I’m going to do something this week that I haven’t done before. I’m not going to talk about books. Instead I am going to relate an experience that happened to me several weekends ago that is still bouncing around in my head and is specifically women oriented.
As many of you know, I enjoy riding my bicycle. My wife enjoys it too and we’ve met some amazing wonderful people doing various bike rides.
I know some of you are thinking- ugh! Bike riders are the worst! And I can agree with that as I’ve witnessed some horribly rude riders who do not follow the rules of the road and courtesy of traffic. But this group that I ride with is very safety oriented both for ourselves, the riders we are with and for the traffic on the road. We make it a practice to ask any rider pulled over to the side of the road if they need help and if they do we stop and provide what we can. None of us are capable of building a bike from the frame up but we are capable of changing flats and fiddling with sticky chains if needed.
One of our rider friends found a company that offered women only rides and a bunch of us jumped on that! Not that riding with men is bad, wrong or disliked, but for many of us we appreciate the concept of women empowerment and the idea of a pack of women taking to the road was an awesome thought! How incredibly cool! The website was very explicit, with their banner stating the following:
“A non-competitive, fully supported, crazy fun, women only bike ride.”
It was perfect for us as none of us are competitive riders we just like to ride- sometimes crazy long distances, but nothing for speed. Having rest stops available is always a bonus as it takes a lot of the planning out of a ride. But what we were really attracted to was the idea of women only. All the pictures and videos on the website featured women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties and it looked great. So we packed up our car on Friday after work, spent close to 5 hours making the drive to the ride location and prepared for some crazy fun, women only ride time.
What we got was a ride with A LOT of men for what was very explicitly advertised as women only. The ride director told me it was only 10% but when I was waiting for the ride to kick-off it looked closer to 35% and most all the men wore a special jersey allowing them to stand out. When I asked why there were even male riders at an event that was advertised as women only, the very first answer I received was, “so they can help all the girls when they get in trouble. You know changing flats and stuff.” My jaw did drop on that and I was at a loss for words. I walked away only to return after catching my mind up to the horrible statement that in no way empowered women rather threw us back into the 1800’s when we were supposedly weak, helpless beings.
Upon my return I asked for my money back stating that I was offended by the concept for which they allowed men to participate. The counter argument for that was that, men were only allowed to ride if they agreed to help. Not much better! But they also wanted to emphasize that many of the women wanted to have their husbands, boyfriends, male companions ride with them. For me that means sign up for the hundreds of other rides out there that don’t advertise as women only! This was advertised as something special. Something unique and empowering.
What kept pouring the fuel on the fire of my offended sense of being was finding out that these men who were being allowed to ride were given 1. A jersey, when I was given a poorly fitted t-shirt. Jersey’s usually run about $80 each and this t-shirt was probably mass produced for about $6. 2. They were given CO2 cartridges. These are used to inflate flat tires and are incredibly convenient instead of having to carry a pump. These run about $3 a cartridge and all bikers can use them- especially when doing distance on road rides. I was given a water bottle. And though water bottles are important there are only so many that fit on a bike and when you have the one’s you need you don’t really need more- they become redundant. 3. They were given tubes. Again, every biker needs tubes! Granted I patch mine and some have about 5 patched holes in them, but if someone offered me a new tube I would take it because it is something that will always be needed. Instead I was given a necklace that was probably mass produced for $1. So the men were being fluffed up like peacocks with their special jerseys and stated purpose on the ride and the women were given nothing of value in regards to biking. Not even a women only ride.
Now looking at where we are in society, I do wonder if there ever will be a women only event again.
Listening to the weekly recaps of Women and Words on The Lesbian Talkshow (check it out here), one thing that Jove Belle relates in her wonderfully entertaining stories are her life lessons with her son. What has stuck with me in these stories, is that women are considered oppressed. I don’t think that is probably much of a shock to anyone reading this. However, as it relates to my story is, a repressed group should and could have an exclusive event. And trying to understand all the dynamics of the younger generation through Ash Barlett blogs (she is so awesome! Check out her most recent blog here) it seems advocating for the repressed is important. So back to this ride. Having a women only event seems legit. As in if this ride denied men I think they could stand on that principle and be justified. Am I wrong? Am I missing something there? But let’s say that I am missing something or that the event wants to be inclusive then shouldn’t the non-female participants be advocating for the concept in which they are supporting? If so, then why would the men be singled out with “special jerseys” and explicitly tasked with “helping the girls” as their justification for riding. If anything wouldn’t it make more sense to still limit the number to 10% and have them blend in? Wouldn’t it make more sense to empower the oppressed group and have women step up and be recognized as the individuals who could/would help riders in need of assistance? With any ride there is a huge need for volunteers to help with road crossings, rest stops or even being in a sweep vehicle to help a rider off the road and back to base or even a hospital if needed. Why couldn’t the men be redirected to those tasks as a means of helping and supporting? Why were they riding just so they could help the girls who didn’t know how to fix a flat?
I still have not received a refund for this event. The ride director has told me that we should just agree to disagree because she sees nothing wrong with having these male riders in the position they are in and has even told me that they are well received and they get lots of good feedback on having the males on the ride. But what would happen if these men weren’t there? Would the women be forced to help one another or even to help themselves? Would that be a bad thing? Should this event still continue to be advertised as women only? Are women only evens even possible anymore? I would love to hear from others especially in regards to women only events and their need and place in our society.
Thanks for reading through my experience and I will return next week with more books that move out of the comfort zone!