I didn’t)

    If I open a door for a woman and accuses me of being sexist then SHE is the one who is sexist, because I open doors equally for both sexes.

    I went backpacking with my wife over break and I carried 20 more lbs than her, partially because I am a man and as a result am 40 lbs heavier than her. Does that make me sexist?

    If you assume that all my my motivations are because I am a man and you are a woman, and therefor cannot help thinking that you are inferior, than you and your assumptions are sexist.

    I am far from being an uber macho male, but I feel like I much walk on eggshells the second the sexism conversation comes up because in the context of that conversation any man who disagrees on any point is labeled a sexist. Our opinions are discounted immediately since “we don’t know what it’s like.”

    Talk about not feeling welcome, I’m not even using my normal posting name in this thread for fear of backlash. Which sex is the one not welcome in this conversation?

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  • Peter Smith January 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Don’t be so presumptuous.

    keep knocking down those straw men, presumptuous.

    thanks for the lesson on Yurp, tho. what else happens over there?

    and, now, since you’ve wasted my and everybody else’s time, how bout taking the time to, you know, address what i actually said?

    we are all eagerly awaiting your expert analysis on why Euro countries have such high cycling rates. i don’t trust those ‘cycling experts’ either — what do you say is the problem here?

    thanks in advance.

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  • Mike January 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    So let’s see some action! Who’s going to organize a website dedicated to women’s bicycling issues? Who’s going to write more blogs/articles? What’s the plan???

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Peter Smith, who is your comment to?

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  • John Reinhold January 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Now I am going to be painted as anti-woman in some way.

    Which is not the case.

    I just feel like we sometimes spend so much time trying to figure out why Shakespeare wrote a particular line that we lose the enjoyment of the entire piece.

    We lose the forest for the trees.

    I ride my bike with my daughter and I teach her to how to enjoy things and not worry about what people think or say so much… That is my contribution, I will leave it at that.

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  • Mike January 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Re: #136

    I also think the issue of bicycles/bicycle clothing for men/women of size is an interesting issue. In the end, all of the products are offered based on the perceived market. The key word is perceived. Obviously most people who make bicycles and bicycle clothing feel there are not enough women/men of size for producing special bikes and bicycle clothing to be profitable.

    However, perhaps this is a market that is overlooked. Maybe some bicycle innovator could find a nice niche market in a town like Portland if s/he started up a line catering to women/men of size.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    What can be done:

    1. Advocacy organizations look at your staff. Do you have women and minorities on staff? Who is in charge? For small projects do people tend to look to men to lead “automatically” –
    2. Do your publications and events subtly exclude women in some way? Is it possible to have child care at some events?
    3. Are you just an origination that thinks about bikes or do you do work to support other car free options like pedestrian safety and public transport? It will take a long time to change gender patterns to in practice improvements for bike benefit men more– but there is a broader vision than can work for everyone *now*

    I don’t know much about bike Portland so this is not about this organization in particular at all!

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    “Now I am going to be painted as anti-woman in some way.”

    But, John, this isn’t about you. It’s about the sexism. Talking about that isn’t “missing the forest for the trees” We are talking about a very general social problem. I just don’t understand why it is so hard to do that (even in a progressive community) without some people minimizing the problem then making the whole conversation about if they are sexist or not. That’s not even the point here. Maybe it’s not defensive, but that’s really how it seems. Can you see why?

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  • dick? January 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    This is where I get frustrated. As a man if I assumed that women need child care at an event I’d be labeled a sexist, but it’s fine when a woman does it.

    Children are hardly the burden of only one gender, and from my experience about half the parents cycling with kids that I see in my community are men. Which one of us is the one being sexist?

    (The answer, of course, is neither. We shouldn’t be so quick to label those with different experiences and opinions.)

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Mike, perceived market is a huge issue not just from the size issue but from the issue of having bikes sized to fit women. I wrote about this last year and have just reposted at dailykos. (rather than my personal blog) It’s some thoughts on the size of bikes:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/1/13/183533/228?new=true

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  • Michael M. January 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    One thing about some of the back-and-forth that I don’t think has been highlighted is that some people seem to be jumping off from Elly’s article to address the issue of why more women aren’t biking, while other are reacting to her observations more generally. My impression was that Elly’s article doesn’t really address the question of how to get more women onto bikes more often, but it does illustrate some attitudes and aspects of the cycling world (writ large) that might be obstacles for women, at least sometimes.

