Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Art Of The Slut-Shame (Or Lack Thereof)

I recently posted an image of my abs on Instagram, and not because I'm a fitness personality (I'm not) or trying to brag about my body (I don't) or even trying to gain more followers (fuck that). I posted this image of myself in running shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt for one reason: to refute the claims of the haters.

"Aren't you the fat chick that got kicked out of Canyons?", "You're just mad because you're ugly" and "The only people who have a problem with it [the commercial sexuality within biking] are the obese and ass-faced chicks" are all things that have been said to me because of my stance on the issues surrounding #AbilityOverAesthetics. And I laugh. Why? Because fuck those guys, that's why -- they'll never have the opportunity to meet me to find out who the person on the other end of the screen is, and that makes me giggle. It's not about what I look like anymore than it's about what other women do -- none of that has anything to do with our skills or abilities around sports and cycling... Just because we are able to exploit our sport doesn't mean we should. 💥 #crushlife #hatersgonnahate #tatersgonnapotate
A photo posted by Amanda Batty (@abattycakes) on

Why would I post this for the haters? Because they're wrong about me on so many levels, but often in ways that I'm unable to factually disprove without opening my life up for total examination or wasting my breath (and time) trying to explain why.

Over the last few years as I've made strong statements about the value of women, our ability to avoid commercializing sexuality and turning the women in our sport into sexual objects, the one 'insult' and completely wrong statement has been that I'm A: fat or B: ugly. These haters claim that the only reason I'm openly and aggressively against exploiting the sexuality or the appearance of women in cycling is because I cannot do that for myself. Their claim is that because I'm too ugly or fat to commercialize my appearance, I speak out against it.

I am not.

Obviously.

But I didn't post this photo only to refute that. I posted this photo as a means of showing that if these trollish idiots were wrong about my appearance, what else are they wrong about? If these men (and women) are so vastly ignorant of what I actually look like, how unfamiliar must they be with the rest of me, including my actions, words, passions and goals? And if they are ignorant of that, they clearly cannot intelligently or logically refute the things that I say that ARE based in fact, logic, studies and education. They simply cannot.

And so I posted it with what I assumed was an obvious caption. The last line in my caption read "Just because we are able to exploit our sport doesn't mean we should." I left this here as a very blunt indication that I had chosen not to exploit myself or my sport and that it was indeed possible to be successful without doing so. It seemed pretty damn obvious.

Clearly, based on the overblown reactions and messages I received later, it was not.

I was slut-shamed.

And it shames me to say this, but I wasn't targeted by the haters or the models from the ads or marketing I've so vocally opposed. Instead, it came from a woman who claims that she's about empowering women. It came from someone who coaches other women in programs like Vida MTB series, the Cycle Effect and 'backcountry babes'. This message claimed that the photo I posted showed me 'taking off my pants' and that I was wearing booty shorts, and that I should delete the photo and let my riding speak for itself. I refuted her claims and explained my stance, and she fired back with how much respect for me has been lost by her and so many others.






To that (and to anyone else), I will say this: FUCK. OFF. I don't care if you respect me or not. My actions and entire existence are not to validate the goals you or anyone else has. My actions are solely mine and a reflection of who I am as a living, breathing, duality-having human with depth, compassion, imperfections and intelligence. If you try to put me into a box, you will not only be greatly disappointed, but you will fail. I cannot be defined by the limits you try to impose on society and my boundary-breaking personality IS THAT because of who I am. I don't play by your rules, and I'm certainly not living to earn anyone's affections or respect; I learned a very long time ago that if you live for that, you aren't living at all. I learned it the hard way when I lost everything because of that -- not just everything that matters, either. I lost it all. And from then, I have always lived for one reason: myself.

The person I am has to fight for change, for improvement, for compassion. Who I am isn't based on the value you assign me because I happen to play into your politics for a brief moment or because you've deemed me as 'hot' or 'ugly'. Who I am is based on everything that is inside of me and the mind and spirit I have, boiling hotter than a nuclear reaction.

