call out : In Which I ‘call out’ a ‘call out’!

Posted by Nadarine on Mar 27, 2013

Source: Tiny Fix Bike Gang

Drawing by Halfanese.

Drawing by Halfanese.

As part of a gang of female bikers, I should be fucking thrilled every time I hear about an event encouraging more women and girls to ride, right? But then sometimes I catch a little excerpt of something that takes all that “hey, ride a bike! It’s fun, it’s efficient, it’s good for you, and it makes you feel totally awesome” and turns it into something awfully patronizing and insulting.

Like this.*

“She (Cynthia Bell) advised that women should dress so as not to draw attention: “You don’t want to look too sexy.” ”

That’s notable for  1) coming from a female cycling advocate, 2) being utterly fucking wrongheaded, and 3) potentially turning women away from biking because they perceive it as unsafe.

My beef here is deep, but the biggest problem I have with her statement is that there is no goddamn way on this earth that doesn’t sound exactly like a “well, she was asking for it, just look how she was dressed!” blame-the-victim excuse for criminal behavior. What a woman is wearing is not relevant to this situationLauren addressed that here in February! That statement- don’t dress to draw attention- means that it’s my fault if I get catcalled because I’m wearing a dress (which mostly, i am, since I own two pair of pants total). It’s your fault if someone gets up in your face at a red light because you’re wearing lipstick. It’s our fault because we somehow encouraged unwanted attention by the choice of clothing, or the look on my face (“why don’t you smile, girl?”), or by being visibly female or visibly trans or visibly queer or visibly whatever.

Fuck that shit.

Ride in what you’re comfortable in, whether that’s biking to in a dress and heels or jorts and a t-shirt or a three-piece suit or a tank top and a tutu. Ignorant people will still probably yell at you (and I hope to god they never assault you) but I really believe that by insisting on your right to be visible and respected, your actions will lead the way for people to rethink what “correct” female behavior is. Hopefully that includes making other women rethink their ideas about how one is allowed to dress while standing up for their safety and comfort.

I’m glad that Cynthia Bell related her own story of being physically harassed while biking and doing something about it (getting the car’s license plate number, reporting the incident to police), but I’m pretty sure she didn’t mention what she was wearing when that occurred and also that doesn’t matter at all.

*Streetsblog Chicago and Ms. Stenzel aren’t advocating this view in the article, clearly, but are reporting on the event. This very article links to their feature on Lauren’s anti-crime Tiny Fix article!


So regarding dressing while on a bicycle, does this mean that if I desire to wear non-reflective black clothing all winter long (and while having a front and rear light set, and refuse to turn it on) that the TinyFixBikeGang will not hassle me for riding dressed as a ninja? I really feel comfortable dressed that way. In fact when riding along the Chicago Lakefront Trail at night I gain a new sense of anonymity. Being hidden from the view of would be nefarious evil-doers makes me happy.

It is therefore my intention to call out all those bikers on the Urban Cyclists “Whine and Jeez” Club Forum who deign to even mention reflective clothing of any sort. What I wear is my own business and does not concern you. In fact I have just the outfit ready for my new campaign to usher in Contra-Flow Riding Techniques across the city. It will be a campaign to parallel the valiant efforts of the “Idaho Stop Law” proponents who practice this technique despite it currently being illegal.

Someday we will all be able to ride in ninja style both night and day, sans headlights while making every lane our Contra-Flow Riding Lane.