    I think it would be overstating things to say that sexism is the only barrier for women and it would be too dismissive to say that sexism isn’t an issue. But teasing out what sexism there is doesn’t really address the larger question of what other barriers exist, that might be related only tangentially or not at all to sexism.

    I guess I’m trying to say there seem to be two separate-but-related conversations going on, and a forum like this isn’t well suited to keeping the strands of those conversations from getting all tangled up.

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  • Jim Lee January 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Absolutely fabulous!

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    “As a man if I assumed that women need child care at an event I’d be labeled a sexist, but it’s fine when a woman does it.”

    You would not be called sexist. Women remain the primary caretakers of children. We can be abstract and say this should not be the case– but, if there are fewer child care option you’ll have fewer women around. Feminists have long recognized the need for childcare. Try reading up on it.

    Also, this isn’t about you. This isn’t about if anyone thinks you are sexist or not.

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  • dick? January 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Susan,

    Please don’t assume that I haven’t done my reading on this subject.

    And this absolutely is about what is and not not construed as sexist. That’s what this entire conversation is about, not me personally, but the attributes being attributed to my gender.

    Sexism isn’t something that exists by itself, it MUST have a perpetrator. You can’t say this isn’t about us, you are blaming us. It’s easy for you to say that we shouldn’t be so defensive, but please realize that if we come off as defensive it’s because the accusations are aggressive.

    The whole “no one likes being called out by a woman,” statement was especially offensive. If someone calls me sexist, and I object, and then they say “Oh, he just doesn’t like being called out by a woman.” That just dismisses my response and accuses me of being an even bigger sexist. How is that a valid way to debate? This topic is absolutely about the validity of those accusations.

    Sexism definitely and totally exists and has been documented (wage disparities, etc), but many other things (bike frame sizes) have nothing to do with sexism. So someone screwed up that women apparently don’t have longer legs per body height than men. That’s not sexism, that’s a mistake. So bikes are made more for men than women – that’s a throwback from much older sexism which created our current economic system. That fact that it still exists is latent economics, not current sexism. So bike shop “guys” are all condescending towards you (because you are female? well they are all condescending towards me too.) and apparently none of them know how to fit you onto a bike – that’s not sexism, that’s lack of education and experience. Why the lack of education and experience? Is it because they hate women? No, it’s because of the earlier mentioned latent economics and male dominated markets.

    So someone shows concern that a women bikes home alone at night – that’s not sexism, that’s because of the fact that women get raped and men don’t. I don’t get offended when someone asks me if I want a ride when it’s raining, even though I’d never take it. That’s because most people don’t like getting wet. When someone offers you a ride because it’s dark and late, that’s because no one likes that fact that women often get assaulted at night. This is not sexism, this is being a responsible human. Just say “no” and don’t be offended.

    You, others, and Elly (all of whom I happen to think are cool people) keep saying this whole list of things are examples of sexism while ignoring all other possible explanations, and anyone who disagrees is defensive or doesn’t have a valid opinion because they are male. I call BS. Many of those things aren’t. There are so many real, concrete, numerical examples of sexism that claiming all these other things is sexism just detracts from your cause.

    That world is too complicated for sexism to be the sole cause of all these things, and if you feel men are responding defensively it’s because we don’t like being accused of being the root of all the problems that women face in cycling. Don’t blame us for crap our ancestors did. The world is more complicated than that.

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  • Susan Donovan January 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    You have a very limited definition of sexism. Most people I know don’t use it in such a limited way. I get the sense that you feel “intent” matters, that is, if something puts women at a disadvantage it’s only sexist if it was done on purpose to hurt women. Is that your understanding of sexism?

    This isn’t the case. Much of sexism is a systemic issue. If choices effectively make it harder for women to, for example, buy a bike that fits than men then that *is* an example of sexism. There may be no “evil man” who plotted it to “keep women oppressed” –but, that’s really not important. Few people are sexist or racist just to be evil– these thing happen with the best intentions that’s why it’s so hard to change. Regardless of intent it still has the same impact as sexism done with “intent” — apathy and ignorance are forms of enforcement of sexism in that they prevent change.

