Up Front by Emma Hart


Why a Woman is Like a Bicycle

The other day, I was watching people discussing the tacks on the Island Bay cycleway and wondering at the vitriol that is so often directed at cyclists. It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my Dom a few days earlier, and so I tweeted the essence of that.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what happened next. At some point, it was retweeted by Ben Goldacre and William Gibson. Before I went to bed on Day One, I received notifications that I was trending in Sydney, Melbourne, Manchester, Dublin, Berlin, and Toronto.

When I got up on Day Two, Twitter was concerned. “Hey,” it said, “you seem to be getting a shit-tonne of notifications, do you want to apply some filters to that?” And I thought, some more? Because I already had all the basic ‘troll be gone’ filters turned on.

I spent half an hour reading replies to that tweet. And then I switched my notifications to “only people who follow me”. Because holy shit, it turns out hitting the conjunction of cycling and feminism makes the internet explode. My guess is I have read about 10% of the responses to that tweet, and if they are representative, I have been told to fuck off about a hundred times. I’m okay with that, because many more times than that, a guy has gone, “Holy shit, I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

There have, however, been some criticisms, so I am using this ‘more than 240 characters’ space to address them.

But this doesn’t work because men can get off their bikes.

Yes, you’re quite right. See that bit where I said cycling was exactly like being female? Oh, no, wait, I didn’t. What you’d need to do to prove me wrong is come up with something that is closer to the experience of being female. Yes, I’m nit-picking your nit-pick. Annoying, isn’t it?

The point of the analogy is that this is an experience some men have had that might give them some insight into and empathy for the lived experience of many women. You are in an environment that is designed by people who aren’t you, for people who aren’t you. You know most people aren’t the ones who will hurt you either deliberately or through just utterly not caring, but you have to treat them all as if they are in order to keep yourself safe. If you don’t keep yourself safe, no matter what you do, people will blame you for the harm someone else caused you. And some people fucking hate you, just for existing. That kind of combative hyper-vigilance is exhausting. Welcome to our world.

And if you genuinely think my analogy isn’t giving women enough credit, maybe read the tweets I sent earlier in the day about being driven out of my house and stalked down Linwood Ave.

I bet I’m the 300th person to mention the clothes.

Dude, you are not wrong.

But men fight wars!

Wherever you come from, dude, men are able to avoid fighting in wars. Where they can’t, women can’t avoid war either, and they tend not to get guns. Wherever you come from, dude, the men who do fight wars are disproportionately neither middle-class nor white.

But men are more likely to be attacked on the street!

Yes. They are.

Men are more likely to be the victims of violence from strangers, in public places. Women are more likely to be the victims of violence from people they know, in private homes. Men are more likely to be the perpetrators of violence. So you’re right, absolutely everybody would be safer if women went out, and men stayed home.

Wait. Was that not your point?

Cyclists and women, always whining all the fucking time.

And you are doing what now?

I fucking hate cyclists, the things they do, they’re just asking to get killed to death, and fuck them.

I fucking hate women, the things they do, they’re just asking to get killed to death, and fuck them.

Thank you for proving my point.

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