In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein cataclysm, women are coming forward in historic numbers to reveal that they have been sexually harassed, sexually abused and sexually assaulted. By men. That last bit gets left out a lot of the time. When we say, “She was sexually assaulted,” or “She was victimized,” we are implying the object of the assault. It lets the victimizer off the hook, much the way calling an incident in which a car hits a cyclist an accident does. With some exceptions, because it’s a weird diverse world, women are assaulted by men. Men assault. That’s a thing. And in the case of my particular species—the white, cisgendered, American male—we’ve done loads of it. And not just to women. We’ve victimized African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians and even each other. In that regard, we are egalitarian. Were there records of every rape, assault or event of sexual discrimination or harassment going back just the last 50 years I’m sure we’d all be rendered speechless by the staggeringly large number.
The #metoo campaign is about women coming forward, so it may seem odd to have someone who hasn’t suffered any variety of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination (and if I have, let’s just call it inherited karma), especially when that commentary is written by a member of the offending class. But that’s precisely why I’m writing. This isn’t to defend myself or to convince you that I’m a good guy. I’m writing because for years I’ve been hearing from women—friends, girlfriends and colleagues—of the suffering they’ve endured at the hands of men. Other the years, three different romantic partners revealed that they were assaulted at some level, up to and including rape. Given that I haven’t had that many romantic partners, it’s an ugly incidence rate. Every time, I’ve been shocked.
I’m writing because I’m tired of my species being the root of all evil. And honestly, there’s nothing like being called out by your peers.
So it’s high time: Guys, you’ve got to stop doing this.
So what has this to do with cycling in general or RKP in specific? Well cycling has a women problem. Actually, what we have is an anything-but-white-guy problem. It’s not enough to just not rape a woman. It seems a small ask, right? It’s not enough. Consent, understanding what it means to be given permission to touch another person, seems to be a big problem. But in cycling we have a subtler problem but one that illustrates just how much the straight, white male still has to learn.
Chatting up each new woman on a ride is no way to make them feel comfortable. The fact is most men talk to men differently than they talk to women. Whether or not you believe the last statement, women are on to us. They know the difference. Hell, they pointed it out to me. Treating each new woman in a club as a potential date does nothing to make them feel welcome.
Bike companies that resort to sexist advertising, “booth babes” in trade shows and talking about getting dates liquored up are a big part of the problem of why cycling isn’t bigger. This isn’t a plea to be nice to women so that we can sell more bikes. That’s asinine. This is, “Your business is in trouble because you can’t treat everyone who isn’t white and male with dignity and respect.”
I’ve wanted to out the companies that have discriminated or harassed employees. But I haven’t been able to because women are so deeply in the minority of employees in the bike biz that to out those companies would mean implicitly fingering the women who outed them. So the silence continues.
I made a decision a few years ago not to include companies that use booth babes in my Interbike coverage. I’ve stuck by it, not that it’s all that hard. However, going forward, I can say that if I get a report from someone that female employees are being discriminated against, I will cease to write about that company. That’s my pledge. This has got to stop.
Finally: I’d like to invite our women readers to share your stories. If you want to share your stories of discrimination, harassment or worse, you can do so publicly in our comments section or privately at: info [at] redkiteprayer [dot] com.
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