Monday, 23 November 2009

5 Inspiring Women to Get You Cycling!

(This is another post that I did for BitchBuzz)

More women than ever are taking to the London streets on their bikes in a bid to go green and save some money on bus fares. We enjoyed a summer cycling in chic city shorts, mini skirts and whimsical summer dresses. We didn't have to worry about getting cold or wet, we felt proud about getting around under our own steam and we acquired a healthy glow.

And then, over night, everything changed. It's freezing cold, rainy and blowing a gale. On days like these, cycling doesn't just seem unappealing, it seems like total idiocy. Your steely resolve to cycle into work every day starts to waver and soon it's been a fortnight and your bike needs therapy for its abandonment issues.

So to give you that little shove through the door with your two-wheeled ride in tow, here are a few women with serious pedal-power. If they can do it, you bloody well can too.

Beryl Burton

Beryl Burton is one of the greatest female cyclists of all time. And it wasn't just her fellow women that she beat. In 1967 she set a record for the twelve-hour time trial that wasn't beaten by a man for two years. If the Olympics hadn't thought women too fragile to cycle competitively, she would probably have dominated there too. Sadly, the seven-times world champion died of heart failure at 58.

Suffragettes (Susan B. Anthony)

'New Women' at the turn of the century recognised the revolutionary potential of the bicycle. Susan B. Anthony, the feminist civil rights campaigner, said, "I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

Victoria Pendleton

Victoria Pendleton is a British world champion track cyclist. She also won the gold medal for the individual sprint at the Beijing Olympics (apparently we're not too fragile to pedal really fast anymore). Amazingly, Pendleton is no longer allowed to run because her muscles are honed specifically for cycling. That's how good she is.

Juliet Elliot

It's disheartening to see this great fixed-gear rider drooled over, rather than admired, by hipster boys. She's sponsored by Charge which is something most of these plaid-shirt-loving guys could only dream of. She pulls off some pretty brilliant tricks, proving that she's not 'cute', but awesome. I do wish she'd wear a helmet though.

Jemina Pearl

Jemina Pearl was the ultra cool singer from now the sadly defunct Be Your Own Pet. There are so many reasons to love Jemina - she used to puke onstage and throw it at boys for goodness' sake - but her love of cycling is what gets her a mention here. I'll leave you with some lines from their classic 'Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle', “Have fun, and be safe with it, Just kidding, f*** s*** up! We ride bikes, cars are for idiots.”

Exactly Jemina, exactly.

Image via RandomDuck's Flickr

Monday, 16 November 2009

How Rihanna Became a True, Real Life Role Model

This was originally written for BitchBuzz Go and look at their lovely website. I'll be writing a piece for them each week which I will cross-post here.

Following the coverage of the Rihanna and Chris Brown abuse incident has been almost universally depressing. First there was the harrowing photograph of her battered face that was leaked by police, Brown’s fans relentlessly blogging about how she must have deserved it and, most recently, people saying she’s using her ‘victim’ status to sell records. If there was ever an event that showed how wide-spread misconceptions about intimate partner violence are, this was it.

I was so pleased then that Rihanna decided that she felt strong enough to be interviewed. Commenters have said that they had admired her silence on the matter, that it is more dignified to keep quiet than to speak out. A lot of people would rather Rihanna remained quiet. Chris Brown beat her allegedly because she would not be silent, because she wanted answers about his behaviour. She should not have to be quiet now if she doesn't want to be.

Importantly, she didn't just have things to reveal about her personal experience. Although the details about what she endured in the car that night are the most immediately shocking part of all this, the fact that this experience is shared by so many other young women is the real controversy. Approximately one in four teenage young women experience violence and abuse from a partner. Clearly Rihanna is not alone.

And it seems she is acutely, painfully aware of this fact. A few weeks after Chris Brown beat her up, she flew to be with him. In the interview, she describes the confusion she felt about her feelings towards him. She wasn't able to cut herself of from him immediately, which is understandable. As Rihanna points out herself, women are often abused eight or nine times before they leave a violent partner for good. The problem is, Rihanna is a huge star, admired by millions of young women around the world, one in four of whom will experience violence from a partner. Concerned that other women will follow her example, Rihanna advises abused women to distance themselves from their relationship and act for themselves in their best interests, "...don't react off of love, eff love. Come out of the situation and look at it third person...because love is so blind."

Encouraging women to leave physically abusive situations is important, but it's also important to be able to recognise the early signs of an abusive relationship. Rihanna mentions that Chris Brown had 'shoved' her before this happened. Even now, after having been beaten by this man, Rihanna plays down the prior physical abuse because it didn't leave her bruised. Commonly, women see some of the tell-tale signs of an abusive partner as flattering or loving. Jealously is seen as romantic and rows are often off-set by charming apologies.

When people wonder why teenage girls stay with violent boyfriends, this is often the reason. Relationships in the media are often portrayed as tempestuous and arguments are just a sign of passion. But there is a fine line between passion and abuse and it's important that young women and men are educated as to where that line is. Hopefully Rihanna's bravery in talking so candidly about her experience will educate other women in her position and help them to see that they do not need to be ashamed or alone. As Rihanna says "I am strong...this happened to me, it could happen to anybody."

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Featured Feminist: Kathleen Hanna

(I know I was supposed to have been a more regular, disciplined blogger as of two weeks ago. My grandma died though and now I have swine flu so I'm starting late.)

So my first featured feminist is Kathleen Hanna. Because I love her.

Who is she?

Kathleen (I hope she won't mind me calling her that) is probably best known as the singer in legendary riot grrrl bands Bikini Kill and, more recently, Le Tigre. She's a D.I.Y. scene legend, responsible for some of the most influential zines ever, Revolution Girl Style Now and Bikini Kill. She also wrote the Riot Grrrl Manifesto (which I quote from at every opportunity) which was published in Bikini Kill #2. Outside of the Riot Grrrl Movement, Kathleen has been involved in pro-choice campaigns since she was much younger, speaking openly about her abortion which she had at 15.

Why do I love her?

Isn't it obvious? Kathleen Hanna's emphasis on women's solidarity and creativity is inspirational. In the individualistic days of post-feminism, when women are told we have everything we want, her Manifesto seems more relevant than ever. Women getting together to do constructive and creative things is a two-finger salute to this capitalist 'handbag feminism' bullshit.

Kathleen Hanna, I salute YOU!!