    There are so many real, concrete, numerical examples of sexism that claiming all these other things is sexism just detracts from your cause.

    I wish it were your cause too. If you think about it you may see that it is.

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) January 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I really appreciate the thought and effort going into this discussion and wish I had more time to join in today. Also thank you all who have worked hard to keep this discussion respectful and taken the high road when it might be just as easy not to.

    “dick” (I really wish you’d choose a different handle), this discussion is obviously really upsetting to you and I guess I’m not really understanding why exactly. It does feel like you’re putting words in my mouth, as I don’t at all think all those things you suggest I (and others) do.

    This seems like one of those times when the internet really fails. Maybe this conversation would go more smoothly over beers/coffee. Maybe we should have a get together for discussing gender, would people be into that?

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  • dick? January 13, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Susan,

    You make some great points, and I think you’ve found the root of our difference. I do feel that “intent” is extremely important when it comes to this issue, but I also feel that “negligence” is also important.

    I feel sexism occurs either direct intent (rarer, I would hope), and through negligence – which is what you refer to I believe. But I think negligence only goes so far. It’s not negligent that bike frames still fit men better than women – that’s economics, and it’s changing. Manufacturers get to pick their market, it’s not sexist if they choose to cater only to men. (Although it is unfortunate, and they’ll lose their competitiveness if they do.)

    It IS negligence if I assume someone is dumb or weak because they are a women, even if I don’t intend to be sexist. But it’s not negligence if I offer them a ride home or show concern because I worry about them being raped after dark. That’s a simple understanding of statistics. It’s not negligence (and therefor not sexist) if I call someone a “pussy,” because the word has been re-defined in that context. Just like it’s not negligence when a women calls someone a “dick.”

    The line gets blurry when it comes to phrases like “grow some balls” or “sack up,” but that’s when intent SHOULD be considered – people who say that aren’t implying that women are inferior due to their lack of testicles – they are just having fun talking about genitals and insulting their friends – something that guys love to do. The insulting implication there, of course, is not that they are being called women (which would be sexist negligence), but they are being called guys with no balls. At best it’s a eunichist statement.

    Anyways, I definitely seem to have a stricter definition of the word then you (and many others) do. I feel that many people, however, do define it my way as well. Lots of people feel that it’s an act that must be perpetrated through intent or negligence, not simple accident or mis-education. It will benefit us both in our fight for equality if we remember that many people define the word differently. I’m glad you pointed that out.

    And don’t worry, it is OUR cause. In fact I had “our” written originally, but replaced it with “your” because throughout my post I’d been using “your” and “our” to refer to our respective genders, and I felt that it would be confusing if I changed the meaning at the last second. I wouldn’t care so much about the issue if I didn’t consider it my issue as well. I’ll rant and rave about the more concrete examples of sexism until I’m blue in the face. I just don’t like getting bogged down by all this gray area stuff, and that seemed to be the majority of the examples being given.

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  • Pam January 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Great article!

    Here’s a scene from my commute home last summer:
    Teenaged male riding cheap mtn bike is passed by 30-something lycra-clad male on road bike. No words exchanged.

    Moments later teenaged male is passed by me (50+ female wearing polo shirt and ragged gym shorts on commuter bike). Me: Hello. Teenager: Show-off!

    I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the bike!

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  • Arwyn January 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm
  • Mike January 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    A meeting would be awesome! I live too far away, but I’d be totally jealous if y’all had a gender and bicycle working-group get-together over some brews. GD I miss Portland!!

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  • joe biel January 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

    This story blatantly denies areas where men have been categorically denied work across the board, like surrogate motherhood! Poor, poor men…

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  • Brian Johnson January 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

    This is really interesting. Thanks for the good read, Elly.

    I’d just like to throw in my two cents. I dare say that the quote by Susan Anthony might have been in reference to the great Annie Londonderry.

    http://www.annielondonderry.com/

    Furthermore I think it’s unfortunate that so many women get brushed aside or ignored. I started cycling — mountain biking, in fact — in the mid 1980′s when women like Jacquie Phelan and Cindy Whitehead were dominating mountain bike races and besting the men! It’s truly unfortunate that these sports heroes may be lost to all.

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  • Amy Walker January 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Great article Elly!

