Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm Not Open For Comments

This article from Rookie Magazine shook me up because I'd previously believed street harassment was aimed primarily at female cyclists. I figured the novelty of females on bikes was just too much for some motorists to handle, to the degree that some of them must honk to alert me of my sex and mode of transportation. This doesn't happen regularly, but enough that I've acclimated to it (for the most part). What never ceases to tick me off is the comment "Hey girl, gimme a ride!" or "Hey girl, lemme ride with you!" Really, Mr. Motorist. Isn't this embarrassing for the both of us? You'd look awfully silly sitting in my basket and you probably think I weigh no more than 100 pounds so why would you propose such a thing to me. Let's not play this game, in traffic.

This sort of drive-by harassment slips my mind as I pedal towards my destination. The kind that truly creeps me out comes from the men who follow you. WTF! Dude, I'm trying to go to work so I'm not going to stop for "Hey cutey!" or "Hey pretty lady!" I'm also not stopping for your weak ass line because it's weak. Oh yeah, and because I'm cutting through an empty parking lot or locking my bike up in a fairly empty parking lot I'm going to skip the conversation since I'm woman alone in a parking lot who's been followed by a guy in a truck. Isn't this a scene from just about every Lifetime movie that's ever existed?

The weirdest and most disturbing encounter I've had was with a pedestrian. He proposed that I let him ride my bike and carry me (in the basket, I guess). At first, I thought he was just joking and I playfully asked him where his bike was. He started to tell me about his bike and how he did tricks on it, its special components, etc. I was relieved to have the conversation turn to common cyclist chit-chat. But then he returned to his idea of carrying me on my bike. I grew up in a nice little cul de sac where I don't recall anyone having their bike stolen, but I couldn't help but think of a bigger kid intimidating a smaller kid into handing over his bike in order to ride away with it. I also envisioned being thrown out of my bike basket through some tricky maneuver and watching him ride off with my bike from a sprawled position on the sidewalk. Thank the Lord, the crossing signal changed and the other side of the road was downhill. I rode away quickly still discerning the guy's yells of, "Wait, wait!" far behind me.

While I won't downplay the harassment female cyclist face everyday, the invasive, criminal, and sexually depraved nature of the street harassment the girls in the article and the comments section describe is enormously frightening. What happened to feminism? Or just plain humanism? Or "It takes a village...?" A girl or woman should be able to walk down the street undisturbed; she shouldn't have to take a vehicle to speed past perverts. That's not what Susan B Anthony meant when she wrote
“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.”
 Is it? This post is open for comments.


laura said...

That's funny because I read all the time on message boards about (mostly guys) being harassed by motorists and I (a female) experience almost no issues. If anything people give me a good amount of space and are pretty courteous. Maybe the difference is that I'd riding in an urban setting where the speeds are slower and bicycles are somewhat expected. My general travel areas run from East Atlanta all the way to north Midtown Atlanta.

Courtnee said...

I think you highlighted an important difference. Since I'm in the suburbs people aren't used to seeing a cyclist on the road. I've actually seen drivers with looks of horror/horrified confusion on their faces as they pass me. I don't get yelled at, honked at, or buzzed a lot. The guys who follow me creep me out especially and the incidents stay with me a bit.

One time an old guy in an old Cadillac was traveling the opposite way on the other side of a six-lane road when he saw me. He pulled this crazy, big U-turn to pull up next to me and ask me if I needed a ride home. Why would I need a ride if I'm already on a bike? Why would I take a ride from a strange old man at almost 1 AM, or any time really? I sweetly said that I was almost home and pedaled off. I was so glad I live in a gated community--just in case.

Hyedie said...

This is so timely because on our last Girls' Cupcake Ride (up in Toronto) we had this exact same discussion.

While most of us agreed that we encountered little to no street harassment on a bicycle, as a pedestrian it happens quite a bit.

Sadly some of the girl said encounter more street harassment on a bike, from comments about their breasts to this common one, one of the girls said she gets a lot: Want to ride THIS next?

So sad.

Courtnee said...

There must be something about a woman walking or biking that just screams of vulnerability to compel some low-lifes to act in such ways. I don't think I've ever been hit on while driving a car.

She Rides a Bike said...

I don't really experience this problem that much anymore, possibly because of my age and the fact I've grown comfortable being kind of a bitch when needed. Mostly, the few negative experiences I've had on a bike have been limited to drivers impatiently zipping around me. Frankly, it has been much more of an issue in the gym when I was single and often men would ask me the most intrusive and inappropriate questions. Another time, at a public driving range I was hitting balls from the tee and this guy strikes up a brief conversation with me about my swing and before you know it he wanted to know if I'd like to go to Florida with him. No kidding! I didn't even know this guy and for some reason he asks me to take a vacation with him. I might add, not that it should matter, that I was wearing a polo shirt and just above the knee golf shorts so it's not like provacative dress confused him about my intentions. On the whole, I don't know what drives some men to randomly hit on women the way they do. I wonder if it ever works because it seems every woman I know has stories like your's Courtnee that are just so creepy.

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