But.. Dottie from LGRAB noticed the same perturbing advert parked out front of the Bike Village at the Pitchfork Music Festival that grossed me out and she had the balls..ovaries?.. to say something about it.
How can we move beyond the perceived machismo entrenched in cycling culture when this particular breed of objectification is rampant. Or should I just shut my mouth and ride side saddle on your rear rack?
First of all, that link is great. Of course I can’t ever help myself and so had to read through the comments, and you know, it’s ninety nine degrees so now seems like a good as time as any to deconstruct and talk about exactly why non-center/cis/dude/straight/white/abled bodied cyclists might take issue with this image, and my riding beefs in general.
I mean, there’s this eloquent comment:
Really not seeing it. Every opportunity the artist had to sex this image up (slanting the hips, exposing the breasts, hyper-sexualizing the figure) was passed up. It’s almost self-conciously un-sexual. The overall image strikes me as one of feminine strength more than anything.
It strongly evokes the traditional Atlas figure ala Rockefeller Center (a hyper-masculinized objectification of men if ever there was one!) To turn that almost farcically testosterone-laden image of male power on it’s head and put a woman in the position of strength strikes me as a pretty powerful pro-feminist statement.
Either of our interpretations could be valid, but the work itself is ambiguous enough that I think it’s safe to assume that most interpretations will say more about the person looking at it than the person who created it. It’s pretty dangerous then, to accuse anyone who doesn’t share your interpretation of being sexist.
Aside from going all Susan Sontag with being able to, you know, assign intention and what homages mean and blah blah blah, I just sort of want to give the good, It’s shit like this, dude. Seriously? You started your argument off with that your gaze has decided it is not sexual, nor striking, and thus this image of a naked women must only be of GIRRRRL POWER and nothing else. And, ONLY IF this image had been drawn with typical or mainstream images of beautiful, sexy women (slanted hips? what? what even IS that?), could it be some sort of statement.
We ride bicycles with our bodies, and our bodies are political. Enough said. Seeing this image, I had the same sort of response to a piece of art I saw at the Winter Bike Art Show around February (If I can find a link, I’ll edit it in). It was a series of photographs from the 2010 Naked Bike Ride, featuring participants in various states of dress doing the Lance (the same pose). As I peered at this and worked on sort of thinking it out, up comes the photographer. Now, I don’t know his intentions, but I will say my experience ended with me congratulating him on his nice camera and declining his offer to take my picture when I came on the ride. Because… that’s why I come to an art show, dude. Free naked modeling.
For him (I’m paraphrasing), he decided that his work was devoted to showcasing the beauty and power of the body. Which is awesome. But what if he’d taken pictures of people who ride bikes who don’t do the Naked Bike Ride? Or asked them what they felt about their bodies? Or god forbid, it hadn’t been dominated by mostly nubile, female bodies? Cough.
I mean, look anonymous commenters and artist dude freaking out about possible political implications about this imagery, OF COURSE YOU DON’T THINK IT COULD BE POLITICAL OR SEXIST BECAUSE YOU ARE NEVER LOOKED AT LIKE THAT. Is that too ranty? Is that too simple?
I ride my bike every day. I ride my bike in Halloween costumes involving short skirts, or baggy jeans, or gender bending swag (suspenders, what what!), or Huck cutoffs, or chuck taylors, or knee high boots or granny dresses or skinny jeans or punk rock t-shirts or beanies or winter coats or bikini tops. I ride my bike and sometimes it makes me feel really freaking beautiful or handsome or badass or exhausted or grimy or panicked or clear-headed. I ride my bike to be healthy and to get wasted and to go to the store and to not be healthy. I mostly ride it because it’s pretty frakking enjoyable and efficient and I’m broke and I have lots of places to be.
I ride my bike because it doesn’t make me feel any of those things. I ride my bike because I’m a body in motion, this is my body, with my motion, and not any of your buisness. No matter if I’m looking mainstream good, or feeling really fantastically foxy because I’m in some rad baggy cutoffs and a white, made for teenage boys tank top.
I have sort of gotten over the fact that no matter what I do, I can’t interrupt violent gazes on me as much, even though I can respond to them. I can cut you off, or flip you off, or yell at you when you are in a car and yelling at me. You may try and come after me, but I might do it anyway. I can feel really, really terrible when you are a CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER in your stupid cruiser on a Tuesday afternoon who “asking for a ride” when I’m just trying to go to the beach, dude. I can feel confused or jealous of other female-oriented bodies who seem to always look just so good on their bikes, with heels and skirts, and I’m darting around in said sneakers and bug helmet. Because even though I wish it was just about the pedal and the spoke and the shift, it isn’t.
But I don’t ride my bike so I can be an exemplary pro-feminist object for you to cheer on. I don’t. I am working on loving my body, and I am a feminist, and honestly, I can probably give you a run for your money on our commute, but don’t tell me what my body means in motion. Don’t tell me the World Naked Bike Ride is solely a celebration of the body, and my female-born body should be held as some sort of objectified strength. I can be the same fierce cyclist in my clothes, thanks, and that’ll probably be political too. Maybe next time we can but your naked body out there and then you can tell me what that represents.
WHEW. I’ll save my, “Just because you have a sweet road bike and a dick does not mean you shouldn’t follow etiquette nor can you ride faster than me” rant for another day.
“The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous, and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”—
Fake sunburns. Rage balls. Trapped. Two wallets in SIX MONTHS. Bank of America keeping my money from me. No money. Court dates. Ninety one. Summer squalls. Monday (again how again!?). Inability to cook. Too many people in my ear all the time. Ninety one. Skinned shoulders. July, what the hell?
“My husband, however, had this to say about it (and I’m paraphrasing): Men don’t like to consider that women may be viewing them as rapists. Jen’s post made it clear that any man, any time, could be viewed as a rapist, no matter what his intentions actually were.
That totally blew my mind. If you’re a man, not for the reason you think. You see, all men look like rapists to women. All of you, all the damn time. If you go out in public and you are a man, a woman has looked at you as a potential rapist. What blew my mind was the idea that men aren’t aware of this. Really, I thought you would be.
Here’s the thing, all women are always aware of the risk of rape. We all know how prevalent rape is. We’re all aware rape can happen to any woman at virtually any time and that no woman is entirely safe anywhere. Men may pass right over an account of a rape, but women do not. So we’ve heard stories of rapes in church bathrooms during services, in stairwells, elevators and parking garages, in changing rooms at department stores, in movie theaters, in cars, in planes, in parks, in airports, in buses, in our homes. We know that old women are raped, toddlers are raped, nuns are raped, pregnant women are raped, everyone is raped.
So, everywhere we go, we can’t help but think This is a place where rape happens. I am not unusually afraid of rape, by the way. This is a normal level of fear for a woman who has not been raped.