Welcome to Ponyville

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Unashamed, pretty pretty ponies.

I attended my first My Little Pony convention this weekend.  It’d been about a decade since I’d been to a less-academic, cartoon-based fan convention, and I felt rather wary as to what to expect.  Various blogs and documentaries report conflicting messages about brony culture, and being on the outskirts of the fandom (i.e., not as obsessive as some), I wondered if my n00b would be showing.  Would I get harassed as a female cosplayer?  Are furries as creepy as some people make them out to be?  Would I be shunned for discussing feminism at my panel?  Hours after returning home from a very pony weekend, I find myself reluctant to remove my pegasus hoodie, suffering those distressing “post-con blues.” ‘Cause, damn, I had a good time!

Let’s go back to see when this all started…. [Insert wavy lines here.]  While healing from a rather difficult illness in Spring 2013, I decided watching cartoons was the most my cloudy mind and bedridden body could handle.  I settled on the latest My Little Pony reboot, Friendship is Magic, after hearing good things about the show.  Two episodes in, I was hooked.  Those bright, adorable ponies and their girl-powered adventures and wholesome lessons made me forget my pains and focus on positive things we should all strive for: love, community, mutual aid, and adventure.  No wonder so many adults were falling in love with these peppy equines.

That year, I devoured the rest of the television series, but didn’t find many fellow fans in my friend circles with whom to geek out. My partner, my coworkers, and my friends and family were a bit weirded out by my new interest, which I proclaimed, then defended to each. I was vaguely aware of brony fandom through a documentary I happened across on Netflix called Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Male Fans of My Little Pony.  The most I contributed to this fanbase was writing a review of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for a political geek blog I help maintain. It wasn’t until the following year, when I had the fortune of meeting a pony fan who would become my best friend, that I was able to start seriously geeking out, our newbie-level interests building on each other.

That being said, I’m nowhere close to competing with many of the bronies out there as far as knowledge of the My Little Pony universe and the elements of its fandom, which extends to art, comic books, card games, music, cosplay, fanfiction, video parodies, and beyond.  But I soon found myself drawing my own fan art, creating an OC (original character, a pony of my own creation), and having in-depth conversations about fictional pony culture and pony identities.  And, yes, a plushie Pinkie Pie made its way to my workbench at the bike shop.

Earlier this year, on a whim, I decided to look up brony conventions, and lo and behold! the neighboring city of Milwaukee was hosting Ponyville Ciderfest in November!  An easy bus ride away!  My curiosity and enthusiasm took over, and I registered.  I even offered to host a panel and facilitate a game.  I had second thoughts, mind you.  And third thoughts, and fourth thoughts.  I discussed attendance with my brony friend J, who also wavered between excitement and skepticism.  Honestly, we were both unsure what to expect from fellow fans, and some of the pseudo-sexualized pony mascots, well, they freaked us the fuck out.

It wasn’t until we started working on our costumes that our excitement outweighed our anxiety.  Wearing costumes at conventions is not required (unless you’re attending a immersive event like Madison’s Teslacon), but many people dress up as their favorite characters for enjoyment and theatrical, role-playing aspects.  (This is called cosplay in nerd terms; think Renaissance Festival, but for your fiction of choice.)  I used to perform in cosplay at anime conventions a decade ago, and have since enjoyed costuming at more historical-based events.  It’s been ages since I cosplayed a specific character, and so putting together a punk version of the timid, animal-loving pony Fluttershy was a real delight!  For J, this would be his first convention cosplay, and it was heartwarming to see his enthusiasm grow as his unicorn costume came together.  There’s just something about putting on another skin for a night or a weekend, exploring your identity through that character, and creating something others appreciate….  But I digress.

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J carving a unicorn horn from crafting foam.

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My favorite detail of my “Flutterpunk” costume.

