Put up or shut up? As if.

Apr.09, 2011, filed under Cycling, Rant

avatarMy first ever internet forum was…

OK. Almost my first.

Almost my first ever internet forum was the sadly-defunct UC-UK (that’s Urbancyclist-UK), which I joined when I was still living in Oxford. It was an email list — what back then were called bulletin boards weren’t terribly popular as we preferred discussions delivered direct to our email boxes. It’s a whole other discussion as to why fora became more popular, although I would venture the suggestion that it’s a matter of numbers. Email groups are good for one or two threads in which tens of the most vocal members are involved. Fora are good for hundreds of active threads from which thousands of members can pick and choose.

I’ve been a member of one internet cycling community or the other ever since; a rare example of a female who cycles on the road and who is an assertive participant in internet discussions about cycling.

OK. We’re not that rare. But we do comprise a remarkably small proportion of the virtual cycling population.

One of the things I’ve noticed throughout my long experience of cycling fora is the inevitable tendency of male posters to respond to female discussion threads with blatant, unapologetic lechery. While a man could post about choice of saddle to avoid prostate problems without worrying too much about other posters joining in just to make comments about his tackle, it’s impossible for women to have a discussion on a forum about female-specific issues without men posting innuendo. In the last such thread in which I participated one male member thought it would be appropriate to post a suggestion that he sexually molest any female cyclists on his next club run.

I’ve had enough of that sort of nonsense. And I said so. Repeatedly. I suspect the laddish atmosphere that can prevail in cycling communities is what puts a lot of women off taking part.

It’s something I’ve taken to doing relatively recently. A lot of the time I feel like a killjoy, like I’m taking it too seriously. I’ve certainly been accused of taking things too seriously and over-reacting — of having a hair trigger — on numerous occasions. But it’s simply that I’m pissed off with having to tolerate comments from the lads, as one forummer once put it. I’ve even been told that if women want to discuss female-specific cycling problems we should get our own private forum, and if we don’t get our own private forum then we should put up and shut up about it.

Boys, as they say, will be boys.

Given the paucity of women taking up cycling, anything that is likely to make them feel unwelcome, in my opinion, should be stamped on and stamped out. Those of us who have the inclination and confidence to take a stand on these things should do so. It’s appalling that any woman should be made to feel she’s over-reacting or being a spoilsport for demanding a similar degree of respect and consideration to that given to the men.

I’m delighted to end this by saying that the thread in question generated some very useful discussion and led one member to express pleasure in the number of ladies present. Don’t feel bad about demanding respect, girls. No matter how foolish, out of order or hypersensitive you may feel expressing your desire to have a perfectly ordinary conversation without being interrupted by the sort of comments that would familiar to Benny Hill, I can guarantee there are other women there who will be grateful to you for making the effort.

Nip it in the bud and maybe the message will start to sink in.

And guys? If you wouldn’t go up to a bunch of women discussing something in a tea shop and interrupt them with whatever you are about to post to a forum thread, because you’d look like an idiot and a creep and a pervert, don’t post it (although if you would then it’s your call). Also, if a woman objects to something you’ve posted, don’t immediately assume she’s over-reacting but check your language. All we’ve got to go on is what you’ve written.

Remember, too, that “it’s just a bit of fun” is really, really lame if not everyone agrees with you.

I don’t want anything too ambitious, just the opportunity to share my experiences as a female cyclist with other cyclists without wondering whether the next post in the thread is going to ignore the cycling element in favour of sex.

4 comments for this entry:
  1. Will

    I have a similar issue with a gaming from I help to moderate. Gaming attracts very few women, and those that do arrive, with the odd exception, don’t stay very long. Yet when I complain that the threads titled “OFFICIAL Booty Thread” and the like are tacky and not very female-friendly, I get nothing but complaints. It doesn’t help that these threads are also stickies. Eventually I will prevail.

    And the fuss kicked up when a woman posted some semi-naked rugby players in a “totty thread” once upon a time. It won’t turn you gay, you fucking morons.

  2. ravenbait

    It drives me nuts. The only saving grace is that usually the people who are ready with the lechery are not the same people bemoaning the lack of women. My experience of threads where this happens is that it takes one or two women to be really proactive in saying “this isn’t on, guys, we don’t like it,” even at the risk of pissing off other forum members — which is a ridiculously frequent result in itself — so that less vocal women feel reassured and supported, and then for more considerate male members to join in with support. If it’s just one or two guys expressing an opinion that maybe talking about boobies and who is or isn’t shaggable isn’t female-friendly, then you’re not going to get very far.

    And yeah. Double standards of any sort are a very good way to make me lose my temper, but that’s special.

  3. Jane

    Hi Sam,
    I also post on the forum you mentioned. I was away cyclecamping in Scotland when that particular thread was running and by the time I returned, one of the mods had closed it. Not sure why, really. So I never got the chance to post and say I agree 100 per cent with what you said. And hope you don’t feel you no longer wish to remain a member of that forum. I posted myself a while back on another thread (not related to the VP thread, it was to do with commuter racing I think) that I felt the atmosphere was getting a little macho and making me feel a little out of it- and that was a shame because it was really the only cycling forum here I felt that I fitted in fairly well. Hope to see you posting there again soon.

  4. ravenbait

    Hi Jane. Thanks for the support. This post was inspired by a different forum, as it happens. (A more recent blog post was provoked by the VP thread.) I was surprised to be faced by the same thing in the forum to which you refer, but there you go. I’m not sure why the thread was locked either, but I guess it’s lose-lose if you’re a mod.

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