Why (Some) Mountain Biking Men Need To Grow The F!@# Up

Staff For Women
Posted by: Mike Brcic
October 7th, 2017

Men, we have to do better.

 

Yesterday I saw a post in my Facebook feed - from a popular mountain bike group - that was a variation of a popular internet meme going around. Because of the heated discussion that ensued, the post has since been deleted, but the photo above is the one that started the debate.

 

Harmless enough, right? Good for a quick chuckle, right?

 

A woman (the only woman in the comment thread, for the duration of the thread) soon posted a comment along the lines of "this is the reason why more women don't mountain bike." 

 

Almost immediately she was met with ridicule and scorn, called an out-of-control feminist, and made to feel very unwelcome in the group - entirely by men.

 

Although I was put off by the original photo, I was, frankly, pretty disgusted by the reaction to her comment. I offered my support and pointed out that the post could, in my opinion, be interpreted as somewhat sexist and offensive. I pointed out that it equates women to objects (bikes), and that objectification of women is one aspect of a male-dominated culture that denigrates women.  I suggested a little empathy might be in order, and perhaps a more nuanced approach to disagreeing with her - rather than telling her to just get out if she didn't like it.

 

And that's where things went from bad to worse. Immediately dozens of other men in the group went on the attack, telling me to 'get a sense of humour', 'lighten the f!@# up', and 'if you don't like it, then get out of the group.'.  Some trolled my profile and posted images from my feed to ridicule me.

 

The attacks on the lone woman in the thread continued. I waited for some men to come to her/our defense, but none appeared. More and more men joined into the thread to make us feel stupid,  unwelcome in the group,  and overly sensitive. Not a single other man joined in to say that, hey, maybe the post is a bit offensive. Maybe it is - just a little bit - in poor taste.  Or maybe we could have a more mature discussion about it, and maybe be a bit empathic towards another's viewpoint on the issue.

 

Not one man in the 13,000-member group spoke up against the barrage of vitriol.   13,000+ mountain bikers from around the world, and no one said a thing other than to tell us to get out of the group.

 

It, frankly, made me embarrassed to call myself a mountain biker.  Most of the men attacking me and the woman were not 18-year-old frat boys; they were grown men in their 40s and 50s. I suggested (angrily, and ultimately counter-productively) that they needed to grow up and stop acting like frat boys. 

 

I tagged the administrator and asked him if the image was the type of content he envisioned for group discussion. Within a few minutes, he shut down commenting on the thread, stating that it had gotten out of hand, and shortly after the post was deleted entirely. 

 

It's no wonder, as the woman suggested, that the sport of mountain biking has difficulty attracting women. Although the vast majority of my experiences have shown men to be extremely supportive and welcoming of women into the sport, like many bastions of male dominance (estimates of female participation in recreational mountain biking range from 15-30%), mountain biking can, on occasion, play host to men's worst tendencies.

 

On our Rides, for example, we've had situations where 1 or 2 women on a male-dominated trip are made to feel unwelcome, or outright made fun of. Thankfully, this has been quite rare and the majority of our male Riders are extremely respectful, amazing people. We now train our guides how to handle this situation and we have a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behaviour ;  this situation hasn't occurred (as far as we know) for a number of years.  But it's one of the reasons we started a line of women-only Rides: we heard from many of our women customers that they would be more comfortable in a women-only group.

 

 Later that same day, I was reminded of just how far the male gender has to go - and what women deal with on a daily basis - when a friend posted this article about an art/awareness project a Dutch woman was undertaking, bringing awareness to the catcalling she was subjected to regularly. 

 

 

As a father to two young girls, I want them to grow up in a world where this type of behaviour is not acceptable; where they're not subjected to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis; where they're respected and admired for their creativity, empathy, and intelligence rather than objectified for their looks, or simply for their gender. 

 

As a father to two young girls, I'm deeply concerned.  I know we men can do better.-We have to do better. A lot better.

 

And that doesn't just mean not engaging in this type of behaviour. It means standing up to it and calling it out when we see it, even if that may subject us to ridicule or scorn or ostracization. 

 

Last night, I reached out to the administrator of the Facebook group and asked if he could bring back the post so that I could reference it in this article. I pointed out that unless we men hold each other to a higher standard, then situations like these will continue. His response was "That is not something I have the time or interest in trying to change. I keep the group as appropriate as I can but sometimes things offend people, and sometimes they do need to not be overly sensitive."

 

And there's the problem. It's easier to just stay silent; shrug it off; have a laugh and move on. And not be 'overly sensitive.'   It's just a silly internet meme, after all.

 

But frankly, men, that's not good enough.  Not nearly good enough.

 

And many of us men need to grow the f!@# up.

 

Mike Brcic,

 

Founder/Chief Happiness Officer, 
Sacred Rides

 

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Men... I'd like to hear your thoughts. Am I being 'overly sensitive'? Should I lighten up? Or do I have a point? Let me know below.

 

Women... what have your experiences been like on a mountain bike, with other men? Positive? Negative? Have you encountered this type of treatment? I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments below.