In the weeks leading up to Ponyville Ciderfest, I frantically worked on the two events I had volunteered for: a panel exploring feminism in My Little Pony, and a customized tabletop role-playing game I would facilitate.  After a frightening visit to the mall for costume pieces, a crafting night or two, and some fretting over game print-outs, we were on the bus to Milwaukee!

My events were scheduled for Friday afternoon and evening, which didn’t leave us much time to explore the convention and get a “feel” for what brony culture was all about.  After checking into the hotel where the con was hosted, J and I donned our costumes and dived right in.  Breezing through a minor fiasco with registration (our panel badges were nowhere to be seen), we explored the vendor/artist room and fell in love with half of the exhibitors there.  SO MANY CUTE THINGS. And talented artists!   There were plush dolls, embroidered patches, charms, clothing, accessories, posters, terrariums, and more. Only a small portion of the fanart was mildly disquieting to us (the pseudo-sexualization thing again).  The convention was family-friendly, and more lascivious art was not allowed.  Good move, Ciderfest. Good move.

Dodging between six-year-olds on the pony-music dance floor and tables full of bronies playing the My Little Pony collectible card game, J and I made our way to the panel we were hosting.  I roped J in last-minute, and he ended up being a fantastic boon to the conversation and facilitation of the panel.  Usually a “panel” consists of three or more people well-versed on the topic at hand, discussing questions from a facilitator and/or audience.  However most panels I attended, including mine, had one person behind the panel table, as the convention did not offer help in finding others to join panels.  (I have no idea how other cons do this, save for the long-running WisCon which is so accommodating in so many ways, I probably shouldn’t compare it to others, especially first-year cons like Ciderfest!)  Many of these one-person panels transformed into group discussions with audience member participation.

For “Equestria as Feminist Utopia: What Can We Learn,” I came prepared for a group discussion on feminism, utopias, and other -isms in the realm of ponies.  I was pleasantly surprised to find many of the 20-some audience members excited to talk about these issues within our favorite fictional world.  Occasionally, the conversation was nearly derailed by obscure fact references (“Well actually, in the So-and-So episode, this pony does THIS, refuting your claim that all ponies something-something.” #notallponies).  This is where J was my savior, roping conversation back in and offering a feminist perspective from a male, the gender expression of choice among audience members.  (I can’t say if the unicorn horn helped; perhaps J was using magic.)  Many perspectives were candidly shared, then discussed by those with differing or similar perspectives.  No one raised their voice, called anyone “wrong,” or acted aggressively in any way.  Honestly, activist organizations could learn a lot from this group of bronies.

In our hour-long panel, we touched on tough topics including the term “feminism,” race, class, gender, and power depicted in the series, and how My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has helped us relate to the “real world” in terms of change for the better.  It was pretty rad, albeit a little nerve-wracking for a Fluttershy to facilitate in previously unknown territory.  I was happy to get compliments from audience members and to make “friends” early in the convention.

Next up: facilitating my tabletop role-playing game!  I’m a huge fan of the 3-hour, self-facilitated game of Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games.  The game’s creators encourage fans to craft their own “playsets,” or worlds in which to play.  I’d been itching to try my hand at building a playset, and itching to role-play ponies with other fans of the series.  Honestly, that was a big pull for me to attend Ponyville Ciderfest: tabletop gaming.

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Gaming at the convention!

All went well for My Little Pony Fiasco despite my only registered player not showing up!  We were joined by two pick-up players, known only to me as their Fiasco character names Lightblade and Dubstep Moneybags.  Hilarity, destruction, and mayhem ensued, as the game is designed.  Highlights of our shared story were boysenberry lava flows, cultist-bakers, and magical cookbooks.  Need I say more?

