A Bit About Solidarity

Considering how in-your-face snarky we can be around here, it’s surprising that the most personal, hurtful, and below-the-belt criticism Tiny Fix members have received has been from women. I want to talk about this without getting too Mama Bear Mode: Engaged, even though when you mess with my girls I basically just want to beat your ass.

Laughing with me? Valerie via Compfight
Mama Bear Kaz in yo face

I used to be a jerk to women. I was one of those girls who would say things like, “Oh, it’s hard for me to be friends with other girls,” and “I prefer hanging out with the guys; they’re so much easier and there’s so much less drama.” “When a bunch of women get together it’s all giggling and screeching and it’s ugh just so awful.” *eye roll* *knowing eyebrow raise* *crush out cigarette* “I mean, you know how it is.” I would even say it to girls I was friends with, adding caveats like, “Well not you obviously because you’re cool.” How my brain didn’t immediately explode from cognitive dissonance, I have no idea.

This internalized misogyny is not intentional. It’s also common. You don’t even realize you’re self-selecting evidence to support your pre-conceived notion. You write off any “cool” chicks as exceptions to the rule. For me it started with the girl-on-girl bullying, both overt and subtle, I experienced throughout junior high and high school. My brain took these shitty experiences and framed them as “girls suck” instead of “assholes suck.” And I came to the “girls suck” conclusion because I had internalized all the ways that my world was telling me that women were indeed lesser than men: less cool, less intellectual, less interesting, less rational.

Some things have happened in the Tiny Fix world that have inspired me to do a lot of thinking about my past and reading about this phenomenon. We tend to assume that the people oppressing, harassing, and generally being jerks to women are men. Watching the Texas State Senate filibuster action last night, certainly old white dudes are still leading the charge to strip women of their constitutional rights. But the gendered harassment and shit-talking of us and Cupcake have come from women, women who I’m sure don’t consider themselves misogynists. The nature of their criticisms demonstrates that we can be sexist towards each other; that we do absorb the tropes about women being shallow, back-stabbing, drama-causing, irrational sluts. So I’m calling for my fellow women to recognize this potential in ourselves and turn from a pattern of tearing down to one of building up. The call to fight the patriarchy is coming from inside the house.


Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis getting it done Khaleesi style
 

Women: Posers, Sluts, or Both?

 
We have included below some screenshots of real attacks on Tiny Fix that went down, with the names blurred. Note that we’re not posting them to call out specific people but to point out a pattern so we can talk about it. I hope it doesn’t come off as defensive or shit-stirring, because we’ve forgiven them and moved on. This post is “We all can do better” not “Oh yeah well you’re stupid and your face is stupid.”
 
groupies
“Groupies” call out
 
We’re accused of being groupies because it’s a stereotype that is reinforced all the time by our society. Women don’t have their own interests. Men who like a band and follow them around are fans; women who do the same are groupies. Men can also be accused of being posers, but women are accused of it in a very particular way and more often when pursuing stereotypically male activities. Just think about the Fake Geek Girl bullshit that happens throughout geek subcultures like video gaming and comics. Yet when was the last time you heard a woman called a “poser” or “groupie” to the scrapbooking scene? (People *do* question men’s intentions if they participate in traditional women’s hobbies and that’s bullshit too, and also part of this gender essentialism crap that ruins things for everyone. )

I challenge anyone to come up with an example of a dude or group of dudes being called “groupie(s)” for not doing enough for the bike scene. For Tiny Fix, throwing rad races and parties isn’t enough. Feeding bike messengers from around the world for the Cycle Messenger World Championship is not enough. Hosting out of towners for rides and races is not enough. Donating our own money and time for victims of cycling collisions is not enough. Participating in cyclocross or road racing or alleycats is not enough. Riding our bikes pretty much every day, to work and play, even through the winter, is not enough. The guys are bikers; we’re just groupies.

