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Responding to Harm

The only macro society I have ever known is wrought with discrimination and systems of power and oppression. After writing the outline for this essay, I listened to Invisibilia’s April 13, 2018 episode, “The Callout”, which discusses the nuances I address in this article – the impacts of publicizing harm on the person or groups harmed, the person who caused harm, and the groups of which these people are a part.

Throughout this essay I use language that was introduced to me through restorative justice: primarily, “person who caused harm” and “person who has been harmed”. This language is imperfect in that when someone has been harmed, it comes from much more than one other person; society as a whole has caused harm when a person’s individual actions are influenced by systems of oppression – whether in response to or reinforcing oppression. I chose to use restorative justice language for this essay with a goal of reducing harm. People who cause harm, whether through intentional abuse or accidental insult, can reduce instances of harm if they take responsibility for the harm caused.

 

Everyone, as members of society, has a responsibility to work toward ending violence and harm. This is constant work, which requires constant learning; this article does not address all the answers of how a society can cease causing harm to individuals. My goal is for readers to cause the least harm in response to when someone is hurt.

Recently, people whose identities are oppressed have been better heard than in the past. Sexual abuse is getting more attention, and abusers are being pushed out of their industries and shunned. Shunning a known abuser is a way to take a stance against that behavior. It also has a personal impact on those people who have caused harm, and might eventually change norms within an industry, or even the larger society. But what is that personal impact? And what is abuse? What behavior is harmful enough to ostracize someone?

There will never be blanket answers to these question because everyone has different experiences, definitions of safety, and intentions behind their actions. We must be careful who we attach the word “abuser” to, because we’ll create an abuser by using the label – most people see what they want to or believe they are going to see, through confirmation bias and belief perseverance. The label “abuser” also tends to dehumanize the person, who might not have meant to act harmfully. Ostracizing someone from a community addresses the impacts of their actions on the community, but its influence on that person depends on the intentions behind their harmful behavior, their access to resources, and broader society’s views on the harm they caused.

I have been severely hurt, and in most of the situations in which I’ve been hurt, I believe the person or group that hurt me was not intending to do so. This is because I’ve experienced and learned about systems of oppression. I have seen that my response to these systems is sometimes harmful to others. I see myself in those who cause harm; I humanize them. This means it takes me longer than many other people to cut toxicity from my life. I’m learning. Because I’ve been hurt, hurt others, and been in communities where people sometimes hurt each other, I have come up with action plans for these three situations. Here’s what you can do if there is human-caused pain in your life: 

 

If someone did something that harmed you

I am sorry. Please, do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Show yourself love. For many people, especially initially, this means taking space from someone who has caused harm. It’s all right to be so hurt that it’s not possible to hear the person who harmed you. However you are feeling, it is okay to feel this way and to do what you need to do to feel safe. To break the cycle of harm, try to take care of yourself in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else.

If you need support from a community, know that removing toxic people from your life is a personal decision. It isn’t the same as asking others to do it too. Think about why you’re asking others to take action – is it to validate your pain? Is it to protect other members of the community? Is it to retaliate? Can you meet your needs in another way?

If you believe a person is a threat to the safety of a community, ask for help from that community. If they don’t help and you believe you are still in danger, you can seek outside help such as a local organization (some people might choose to go the police or legal system, which I do not generally advise because I think they uphold systems of power and oppression and lead to more harm). Understand that there are usually nuances in situations, and communities do not always have the skills to address all the nuances or keep everyone safe.

If you feel able, explain how you were harmed to prevent a similar situation in the future. Be as specific as possible so that the person who harmed you understands what they did, why it’s harmful, and how they can change their behavior. Speaking directly to the person who harmed you is often the most effective way to change behavior, but it might not feel safe for you. Balance your own safety with your desire to end violence and harm.

If it doesn’t work for you to speak directly to the person who harmed you, and you are able to discuss the harm with someone else, you can ask them to act as a mediary. You can also ask for someone to be present as support while you have a conversation about the harm you experienced.

