Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Other Side Of The Sexism Coin

First off, I'm gonna put this out there: I know that I've been heavily involved in the 'politically correct' battle going on inside of cycling over the last year or so. I don't regret the majority of my involvement or influence on that, either. It's a conversation we needed to have, and I'm grateful that the shitstorm I was involved in was part of that conversation. It's something we needed to confront as a society, too. We need to talk to girls and woman as humans, not gender-biased stereotypes. We need to make it okay to be an individual with unique talents and skills, and we need to cut out the sexually objectifying marketing shit. Seriously.

HOWEVER. There has also been a very dark, very insidious side of my outspoken influence about this topic, and that's why I'm in front of my computer, writing this all out. I'm sorry if anyone is insulted or confused by my words (as always, I'm only fairly mediocre at this form of art. I wish I wasn't, but I am).

The bigateering, sexism-shouting, hail mary semantics screaming has to stop. Yes, slut-shamers, I'm talking to you. Yes, language police, I'm talking to you, too. You're not going to like this one single bit. I'm talking about the crying wolf, the name-and-shame, the hideously egregious side of the sexism coin, and the overtly PC bullshit that has come with my insistence on equality.

But you need to knock it the fuck off right now. Today. This moment, as you're reading this line. STOP.

Stop pretending that a promotional poster with pursed lips and a ponytail is sexist. Stop acting like every little slight or behavior that you don't like is an act of victimization. Stop crying out that you're oppressed and hated with every article, every ad, every moment of every day. And for the ever loving fuck of jesus' sake, stop policing the language of other women. If I tag #girlsonbigbikes, don't throw a shit fit because you think the word 'girl' is infantilizing or fetishizing you. It's not about you. If I use words to describe a picture of me, it's about me. It's how I see myself and in no way am I telling you that you have to be the same way as me.

We get it. I GET IT. I'm not dismissing your feelings here, either. What I'm saying is that this nonsense has gone too far overboard and I'm accepting responsibility for fanning those flames. I do. It's partly my fault that this entire contingent of polar opinion has been given a voice. I've been one of those voices at times, and i'm pissed off that I didn't have more perspective on a certain issue here or there. Do I regret saying 'rape culture'? Fuck no. Am I sorry for calling out companies who make money off of the sexual misrepresentation of females? Not even a little. But am I ashamed at some of the things I read on twitter or my athlete page now from people who simply take it too damn far? Absolutely. And it's time I say something about it.

When a woman posts a photo of herself online, you DO NOT GET to pigeonhole her. Actually, let me rephrase that. Yes, you can stereotype or hate on her, but the asshole in that situation is you. You can take all sorts of offense at anything on the internet, but that doesn't make you a victim.

I've spoken out about sexism and the double standard in cycling because I want to be able to show up and do my job without negative consequences tied to my vagina. I've fought for equality because there is an insidious, hateful stream towards women that runs through modern. As an athlete, it's my job to pave the way for future athletes, and that includes girls AND boys. But it's not just about sexism. It's about economic sustainability and culture norms that we've allowed to get out of control. It's about trail building and smart athlete valuation. It's about progression and skill and having a truly cohesive industry that builds on itself in an honest, self-critical way.

It's not about tone policing, political bullshit or games. It's about looking at ourselves and saying "This is what our future looks like on our current trajectory. Do we need to change it?" and being honest about the answers.

That's why I'm writing this. Because there's a current tone in cycling of anger and frustration and overwhelming censorship in the fear of offending anyone. We're creating a homogeneous, beige scene, and that's unacceptable to me. So I'm raising my hand once more and saying "Hold the fuck up. This has gone too far." It has. The bus has driven off the cliff. Not all of us have, but there's a small contingent that is screaming so loudly that there's no space left for reason. This is for that contingent: I am not your ally. I am not your political caricature of a sacrificial lamb, and I refuse to shut up.

This toxic, black side of the coin is no longer allowed to sit and run asunder inside of my realm of thought. I won't encourage it or be quiet about it, because we are getting somewhere, and that progress will not be derailed by people who want it their way in absolute perfection. The progress comes from talking about these things, and I won't sacrifice that progress to appease an extreme point of view that sees everything through a lens of  'attack'.

Because let's be honest: there has been some amazing progress and awareness raised about being more inclusive in cycling. We're having conversations about what message we want to send to the mainstream. We're seeing all sorts of colorful opinions, perspectives and life experience. And that's amazing. But it cannot bleed over into censorship or this inflated sense of victimization. Hoping and praying and demanding fair portrayal in media and advertising is one thing. But abusing people, sifting through their lives for ammunition and policing every word of every sentence is not. Moderation needs to be infused into this conversation, as well as compassion, perspective and a determination to keep things civil... And I can't say that I've always been this way. I haven't been civil to everyone, and I haven't been compassionate when confronted by opposing views or people who just don't understand the struggle. I've been duly aggressive about important things, but I haven't always been capable of letting certain stuff go. I forgot that everyone is a rider. Every single one. We all get a say in what our industry needs, but I wasn't always willing to listen or self-criticize. I wasn't always wrong either, but I approached a lot of things with the burden of frustration and anger. Yes, it's infuriating, but we have to inject some sort of reason into this discussion or we'll lose anyone worth listening to... We'll only alienate those with a truly moderate, objective approach. I can only speak for myself, but this is me... Saying sorry. I'm sorry for fueling this toxic perspective. I apologize for not always seeing all of the angles. To those of you reading this, thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for encouraging me and talking with me and sending me these reactions that needed to be addressed.

Because we have to talk. It's all part of a larger conversation.

And now I'm going out to ride my goddamn bike.