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments, but I think it is important to note that while women are under-represented on bikes on the roads AND within the cycling industry, cycling in North America has an accessibility problem – not just a gender disparity.

    Children and older people as well as people who are not particularly athletic or fast, all face barriers to cycling – because in many places cycling in traffic requires one to be a bit of a superhero, and the bikes on the market have tended to be more sporty than built for utility and comfort (though happily this is changing!)

    I think the key is to continue to make cycling more accessible for everyone through increased education, dialogue, encouragement, bike fun, infrastructure and user-friendliness of equipment (bikes and accessories) more of the population will find cycling accessible and that rising tide will float more “boats” female; male; young; old; fat; skinny; cool; dorky – you get the point!

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  • Cari Noga January 15, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Woman in city (Portland, OR) of bikes http://bit.ly/59VfSH Love pic. Thx @glhjr. TC's way better – from 1 who commuted thru 2 pregnancies.

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  • browne January 15, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Elly great post. I’m in Los Angeles and yes the alternative transport scene is at times unfriendly to issues outside of the “core” issue.

    I think that is problematic. The reason that people in the alternative transportation movement aren’t viewed as “serious” by more mainstream sources is because it’s a way that’s outside of the box. If we can’t in our own groups be tolerant and view all concerns as valid then how can we teach people who are obsessed with the car and sprawl how to be considerate of those of us who choose to a different way or have to be mobile in a different way owing to economics.

    But outside of my own experience of being a woman that is part of the alt transit movement, though I feel strange saying that even though I have a blog on the issue I don’t really feel included, maybe I should try harder…lol..

    Ok moving on, in Los Angeles many of those in alter transit movement or who ride their bikes and/or public transit do it because they have no money. And until I stopped driving and started seeing (because I view my driving period as my blind period) I never knew how horribly people who don’t have money are treated.

    And I think there is real connection to the sexist attitude in the alt transit movement and people who are economically challenged (i.e. poor) and I mean the kind of open blatant sexism. Sexism of course exists in more economically secure groups, but you don’t see 30 and 40 year old men OPENLY using terms like douche, b*t** and pu**ies in the more mainstream and economically secure world.

    I see blatant oppression against women all of the time on the bus. Men calling women “b*t**”, groping people, getting in people’s personal space, getting angry at you because you don’t smile at them. But something strange that I noticed. I noticed that women of more challenging economic status accept this kind of treatment. This is ok or rather they have so many other issues this is something they just swallow. I even notice in the bike scene. You see SOMETIMES women not only accepting men calling people d**ches (which is very sexist and real common in LA) b*t** and p*****s you see them using the terms themselves and getting angry at other women who challenge them.

    I think this speaks to feminism and the importance of those of us who identify as feminist to make sure we reach out to our little sisters who live in more economically challenging situations, whether those little sisters are located in the projects of the inner city or the trailers on the outskirts.

    Too many times in movements that have some basis in economics the people in the movement forget that myopic visions just leads to the boots changing feet.

    I don’t want to be part of a movement that steps on anyone.

    Anyways language is important. I think we should start a brass ovaries award.

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  • [...] Editorial: My year as a woman in a city of bikes and a good local discussion about the subject [...]

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  • justin January 15, 2010 at 9:25 am

    great post! thanks!

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  • beth h January 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    It’s harder to remember the part about people riding because they’re too broke when living in a more affluent city like Portland. But it’s real, and it’s a deterrent to would-be bicyclists in other cities when they realize that, by choosing to ride a bike everywhere, they’ll be lumped into some kind of “broke-and-therefore-undesirable” box by much of the rest of middle-class society.

    (In big cities with greater racial diversity, race becomes a much bigger part of the equation, too. Remember that Portland is still the whitest big city in the U. S.)

    It’s good to consider the experiences of women on bikes, but you can’t really do so without beginning to recognize all the other boxes we tend to put each other into, and beginning to question why.

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  • Alan Fleisig January 15, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    It is not surprising that the bike shop is the most active locus for both class and gender discrimination in the cycling world. 75% of all bike shop spending is done by middle-age, upper-middle class, white guys. With the Darwinian instincts bred of the unbridled market world view that has so completely come to dominate our society in recent decades, bike shop employees are just letting you know on which side their bread is buttered. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It just means that the root of the problem isn’t in cycling, per se. That women get treated as less than equals in the most transactional-oriented arena in the cycling world is no more surprising than the facts that women get paid less, or have a harder time getting mortgages or other credit.