Address the issue however you can. Some people will learn to change their behaviors through indirect communication. Maybe you can’t talk to the person who harmed you, but you can share your story publicly or work for an organization supporting people who have been hurt like you. Engage in whatever way works for you. A toxic world needs a variety of strategies to remove toxicity.

 

If you caused harm to someone else

There are so many things this could mean, since everyone has different perceptions of what is harmful. The most important thing you can do is listen to the person saying they were harmed. You don’t have to consider yourself an abuser to admit that something you did caused harm to someone else.

 Try to understand the harm you caused. If you need help hearing what the issue is, ask it to be stated more directly. Know that it’s not always possible for someone to communicate more directly, so it’s on you to practice listening skills, compassion, and self-reflection.

If you do not understand why an apology is necessary, listen to the person you harmed to understand why what you did is harmful and potential replacement behavior. If the person you harmed is unavailable to engage in conversation with you, think and do research to learn more. Others who know you and/or the person you harmed might be available to help you understand what the harm is.

Without the assistance of anyone you’ve harmed, consider why you did what you did. If your intentions did not align with the impact of your action or your behavior was from a place of pain, try to accept and heal that pain. If you acted due to a harmful belief, analyze that belief and research opinions that broaden or change it. Make an action plan for transforming yourself.

Apologize when you’re ready. An apology involves taking responsibility for causing harm, whether intentional or unintentional, expressing remorse, and committing to change. Do not discuss your own healing process without consent. Refrain from communication implying that you are a victim – we’re all victims of society, but this situation is about the harm that you caused someone else.

Know that it’s easy to assume that someone is not sorry for their harmful actions and are therefore likely to hurt someone else if they do not apologize. You should take the time you need for self-reflection. If you do not assume any responsibility, don’t feel sorry, nor have a desire to change, your apology will not be sincere and might not be accepted. You might not agree that you did something harmful. Try to hear the concern, be more mindful in the future, and move on. In the meantime, the person who was harmed might believe you are unsafe to be around and take action to ensure their and others’ safety.

 

To the community where harm has occurred

Individuals might not have the capacity to forgive someone, especially if they are personally hurt by the actions of that person. If both the person who has been harmed and the person causing the harm are members of the same communities, the person who has been harmed might need community help to feel safe. Community assistance is especially important if the person who has been harmed has less power in the community than the person who harmed them.

Assess the safety of the person harmed and others in similar positions. Has the person who caused harm repaired that harm? How does the person who was harmed feel about the repairs, or lack thereof, that have been made?

Determine the healing capacity of the person who caused harm. Have they taken responsibility for the harm they caused? Have they apologized or repaired the harms? Have they committed to growth? Do they have the resources they need to do so?

If someone has successfully apologized and the person harmed by them feels okay with it, maybe you are willing to give them a chance to show the community that they are safe. Be aware of confirmation bias; give them a real chance by trusting that their behavior is improving.

Many communities kick out members they deem as “abusers”, especially for particularly harmful acts or multiple instances of causing harm to others. Organizationally, expelling someone who has caused personal harm in line with societal systems of power and oppression says “we recognize that this behavior is problematic, we’re committed to taking responsibility and demonstrating behavioral change after causing harm, and we will not accept continued harm in our organization”. Your priority is keeping members of your community safe.

Pushing someone who causes harm out of a community might make the community safer for a short time. It does not ensure that the person who causes harm will stop harming others. Someone might learn from being shunned that what they did is wrong; ostracizing them could be a necessary step in their change. They could learn the magnitude of the harm they have caused from this experience, and commit to personal growth in order to keep people safe in the future. However badly they want to learn, the resources to help people change are rare and often inaccessible. Become knowledgeable about applicable services offered in your area and direct the person who caused harm to these resources.

After an expulsion, there is often no avenue for re-entry into a community. This causes harm to that individual who you’re trying to teach to cause less harm, which could increase harm, since many harmful acts stem from unmet needs. If you choose to ostracize someone who caused harm, create a mechanism for reintegration into the community after repairs have been made.

