Ride Peggy, Ride

About four and a half years ago, I bought myself a bicycle.  It didn’t take very long for me to fall in love with it, and with cycling in general.  I loved how I could hop on and glide through the streets of Oakland, getting almost anywhere I needed to go, without much concern for traffic or parking.  I didn’t have to worry about being harassed as I waited for the bus.   I loved that I could go, go, go without having to worry about refueling.   Flying down the bike lane was exciting, and I also felt like I was a part of a special club.   In short, it helped me feel independent and free.

And of course, I’m not alone in my sense of freedom upon a bicycle.  The bicycle is often held up as a key component of the changing culture in the 1890s.  Women took to bicycles as they were experiencing greater access to public life, and riding changed fashions of the days, as women began to dress to accomodate riding.   They were also affordable for many people, and “in 1897 alone, more than two million bicycles were sold in the United States , about one for every 30 inhabitants.”  I agree, that “cycling is inherently feminist.”  I’m proud to be a part of this tradition, just as I am proud when vote or support women owned business.

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” ~ Susan B. Anthony, 1896

Suffragettes On Bicycles

Cycling has also been shown to be a great vehicle for improving physical and mental health.  (Pardon the pun)    I have always felt that cycling has been great for my personal health and wellbeing, even though at times it can be a harrowing experience.    It’s exhilarating, it’s fresh air, and it’s movement.  All good things for body and soul.

My bicycle has become very important to me.  It does feel like an extension of myself.

So, I was absolutely heartbroken when I found that my bike had been stolen on Monday night.     This is all that’s left of her.  I’m crushed.

Lock

So much so, that I went out and got myself a brand new bike right away.  I don’t want to live a bicycle-less life ever again.

photo (5)

I think she’s so beautiful.

 

 

Halloween Facepalm

Yesterday was Halloween, a holiday which I am increasingly falling out of love with.   There’s the pressure on girls and women to sex it up.   There’s also the issue of cultural appropriation costumes.    All of this over the last couple of years has started to take a little bit of the joy out of one of my favorite holidays.

However, I did dress up for work yesterday, and my costume of Zombie Lenore & The Raven tied for third place (with Robert Smith from The Cure) in the office popularity costume contest.

First place was awarded to a co-worker whose costume consisted of a Disney princess gown and wig, pillow for a baby bump, a baby doll, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and a half full bottle of Jack Daniels.   He (a middle class, straight, white, cisgenerder man, for what it’s worth)  called it “Snow White Trashed.”

Holy misogynistic, classist trope, Wonder Woman!

Now, you may think that by taking offense to this costume, I am over-reacting, but I don’t think so.   It perpetuates a stereotype of working class women that is repulsive.  It holds it up, and it points a finger at it, and it laughs at it.  (Not with it.  At it.)    That stereotype is that the working class woman is too stupid and too lazy to better her situation, and it’s bullshit.  And if you’re me, that caricature is ever more offensive, because at a point in time, that was what my probable future looked like.  I was a working class girl, from a working class family.  My grandparents were migrant farm workers.  My parents were enlisted in the Navy.   We didn’t have much.  I grew up in an working class neighborhood, and I was educated in California’s desperately underfunded public schools.   There was a time when my parents thought I couldn’t make it out of high school without getting “knocked up.”   They had no idea how we would pay for me to go to college, if I could get accepted, other than enlisting like they had, and getting a G.I. bill.  I grew up afraid of my future.  Fear was my motivation.

My story is not the Horatio Alger myth.  This is not about my boot straps.  When I think about the working class women who haven’t managed to achieve the “American Dream”, I know that it’s not because they are lazy or stupid.  For some of us, it worked out.  For most of us, it did not.  I graduated high school near the top of my class and horribly ignorant.    I can say that when you’re ignorant, you do not know that you’re ignorant until someone or something slaps you in the face with it.  For me, that happened in my first year at a university that I somehow managed to get accepted into.  It was only then that I learned the damage that my public school education had done, that I didn’t know anything about learning, and that I had been the victim of a system that rewarded me for doing the bare minimum, and passed me into the world without any knowledge of how to succeed.   I got mostly A’s in high school simply because I was there.  The overworked, underpaid teachers who don’t have the time, the resources, or the energy at the end of the day are not to blame.  The young people in the schools are not to blame.  The system is not set up to help anyone succeed, the teachers or the young people, especially not the young women.   It is an institution that is broken, and the ill prepared students it churns out have little with which to build a future any different from their parents, nor the skills with which to fix institutions.