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  • benjamin adrian January 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Nice piece by @ellyblue on gender gap in cycling. My social circle must be bike-centric, seems more gender neutral http://bit.ly/62o33R

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  • Sarah January 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    On a bit different note here is a link to a female cyclocross racer issue that came up recently…..read the comments that follow the article – especially the last few. This article is an example of how woman’s issues are so misunderstood and overlooked or worst deemed irrelevant. A promising young rising star who had to make some difficult choices in order to allow herself the opportunity to compete at the level she quite simple is capable.
    http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=1307

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  • Sarah January 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    You may have to read the last few comments to understand the depth of the sexism in that http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=1307#respond article. Note she is continually compared to men, the aggressive nature of those responding to her actions, and the male dominance.

    Several racers have posted in these comments that they themselves don’t feel it. I have found that most competitive women have had to put sexism or feelings on the back burner to allow for their training to be first priority.

    Where the sexism comes out in racing the most is…..look at the development of racers and who is being funded. Feeder teams or development teams are more often than not, if at all for female athletes. Local shops, framebuilders, and companies have male teams but not female. I am talking about TEAMS and not as much CLUBS. This makes it near impossible to go pro as a female because less athletes, teams, and sponsorship….it’s all related. And when development does happen for women, a male model is used. Women peak on average at an older age than male, yet they are developed at the same ages. It’s the mind set that needs to be examined where people start to understand sponsorship, talent, development, and gender are all related.

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  • John January 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    It’s bad enough that I have to put up with leftist drivel just to drill down into the articles I’m interested in here, but now I have to put up with narcissistic 1970′s rehashed feminism rants as well?

    Go back on topic, or you’ll lose your readers.

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  • Sarah January 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Bye John,
    If speaking freely sends you off I’m ok with the loss of some…I’m guess some can never get it in this time anyway or possibly be on board concerning important female equality or combating female issues.
    Thanks for at least trying and getting as far into the article and comments as you did:*
    Sincerely,
    Sarah

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  • Liz W. Durham January 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Brief blog on sexism in the bicycling world http://bikeportland.org/2010/01/12/editorial-my-year-as-a-woman-in-a-city-of-bikes/

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  • Vance Longwell January 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    You know, it just dawned me. Ms. Blue here has failed to illustrate any sex-based discrimination with this article. In fact Affirmative Action, the safe-guard in place to help address this, requires that quotas be met where groups like the one she was asked to join are concerned. To then complain that that is discrimination is the ultimate irony. Let’s certainly be all upset over Elly’s dilemma but let’s just ignore the scores of men whom may have been turned away from this position, for no other reason than their sex. You know, actual discrimination. Duh.

    Discrimination is where I don’t hire a qualified woman for a job, but instead hire a less qualified man. Or, if suffrage didn’t exist, then that’d be discrimination. Discrimination is most certainly not the behavior I enter into to communicate that I do not like you, or that of having lapses in personal judgment.

    Discrimination is a clinical-term, if you will. While Ms. Blue articulates for us moments from her life, as if we cared one whit (Yeah, males have the corner on ego-centrism!), notice how she’s still ‘equal’ in terms of all the rights men have; but instead chooses to simply point out the times in her life where she’s had poor social interactions with men, and then just calls it discrimination.

    That ain’t discrimination. This is Elly being Elly, and the world pretty much feeding it back to her. No discrimination, just one big fat ‘ol chip on the shoulder. Hey, but thanks for casting dispersion upon an entire sex of your fellow-man. That’ll win friends, and influence people.

    It’s not sex and race anyway, people, it’s pretty and ugly. Your own quality of life will be directly proportionate to the number of people whom desire to have sex with you, male or female it just doesn’t matter. This will transcend class, ethnicity, sex, you name it, just look around you. Pretty people, on the whole, have it all, while the rest of us muddle through life with everybody else being mean to us. Of course we could solve this problem, or continue a policy of only focusing on women and their needs; and accomplish precious little more than further alienating one and other.