The action plans above deal with interpersonal harm without directly addressing the systems of power and oppression that are larger than the community. The community is a dandelion. Each individual within the community is a dandelion seed. When the community responds sufficiently to the sparrows eating its seeds, it becomes more resilient. The seeds survive and go wherever the wind takes them, extending beyond the community and into broader society. They bring the knowledge of how to protect themselves from harm with them wherever they choose to grow. They continue to spread this knowledge, despite the pests that continue to try to eat them.In time, the world shines brighter and brighter, with beautiful yellow flowers of respect, compassion, and peace.

Dandelion-field-flowers-spring-blue-sky-and-white-cloud-beautiful-desktop-wallpaper-Hd-915x515.jpg

Photo from Wallpapers13

Some transformative justice and community accountability resources:

Everyday Feminism article: 3 Ways To Decolonize Your Nonprofit As Told By A Black Queer Feminist Organizer

INCITE! website

Generation Five website

Generation Five document: Toward Transformative Justice

CALCASA website

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I’m a recovering racist

White and nonblack people: I have spent years doing anti-racist work, reading and signal boosting voices of color (especially black voices), and reprogramming my brain from the racist messages society has taught me.

And still, when a white friend mentioned some young nonblack people feeling discomfort around an older black man, I immediately leapt to forgive the actions of those nonblack folks by checking to see if the person in question had harmed them. Even thinking back on the situation, I find myself making excuses for why I did this: “I live in a predominantly white town, so, knowing an older black male with an interest relative to my friend’s experience, it’s logical that I clarified that it wasn’t him. If it had been him, the discomfort my friend described could have been similar to discomfort I and others I know feel around that person, which might have to deal with misogyny, so it makes sense”. My friend mentioned the age and race of the person to indicate that he believed the group of young nonblack people was being discriminatory. The instinct I have to find out why their actions weren’t problematic is, in itself, problematic.

So how can I claim to be involved in anti-racist work? Because I’m trying. Because reprogramming myself doesn’t happen overnight. I can be honest with myself – I’m still racist. The excuses I made for myself are racist. The instinct to support the nonblack people’s intentions and even to begin to think of blaming the black man for their discomfort is racist. I’m a recovering racist. I hope this acknowledgement will help me be less racist in the future. I hope white people read this and learn more about themselves and the anti-racist work they have to do.

This acknowledgement that I’m racist is not enough. Still, I forgive myself for it. Because without forgiving myself I would be swimming in shame. I’d rather swim out of shame by changing my actions. Maybe next time I’ll catch my instincts a little sooner. If I continue trying, maybe they won’t happen at all.

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Thanksgiving

This holiday represents a bloody history and present of genocide of the people who were living in North America before European colonizers arrived. What is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving” is merely one of the first harvest celebrations that settlers had on what would become U.S. soil. The settlers didn’t reach out to invite the Wampanoag people to feast with them; they invited them only after they showed up in response to hearing gunshots, a celebratory act of the Europeans over the harvest. There wasn’t enough food, so some Wampanoag warriors went out to bring back deer (Tirado, 2011). What I and many other students learned in elementary school is that this was a friendly meal shared between different groups of people.

History surrounding the “first Thanksgiving” and what Thanksgiving means to the Wampanoag

When the Mayflower arrived, a majority of the Wampanoag tribe had recently been wiped out due to plague brought by the Europeans. Tisquantum, a Wampanoag who had been enslaved while his people were dying of the plague, negotiated release and returned to his village (present-day Plymouth) just before the Mayflower arrived (Johnson, 2017). The Wampanoag still living nearby saw that the Mayflower carried women and children, and therefore must be coming in peace. The Europeans arrived in winter without sufficient food. Tisquantum, who could speak English from his enslavement, taught survival skills to the settlers. He organized a meeting with Massasoit, a Wampanoag leader, and John Carver, the European’s governor to negotiate a peace treaty (National Museum of the American Indian).