It wasn’t just the public schools, though.  My parents didn’t know what I wasn’t being taught.  My father was never good at school, and would tell you that he did just enough to keep his grades high enough to play football and baseball.   With a batting average above 400 in his senior year of high school, he thought he his future laid in professional baseball.  When he was not picked up by the Giants, he enlisted in the Navy.  My mother tried college, but after a year of struggling with it, she enlisted, too.  My siblings had children early, and some of them dropped out.  I was the only one who went straight to college from high school.  My family was not the kind of family that knew what successful education looked like.   All they knew was hard work.    They taught me hard work, but they didn’t know how to teach me to have more for myself than what they had, raising a family on too little, and working too hard.   When you don’t know what you don’t know, all your left with is what you do  know.   All you know to teach your kids is what you know.  They did the best they knew how to do, and I don’t fault them for it.

So, maybe you think I’m over-reacting.  Maybe you think I’m too sensitive, or too easily offended.  I think that you just don’t understand what it is to fear that trope, to fight against it, and to try to live it down.   I don’t have the luxury of laughing it off or not being sensitive to it.  I know Snow White Trashed all too well.   I might have been her, and if I had, so fucking what.  Being poor doesn’t make someone bad, stupid, pathetic, or lazy.  I was as lucky as I was smart and determined.  I did not get pregnant.  I graduated from college.  I got a nice cushy internet job.  The stars aligned.

There but by the grace of god go I.  

Just sayin’.

In Case You Were Wondering, Facebook…

Yes!  This is totally misogynist!!

“Because, OMG, skinny bitches are gross!  Who would want to fuck that?  Amirite?”

People’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes.   You don’t have to be attracted to them all, but you sure as shit don’t need to do line-ups of one type against another and then post (or repost) some body policing shame-a-thon up on a social network in order to get high fives and ‘likes’.

And if you thought this was somehow empowering, think again.   Our body shape and size is largely determined by genetics, so how is this compare and contrast line-up supposed to make anyone feel better, when all it’s really doing is saying, “If you look more like the women on the top, well then it sucks to be you, because you’re scary!”  And the overwhelming majority of us look nothing like either of those two sets of women. “Real women have curves.” No, actually, not all women do, and it doesn’t make them any less fucking real if they don’t.

Also, and why isn’t this the most obvious fucking thing ever, but all the photos featured in the bottom row are obviously from fashion shoots, while the ones on the top are candid shots of celebrities who happened to be at the beach?   No one looks in real life like they do at a photo shoot!  Even before Photoshop, they would still pose them, and stitch them into swimsuits that would be most flattering, do tall their hair and makeup, so comparing a model shot of Elizabeth Taylor to a shot of Keira Knightly just hanging out at the beach is fucking ridiculous.

If you want to encourage acceptance of women’s bodies, you should find an image that is a positive portrayal of multiple shapes, colors, sizes, without imposing a hierarchy.   Something like, I dunno, This…

Source: naturalmodelsla
Source: naturalmodelsla Borrowed from - http://healthyisclassy.tumblr.com/ Click to visit!

Also, Keira Knightly’s abs are fucking ridiculously jacked.  Holy six pack!  God damn, girl, you buff!

Just sayin’.

Heroes

I realized the other day that I’m very likely to utter the phrase “You’re my hero,” but that it is almost always directed at a woman.   I was thinking about that, and I think I figured out why that is.   It all goes back to this quote:

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels.

My sisters, my mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, my friends.   All a bunch of women who’ve done a series of ordinary, unexceptional things . . . aside from the fact that they did the things that someone thought they couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

They served their country.
They wore pants (or trousers if you’re in England).
They bought houses.
They got doctorate degrees.
They raised children on their own.
They majored in computer science in college.
They played in rock bands.
They owned businesses.
They played sports.
They got tattoos.
They climbed rocks.
They spoke their mind.
They changed their own flat tires.
They stood up for what they believed in.
They built websites.
They built sets.

And they did thousands of other small things that said to the world, “I will be who I am.  I will do what I see fit to do.  I will take care of myself.  And you . . . you will not ever constrict me to some narrow idea of who and what I should be based solely on the fact that I happen to be a woman!”

And mostly, they did it without thinking that anyone would ever notice, let alone feel the need to point it out to the rest of the world.

So I like to tell them about it.

And if you’re a guy, and it makes you jealous to hear me say it to another woman, but not to you . . . well, I have two things to say about that . . .

#1 – Insecure much?

-and-

#2 – Suck it up!

Just sayin’.

More Thoughts on Street Harassment

So, my earlier post brought out an unexpected response from a close friend.   Basically, that I should feel lucky that strange men are yelling at me on the street based on my appearance.  That it’s a compliment.   And then there was mild chastisement for large sunglass wearing, texting “zombie” behavior.   Apparently, I should thank my lucky stars for having won the genetic lottery and smile big and purdy whenever some random dude on the street feels like he just can’t contain himself and has to make a comment to me about my body.  

Here’s the thing, and let there be no ambiguity in this, it is NOT OK for strange men to comment on a woman’s body or appearance while she’s going about her life.  It is NOT A COMPLIMENT.   It is HARASSMENT.   Plan and simple.    “Hey Baby!” is not a way to make a connection to another human being.  It’s INSULTING. 

