A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Scooters, Women's Bodies, and Male Anger

[Trigger warning for Male Anger manifesting in misogynistic language, threats of violence, and verbal harrassment]

Bluejay and I got a scooter back in the spring which we have been using daily as our main mode of transportation. Scooters are excellent, especially in the city. In the city no one can go much faster than 30 mph (the speed that a scooter tops out at) for long stretches anyway. In the city there are often long lines at lights where scooters can mosey up the right side and then scoot off into the sunset when the light turns. In most municipalities, scooters have rights to the bike lanes, thus making us potentially safer than otherwise. Scooters look cool (ours is creamsicle-like, white and orange), and they awesome gas mileage (on a tank of gas from a crappy gas station we only get 50 mpg but on a tank of gas from a high end station we get like 90 or 100 mpg).

One thing that isn't so great about scooters though is Male Anger. Scooters (and bikes) tend to make men in SUVs cranky. A few months back when Bluejay and I were going somewhere (yep, it fits two people), we stopped at the red light. Seems pretty normal, right? Other than the asshole in the SUV (actual bumper sticker: Got Oil?) behind us apparently wanted us to continue out into traffic. He honked, (Bluejay gave him the finger, he doesn't like the tendency of Boston drivers to honk at you for following traffic laws). I took the right on red I was planning on taking moments ago anyway (after having actually deliberated on whether another car would hit us if I did... you know, following those pesky traffic laws). He of courseb sped up, pulled around us into another lane, yelled curse words out the window at us, (I gave him the finger, not realizing that this was the second finger of the encounter), and proceeded to pull into the lane in front of us and weave back and forth from lane to lane when I tried to get out from behind him. Male Anger. Sort of terrifying. You know, what with us being on an open to the elements motorized bicycle, and him in a fucking Hummer (no joke). The best that could be said about him was that he had absolutely no respect for the fact that his actions could have killed us, the worst that could be said is that he was actively attempting to get us to crash.

Last night, on my way home from class I got another taste of the way that scooters elicit male anger. You should know that Boston has a notoriously large community of bicyclists that a) almost never follow traffic laws (as in passing lines of cars stopped at a red for the past minute, and then proceeding to somehow make a left on the red through oncoming traffic), b) rarely wear safety gear (brakes?!? who gives a shit about brakes! helmets? pah! they'll mess up my carefully mussed hair). Perhaps you've noticed from my rhetoric a slight disdain for that type of "loose"ness with one's safety? As in, that even if I meander towards the front of a stopped line I don't actually breeze through reds, and that I wear a helmet, and not a "brain bucket" helmet, but a full helmet with a clear eye guard that I put down in inclement weather.

So I'm stopped at the light waiting for an opening to take my left when a guy pulls up to me (I don't notice him, focusing on oncoming cars) and hisses out the window "put your face mask down, Bitch," just as there is an opening/I'm leaving. Usually in encounters like this I'm too flabbergasted, but in this case I knew exactly what I wanted to say but the coward/asswipe had already sped off.

Does this guy give such helpful safety tips to all the guys around town who think that little half-melon helmets are sufficient? Does he hiss "buy a better helmet, MAN (said with derision)" when he passes them? Does he perhaps verbally assault the male bicyclists he sees around town as they go from place to place without any protective headgear? I mean, really, what exactly is he trying to accomplish here. Did my facemask offend his delicate sensibilities?

I'm not a woman, but he clearly thought I was. I feel (just maybe) that he found the idea of a woman scooting as intimidating. Why? The experience got me to thinking about a town I used to live in where the entire biking community knew about this person who would drive around and while passing them (while they were being entirely safe and legal) would shout obscenities at them (calling them "bike faggots," among other things), and the police refused to do anything because they never "caught her in the act" and she would explain that she was just doing it for bicyclists' "safety" (uh huh? pull the other, it's got bells on it). What is it about bikes and scooters that scares people? What is it about them that is coded as "feminine" (the use of "faggot" I feel like is pretty indicative of a desire/belief that bicyclists are somehow effeminate or less manly if they aren't already women)? And why this need to police the bodies of those who are assumed to be women (or are just assumed to be feminine men)?