After the “first Thanksgiving”, Massasoit continued to honor the peace treaty despite aggressive actions toward the Wampanoag by the European colonists. However, over four decades after the colonists arrived and over a decade after Massasoit’s death, the Wampanoag were defeated in war, and only 400 Wampanoag people survived. The population has increased since then to about 2750 (Wikipedia, 2017).

Today, people from indigenous tribes across the U.S. use the national holiday of Thanksgiving as a day of mourning for the beginning of the ongoing genocide of their people (Tirado, 2011).

History surrounding the U.S. holiday and what Thanksgiving means to many non-indigenous people

Two centuries after the colonists taught by Tisquantum celebrated their first harvest across the Atlantic, Sarah Josepha Hale began writing letters to politicians and publications promoting the importance of a day for families to feast together and express gratitude toward God (History.com, 2009). As President Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday during the civil war, it was a harvest celebration devoted to God, the continual provider of food even in war-torn times (Baker, 2007).

Somehow a story of pilgrims and Wampanoag people feasting peacefully together emerged in schools a few decades (Plimoth Plantation, 2017). Plimoth Plantation claims that schools adopted this story in order to teach values of “freedom and how to be good citizens.”

Dissecting Thanksgiving in school

How does the Thanksgiving story teach values? The colonists from Europe exercised freedom to find a new land where they were free from religious persecution. To exercise this freedom, Sarah Josepha Hale, Abraham Lincoln, and others recognized a day to express gratitude toward their God. While this might have seemed like a freedom to them, naming a holiday for a specific God is hardly freeing to people of all religious affiliations. Referring to a capitalized God is referring to a specific god that might not hold any meaning to some people. Worse, this God holds a negative connotation to many non-Christians, who are erased by the assumption that everyone should dedicate this day to thanking God for the gifts of nature.

It is especially harmful that in order to encourage thankfulness, a story is told of an event that occurred near the beginning of the genocide of peoples who practice daily gratitude. It is cruel and insensitive that a holiday centers on gratitude toward a Christian god, who is believed to love all people, yet has been the excuse for persecution throughout the continent on which the holiday is celebrated.

The other value Plimoth Plantation refers to is being good citizens. Where in the story of the “first Thanksgiving” are the good citizens? The Wampanoag were invited to feast with the colonists, but only after they stumbled on the feast. Do we want to teach students to raise only enough food for themselves? Do we want to teach students to exclude others until guilt stares them in the face? Likely not. Plimoth Plantation must, then, be referring to the generosity of the Wampanoag.

The Wampanoag brought additional food to the harvest celebration, since there wasn’t enough for everyone. This is not overly generous, though it does reduce stress, much like an organized potluck. The overly generous person in the story is Tisquantum, whose generosity extends beyond teaching survival skills to the colonists; he negotiated peace between the Wampanoag and the European settlers, and encouraged other tribes to trade with colonists as well. While this act might seem generous to the Eurocentric mind, Tisquantum’s generosity may have enabled or hastened the speed of genocide of peoples native to the continent. Yes, Tisquantum was generous. But we can only speculate on his motives. After having been enslaved, was help offered out of pure generosity or perceived self-preservation? Schools should teach self-preservation for what it is; sometimes people do things they don’t want to do in order to survive.

Actual Thanksgiving story lessons

Sharing skills is a great way to help others become self-sufficient.

Sometimes helping others goes without thanks.

Sometimes people do things they don’t want to do in order to survive.

Peace is often not from actual shared understanding and respect but for tactical advantage.

White people have a history of using and abusing people who are not white.*

White people are fairly unpracticed in gratitude.

*White people are not the only people to exercise racism, and white people can also abuse white people.