With my responsibilities behind me, I enjoyed the second day of the con by attending panels, buying gifts for friends and family, gaming, and drinking cider.  Leading up to the convention, I grew more and more curious about furry culture, as brony and furry culture often overlap.  For those not in-the-know, furries are fans who enjoy anthropomorphized animal characters.  Think Donald Duck, Disney’s Robin Hood, or the Muppets.  Furries, like bronies, often create original characters or identities, and will wear tails, ears, and even full fur-covered suits similar to those you see sports mascots wear.  Furries end up being the butt of people’s jokes more often than not, and the media likes to grab hold of and exaggerate the sexually deviant, fetishized parts of furry culture.  I’ve found myself making these hateful jokes and conflating furry fandom with sexuality, and I’m currently working on understanding, respecting, and celebrating furries as creative, caring individuals.  This internal work is what led me to a panel Saturday morning called “Are Bronies Furries?”, hoping to learn more about both cultures.  As with my panel, the audience participated very candidly and liberally, and I listened to interesting perspectives on how furries are treated by both mainstream society and other fandoms.  I also discovered that a lot of people consider bronies furries, and so if I’m going to be a pony fan, I better teach myself more about these intersectionalities.

Another panel I enjoyed wasn’t a panel at all; it had been cancelled!  But due to poor communication, 20 bronies found themselves in a room waiting for an academic to show up to discuss his research on brony fandom and gender.  After 15 minutes, we decided to push our chairs into a circle and facilitate our own discussion based on anecdotes, observations, and personal experiences involving gender within brony culture.  It was absolutely fantastic, and, again, I was massively impressed by bronies’ abilities to self-facilitate with respect and open minds.  Can I bring y’all to my housing cooperative, please?

Unfortunately, J and I had to book it outta there to join in another tabletop role-playing game, My Little Paranoia: Friendship is Mandatory.  I had been anticipating this game since I read the description a month before.  The game-master (GM) had developed a custom game of Paranoia in which players are ponies living in a dystopian society reminiscent of 1984, but ridiculous rather than depressing.  I had studied my character sheet and flipped through a .PDF of the rulebook online.  I was ready!  ….And so were 13 other people.  Yes, I played a tabletop role-playing game with 14 players and one GM.  It was a lot of fun at first, with each character having space to do their thing, fun props on the table, a boisterous and theatrical GM, and plenty of great ideas floating around.  But as the story developed, mayhem at the table reflected mayhem within the game.  There were a lot of side-comments, derailments, and pointless banter that half of the players really enjoyed, and half of the players were… well, it was difficult to read.  I got pretty exhausted keeping up with it all and bowed out early.  I would love to revisit the game and the GM’s pony modifications with a smaller group of people.

Another point of enjoyment at the convention was the video gaming room.  I hadn’t played dancing games since college, and so I was thrilled to see an arcade version of In the Groove with custom pony songs. (I still have a techno-remix of the Cutie Mark Crusaders song stuck in my head….)  There, too, was a fantastic player-versus-player fighting game featuring the Mane 6 ponies; think Mortal Kombat but with special moves involving confetti canons and aggressive bunny rabbits.

Saturday night was filled with cider-sipping and listening to pony-music at the PON3 Dance, which I had hoped would be a rave with electronic base-dropping wub-wub-wubs, but instead involved a lot of poppy pony vocals.  I tried dancing, but alas, my body mostly wanted to sleep.

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Pony dance party!

Sunday morning, J and I half-assed the con, as we had a bus to catch midday.  A morning’s panel on older bronies had discussed post-convention depression, and we both scoffed at the idea of us suffering such a fate.  Yet as we walked to our respective homes after returning to Madison, it hit us.  Hard.  Conventions can provide safe, welcoming, and warm space for all of us outsiders, weirdos, and freaks to come and celebrate our shared obsessions the rest of the world just doesn’t “get.”  Ponyville Ciderfest, despite some rough edges of it being a first-year con, did a fantastic job of providing a space in which bronies could grow and thrive, if only for three glorious, pony-filled days.

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Flutterpunk giving “The Stare” to all you naysayers out there.