And yes, this matter has been rolling around in that magical lava cesspool that is my brain, and I decided that I don't like this for one reason: you cannot define another human being, and how dare you attempt to do just that? How dare you approach me and accuse me of taking off my pants when, in all honesty, you're the one with the reading comprehension problem? I was clearly addressing the people out there that would determine a woman's value only by her appearance and those who have dismissed my opinions (and mounds of marketing, logic, evidence and economic science) because of their beliefs about my body type and face shape?

When you are the side that cannot see my post for what it is -- my joy in the strong, capable, athletic, powerful body I've been blessed with -- it's not I who has lost the respect. I have respect. I have respect for myself, for my body, for my industry, for those who follow me. I have respect for the girls who look up to me, for the women I coach. I have respect for my fellow racers and riders, and THAT is the reason I posted this.

Just because you have allowed yourself to be defined by others doesn't mean I will. I am not fat, ugly, a slut or an object. I am human with duality and intelligence and humor.

And I will never fit in that box you've built.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#ProvingPossible Program

To my #ProvingPossible ladies:

I'm sorry. 

Oh, goals. What to say about them. They're often lofty, beautiful and clever, but when the execution isn't strategically planned down to the last detail, we run into trouble. 

My goal with #ProvingPossible was to get more women into DH racing through funding, coaching and excellent support. Unfortunately, for a lot of you, it hasn't worked out that way. I dropped the ball.

That cannot be refuted. I didn't plan for the sheer volume of participants, the workload, mishaps, alternate expenses, or a change in scheduling... And it left a lot of you out in the cold. 

I'm so sorry.

I was injured at the beginning of the season in late April and missed the NW cup/ProGRT stop coursewalk and clinic; however, the program experienced difficulties before that -- at Sea Otter, four entries were paid for, a clinic and course walk was put on, but not a single entry showed up for either one, and three of the four race entries were wasted when those members didn't race. 

But a month later at the Sundance stop, despite my injury, some complications and a decent bit of rain, we put on the #ProvingPossinle clinic and it went extremely well -- 7 women came out to the course walk and the clinic. Nearly most of you raced, we all got to meet and chat and talk bikes. It was awesome. I was blown away at the excitement. However, again, I dropped the ball after Sundance about new contacts, upcoming races, fee reimbursement and responding to emails.

This would be indicative of my entire season. I'll be honest: the Sea Otter failure dampened my enthusiasm for the process I believed in. BUT. The response to the local race at Sundance renewed it quite a bit, despite being overwhelmed with my surgeries, the crazy expenses, a fraudulent issue with my PayPal (yay!) and the sheer volume of participants, as well as everything going on in my career at that point with leaving Pinkbike. 

I'm not sure why it matters so much to me, but I know that I fucked up. I didn't plan this program well -- idealistic goal-setting never really goes as well as I'd like it to. I let a lot of ladies fall through the cracks at clinics, with race entries, with email or phone contact, and I hate that. I'm sorry. 

I'm sorry that I wasn't prepared for the size of the workload, the immensity of the clinic need, the scheduling conflicts or the level of contact that would be required with each of you. I'm sorry that I didn't provide the support you wanted and needed and deserved from me; I'm so sorry I blew the committment I made to so, so many of you. I'm realizing that big goals are wonderful and can change the world, but only if the projects are manageable enough to execute properly. The scope of this project was too big for me to handle alone, and it failed because of so many different reasons relating to that. I didn't have contingency plans for any 'if's, let alone 'when's. 

However, I'm hell bent on not making this your burden anymore than it has been. Please give it one more shot and reach out to me if your emails have gotten no response or if you still haven't been paid (!) for your race entry. The goal is to get everyone taken care of by the end of this week and to close the program indefinitely until a better strategy can be fleshed out and put into practice. I'm sorry that I failed to toe the line, ladies, and I'm sorry that your DH racing experience began like this. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions -- yes, sincerely. 

All my best, 

A.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Thoughts About Trash.

A little known fact: I run whenever I can, which is a LOT. Five days a week, usually. I often run at my local park just down the street; it's a nice loop for speed work with quick access to the hills should I feel inclined to crush it and run sprints (which only happens after quite a bit of caffeine). Because this park is so nice, there's always a crowd. With crowds comes clutter and debris; I think it's a universal law of humanity at this point. We're such messy creatures. But I love my park. I always have. I've loved this particular park since moving to Salt Lake at 15 and now that I live so close, I feel a fond mix of gratitude and responsibility. And so while I'm out on my runs, I'll swerve to pick up trash. I'll do a little half-stoop jog while I snag the remnants that were blown into my path, and eventually find a can for them. 