Works Cited

Wikipedia. (2017, 11 16). Wampanoag. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wampanoag

Baker, P. M. (2007). The Godmother of Thanksgiving: the Story of Sarah Josepha Hale. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from Pilgrim Society: http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Godmother_of_Thanksgiving.pdf

History.com. (2009). History of Thanksgiving. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from History.com: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving

Johnson, C. (2017). Tisquantum (“Squanto”). Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from

MayflowerHistory.com: http://mayflowerhistory.com/tisquantum/

NMAI. (n.d.). Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from National Museum of the American Indian: http://nmai.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/NMAI_Harvest_Study_Guide.pdf

Plimoth Plantation. (2017). Thanksgiving History. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from Plimoth Plantation: https://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-history

Tirado, M. (2011, 11 23). The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story. Retrieved 11 20, 2017, from Indian Country Day: https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/the-wampanoag-side-of-the-first-thanksgiving-story/

Additional Resources

https://nmai.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/thanksgiving_poster.pdf

https://elmodenafrontline.com/13899/columns/the-true-story-of-the-first-thanksgiving/

http://www.manataka.org/page269.html

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New Co-op Ordinance

I spent three years strategizing, meeting with legislators, and writing/publishing my thoughts and experience. I spent four or five months of those three years doing solely that, until I no longer knew who I was outside the co-op experience. Now I know that every aspect of who I am has been shaped by co-ops, and without them I really, truly, do not exist. Co-ops are the only space that consistently validate my averseness to capitalism. Co-ops provide the conversations I need in order to understand my identities, including but not limited to my queer identities, even when no one else in my household identifies similarly. Co-ops encourage constant personal growth, which allows me to stay alive and have something to work toward in this f-ed up world.

And yet, there is so much red tape causing co-ops to consistently focus on paperwork instead of the real work they exist to put into play. My co-op put off extremely important work in order to focus on legalization so that we could have each other in the future. We lost a housemate in the process, who was affected by that delay in a manner that made the home unbearable. We collectively held back our emotions for two months in order to get through the paperwork. We experienced burnout similar to my burnout after running for city council. And for what?

City council members know how exhausting the demands of other people can be. So why place that on us? We wasted two months of our existence trying to meet the city’s demands, and now we received a letter in the mail requiring 9 more items. Out of 38 items. Almost a quarter of our work wasn’t good enough for the city.

I know that no level of burnout will ever be good enough for some people, but I thought the city workers were on my side. I learned years ago that I should have kept my mouth shut, and waited until people like me were literally being killed to start a revolution. Except I did. Forcing people into homelessness is equivalent to killing some of these people, especially people with marginalized identities such as trans women.

F- the city. F- the people who say that want to be inclusive and do whatever they can to look the part while doing whatever they can to not act the part.

We’ve done what we can to be civil. I need to rest, but all I feel is unrest.

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What Being Asexual Means to Me

I am asexual. I know many of you won’t have ever heard this term, so I’ll try to describe what it means to me, and link you to more resources to learn more about the asexual spectrum. Please also recognize that if you’re reading this post on the internet, you can learn more about anything by typing it into the search bar.

These are some of the ways in which I see my asexualism manifest:

  • I have observed that many people have a mind that often jumps to sex. I do not have a sexual mind. I say things that are sometimes taken as sexual innuendos and I don’t notice until someone points it out. I don’t notice sexual innuendos when other people make them. I don’t enjoy sex jokes. I don’t usually notice if things are yonic or phallic because vaginas and penises are rarely on my mind.
  • I’m fairly oblivious to come-ons. Since I would always prefer to get to know someone than to hook up with them, I don’t realize that the reverse is true for many people, depending on the situation. When making plans with someone, I almost always assume it’s friendly plans, and then get anxious when I learn it might mean something else to them.
  • I need sexual intent to be extremely explicit. To illustrate how explicit communication needs to be for me to understand that somebody means to have sex with me: invitations to sleep in the same room or bed does not imply sex to me. I love spooning all night long and rarely imagine that it could lead to sex.
  • I am tremendously sensitive to being sexually objectified. That doesn’t mean I have never enjoyed showing off my body, but it means it’s rare. When I dance, it’s for me and me alone, and I generally feel really awkward dancing with other people, especially if I don’t know them. I hate it when people dance with me nonconsensually. This is partly a response to a traumatic experience when I was younger, but I think it also has to do with the societal link between dancing and sex; I don’t want to be thought of as someone to have sex with.
  • I can be physically attracted to people. I might want to touch their breasts and/or kiss their lips. I don’t view kissing as sex, but it seems that lots of people view the desire to kiss someone as sexual attraction. One thing that helps me process this is the idea that there are many types of attraction; sensual, sexual, romantic, visual. I experience sensual attraction without knowing someone well. I also don’t always equate sensual attraction with romantic attraction; in high school I cuddled with my friends all the time, but didn’t have a crush on everyone I had a desire to cuddle with.
  • I am very confused about what romance is. Society tells me it is related to sex, but, for me, it’s not. Society tells me that a desire to be sensual with someone is a desire to be in a romantic and therefore sexual relationship with them. It’s not! Society tells me that if I find someone physically attractive, I must want to sleep with them. I don’t! I often find people attractive, but that doesn’t usually mean I want to have sex with them. It typically means I see some mannerism or personality trait exhibited that leads me to want to get to know someone better. It means I want to feel close to them. It might have some sexual implications, such as a desire to kiss, but I don’t usually think about having sex with them.