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  • Vance Longwell January 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    If a woman, a black-man, and a white-guy leave a poor-retail experience the woman and the black-guy were discriminated against, while the white-guy had it coming?

    Poetically beautiful logic that. Tell me something Sarah #166 – were you sexually mutilated at your birth for purposes of sating female sexual proclivity? No? Do you, as a woman, have a congressional act aimed at robbing you of your entitlement? No? Did you face a prison term for failing to register with selective services? No? Have you benefited from discriminatory state-hand-outs like female only scholarships, or grants?

    40 years of militant feminism has left me wrecked. One of my earliest memories is that of having to figure out why a figurine in the shape of a pig wearing a police uniform with the caption, “Male chauvinist.”, on it was funny. I was 4. This constant, unrelenting, completely unjustified hatred emanating from across the isle has wiped out my personal hopes for a family, my career, you name it.

    Now you would control the very thoughts in my brain.

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  • Sarah January 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Vance,
    You don’t know me nor I you. Sorry you are so sad and angry, I do understand that better than you might imagine. This is not about me against you and I hope it’s not about you against me.
    All we can do is listen, learn, watch, and be aware – then be better. No one can stop nor should they be able to stop someone from doing a wrong…we can merely react once it has happened.
    Vance…as an adult I’ve had policemen whistle at me and make sexual remarks….policemen are the very people I, and we as a society, pay to protect us. I have also experienced great kindness from policemen. We are each responsible for our actions and we each will speak up and out as is needed.
    I wish you the best.
    Sincerely,
    Sarah

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  • Elly Blue (Editor) January 17, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Sarah, those links are fascinating — thanks for sharing.

    Beth, agreed about looking at all the other boxes. We’ll look at more of them in the near future, hopefully. Any other thoughts you have on that would be great to hear.

    Vance, you have my full sympathy for circumstances in which you’ve been treated badly. I certainly don’t want to diminish anyone else’s lopsided experiences with power. Gender certainly isn’t the end all be all. You may want to note, though, that I didn’t discuss discrimination in the editorial, though some commenters have brought up the topic. As you say, it’s something else. I also did my best not to convey any generalized assumptions about “all men” or “all women” — that’s actually kind of the point.

    Thanks to all for keeping this conversation amazingly civil for what’s definitely a heated topic.

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  • Vance Longwell January 18, 2010 at 9:41 am

    EB # 170 – Yeah, what a drive-by hack-job, huh? Sorry, you are absolutely right, and I thought of that after posting. I’d have said something, but I was fairly consistently, though erroneously, misusing the term, so I left it intact. Sexism /= Discrimination: Roger that.

    I’m not asking for you all to be silent. I’m asking for a little damn sensitivity, and most especially, some empathy. From my perspective, you have a life I am envious of E. To a certain extent, I feel I deserve it more than you because I’ve ‘paid’ more into cycling than you have; and sometimes I wonder – than you even want to. I resent this. It seems to me you have a job you don’t appreciate as much as I would. You complain about sexism constantly, whether directly, or by implication. Clearly then, you don’t like the industry.

    Add to that I have to wonder what special benefits you were afforded while being hired for that job. I mean, were you given that job like you were about to be given a position on that committee? Probably not, but what am I supposed to think? Faced with the same set of circumstances, girl you’d come unhinged. Pardon the attempt at clairvoyance.

    Which is why I was just gonna let this one go. ‘Cause I’m irrationally biased to heck on the issue. Alas, I thought I cleverly busted you, is my face red? Hehe.

    “Every person is equal” is this thing we’ve conflated from meaning-that within the democratic process, to that of a literal assertion. While I vehemently support political equality, I do not support state-sponsored attempts at social equality. We’re not all equal. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. So, when the game gets rigged so the less-competitive team can get on the field, I lose, lose, lose.

    If I was born into the middle class like a minority of my peers, eh, maybe no prob. But being born into abject poverty, I’m utterly reliant upon entitlement, just like everybody else, to get a leg-up. That entitlement was taken from me at gun-point, and given to you. Necessary? I don’t know, or care, I’m hungry and I can hardly be personally responsible for stuff that happened two generation prior to my birth.

    That’s a pee-poor apology for my post, but that’s what I got in the tank Monday morn.

    Sarah – you say you don’t know me, but you sure seem comfy judging me. Sound familiar? At all?

