Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Would You Know? A Response to RKP's Open Letter to the Cycling Industry

Earlier this summer, Irene Bond wrote an opinion piece on Red Kite Prayer that took me by surprise and made me proud to be a cyclist.  An Open Letter to the Cycling Industry is a lot what I've wanted to articulate here at VeloGirl since the inception of this blog.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a stereotypical woman.  Since I was quite young, I have run around outside, skinned knees, played rough-and-tumble, et cetera.  And I have shuddered and, to an extent shunned, any idea of wearing pink.  In thinking about this, it was/is because I didn't want to be treated the way our society treats girls: As objects, as airheads, as someone (something) who is less tough, less able, less of an athlete.  All this because she is not a male.

Now would be a good time to go read the post.  Read the comments, too; all of them.  The comments are just as compelling as the blog post.  What I find most interesting are the comments that this open letter generated.  Very nearly all of the pushback in the comments is from men.  And not marketers or product designers in the bike industry, but from, apparently, typical male riders.  "I ride with women all the time and they've never complained" or "There's plenty of product and bikes out there for women" and "This is a typical feminist rant and, as such, isn't relevant or credible" seem to be the most common responses from those men.

To those men, I'd like to say, how would you know?  Are you a woman?  Have you ever been a woman?  If you aren't and you haven't been, you'll never know what it is like to be a female cyclist, just as I will never know what it's like to be a male cyclist.  How dare you try to minimize and belittle Ms. Bond's experiences (and countless others) simply because it doesn't exemplify your experience.  Or because you don't see what Irene sees.  To an extent, your gender makes it difficult to see/hear/experience/feel as the author does.  But, you could try and show some empathy, without being condescending or pitying.  We, female cyclists, don't want that.

We want equal recognition and treatment by a predominately male-focused industry.  Stop seeing us as a niche market, and recognize us as a growing market.  Don't belittle us.

To quote the Kathryn Bertine "We [women] hold up half the world, so where's our half of the road?"

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.