You may have heard me use the word “pansexual” to describe myself. A more accurate word would be “panromantic” (I also use the word “queer”). I’m not very sexual, but I am romantic. I have crushes. But crush to me means something closer to “I want to get to know you better or have emotionally raw conversations with you, and maybe make out a little”, rather than “I want to sleep with you” or “I want to enter into a sexual relationship with you”. I use the word in a romantic sense; I have romantic feelings for someone on whom I have a crush. This article also helped me accept that I focus my attention in bed to intimacy and sensuality, but not necessarily sex.

It has taken me a long time to understand my sexuality. I want to be clear to all of my past sexual partners that you had no way of knowing that I was asexual. While I wish I had known so that we could have had a healthier relationship, I didn’t. The only bitterness I feel is toward society, because asexuality was not something I knew anything about; I hadn’t heard of it until a year ago. Let’s do better – let’s validate more experiences
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Here is an article I referenced while trying to figure out my clearly nonconforming identity. The site has some great links and resources about demisexualism, which I first landed on as an identity before realizing I’m asexual. If you’re interested in learning more you can also check out this site about asexualism.

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10 Reasons Why I Bike

Last month, I was scheduled to testify as a character witness in a trial. Court was scheduled for 8:30 AM, and I was scheduled to testify after another witness. It takes a half hour to bike slowly from my house to the justice center (courthouse). At 8:00 AM I was getting on my bike, when I got a call saying I was needed immediately at the justice center. I said I was getting on my bike and would be there in a half hour. I needed the bike ride to move the anxiety of getting on the stand through my body, but the lawyer didn’t want to take any chances on me getting there late so an Uber was sent for me. I arrived at the justice center flustered and irritated that I had been rushed there in a polluting machine.

It’s common for people who primarily use cars to get around to offer rides and believe they can provide a resource to people who need that resource. What they don’t realize is that, for many of us, cars are not only unnecessary, but negative influences in our lives.

I bike for many reasons. It is extremely rare that I would even think about accepting a ride in a car. Here are some of the reasons I bike:

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  1. Environmental destruction is so 20th-century. In most places I’ve been in the U.S., cars are the primary transportation method. Cars typically burn gasoline or diesel, which not only emits fossil fuels as it burns, it also pollutes the air, water, and land from where the oil used to make the gasoline or diesel is extracted. Destruction in the Amazon has forced indigenous populations from the jungle and led to the dissemination of entire peoples.[i] The oil industry is so strong that it took thousands of indigenous communities coming together to stop a pipeline from going through land without the consent of its inhabitants. I bike to minimize my contribution to these disastrous impacts on ecosystems and people.
  1. Biking keeps my body moving so I can process emotions. Different people like different settings for engaging in conflict. If my body is stationary it traps stress inside; I need to be moving to work through the stress. As someone who cares deeply about social justice, I spend a lot of time and energy on personal growth (resolving internal conflict) and interpersonal growth (resolving conflict involving those around me as well as myself). I need regular time to myself to let new information and ideas soak in and to develop opinions about them. Biking provides this time.