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  • Sarah January 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

    ? judged,,,,,,,,
    Others are allowed to be as pissed off as you. Sound familiar? At all?
    I’m guessing you sense my frustration…I’m allowed it.
    No one here is judging you or yelling at you. I most certainly did not. No one is saying don’t speak or anything about you at all…it’s not about you and it’s not about me.

    Opinion is not fact, honesty is not always truthful, and all we can do is try.

    Period,
    Sarah

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  • Sarah January 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

    This great man.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uy8cyVWU2A

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  • Vance Longwell January 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Sarah #173 –

    Sorry you are so sad and angry, I do understand that better than you might imagine.”

    “? judged,,,,,,,,”

    “No one here is judging you or yelling at you.”

    In one paragraph you make three highly personal judgments of me. A paragraph that exists, presumably, to deny this. That’s pretty ironic. The first, quite insulting and demeaning to boot. You may be “allowed” to be angry, but you lack justification. When both hands are full, what are you going to grab with then?

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  • Sarah January 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    “40 years of militant feminism has left me wrecked.”
    Not a happy statement rather a sad one. I think that’s a fair judgment call to make from that line and some others. And I gave empathy…I’m confused by the use of judgment.

    “This constant, unrelenting, completely unjustified hatred emanating from across the isle has wiped out my personal hopes for a family, my career, you name it.”
    This comes across as angry, again not a far fetched conclusion….so if you want to call that judgment, then yeah, I guess I did judge your sentences and life sharing statements as such. Again these are not comradery based sentences of sharing and peace…there is energy and expression of frustration at the very least and I made the call anger. Is that a bad thing to say or have done? Cause that is not the kind of JUDGMENT I am talking about when I speak of sexism or racism. So if stating you are coming across as angry or you sound angry or making a call that you are angry is judgment in your mind I really don’t get what the problem with that is….why is this such a big deal? I listened to you, I read your sentences, I am sorry these things happened to you.

    Lastly, why are we talking about you…why is this about you? BECAUSE YOU USED YOU AS THE EXAMPLE for a direction of the conversation. YET when I use you then you act like you are off limits. This is not fair play…and either you are looking for a fight or you are being disingenuous, either way I’m bored. And it is logic not judgment that lead me to this conclusion. I can’t be nice, I can’t use your examples or speak to them because you take it personally, and a conversation that is supposed to be about women has turned into one about you…and or your perceived issue with me.

    Once again this is NOT ABOUT YOU OR ME no matter how badly you might want it to be. For that reason I bow out…this is so far off topic it’s funny. NOT ABOUT YOU and NOT ABOUT ME.

    Good luck.

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  • jim January 19, 2010 at 1:45 am

    I dont see anything offensive about j’s picture of the lady in the dress riding

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  • Marc January 19, 2010 at 3:52 am

    I would like to apologize for the many members of my gender who do not recognize certain privileges we benefit from. Even though we may not have consciously agreed to these inequalities when brought into this world, we do have a responsibility to try and correct them. I wish other men would react with sympathy toward someone sharing the difficulties they experience daily because of nothing other than their gender.

    But this reaction is nothing new. Confronting a privilege is never easy for those who benefit from it. But I hope some men reading this are now thinking about these issues in a new light.

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  • D? January 19, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Marc 178,

    Unfortunately you are guilty of the Fallacy: “Begging the question: demonstrates a conclusion by means of premises that assume that conclusion.”

    Restating your argument:

    P1: Men do not recognize their privilege.
    Conclusion: Men are privileged.

    Of course your real argument is worse:

    P1: Men do not recognize their privilege
    P2: Women do recognize Male privilege correctly.
    Conclusion: The opinions of men on this topic, when contradicting those of women, are wrong.

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  • are January 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

    or to put it another way, d 179:
    1. men have been privileged in this culture.
    2. many men do not recognize this fact, because they see things from within the position of privilege.
    3. some women do recognize the fact.
    4. a man who does not recognize the fact, contradicting a woman who does recognize the fact, is mistaken.

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  • Vance Longwell January 19, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Marc #188 – Apologize on our behalf, are you kidding me? Full of self-loathing much? Mommy teach her little boy he is bad? Good gravy man. Would you listen to yourself? What privilege am I benefiting from? In fact, I challenge you to show me any benefit I’ve ever had.

