Gendered Advocacy

I recently finished the book _Delusions of Gender_ by Cordelia Fine.

Basically, her point is that most of what we think of as innate, sex-related behavior–“dolls are for girls, trucks are for boys”–is actually the product of subtle socializing that is measurable in one year old humans. This is because even the most liberal parents, this side of an isolation chamber, teach their children gender roles.

After Cordelia’s fine book, my bullshit detector goes off each time I encounter such phrases as “since I am a woman…” and “men are biologically programmed for…”

You might think that Cordelia wants to get rid of gender all together.

I think that she knows that this is impossible, and I’m not sure what her personal position on gender is exactly. Her personal story wasn’t the point of the book. I do know that since she is a good scientist, she focuses more on how our society influences are experience of gender and less on prescriptions for the future of child rearing and for gender roles in general.

Overall, I feel that SOME gender roles are fun and harmless. I know few people who would like to live in a bland world where men and women wore fluorescent yellow vests, only, and, like dogs, we could only tell the difference by sniffing one another. I like to see my princess in make-up and a dress, but neither of us would like to see me in anything else but a man’s suit.

However, like everything else, the party’s over for gendered games when someone gets hurt. In an overly gendered world men can become stony, unable to laugh except at someone’s expense, while the only entertainment they have are sports. Yuck! In the same over-gendered world, women can deny themselves, based on nonsensical beliefs, from realizing their potentials both inside and outside of careers. Ug!

This affects cycling advocacy as well. Many a woman has asked me where are all the women cyclists in our crazy, “take the lane” world. Many complain of being too scared to cycle.

I have said this before, I think that women’s fears of cycling is brilliant, and it is one of the main reasons that they are so safe cycling, more than men. EVEN WHEN WE FACTOR IN THE LOWER NUMBER OF WOMEN, WOMEN AS A GROUP ARE SAFER CYCLISTS THAN MEN AS A GROUP. [I used all caps for the morons who skim and comment. I am not an idiot, and I realize that in good stats you must factor for things such as the total number of riders in each group and so on. Usually I leave this stuff out as I figure that people would realize that I am not a moron, but I am still treated like an idiot: “Did you account for the different number in each group?” Yes].

I have tried to emulate women’s safer cycling abilities by choosing safer routes, and ignoring the nonsensical, macho nonsense that we get from uncycling thinkers. But I do dream of a day where just riding to work is more fun and less of a battle. It’s not that I don’t think that women can fight traffic, but I’d be an asshole if I urged them to do something that’s stupid and dangerous.

This is where the Cycling Chic movement comes in.

“Cycle chic or bicycle chic refers to cycling in fashionable everyday clothes. The fashion concept developed in popular culture to include the bicycles themselves and bicycle accessories.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycle_chic]

I love this movement because it takes something that is highly male gendered–see MAMIL: middle aged man in lycra–and it packages it in a way that is traditionally female.

Yes, I believe that despite being an illusion, gender differences should be used, when necessary for bicycle advocacy. And nobody does it better than Cycle Chic. This is because good advocates don’t challenge every belief we have ever had. Rather they fit cycling into our own current paradigms.

With cycling seeming so dangerous, it’s male by default. Most women, I know, don’t want to hide their beautiful hair under a helmet, exchange their fine clothing for lycra, and battle with trucks for their “right to the road”.

Normal men don’t want to do this either! Don’t mention the trans-gendered community which I am leaving out only because I know almost nothing about the individuals–but I am interested so if you have any info, please let me know. As a fan of Lou Reed, I definitely love transvestites as know how to properly enjoy playing with gender roles.

On the downside, here’s an example of advocacy for women we don’t need:

Here’s an example: http://isocrates.us/bike/2011/05/cyclingsavvy-first-report/

“Cycling is a dance where you must lead.”

Again, I don’t mind being led in a dance by a woman, but most women are going to expect me to know the steps and to know how to lead a dance. Sure dancing might be sexist, but the only complaint I have heard from a woman is when a man doesn’t know how to lead.

Now the cycling savvy people are telling women that they have to be expert dancers on bicycles leading a dance against bullies in automobiles? Plus, the photo of everyone wearing fluorescent yellow is awesome. Recall what I said about about the dismal unisex future? 🙂

I’m not a fan of clothing laws, but I do believe that if we made one, instead of addressing gendered head coverings and gang banger bandannas, we’d outlaw fluorescent yellow vests.

That’s right, I’d like to be fashionable also, and Cycle Chic is a movement that includes us all. It certainly appeals to me as I love to rock a cute basket, and I’d like to get some more bling on my bicycle. Also, I’d LOVE to wear a suit as soon as San Diego gets around to traffic calming the highway that I ride twice daily. I don’t wear lycra, but I’d prefer my built environment to reflect my values which is to create a place where riding in a suit is a lot less silly than it is now. 🙂

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