Here is a thought experiment. Probably slightly more. For some it will be a provocation piece. Others may simply nod. One thing is sure, it has been inspired by Pearl Ahrens’ wonderful guest post for the Cycling Embassy. You can read Pearl’s conceptualising and ordering thoughts here. Thanks, Pearl for spurring on some of my thinking.
Cycling men hold a minority status. From the position of a man living in a male-ordered (White Western ..) world the minority status is not necessarily something they are used or accustomed to. This can lead to men hitting back about this feeling (good) but it is often done from the position of a hurt ego (less good). Cycling men will talk a lot about their rights, their abilities, their skills. I have been mamilsplained at before on numerous occasions, and this is without even giving a slightest hint, invite or signal that I needed their advice. This results in the cycling men’s fight being a fight as seen from the cyclist’s position. Egocentred. Their campaigns would be run from the “through the (current) cyclist’s eye” position. Yet the public is yet to even understand what that “cyclist” is (and also: the future cyclist may not be the current cyclist, right). Overall, and looking to the long term, I suspect this is a hard campaign message/slogan to run, which is likely to result in even more marginalisation, which triggers an increase in ego, and a re-run ensues. This is the campaigning style of the old guard, the style of the past. It’s failed.
Women are more accustomed to being ignored, explained to, sidelined or perhaps are generally more submissive or community-minded. We have developed strategies to cope or overcome this state. When cycling, this compounds to a double minority, when cycle campaigning that minority status is tripled. Women are many things, and women cyclists would be more attuned to seeking community, talking it through, coming to terms, together. A wider picture than the “cyclist’s eye” emerges. It would be solution oriented, not ego focussed. A more holistic view.
Feminine traits (inhabited through socialisation, position in society etc) such as the cooperation bring real strengths to our unlaid table.
And. Yes, I am generalising. But.
Here is the thing. A very wise person (please feel free to conjecture about their gender) said to me
#notallmen used too often to silence already oppressed groups. We can do without it.
To fully develop the future cycling message for pedal activism, we need women-led spaces. Not oppressing environments. There is structural problems to address and we have to be structurally smart with our own contributions. The wise person said to me, these things like #notallmen are a
>> too typical response to feminists trying to tackle structural oppression. Men need to make space, not take the huff.
I appreciate that I am dipping in and out, jumping all around from and in between, and over, feminism and cycle campaigning and this may feel a tad untidy, please forgive me for this. Maybe it helps if I give another example of the wisdom and decency of butting-out, simple shutting up, relaxing and taking a listen. This article describes the importance of centre-staging others, providing the places and times to do that, or it results in silencing. The context is a very serious one of violence against women. Here is the EVB article. I hope you can appreciate the connection that I am trying to make to making voices heard – the importance of others stepping back, and facilitating the hearing, staging and broadcasting of those voices.
That would sparkle with this girl, at least. (Do you remember the South Park episode where Stan stumbles across the list-making committee? It’s a tremendously enduring example for me that highlights the different worlds we often find we inhabit. And how alien women must feel to men. And vice versa. Let’s be open, and lovingly embrace that.)