Is Women Only possible?

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.

Team
Some of the amazing friends we’ve made riding bikes!

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.”

Red Rock 1
We ride for fun and enjoy the supporting each other.

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.

Red Rock 2
One of the strongest women I know, Marilou is a fire fighter and cancer survivor. 

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.

Nikki
Nikki is one of the strongest, most motivating riders I’ve ever ridden with.

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!

 

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30 thoughts on “Is Women Only possible?

  1. Wow. I can’t believe they advertise that as women only and there are men there. Nothing wrong with a co-ed ride, as long as it is advertised as such. I call false advertising on that and would also have asked for my money back. Yes- women only events are very possible, it’s unfortunate that organization doesn’t understand that.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Really, you should have ALL asked for an immediate refund and then asked to speak to the OWNER of the company. What you describe is unbelievable.

    Contact the local consumer advocate group if you don’t see your money back.

    PS – I wish I were lucky enough to have a group of women friends to go riding with, even if it were just around the block! Ride on!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That is an excellent idea turled and I am trying to track down their address now to file it in their city/state. And anytime you are in Southern California I would love to ride with you!

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  3. This is so ridiculous that it is funny (in the sense of better laugh than cry). Of course it is a good idea to have help along on a ride – but how funny that it would be organised on gender lines, on a ride advertised as a women’s ride! Do you think it is possible that the organiser was dangling ‘helpless women riders’ as bait to specifically attract men to the ride? I’ll bet if you looked, you’d find parallel advertising for this ride directed specifically at ‘helpful men’, with cool stuff thrown in to make it even more enticing? Thanks for sharing – sometimes reality is all too close a substitute for fiction!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Millie. I am still just shaking my head that a WOMAN came up with the concept of how to involve the men in the women’s only ride. I don’t know how they found the majority of their male riders but they were definitely made to feel more important than the women on the ride that is for sure!

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  4. I’m stunned nay flabbergasted by the audacity in this day and age that a ‘woman only’ event would have male riders. I don’t care what they say there reasons are for having men support I know for a fact that there are women who can sort my chain, change my wheel, wave me in the right direction. Jeez. I’d make sure that it was well publicised that this organisation doesn’t actually understand what women only means.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That was a huge argument on my part too jchrystalblog- that I am, as were all the women in my group, capable of changing a tire and messing with a chain and additionally I am ABLE to help other riders. And I’m thinking that if they surveyed the other riders the majority of them would also know basic bike maintenance. I am definitely moving in the direction of making sure the company is not allowed to advertise as women only.

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  5. Women only space or events was something that we were fighting for in the 70s. I suppose that the race should have been advertised as ‘mostly women only, with some nicely IDed men to help the the little ladies so they don’t get their dainty little hands dirty’ ! Grrrrrrrrr

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I totally felt the same way on the day of the event!! When I was given that response, by another women, I just felt like we had returned to the caveman era or something! It was so wrong!!!!!!!

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  6. Unbelievable! In my experience a women-only event is organised by women, often feminists, who recognise the need for women to gather in our own space for whatever particular reason. Usually, in addition to fostering a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie, these events are empowering. Your cycle ride seems a far cry from any of that. In fact, having the men there to ‘help the girls’, is actually disempowering and insulting.
    When I consider all the young women and girls on this ride, I cringe at the message that was being reinforced, ie, women need men around all the time, who else is going to fix things? Who is going to look after us if we get into trouble? Our world is safer with men there to protect us.
    What they could have learned is that women can have a great time together without any men in sight. That we are capable of dealing with anything that crops up and that we can teach each other and help each other when the need arises.
    If this is what is passing for women-only event now, then we are in trouble and we need to do something about it. Well done on challenging the organisers and pointing out your concerns. I share them.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. It amazes me that the ride director was a woman who sees men in a ride advertised as “Women Only” an advantage. (I bet she was trying to score points with one of the men. Snarky I know but I had to say it.) There are women who go to women only events because they are not comfortable around men. I wonder if the ride director thought about them. I think that there is a place in the world for ‘men only’ and ‘women only’ events. Sometimes we simply don’t want to deal with the mental, physical, and emotional differences of the opposite sex. Saying this was a “Women Only” event was false advertising and you should get your money back. If she has a problem you might suggest that she look up the meaning of the word only in the dictionary “alone in a class or category”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That was exactly what we were so excited about- having a space that was without the opposite sex. And the ride director did keep referring to her husband and how they were always trying to help cyclist become more confident on the road and they didn’t have any problems with men being there to help. Thanks Mary Anne.

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  8. There is definitely a need for women-only events and spaces. After 40 years, we lost the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in 2015. You can read powerful articles by women who participated in this powerful and empowering event over the years, in the journal of Lesbian literature and Art, Sinister Wisdom, issue 103: http://sinisterwisdom.org/SW103

    I savor women-only events. One that is still running, and growing, is the NW Women’s Celebration of Music Camp. One camp is in April, the other in October. http://www.motherlodemusic.com/nwmc.html It is not just music. Last April’s camp included a writing workshop, and also a visual art workshop (to illustrate your books!).

    OvarianPsychos in Los Angeles has women-only bicycle rides (Clitoral Mass) with a mission! https://ovarianpsycos.com/

    On Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 6:04 AM, Women and Words wrote:

    > Erin Saluta posted: “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 orien” >

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  9. That is definitely out of order. If men wanted to come along and hold stuff/take photos/help at check points/drive riders to and from the event (not everyone relishes switching from car diving to cycling and back if all the journeys are long ones), then fair enough. Giving them special treatment for helping out (and presumably not checking out and inviting local women-run cycle repair businesses for help with running repairs) is not on at all.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How cool would it have been if in each of the cities they host these events in, they went in ahead of time and researched different places and tried to get the women involved. I mean they had a DJ, photographers and bike mechanics- none of them women. No shout outs to local bike shops that have women mechanics or are women owned. it was just a huge fail on their part in regards to empowering women.

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  10. My ghast has never been so flabbered!!!

    … obviously organised by someone who does Not Have A Single Clue of what ‘women only’, means … more like, ‘mostly women, if there’s room for you after we cater to all our self-indulgent, sensitive, helpful, menfolks’.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Widdershins. It’s not like one can’t hit the streets any weekend and already see twice as many male riders they had to bring them into a women only event as well so they could be so helpful.

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  11. That is basically so shit! I’d have refused to go on the ride, and demanded my money back. What false advertizing. Obviously there is a market for a true women’s only ride… maybe you should set one up?? And well done for making an official complaint

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What happened to truth in advertising? Good for you for saying something to the organizer and shame on her for trying to justify her “invalid” decision to allow men in a women only ride. I hope you get your money back. You probably weren’t the only one who felt the way you did. Kudos to you for speaking up.

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    1. Exactly Denise! I expressed to her that I was expressing my opinion but many people, especially if it is something they don’t like, won’t say anything to the person they will just 1. not return and/or 2. tell everyone else. So the fact that she has never (her words) heard anything bad about men on the ride didn’t mean much. So frustrating that in this day and age women are still speaking like this!!!

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  13. As someone who has suffered violence at the hands of men, I know what it’s like to search out a man-free sanctuary. I would have been horrified at the inclusion – and reverence – these men seem to have received, and would absolutely have demanded a refund. I might have even gone so far as to warn other women in person and on social media that the ride was not what it said it was. Some people just don’t think before they act, and I’m sorry you had to go through this.

    And your question? I do think we can have women-only events, but only if we as women stand up and say we can do things on our own. We don’t need men to take care of us. We’re more than capable of handling our own sports equipment, events, and anything else life throws at us. 🙂

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