Last week (or maybe the week before, it’s been a bit manic chez feminaust lately) Tara wrote about being told to smile on the street and contemplated the relationship with looking feminine and “pretty” and being expected to always appear happy and appealing to passers-by. It got me thinking about my own experiences of street-harassment. They’re fairly unusual but they certainly do happen. I’m hesitant to put their rarity down to my demeanour or dress choice as I know that street-harassment rarely has anything to do with what the individual actually looks like however, as I ramp up my bike time in preparation for a big bike tour I’m undertaking in May I’m starting to notice that the street-harassment aimed my way is also ramping up. Something about being a chick on a bike causes the male of the species to get very excited and assume our intention in such behaviour is to attract their attention and solicit all manner of observation muttered, hurled, crooned and chorused across the street/footpath/pedestrian crossing/from moving vehicle.
I’m fascinated by the realisation that my choice of locomotion could so dramatically change my experience of being on the street, in ways other than the speed at which I locomote (word?). The realisation reminded me of a friday feminaust from last year which focussed on the importance of the invention of the bicycle on women’s freedom and independence. Is there a residual anger in the male of the species that we are so carelessly flaunting our not-so-new found freedom? I somehow doubt it, although you never know, collective memory can be a powerful thing.
Is it because in the course of powering our two wheeled vehicles that our bodies are placed in such a position as to arouse greater interest? Lent forward, powerful biceps bulging, arses swinging in the air, thighs and calves rippling and pumping? Well perhaps for some people but that is not the image you get when I ride past. Mine is more a red faced, panting, often on my way home from some sort of other physical activity so dressed in the sweat soaked t-shirts and track pants required for such endeavours (or sometimes the pub after a few).
One positive thing I have become aware of is that when on a bicycle you can both stop suddenly and make a quick get away. Not unfrequently I have slammed on my somewhat faulty brakes, yelled obscenities and demand to know why I am not to be allowed to continue on my way in peace without harassment and then sped off, heart pumping, hands sweating in my oh-so-northern-suburbs white leather cycling gloves.
And in the end, why shouldn’t I? What possible right does any man have to comment on my bike fabulousness? I know I rock a smashing fifteen speed (actually I don’t use my gears, I’m not sure if they even work…) but I don’t get (generally) comments on my sexy ability to drive a car, or ride my horse (ok I do, but only contextually coz I’m wearing my fetching snood and skeleton cameo brooch). Like I said earlier, my experiences of common or garden street harassment are rare. SO what is it about the biking that gets the boys all hot and bothered?
Does anyone else have this experience? Any comments or suggestions to make for this confused little pedaler?
Image taken from Mikael Colville-Andersen‘s photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons License.