Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Consumption And Brutality.

I first met Lissa Greenspoon when she and I worked for Open Door Books in Montreal. We'd sit at the big table out the back of QPIRG and talk shit, reading letters from prisoners across the United States and wrapping up the books they requested. Someone obviously took them out to the mailing room, but I never knew who.

She was a bike messenger and eventually scored me a job doing the same. I worked for Intelcom, who only had a position available because one of their messengers had been killed by a car the week before. I didn't last too long - when it started snowing I quit - but in that time Lissa told me one thing that I remember every time I'm riding home at commuter hour. She said that any time she rode past a guy, that guy would always, without fail, start hitting it as hard as he could, in an attempt to not be beaten by a girl.

She told me this as we were riding down Ste Catherine. A couple of seconds later she was called up on a job and disappeared into the traffic. She was one of the smartest riders I ever knew, and could give drivers lip in three different languages. If she lived in Melbourne, my money would be on her for the Girls Alleycat coming up in October. But that's not really the point of this post. No, the point here has more to do with guys being stupid, chauvinistic, misogynist assholes.

Every night I see guys breaking their asses trying to destroy the rider on the hybrid in front of them - there's nothing unusual about that - but I also occasionally see them ripping it twice as hard to overtake some female rider, then chopping into her just to prove how hard they are. I don't really get it. But I do get why women are starting to organize their own stuff - rides, alleycats, bike fixing teach-ins. I totally, totally get it. It kinda implicates me as part of the problem, but that's ok. If i'm being honest I probably am.

Sexism isn't something that can be defeated, conquered, beaten up and left to die (or even smashed...). It's something we have to work on constantly. Occasionally I - like everyone else - slip up and done something dumb, say something stupid and demeaning, or don't give someone sufficient credit because of their gender. The important part is that we acknowledge these fuckups, do what we can to make them right, then continue to work at eliminating sexism from our lives. It's tough. But perhaps an important first step could be not doing that effort from hell just to beat some woman off the mark. Perhaps you'd be better off just saying hi.


eleanor said...

Sigh. I wish you were describing an anomaly.

Natasha said...

Thanks for writing about this Brendan. While most girls (or certainly I) don't lose sleep over this kind of behaviour which is so very common from guys on the road, it is heartening to know that someone out there is being self-reflective about it.