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  • Vance Longwell January 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Sarah #186 – I can see your comment right there you know? The one where it says, and I quote, “No one here is judging you…”, end quote. That’s 183 if you can’t find it. I point out to you that yes you are in fact making personal judgments, and what do you do? Deny it. Now here we are the very next comment, and you reverse your position yet again and say that you are judging me, but that you are justified in doing so, presumably because I’m a man; and you a woman.

    Why are we talking about me? Well, we’re not. You made some amazingly broad generalizations, you’ve made sexist, and discriminatory statements about all men, and I’m simply debating a different position. Your introduction of talk-points from your grade-school feminist studies is insulting, and I rightly responded. Also, if you simply must have it that way, for 40 years we’ve been talking about you and your needs. Talking, and talking, and talking, and talking. Talk quickly turned to taking, and taking, and taking, and taking. We’re gonna here from some other folks now, is all.

    I point this out and you’re instantly reduced to blathering irrationality. You’re contradicting yourself, changing your position, making ridiculous conclusions; yet because you are a woman, I’m just supposed to shut-up?

    You sound like a Southern White Democrat circa 1950 extolling the disastrous calamity that will surely come if we should let them colored folk eat in our restaurants. There’s a privilege issue here, and it absolutely does not have a dick attached to it.

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  • Vance Longwell January 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Sarah #186 – By the way, you respond precisely zero to these questions. Why?

    Tell me something Sarah #166 – were you sexually mutilated at your birth for purposes of sating female sexual proclivity? No? Do you, as a woman, have a congressional act aimed at robbing you of your entitlement? No? Did you face a prison term for failing to register with selective services? No? Have you benefited from discriminatory state-hand-outs like female only scholarships, or grants?

    Add to this: How many cycling groups in Portland that prohibit male participation? Now how many male only groups? Right. This very article outlines a situation where men were being turned away from an available committee position just because they are men. What say you? Did you attend college? Do you know that as a woman you have entitlement there I do not as a man?

    Seriously. Let’s hear it. I could go on all day. I was born into poverty. The idiots that have perpetrated affirmative-action crimes against me never considered the impact this would have on poor white males presumably because there was no such thing at the time. Admit it. You benefit from a litany of female-only entitlement, yet seek to get more from me.

    What else do you want? Well, according to this article, you would now control the very thoughts in my mind. Ya, bet your booty we’re talking about me right now.

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  • [...] That’s part one of today’s post. We’d also like to ask you to check out something else– a lot less harrowing, but pretty relevant itself. Women and biking are two things that sometimes seem not to go together. The cycling community, particularly the competitive one, is a bit notorious for being run by men. In honor of the New Year, a blogger at BikePortland.org offered a remarkably lucid analysis of life as a woman in a city of bikes. If this is an issue that’s ever even begun to cross your mind, check this out. [...]

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  • [...] women Elly Blue of Bike Portland recently wrote an succinct and powerful exploration of “My year as a woman in a city of bikes“, a examination of the gender imbalance in the biking [...]

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  • [...] Larger version here (250kb, JPG) – Related story: Editorial: My year as a woman in a city of bikes – Browse more cartoons [...]

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  • [...] and transportation. She took on the issue of sexism when she wrote an editorial she titled, “My Year as a Woman in the City of Bikes. We had the chance to chat about it a week later and she said,” The response was huge. At first [...]

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  • Michael Hoberman February 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

    So sorry to hear that a person would have to put up with this kind of crap in what I’ve always thought was supposed to be bike city USA. My family and I are spending a few months living in the Netherlands, where the percentage of daily bikers puts even PDX to shame. I don’t have the impression that any woman would think twice about riding wherever or whenever she needed to here–and that includes, I might add, women of _all_ ages, who you’ll see going to work, picking up groceries, toting all kinds of stuff and dressed in work (i.e. “nice”) clothes while they’re doing it. Also, you’ll typically see moms and dads alike ferrying two or maybe more kids by bike, if not in kiddie seats then in wagons. Of course it is flat, but so too are vast sections of Portland, if I remember right.

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  • [...] A year ago, Elly published her take on 2009, “My Year as a Woman in a City of Bikes.” [...]

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