 

 

 

As an afterthought and conclusion written a day later, I want to reiterate the enjoyment I had this past weekend.  It was by no means perfect, as no fandom ever is. There are things I don’t understand (namely, psuedo-sexual anthropomorphism and macho-competitiveness around pony trivia).  Overall, I’m really glad I’ve gotten to experience brony culture firsthand and meet extreme fans.  Many bronies (including myself) seem to be a little (or more than a little) socially awkward: nervous ticks, different ways of relating to strangers, and peculiar methods of expressing themselves.  I saw adult men carrying around pony dolls proudly, furries thrilled to share their newest digs with a welcoming audience, and countless people forming and fostering what could be extremely important relationships and communities within their individual lives.  The atmosphere was full of acceptance and warm welcomes, a culture embracing each fan no matter their levels of commitment, their anxieties, their eccentricities, or their identities.  In retrospect, that was what hurt the most when leaving that space.  Bronies take to heart the six Elements of Harmony described by their favorite show:  loyalty, honesty, generosity, laughter, kindness, and yes, magic. I wish the real world could do these things better. Bronies, overall, have given me sparks of hope for a more accepting, more magical world.

Masculinity and Survival

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A handful of years ago, perhaps 2010, I wrote the following essay for a genderqueer zine that never came to fruition. Since then, it’s been included in a Madison-based music and feminism zine series called Crucial Twat. I thought I’d share it here, too, ’cause why not? I tend to cringe a few times when I re-read it, primarily with use of the terms “female-bodied” and “male-bodied,” which are rather un-PC in 2014, and probably were in specific circles in 2010 when I wrote it. It’s difficult to keep up with the terms, and I hope readers understand my good intentions in stimulating gender discussion. Language irritates me in its limitations and the ease with which it can hurt more sensitive members of our communities. In any case, here’s my story:

Masculinity and Survival

A few years ago, one of my housemates told me of a conversation that he and a close friend shared about masculinity among their peers. In this conversation, the two of them agreed that I was the most masculine person in our five-person house, which is made up of a mix of genders and sexes. When I heard this, I was at first amused and proud, being the genderqueer, female-bodied lady I am, and interested in what qualities they thought I possessed to give me this handsome title. Further contemplation invoked images of the negative and oppressive behaviors associated with masculinity, and, being the “most masculine” in the house suddenly brought forth anxiety and insecurity. Thinking of the gender-presentation hierarchies polluting some queer cultures, I panicked even more; I don’t want to be the abusive, insensitive asshole receiving praise and attention for my masculinity because I’m somehow “succeeding” in the sport of gender-fucking.

I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around the masculine/feminine binary. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who are somewhat gender non-conforming. Mom was the “tough love” type, reading science texts, and usually the first to discipline my brother and me. Dad was more reserved, cooking our meals, bathing us when we were little, and serving as a teacher in a lot of practical skills and life lessons. Both also performed cis-gendered roles, with Mom doing the laundry and Dad chopping the wood. My parents were my two most prominent role models as I grew up, and the blurred boundaries between masculine and feminine as performed (or not) by them are what has helped shaped my own gender fluidity.

Thinking more deeply of my own struggles with gender growing up, I realized I built some pretty strong defenses during my coming of age to shield myself from anything that could potentially hurt me. That’s where my masculinity came into play – masculinity as a survival tactic against the insecurity that plagues most young women (and young people in general) in this society. I didn’t want to be subjected to what I perceived to be the consequences of femininity: weakness, oppression, and victimization. I wanted to be like TV heroines Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whose strength protected them from becoming victims, and whose power grabbed others’ attention and admiration. I also wanted to be like and liked by my dad, who possessed a lot of knowledge and skills that I admired, hoping that would help me become a strong and independent woman.

