Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Why a Woman is Like a Bicycle

65 Responses

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  • BenWilson,

    When I first saw the tweet it was an instant "Yup, that's pretty much fair, and very well put". Seeing it had skyrocketed into cray today was bizarre. But then I think that the right to kill with a motor vehicle is like a first amendment mentality thing, and brings out whackos.

    I totally get what you meant. Motorists can kill you easily, and can give you a hard time. That part of it doesn't feel good.

    Ironically, I think being wrapped in masters-of-the-universe guise (white middle-aged large man) makes my experience of this much less than other cyclists. But it's a taste of what it's like. Worrying about how I'm being perceived by a hostile gaze from behind. Wondering if my hostile comeback might lead to seriously dangerous violence which I have little prospect of getting the best of. The palpable sense of relief on a cycleway. The sense that some kind of outfits that might be better for riding in would increase hostility. The annoyance that I have to wear a stupid fucking hat or the police might hassle me for my own safety, particularly recently when it's hot like a bastard and no-one in a car has to wear a helmet, no matter how many people died in cars this year, and particularly since the helmet itself seems to increase bad driver behaviour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10530 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Just to note that I forgot to mention the weirdest reply I saw to this tweet. I got a sound telling off from a feminist for denigrating the bicycle, which had been such a boon for women.

    I... got nothing.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley,

    I got a little of the insight when watching Julius Caesar at the Pop Up Globe. It was confronting as a guy to see men consigned to bit parts and *clearly* dressed as property (sack cloth and shackles). I stood there thinking "this is what it is like for women watching most MSM TV/Movies etc."!!!!

    So analogies are important to help shift frames of reference!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 141 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Morgan,

    Great column Emma. Sure mades me think, and I'm a male cycling advocate who often rides in Island Bay.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2011 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Wow. "Congratulations on your 47,000 star tweet" is something I think I'd be fucking scared to be seeing in response to anything I wrote, whether it was joking, scathing, insightful... wow.

    It was a bloody good tweet though, I thought so when I first saw it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Attachment

    I've been told some people aren't seeing the tweet embedded in this column, and I'm having a bit of trouble with the back end right now for some reason, so in the meantime I'll pop the image here.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I'm glad you've (re)popularised this, it bears repeating.

    Some time ago I suggested to Andrew Geddis on PA that he might like to try cycling for this exact reason and his response was "no, not convenient". But it's something I regularly suggest to men because it really does give you that "Schrodinger's Motorist" experience, as well as the whole gamut of heckles and micro-aggressions (although when it's done with a couple of tonnes of metal travelling at 60kph it doesn't feel very micro).

    So many more parallels: cyclists are expected to dress a certain way, but however they dress it's wrong. Lycra is comfortable and practical but lycra louts are awful, anything other than orange reflective road-hazard is the wrong colour, but why are you whining about spending so much on clothes? And why can't you look like everyone else?

    Also, people will complain vigorously if you suggest any change be made to accommodate your particular needs. Often they say "it's always been like this" which is much more clearly bollocks than it is when women suggest similar things. Which is not to say that it's not also bollocks when said to women, just that "always" and "invented in 1913" is egregious.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1097 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    there's a large percentage of the population that wants to keep its figurative foot on the accelerator. Obviously, they dont see the Dead End sign or seem to care about who their words, thoughts or actions affect. Fuckers.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1698 posts Report Reply

  • JessicaRose,

    I’m a woman and I also ride a bike. Your analogy speaks my truth. Just in case you needed some straight up “shes right you know” support. I’d tweet it but you might not get it in all the viral popularity.
    Also bloody good blog, 10/10, I’ve had to read it out to people.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2011 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    What I think is interesting is so many people think the tweet is about cycling.

    So much so that you get anti-cycling responses.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4421 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to JessicaRose,

    I’d tweet it but you might not get it in all the viral popularity.

    Thanks, Jessica. The thing that gets me the most about the response (because once the abuse gets to a certain level I just can't take it seriously any more) is that there IS lovely stuff in there, and I'm not getting to see it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    so many people think the tweet is about cycling.
    So much so that you get anti-cycling responses.

    Has anyone objected on the grounds that it's appropriation? You just can't know what it's like to be a woman merely by riding a bike...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1097 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Moz,

    Has anyone objected on the grounds that it's appropriation? You just can't know what it's like to be a woman merely by riding a bike...

    Oh dear gods yes.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I'm sorry. And also somewhat sorry that I asked.

    But... not sorry that I have managed to avoid twitter for the most part.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1097 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I have also been told off for "speaking for all women". By men.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4631 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    On behalf of "all cyclists", I would like to say you shouldn't claim to speak for all cyclists.

    What's that, you didn't? Well... um... good.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1097 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Moz,

    managed to avoid twitter

    cf. Ben Goldacre's graph representing the "bell-end distribution" of online comments (i.e., overrepresenting extreme reactions, & especially at the negative end of the bell-curve of opinion)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1790 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to linger,

    overrepresenting extreme reactions, & especially at the negative end of the bell-curve of opinion

    Very much so. And especially because the positive end are more likely to say "hmm, could this be misinterpreted? Perhaps I should tone it down". I could easily have responded to Emma by professing undying love and a desire to shower her with kisses... but in the context of getting heaps of abuse online, I think it's better I just went for "thank you".

    I'm happy that Patreon has decent comment feeds for the most part - it turns out that trolls aren't willing to pay a dollar a month for the privilege.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1097 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

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

    I would like to point out in my defence, my personal point, though poorly articulated, was that as a bloke I was glad to have the privilege(?) of getting off.

    Proper thanks for sharing though, stuff like this always makes me think and try harder.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 788 posts Report Reply

  • Walter Nicholls,

    I'm a middle class straight white guy with a bike I hardly ever ride ... so I can only nod in clueless agreement and keep to a simple "thanks" also. I did feel the need to read this post (and some of the comments out loud) to the entire family, and the females in the audience nodded too, no doubt much more cluefully.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Boo,

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. And I'm a straight white middle class middle age guy.

    My point is though, that I don't have an actual choice about riding the bike. The thing finally got me off the cigarettes and that way probably saved my life.

    Mrs 5 has a role model with an active lifestyle, so she rides 6km of tailwind, 6km of headwind back, two loops of the pump track, and up the hill where the 9yo friend with the gear shift bails out.

    It's incredible to see that, and, I dread the day when she finds out about both sides of your tweet.

    Paparārangi • Since Jul 2017 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • JC Carter,

    I would agree.

    What would a motor-scooter be closest to? I have ridden real motorbikes, pushbikes and scooters over the last 30 years, and find for some reason riding a little 50cc scooter as the most antagonistic of the bunch.
    Even when riding at clearly illegal speeds (derestriction makes the scooters better...) you still have idiots cutting you off, trying to overtake into oncoming traffic, hitting you, etc. I gave up on them as its safer cycling as I can use the cycle path without additional complaints.

    Space • Since Sep 2014 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It’s kind of interesting to read a blog about twittering - about cycling being like an analogy for being visiblaly female. And what twitter is.

    Thankyou Emma.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3995 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    One further area of similarity, which seems germane to the response to the tweet itself too: no matter how many people threaten, abuse or intimidate you (online or in person), you must never, ever appear angry yourself, or you’ll become One Of Those Types and everything you say will be treated as invalid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • WaterDragon,

    So I have a don’t-look-at-social-media day or two, and by hokey, the doo-doos hit the wotsits on that platform! I missed the stoush and don't really want to come in late with the comments.

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 69 posts Report Reply

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