Saturday, May 16, 2015

Round 2: My Foray Into The Mire (Again), AKA: The Proof.


The last six days have been interesting. And I use that word in the same sense that a trainwreck is interesting or a burning building is interesting. If you look at it as a disaster, it's been fascinating.

It's also been really tough, I'm not going to lie. I will also gladly admit that I brought much of it on myself by writing my last little 'think' piece, entitled 'Why I'm Leaving Pinkbike'. If you haven't read it (or the comments), I suggest you go read it, then come back. If you're one of the 'TL;DR' folks, well, then maybe the Sunday funnies are more suited to your reading style. Long and short of it? It's been a pretty epic entrance into premature retirement. 

This post is round 2 of what's essentially become a classic Pinkbike internet slugging match of the largest proportions. I've been accused of a lot of really awful stuff by some folks who like to really push their weight around. Those accusations? Welp... Mainly having 'no proof' that Pinkbike staff A: had a bias due to my objection over sexist comments or B: even knew about my article rejections and how they relate to the 'rape culture' comment. There's also the allegation that there has been zero communication from me with Pinkbike staff over the last 9 months where my columns are concerned and of me being a coward/attention whore/feminist/disgruntled employee/insert-insults-here-and-it'll-probably-fit any troll's script. Whew. That one's mostly my favorite. Oh, and don't forget that I failed to bring Pinkbike up to date on the (frankly humiliatingly graphic) threats I received outside of the website that I turned over to the cops. Because, DUH. (Really?! Who doesn't want to tell a publisher or editor that some creep emailed you about how he was going to rape you, bury you and laugh about it?)

And instead of getting to the meat of this issue (why the largest bike site in the world broadcast an open endorsement of sexual violence towards women in a bike review and multiple other less-than-appropriate references to women), we're left debating the semantics of my behavior because no one can admit that we actually have a real fucking problem. So here I am, offering up screenshots and phone records instead of talking about the real issues that we face as an industry. 

Now, I'm not blameless. Granted, I can be a total asshole, especially when people attack me personally or shit on what I'm trying to do. No, but really. Don't do that if you're not looking for a fight. Case in point, the situation where some people claim that I 'made fun of a guy in a wheelchair'. Actually, said dude in a wheelchair tracked down my personal website, then proceeded to use parts of my 'About Me' section to counter a PB comment I made, right after telling me I would "never make it onto the World Cup, and even if you do, you'll be a good minute behind the winning times." Sure is cool to be told that, huh? And by the industry's favorite person, the guy who tells MTB legends that they've wasted their careers? Yeah. So there's that. And the thing is: an asshole is an asshole, regardless of whether they're sitting or standing. Just because I'm a TBI survivor and neurology patient doesn't make me any less of a jackass right now, does it? No. So here it is, in black and white. I'm sharing it with you because somewhere, down the road, someone will bring it up. And this entire bullshit thing is about the honesty and accountability inside of the industry, isn't it? I figure the least I can do is answer ridiculous accusations that I made fun of anyone in a wheelchair. 

 You know what, man? I feel for Ya. It must f*cking suck to be stuck in a body that won't work and hating everything while other folks go chase dreams doing shit they're really good at.
Check your 'facts' and that WC roster one more time. Just because you've given up on your body doesn't mean I don't have plenty of life left for living."

And here is the context. Feel free to pore over it. However, I won't be attacked by people who think that this is a way to cower me into silence about what has actually gone on. There is no reason to personally attack (or insult) another member of Pinkbike, especially not one who is working really fucking hard to make a living and race, as well as cover other women's race entries, with only a couple of jobs. Don't talk down to that person about 'racing locally', giving up and 'coming home' or tell that member that you doubt their ability to succeed, but that you can really see them on the cover of Deer Valley's brochure in the future. C'mon now. Would you honestly say these things to another dude giving his best?