Similarly, because our societal worth is measured by our value to men, any interests we have are for the purpose of attracting/retaining said men. Which leads to accusations of trying to get laid or being sluts.
 
pretend biker
Slut-shaming and poser accusations all in one
 
This exchange is fucked up on a few levels.

1.Just to get slightly Mama Bear for a second: Cupcake probably rides her bike more than most of us do. But more importantly, even if she didn’t, she’d still be a “biker” because the definition of “biker” is “someone who rides bikes.” There are no metrics attached. No one goes around forcing people to sign up for Strava to see if they qualify as “bikers” and I challenge us to think about whether we’d question a guy’s bike cred in the same way.

2. Women are self-actualized humans who are capable of having our own interests and hobbies separate and apart from trying to attract men.

3. Why is it bad to try to meet people with the same interests as you? Certainly having things in common is a legitimate criterion for dating, hooking up, or making friends. I met my boyfriend at a karaoke bar so obviously I drag my ass and bad voice up on stage to lure in men with my mermaid siren song and not because it’s fucking fun as hell to get drunk and sing songs with cool people. Right. Yeah.
 

Let’s Move Forward

 

 
The cool thing about life is that it’s not a zero-sum game. I can be awesome, and Tiny Fix can be awesome, and you can be awesome and we can all be doing amazing awesome things — there are no losers. It’s not a competition, and it’s a fucked up result of our kyriarchal society that makes us feel like it is sometimes. What’s great, though, is that we can start seeing through the marketing and the insecurities that are caused primarily by commercial interests looking to earn money from us buying their products to make ourselves feel better. Their goal is to make us feel like shit, and that it’s Every Man/Woman For Him/Herself Out There because that’s what gets us to buy the makeup and the stiletto heels.

If we support each other doing great things, we can all end up in a better place and living the lives we want and deserve. But if we tear each other down, if we criticize and slut-shame and constantly whip out a biased yard stick to see if we measure up, well, no one comes out ahead. If you’re jealous of how much attention someone is getting or how much fun it looks like they are having — which happens to everyone — either take some steps to do the fun things you wish you were doing, or find a way to let it go and be happy for other people. Or if someone out there is doing something that well and truly irritates you, instead of tearing her down, find someone else doing something great and write her a note of kindness and support. If we all support each other, this all just gets better.

If you had told 16-year-old me that I would have the literal DOZENS of amazing women friends I have today, I would have been sure you were lying, or that I had given up on being cool and had settled into a suburban housewife existence and was cold and dead inside. Because my internalized yet unrecognized misogyny was that strong. But look at me now, 16-year-old Kaz! Not only do I have a ton of amazing girlfriends, I’m living a pretty fantastic life thanks in large part to those friendships. I would never have gotten where I am today without the support and encouragement of my girlfriends. Instead of comparing myself to them and their awesome successes, I rode their coattails to some awesomeness of my own.

Speaking of which, while this post reflects my opinion and mine alone, I want to give thanks and kudos to my friends Erin, Cupcake, Lauren, Emily, Kaitlyn, Anna, and others for hashing my thoughts out with me on Twitter and via email as I wrote and rewrote this post.

3 comments

  1. I also want to point out that I think it’s totally ok to criticize other women. I just wish we could keep the criticism substantive and constructive.

  2. I got here via the “internalized misogyny” pingback (thanks for the hat-tip!) and I just feel sick. Y’all are doing great stuff for Chicago, women, and bike activism, and thanks for bringing visibility to the contributions of all three.

    Thanks, too, for mentioning the “fake geek girl” phenomenon, which is a super obvious (and depressing) blowback against our increasing cultural visibility. What a suckerpunch to the gut when that harassment — that attempt to diminish your credibility using gross shaming tactics — is coming from your own professed community. That’s NOT OKAY.

    LADIES (and all y’all): as any true Chicagoan knows, there is only one “poser” in town, and it’s a Vienna Beef with ketchup on it.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! As you said, it’s such a gut punch when the folks who should be supporting you are the ones tearing you down. Luckily they are pretty few and far between. We get a lot more “You go, girl!” than anything else.

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