Biking also encourages my creative processes. Sometimes I write songs or poetry; much of my artwork is developed on a bicycle. I also engage in occasional public speaking; I write speeches and practice them while riding.

Mental health is important. While maintaining or achieving mental health looks different for all individuals, 28% of people who responded to the question I posed on Twitter about why people bike mentioned their own mental health. I know my mental health is improved when I bike because of a few reasons below (specifically #s 5-8), while a lot of it also has to do with having time to process emotions while moving.

  1. Sexism tells me I’m not strong but my bike experiences prove that to be false. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing an athletic man’s jaw drop when I tell him I biked up a mountain with a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, and food loaded on the back of my bike (I do this a few times per year). Don’t get me wrong, the ride feels amazing too (see reason #8), but this section is about the joy I get from challenging the assumption that women are weak. I get a kick out of the ignorant disbelief that I can easily haul 300 pounds of food a few miles. Surprise! Take that, fragile masculine ego.
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Cha Cha Spinrad biking 550 pounds. Photo by Michael Benko for Boulder Food Rescue.

  1. My transportation mode is a simple machine that I do not have to dedicate lots of energy to fully understand. Its moving parts are generally easily visible and adjustable. Okay, I have degree in mechanical engineering, so my brain is practiced in understanding physics, but when compared to most machines that transport people, bikes are pretty simple. The pedals turn the crank, which is connected via the chain to the freewheel or cassette, which turns the wheel. The handlebars turn through bearings in the headset. The shifters, cables, and derailleurs, and brakes add a little more complexity to create a complete bike, functional with moving parts. It’s that simple. Beautiful.
  1. I have control over my bike and my schedule. My number one reason to bike is the environment. Carpooling and public transit have low but measurable environmental impacts, while they also involve dependence on someone else’s schedule. When I bike, I can arrive when I want, leave when I want, and take as long as I want in transit. I am in control of my speed and my path as well as my schedule.
  1. I don’t need to schedule exercise into my day, just commute time. In order to get enough exercise during my day, I just need to leave the house, because the transportation method I use doubles as an exercise method.
  1. Biking connects me to my surroundings. I understand what lies between where I am and where I came from. I value the effort of moving objects and lives. The breath at the top of the mountain feels more refreshing when I used my body to get there.
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Cha Cha Spinrad on a bike ride. Photo by Zane Selvans.

  1. Biking is exhilarating to me. This is very related to #7, but includes an element of freedom. If I even spend one day without getting on a bike, I feel so free the next time I am on a bike. I can feel the elements, which has always been exciting to me and helps me feel alive.
  1. Because I can. I have the privilege of being able to use my body, so I do. If I bike when I can, I show that it’s possible. People who would like to ride a bike but do not do it might feel more encouraged to give it a shot. I want to normalize biking. Doing it, writing about it, and talking about it make it more socially acceptable. I enjoy to ride and I can. Why wouldn’t I?
  1. It’s cheap. I eat whether or not I bike, so my fuel prices are negligible. I don’t have to pay for every ride, and I don’t have to throw much money down on maintenance. In fact, my transportation machine – decked out in extra accessories – plus annual maintenance, costs me less than I make in a month of underpaid, part-time work. It’s certainly affordable.

Please note that I have only communicated why I choose to bike. I posted a tweet asking why Twitter users bike. This was responded to by 25 people and resulted in 31 unique reasons for biking and 111 total responses; 28% of responses were unique, and there were more unique responses than there were respondents. Everyone has their own reasons. Here are four of the individual responses I got:

whyibike

Now it’s your turn. Why do you bike? Post using the hashtag #WhyIBike. Better yet, take a friend on a bike ride!

 

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/22/brazil-rainforest-awa-endangered-tribe, http://www.colorado.edu/law/sites/default/files/Kimerling%2011413.pdf

 

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