  

If you're interested in miring yourself with the negativity that was that conversation, the full comment section is here: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/a-united-state-of-downhill-2015.html

And I'm posting this on this post in the hopes that whoever wants to accuse me of this can read it, understand it and then get past what yes, I wish I hadn't ever said, because it wasn't kind. It wasn't compassionate. And it wasn't appropriate for an athlete to say to someone who is confined to a wheelchair. The fact that it's fairly true doesn't make it any less awful or me less of an asshole. But. Like I said: if the tables were turned, would I expect someone to treat me differently when verbally abusing someone online? No. No, I wouldn't. And you know what? They don't. People don't pull punches when dealing with me, and I prefer it that way. 

But back to the issue at hand: my experience and the so-called 'lack of communication' and 'disappearing' when editors reached out to me. 

While you're scrolling through the following, I'd like you to ponder one thing: if the 'jokes' from Mike Levy had been of the racial/religious/sexual orientation kind, would I have been crucified for standing up then? Better yet, would the review have gone to press in the first place if it joked about racially charged violence or other protected class-inspired hatred? Just think about it.

Meanwhile, please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. Enjoy the ride! 

Claim 1: That my column-specific pieces saw no difference in publishing rates after I made my 'rape culture' comment. 

Photos

Screenshot 1 is of articles posted to my column before my comment. 
Screenshot 2 is just after the comment. 
Screenshot 3 is a continuation of 2, and the number of rejections I received post-rape culture comment.
 

Now, there is always the little instance of coincidence. Fine. Sure. It is what it is. But this? The column post approval rate before and after alone seemed pretty damning when I took a step back, but coupled with the phone call I had with the publisher shortly following the comments, it's a little too convenient. Also considering that multiple phone calls took place throughout the fall, and one in January with my editor, and then another one in late January, again with my publisher Julian, who spoke of 'changing attitudes' and 'surprising the audience'. 

This one exhausts me, mostly because it boils down to classic 'he said/ she said' and really, this entire process bothers me.

So. Claim 2: Lack Of Communication and that even after my column content stopped being approved, never once (as written in the comments of my other blog by Pinkbike CEO Karl Burkat) did I approach my editor Tyler or the publisher Julian about my column pieces being added. Whoops. Read on and enjoy. Also: feel free to contact them at these addresses. And me at mine. Please. 


I spoke with my publisher and editor through the summer and into the winter as I recovered from broken hands in August and a traumatic brain injury in September... 


And into the winter, especially after the Kohut comment, which earned me another talking-to. Because I'm the only jackass in the entire comments section. Great. Like I said, I am not without blame. But neither is Pinkbike.

    
All the while, still not being published in a column that supposedly exists 'to address issues within the bike industry with an open and honest edge' (as said by my publisher 5 days ago when we spoke on the phone).

And still... Nothing.



Continued candor, openness and self-criticism, and yet... Editors rejected the article I had worked on and then waited another month before addressing another column (and then used this candor to talk to a media outlet about during this entire debacle. Awesome).






Clearly, there was not a lack of communication between myself and my editor, publisher and even other members of the editorial board. This is a small sampling of written correspondence over the past 12 months, and that clearly excludes the lengthy phone calls alluded to and shown above. My willingness to take criticism and suggestion and my eagerness to help almost makes me want to vomit at this point as I read through emails. Seriously. 

Claim 3: I Refused To Take Direction (Or Edit Posts)... C'mon. Really?! After MONTHS of talking, calling, emailing, waiting, talking about discussion, just... Really? 

This one is pretty easy to debunk with the emails from above and that I edited multiple articles and ideas (as I've told Karl in an email). Others I simply lost interest in pursuing and let go, or got too busy to delve back into or any other number of reasons. It's part of the creative process and it happens.

Shot 1: 11 revisions on my part, on a column post that never ran, but that I was simply told there was no room for on the front page, despite it being a pretty prevalent issue within MTB racing (lawsuits against organizers) and a highly-talked about issue (20K hits on my personal website alone. And aren't they selling clicks?).


Shot 2: Another revision, another rejection. 


As you'll also see in one of the shots above of a Skype message, I went back to my editor the next day and offered another revision on an article and cited a 'toned down' version. Still no publication, or reasons why there wasn't. However, Karl Burkat (CEO of Pinkbike), later claimed both #2 (Unresponsive) and # 3 (Refused to take Direction) as shown in the email, and he also included my comment to Stacey Kohut as yet one more possible reason.