Great Gallant This mostly verbal harassment involves excessive compliments and personal comments that focus on appearance and gender, and are out of place or embarrassing to the recipient. Such comments are sometimes accompanied by leering looks. The “wolf whistles” of a street harasser are one example of this.

Wikipedia 

Even the “you’re so pretty,” “you’ve got pretty eyes,” and “I like your hair” variety is still offensive.   Why?  Because IT IS objectifying.   They don’t like me.  They’re not interested in me.    They’re interested in my body, my eyes, and my hair, which are parts of the whole, but not the whole of the person.   Also, these are usually just ins to continue with some other line or to get more foul.    Heaven forbid you ENGAGE, because then they could start FOLLOWING you.   

On a personal level, I am NOT OBLIGATED to look you in the eye nor smile at you if you are a strange (unknown to me) man.   It’ll be a cold day in HELL when I start smiling at random strange men.    Why?   Because I have a strong Self-Preservation Instinct.  I’ve been told since I was a very young girl NOT TO TALK TO STRANGERS.

You may feel like I’m over-reacting, but I’d say that that’s because you haven’t experienced much of this.  It is a real problem.   And these interactions can be very dangerous.  For instance, this last May, 18 year old Mildred Beaubrun was shot and later died in Orlando after refusing to give a stranger her phone number.  

The first time it ever happened to me, I hadn’t even begun puberty.   I was eleven years old, and a grown man yelled something at me as I walked down the street.    Two men on a public bus also looked me up and down, and one turned to another and said, “you can tell when they wear shorts like that that they want it.”  You can’t tell me that that was a compliment.   It was gross intimidation, clear and simple, not to mention pedophilia, except that I just did.    And as a child, it was scary, because how was I to know how far that man would take it.  

And the thing is, it’s exactly the same today as it was then.    The men are still using the same words, sounds, and looks.    So, why shouldn’t I still feel like it’s wrong?   Why is it supposed to be different just because I’m an adult?   

So, yeah, I do the iPod thing.   Anywhere I’m walking, unless it’s after dark, I have my headphones in, so that I don’t hear this crap.   I stare at my phone when I walk down the street, hoping that if I’m occupied, they’ll leave me alone.   And I wear my sunglasses on BART, even when it’s dark, because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m making eye contact and taking that as encouragement.   

And apparently I’m not alone – Elizabeth’s Story

 

 

And I got a whole lot of linkage:

http://feministing.com/archives/007244.html

http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_hate.jsp?id=542

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Zone_(film)

http://www.thevillager.com/villager_118/justlookingaviewof.html

 

 

 

So, sorry Uncle Samurai, but you really got my blood boiling.   I still consider you a good friend, but I hope you’ll think a little more carefully about my perspective.

 

Just sayin’.

Blondes May Have More Fun, But . . .

Redheads get catcalled more frequently.  This is what I have learned since Saturday, when I got my hair done.  I mean, honestly, it happens to most women.  And as an independent type, who spends a lot of time walking her happy ass around Oakland, it might happen to me more than some.   Just a few weeks ago, an old, dirty, drunk man was making kissy faces and noises at my formerly blonde self in a Tahoe casino.

Now, this is not the first time I’ve had red hair.  I’ve had just about every color hair that you can imagine, from black to blonde, pink and purple.   But I don’t really recall having this happen before.   The closest I can relate is when I was walking down the street with my flamingo pink highlights, and some enlightened soul yelled “FREAK” at me from out of their car window as they drove by.

So, on Sunday, when a man whose car was stopped at the crosswalk I was utilizing leaned out his window and hollered, “Nice hair color!” somewhat effeminately, I was startled.  I replied with a “Thank you,” and I continued on my happy way.  That didn’t seem too threatening, and more than anything, I was just startled.

Last night, again in a cross walk, a man in a delivery van seemed to be trying to get my attention.   I had my headphones on, so I didn’t quite catch what he was saying, and I assumed that he was trying to ask directions, or something.   It took me  a second to realize what was going on.   That was a little more disturbing, and I wish that I’d heard what he was saying, and that if it had been anything resembling “Hey Red!” I could have responded appropriately . . . by flipping him off.

So, I think I’m going to try to pay attention to what’s going on around me, and make notes when this happens.   If I’m really on the ball, maybe I’ll whip out my phone and snap some photos to submit to Holla Back SF.

‘Cause, you know, just because I’m walking down the street with red hair, that does not mean that it’s in any way appropriate for strangers to yell things at me.   Even if you think you’re being complimentary, it’s still rude.   If you respect me as a human being, and you think I’m pretty, you’ll find a better way to communicate that.  Missed connections on Craig’s List, maybe.

Just sayin’.