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.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Passive-Aggression And The Art Of Being Mean

I'm drunk.

Let me clarify:

it's Thursday, at 2:30 pm, I just finished a podcast recording (and a box of Samoas) and I'm drunk.

Okay, one more: It's Thursday, I'm drunk, on Twitter and enjoying the hell out of myself. Is THIS how trolls feel?! God. It's fucking intoxicating.. 'and entirely unprofessional', my conscience says.

Shut up, conscience.

Someone (Simon Geschke [@simongeschke on Tweetland]) just tweeted something passive aggressive as fuck, and I like it. I like it because I subconsciously identify with the need to remain somewhat 'professional' and the personal need to shoot flaming arrows in a person's direction.

I've done it. Most of the time, I delete my responses because... Jesus. No one gives a fuck about your drama, Granny. But other times, I'll write entire blogs on my responses to these passive-aggressive bitches, just to show that I can play the game better than they can.

It usually works. Because, in the back of my mind, whoever sent me the offending screen shot (I've blocked all of my usual aggressors), I know that the sender will inevitably give my message to whomever is squawking about. I'm under the correct impression that the pipeline goes both ways.

And I use it.

The nice thing is that I grew up in an inherently manipulative home because my dad is a control freak and the whole family is extremely religious. Yeah, yeah, we're all fucked up. I get it. But my childhood fuckery taught me a skill that would eventually turn out to be wildly useful and completely underrated (unlike calculus or advanced geometry.. THANKS, mom). It taught me the art of faux humility, self-deprecation, biting sarcasm and sharp wit. It also taught me never to mess with someone twice your size, but that's another argument.


This blog was my response to an allegation by a fellow 'racer' that I'm a big bully hiding behind the pretense of working for women and trying to help eliminate sexism within cycling. That was my 'professional' answer. This is the first time I've given public air to this trumped-up beef. But we're not talking about this person. We're talking about passive-aggression.

So yeah. I get it. And yet, despite all of the attempts to remain 'professional', we're all standing around punching the air and pretending to hit each other. Simon Geschke, for example, is a professional racer in a sport renown for it's advanced doping technologies and the corrupt officials surrounding and protecting it. Tweeting about a small push up a hill by another team seems a bit 'drop in the bucket during a monsoon' to me, but hey. He clearly feels strongly about it. So more power to you. But fuck, man. If you're going to start a Twitter war, at least have the cojones to write a long, expansive and self-defensive blog naming the offending party. Jesus, man.

Wait. That's my job.

Okay, so don't write about it. But putting it in perspective is, unlike this shit writing and anything in my cadre of material, important. A push up the hill versus an entire sport doping its way into late night comedy skits and criminal prosecutions? Good sir, you tackle mountains for a living. At least tackle that one.

I feel as though there's always some sort of beef in sport that lends a bit of romance and scandal to the otherwise-boring background minutiae of it all, but that it would be more interesting of a battle if the punches were blatant and sudden, like a good cheap shot in boxing.

Or at least it wouldn't be so fucking semantic. If you're going to be passive-aggressive, take a good cheap shot. Make it worth the hit. Invest some real rage in it, and then go all out with a good, passive-aggressive finale that delves into person failure, a bit of professional mediocrity and a really horrible, truthful bit about their terribleness. I mean, I suppose that the inference of said tweet does a fine job (if you can't get up a hill without assistance, what the fuck are you a pro cyclist for?), but... C'mon, man. You could've done one better and hit two racers you hate with a double-whammy ("If you're gonna cheat, why not talk to Chris Froome about it instead of having your team push you up the hill?"), but caustic remarks like that seem to be my drunken specialty.

And yes, I traded my riding talent for pointless rage, in case you're wondering.

But you have to mean it. You really have to be terrible to the core in order to make a run-of-the-mill aggressiveness seem funny and lighthearted while it wounds the intended audience to the core.

Believe me, I've researched this.

But now my brain has excised all of the pent-up aggression I had, so I'm going to finish my beer and cookies and then take a nap.

Au revoir.