I’ve written before about being a woman rider/racer who’s frequently riding/racing with men, sometimes with no other women along, sometimes with just a few. Overall, my experience with my particular club has been very positive. But I recently read Fendergal’s post on her experience riding with men and recognized what she was talking about: men who compliment women for being strong even when their performance falls below that of the men, men who won’t let a woman pass them but insist on jumping on her wheel or passing her right back, and most of all, men who offer unsolicited advice to women riders, assuming that they don’t really know what they’re doing. These things have happened to me before, and I find it annoying, although mostly I just do my best to ignore it.
The best response is to be strong enough to leave all those complimenting, advice-giving men behind, which is what I’d love to be able to do, but, alas, am not yet good enough to do. It’s tricky for me sometimes when dealing with people who give advice, because I’m a new enough rider to need it, and I have learned things from other riders offering unsolicited advice. So I have to figure out whether a person giving me advice is doing so for obnoxious reasons — because he figures he knows much better how to ride than I do and that he can condescend to offer some tips — or whether the advice is well-intentioned and useful. And getting compliments on my riding is quite nice, and there’s nothing wrong with compliments unless they have the wrong subtext: “you’re strong — for a woman.”
I’m glad to have found Fendergal’s blog because it’s fun to read about another woman’s experiences with training and racing, and I’ve been happy to find Itchy Bits as well — a blog by a woman who’s not racing now, although she has in the past, and trains seriously. I wonder if there are other women cyclists blogging out there?? Fendergal says the ratio of men to women in cycling is 10-to-1, so we need some solidarity.