My response was as follows, and included the images I have posted above of the proof of contact, etc.



(Sorry about the split. I don't have a fancy big screen and I have to scroll. #firstworldproblems)





Claim 4 (as of Friday, May 15 in an email from Pinkbike CEO Karl Burkat) is my new favorite. At first, claims were 'We didn't know about it!'. Claims then became 'But she was unresponsive!' when I didn't immediately supply emails, phone calls and contact. And now, claims are 'You were needy and demanding and you bothered us.' Ever heard of gaslighting guys??? How about goal posting? If not, go look them up. Then come back. That seems to be PB's strategy for dealing with this issue, instead of actually just saying 'Yes, you're a prick and a loud mouthed jerk. We wanted nothing more from you, and no, please don't submit anything else.'


(This photo also contains part of the emailed response I posted above under Claim 3)

Instead, they waited for me to get sick of the runaround and leave PB. What I'm wondering is if I hadn't shit a brick (or overreacted) about that line in the review, would it have ever been looked at again by the editorial team? Would they have waited to take action until Levy came out with another review that rails against women? Would they have waited until another female writer aggressively responded to the undertone of hatred and sexism in repeated personal attacks to say 'Whoa. We need to seriously change our tone around here.' or ask 'Do we really want to capitalize on the fastest growing segment in mountain biking, or do we want to alienate all of them?'


And now that the industry has collectively decided that I'm a 'troublemaker' in the court of public opinion, I'm wondering what's left for me here, or if there is anything at all. 

And that's sad. Because I thought that bikes were something that everyone could do and be involved in and part of, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. I thought that bikes would transcend any bro-brah mentality and pack-like ignorance. I thought that the bike industry was a safe place for people, as long as they simply loved bikes. But clearly, I was very wrong. In the comment sections, in my opinions, in my articles and photos and in my female-ness, I was wrong. The opinions I have and the experiences I've been through mean nothing to the site owners, to other community members, and even to valuable members of the professional racing (and photo) realm who easily dismiss me. Because I'm loud? Nope. I can name off 50 other 'loud' or 'obnoxious' members of the bike industry who happen to be male, but who are taken in stride with a grin and a laugh. Am I dismissed because I'm opinionated? Talent-less? Outspoken? Nope, I don't think so, and nope, once more. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm indeed dismissed, talked over, counted out and discredited because I happen to have lost in the genetic straw draw of birth and ended up female. And that's the issue we need to talk about. The issue of 'Oh, she's just a girl. What the fuck does she know?' 

I don't believe that there are villains or heroes in this situation. I don't claim to. But what there is is a situation where we (and yes, I mean collectively) allowed a series of hateful lines to be directed at any women who read a certain few reviews. And then someone lost a column. And for whatever reason, what we're talking about here doesn't actually fix anything, but leads us 'round and 'round in what equates to a conversational circle jerk where everyone takes sides.  

Because instead of a site owner stepping up, saying 'Yep, we fucked up' and fixing the issue to make sure it doesn't happen again and another woman doesn't stumble upon a hateful comparison to a bike frame, their first move was to post a comment on every blog and every forum board in an effort to discredit one contributor's experience so that they could save face. Damage control was the first thought, and painting me as a hysterical, shrill feminist shouting about rape culture was the easiest thing to do. Instead of saying 'yes, we have a community issue and we'd love to work with you to make this better for all users going forward', they decided it was best to shut me up and settle things down. Because this entire situation doesn't smack of a Pinkbike argument that you'd see in the comments section? Because this isn't classic cover-it-up-and-we'll-just-stop-talking-about-it?

Because no... We don't have a rape culture. Not us. 

Never here. You must be mistaken. 

Welcome to the bike industry, folks.




PS: Sorry if this is confusing as fuck. I'm injured and currently splitting time between work, being an ass on the internet, watching 'New Girl' on repeat and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Oh, and taking my cat for walks.