To be honest, I'm not sure why. There are people who get paid to do this. This trash isn't even mine. No one has assigned me this job and I'm sure that if I added up all the seconds it takes to stop and do this, it would equate to a significant amount of effort. I should be grumpier about it. But the funny thing is this: I'm not. I consider it part of myself. It's just something I do. 

In recent months (or years), I've come under criticism for responding to internet trolls and negative or hateful comments, both about me and not. Unlike my trash gathering on my runs, I've always viewed this as a negative habit I just cannot seem to quit, but as of late, I'm realizing that it comes from the same place as my desire to make sure my park is clean: my heart. 

See, I don't fancy myself a savior (despite some claims that I do), but I have realized that part of being a good human is knowing that even if something 'isn't my job', sometimes there is no one else that is going to clean it up. Sometimes there is and they've been there before me. Sometimes there are other trash-elves out at the same time I am and together, we manage to put quite a dent in the refuse that litters our community. It's a powerful effect. One that I would hope random passerby would see and be inspired to do a little tidying of their own. But unlike my runs, the Internet usually shouts at me when I address the virtual trash problem. My attempts to put the nonsense cruelty in the bin are met with condemnation, disgust and ridicule. "Why do you even bother?" "You're wasting your time refuting these comments." "Why do you care?!" "Fuck off!" "Get a life." 

But I still do it. It's a major part of why a lot of people really detest me, this habit. But the thing is this: we invest our time into the things we truly care about. And for me, I obviously care about cleaning up my community, both online and off. The environment and atmosphere of both my park and my MTB forums matter to me. I believe that everyone should be welcomed without the blight of unseemly clutter and that, if we all pick up a few pieces of trash here and there, there's a good chance that others will take notice and clean up more of the mess. Call me idealistic, but that's how we get cleaner communities. 

And yes, I know that these comments will never end as the Internet seems to give birth to more trolls in one day than a lifetime marriage between Darth Vader and Dovregubben would, but trash doesn't just disappear. We have to put out more bins. Set the bar of expectation. And if those of us in the online MTB community refuse to tolerate the trash, I truly believe that it will act like a virtual littering fine. If we speak up and say "Excuse me, but no. That won't fly here", I honestly think that our community will be better off. 

And that's something that IS worth our time when we step back and look at the larger picture.

Call me crazy, but I'm just cleaning up the trash. 




Friday, October 9, 2015

Passion.

There is something deep within me that demands fuel. Like a spark, it needs only fuel and oxygen. 

Maybe it's the ashes from a childhood spent in lonely limbo between 'troublemaker' and 'prodigy' or the still-hot coals from a tumultuous teenagehood. Maybe it's my 'potential' finally showing up to the party and deciding to remodel the entire house, guests be damned. 

This passion is my wildfire. It's burned through fears. It has burned me out of relationships, burned me into deep depressions, burned between jobs and travel and new opportunities. My passion isn't my weakness, but it brings me to me knees often enough to make me wonder if I'm not a slave to a fickle master. My passion isn't my heart, but it beats strongly and wildly enough that it feels as though it powers the gravity that makes my world spin. And it hurts. It bleeds when I feed it, it bellows and spits when I don't, demanding more... More fuel. 

And I expect things from it. This fire flickers behind my eyes... But it isn't mirrored in the eyes I stare into. I've searched for it. I've prayed. I've tried desperately to stoke some sort of... Interest, interest in life, interest in the world, into the people around me. Curiosity. I've tried to ignite fires with emotional lighter fluid and have even used gasoline from time to time.

But it's not enough. My ashes, my coals, my spark... My flames, burning at their hottest, aren't enough to catch. 

I wonder if fire ever gets lonely.

I'm curious about those smoking coals... Will there be enough fuel? This spark is hungry, and oxygen isn't enough. Freedom and fuel must be endless to keep it burning. But how many miles of forest can a spark burn through before it moves on? 

Because it will burn. And maybe I'll burn with it. That's what fires do, don't they?