Saturday, August 11, 2007

A question of manners...

Velochick posted about the male habit of stepping in to assist a female with a mechanical problem. I've included some excerpts, but the whole post is well worth reading.

This reminded me of a co-worker at the trail shop, a woman who had more high-altitude and high-angle climbing experience than the rest of us combined. Two guys came into the shop and wanted a male employee to assist them with some tents. Sara went right ahead because the rest of us were busy. She showed them various tents and explained their advantages and drawbacks. Finally, after enduring the condescension long enough, she was putting a tent away. She rolled up the stuff sack, put it on the end of the rolled up tent, and said, "This is just like putting on a condom. You do know how that's done, don't you?" The rest of us employees were howling with laughter.

But there's a serious aspect to Velochick's post, and that's the common guy habit of trying to help any woman with a mechanical problem. In some cases, it's true that we assume (wrongly) that females cannot fix a broken mechanical device. And in some cases, that's actually true. My wife and daughter are not at all mechanically inclined. But to her credit, my daughter Lyndsay wants to learn.

So that condescension aside, there's another common male response to the 'flat tire' scenario, particularly when the guy is older and has children of his own. (And yes, I'm talking about ME here!) Let's call it the Dad response. I wouldn't want my daughter fixing something alone on the roadside, and I don't want someone else's daughter to be in that situation either. I'd stop and offer to help, and even if my help wasn't necessary, I'd wait until a woman was on her bike and moving once again. Maybe that's a different kind of attitude or another form of condescension, but it's what I've done in previous situations. Maybe that's an old fashioned attitude, but it's mine and I'm unlikely to change.

Besides, like Gary - a retired teacher - has said on numerous occasions, "We grab every teachable moment." I don't claim to know everything about fixing bikes, but I'm very willing to share what I've learned. Repairing a flat tire is a common job, and there are some little pointers that make it easier.

Still, if I met someone like Becky, I'd probably be shocked at her reaction. Again, that may be more an indication of my age and my attitude toward women.

Go read the whole post, and give some thought to your own behavior.

(Oh, and as I finish writing this, Lyndsay is going back to work after her lunch break. She gets off work after 10 tonight. I said that if she's alone going out to the parking lot, she's to call me and I'll come to meet her. "Yes, Dad." she said in that flat way that implies she's heard it dozens of times already. I'll say it again next weekend too. I'm a Dad.)

From Velochick


Wrench Yourself

...Standing over the bike, I lifted up her front end, slipped out the offending wheel, and began to align the replacement with the dropouts. To my right, I hear a friend say something to me and I pause, mid wheel-change, to turn my head in his direction and respond. By the time I look back down at my wheel—about five seconds later at best—there were not one, not two, but three guys kneeling down, all simultaneously trying to put the wheel in for me.

My jaw dropped. One of them said, “Here, let us give you a hand.” Biting my tongue, all the familiar annoyance began to swell up. The things I immediately wanted to blurt out: “Thanks, but I can manage; just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m one of those cyclists who can’t change a flat—I fix bikes for a living!”

I know all of those would come out rude, like I’m being a bitch. So I attempt to be gracious and say nothing, letting the boys put the front wheel back in for me. Me, the girl who won’t let anyone else so much as adjust her derailleur.

...Becky (not her real name) is a seasoned cyclist who has been riding for many years and knows her fair share about bicycles. She’s put in time as a messenger, and she is the kind of girl who fixes her own bike. While out on a long road ride several months ago, she and Jeanette had to abruptly come to a halt at the side of the road. Becky had a flat. This being no reason for alarm, they stopped to stretch their legs, and Becky began to change her tube.

“I think she had just taken her rear wheel out when a group of guys started riding past,” Jeanette continued. One of the gentlemen slowed to a stop next to Becky.

“Do you need some help with that?” he asked her politely.

What followed was a barrage of four-letter words and insults as Becky literally began screaming at the guy who had stopped.

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Blogger Fritz said...

"Becky's" reaction is ridiculous. I offer assistance to any disabled cyclist I see, male or female. As a male cyclist, I've also received assistance from others when I've had a mechanical problem.

1:22 AM  
Blogger bother yam said...

I'm with Fritz. I say a simple, "Are OK?" to anyone having trouble and if I get anything other "No," I move on.

9:12 AM  
Blogger danc said...

Miss Becky may of been having one of those youthful days when the brain doesn't engage before opening the mouth or wildly gesturing. I agree with Fritz and would echo the yam bro'

10:36 PM  

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