Posted by: *carrie* | August 22, 2010

A Lesson on Patriarchy via Bike Communities

In addition to regularly fighting the good feminist fight, I am casually involved in some local bicycle advocacy. It’s amazing the parallels I see between feminist communities and bike communities.

Another woman & (much more active) cycling advocate recently made an observation: Bike advocacy is largely driven by middle/upper class white men. These are the same men who have never not gotten their way. The systems they have used (school, work, politics, etc.) their entire lives have been set up to benefit them. So when they suddenly become faced with the reality that something is not catering to them, well, they get pretty upset about this. The logical solution is to immediately work to change things to benefit themselves.

There have been some divides in the local bike community which I am sure are echoed in others. These divides seem largely centered around this class and gender difference. There’s the group that has money to spend on $2000 road bikes and lots of gadgets for their commute. Then there’s everyone else – people who have different ranges of bikes, people who aren’t always biking because it was a choice as much as they can’t afford anything else, people who have kids to haul around (i.e. usually women), etc.  There’s a big gap between seeing what needs done for one group, and seeing that other things are needed to benefit all the groups.

One of the biggest things that I’ve come to realize from this insight is that it’s viewed as normal for (mostly white, cisgendered) men to fight for equality in terms of sharing the road or improving bike paths for their commute. There are those people who might find it weird, but they generally accept that there is a valid reason for these men to be engaging in this type of advocacy. It’s amazing how angry the privileged can get when other people don’t acknowledge their perceived rights.

Yet when women engage in advocacy, of any variety, it’s viewed as unnecessary. The women are just putting up a fuss. Women’s rights have already been secured, so what’s the problem? We need to “get over it”. We’re just looking for things to fight about. We’re just a bunch of angry feminists. It’s much harder for most people (including many women) to grasp why we still need to work so hard for equality. It’s so hard to believe that we have valid & logical reasons for our actions. It’s just typical women overreacting and being emotional when other people don’t respect our perceived rights.

This is the patriarchy being dismissive of and hostile towards women & their value as humans with equal rights.

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