Friday, 4 June 2010

Fix my St Funkster in Venus on a Cloud

I make fun of the hipster crowd, on their flat bar, thumbs abutting, skinny lycra-jeaned, fixed wheel St Shop coffee and beer bikes.

But in truth I also admire them, as well as mocking their perceived ubercool counter-ness.

Because they buck norms. Although in doing so, via the de riguer uniform of the St Hipster, they create new norms, in dress codes, modes of transport and behaviours. Same as goths, punks, bondageurs, preppies, bankers and lawyers etc. Bucking norms and conventions is an activity I am prone to support, if it makes people think, has positive outcomes,  and doesn't harm small animals, or non-consensual others.

Unfortunately, I suspect that Fix St Hipster is still a male chauvenist, retrograding women into aprons and heels, adorning shiny oldskool bikes (rather than shiny cars). But like all cultural groupings, there are subversions. Women who won't be counted in heels and aprons in the form of visual wanking pleasure for some pimply youf, or greased up adult male in his shed. Or his toilet.

Uniformity vs diversity. Where is the diversity? Diversity has become counter-cultural, subversive. Maybe it always has been (I suspect so) but in our current ultraconservative times, diversity is anathema, publicly decried and ridiculed as a form of marking otherness. There is no diversity in bike racing. Predominantly it is white, male, middle-aged, monied. As are the representations of Fix St Funkster I see around the place.

During tennis season I am offended by, and despair at the criticism of Venus and Serena  Williams, as much by women as men: they are too black, too muscular, too big (yep, I heard that one from a fat woman), too offending with their fashion. Good reasons to celebrate them.

In 2006, Venus wrote in The Times:

I believe that athletes — especially female athletes in the world's leading sport for women — should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message....
Wimbledon has argued that women's tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money.
This argument just doesn’t make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments....
Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men's and women's games have the same value.
Third, ... we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladies’ final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the men's....
 from here

Now I know cycling falls short in many of these areas. This is the 21st century, and it has taken 40plus years of hard work by the likes of Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova etc to get to this point. And cycling is not tennis, but it could be.

These women of tennis achieved what they did by being outspoken, bucking norms, making a stand and sticking to it, and sticking it where it would be seen, and maybe cause a bit of angst and pain even. Change is difficult, but very rewarding if it achieves good outcomes for all.

So the St Funkster attitude of Fuck You Dude, I Just Wanna Ride My Bike, is one I believe in. Mine has an additional clause: Respect us for what we do, and demonstrate that respect. We train as hard, race as hard, we pay our money (the SAME amount of money), we travel as far to race. That needs to be acknowledged, recognised and celebrated, as it is in male cycling. Sometimes I wonder how women succeed in cycling. It's a tough gig, without many role models, limited support at home and in the field. I think those who stay, or make it (whatever that means) do have that support: unconditional, uncompromised. They feel valued in some way, or they are just so freaking hard nosed, obsessive compulsive it wouldn't matter any way. A bit like supermodels: freakish and incredibly determined.

We need more Venuses on wheels. No need to apply, just a matter of doing it.

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