Despite my brother having a penis and me having a vagina, I’m the one that spent the most time doing things outdoors with Dad. (My brother, like my mom, was more of the indoor type. Funny how these binaries carry through generations.) I was always out hiking, hunting, and trapping with Dad. In most of my early photos, I’m helping Dad garden, do demolition work, process deer meat, and other manly feats for a four-year-old. Throughout childhood, I recall Dad praising me for my masculine and tomboyish traits, and often ignoring or criticizing me if I took interest in anything particularly girly. I was commended for my interest in science and the natural world, for my intelligence and strength. I got attention, from my dad especially, not for being pretty or nurturing, but for being tough and opinionated. When I decided to stop shaving my legs and armpits, Dad applauded me for casting aside frivolous female fancies. When all of my best friends were guys, Dad considered it a success, as it would be easier for me to find a [traditional] life partner if I was able to relate well with males. In my first romantic relationships, I was the more dominant partner and usually the heartbreaker; I never felt like I didn’t have my share of control in a relationship. My dad indirectly taught me that my masculinity was something to be proud of, and that it would ensure my survival, both physically and emotionally.

Of course, my peers, teen magazines, and television also taught me that I needed to be careful, to not appear too masculine or else suffer the consequences of being (gasp!) “different.” So as I practiced all of these masculine personality traits, I never tried to conceal my feminine qualities. I always looked and dressed like a girl, and besides sometimes wishing I had a penis so that I could pee standing up, I never wanted to be anything but a girl. I wore makeup, went to Lilith Fair and prom, and choreographed Spice Girls songs with my neighbor (who happened to be a boy, I should add). Not until more recently have I become a more introspective being, noticing that my masculinity, which can be perceived as a wall I’ve built up to protect my ego and hide away my insecurity, has its disadvantages.

Whereas my insecurities in childhood included fear of feminine weakness and foolishness, much of my current insecurities stem from my masculine traits – dominance, insensitivity, impatience, and critical nature. I go back and forth between feeling strong and weak, insecure and confident, lady-like and manly, thriving and failing. Most of my personal struggles involve navigating these dualities, and the limitations of language keep me disoriented. I’m learning to let go of language and just be myself, irrespective of labels. This is pretty difficult for someone raised in a culture that needs a name for everything in order to separate and segregate, to rate and rank. Yet, without these words, how would we be able to communicate thoughts on gender and identity, or find others similarly engrossed in identity struggle?

I’ve had some gender discussions with my dad in the past few years, and he still seems to value masculinity above all else, whether it’s projected by what he perceives to be a female body or a male body. He has criticized my male partners for not being macho enough, and encourages me to find a partner who is as “strong” as I am. He was surprisingly accepting of my trans housemate and their use of neutral pronouns, although I doubt he’d feel the same if they were a male-bodied person displaying feminine traits and not vice versa. I see a lot of my dad’s masculine-favoring personality traits in myself, and I’m trying to figure out what that means to me and those I interact with.

Being raised in a patriarchal, sexist society that values masculinity over femininity, many individuals must adopt a masculine front in order to survive, to stand up against the macho bullies, to come out a “winner” in competitive situations. The dominant culture isn’t set up to support a balanced gender scheme, or systems of cooperation and reciprocity, even though, in reality, I believe that it’s the people who can articulate both masculinity and femininity fluidly who are most well-equipped to survive this society as it destroys itself. My dad, who believes in individualism and capitalism, encouraged me to build up a masculine front in order to protect myself in conflict, take care of loved ones, and thus ensure a secure and happy future. He used masculinity to set me up as a “winner” in a patriarchal world.

In my youth, I was surviving feminine insecurity and disempowerment by becoming more masculine. Now, I feel like I’m trying to survive my masculinity so that it doesn’t completely overtake my being, as I don’t want to become some dickhead/bitch stereotype, nor do I wish to be a part of this society’s obsession with competition. I feel grateful for my close friends who endure my machismo and overconfidence, and part of me wonders if they would be as patient with me if I didn’t have a vagina. In any case, I strive to be well-balanced, accountable, and nurturing in my own particular way, without compromising who I am somewhere down deep.

On Being the “Bike Lady”

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I embraced the title of “Bike Lady” as soon as the words left the 10-year-old’s mouth.  He pedaled to the community shop looking for help with his brakes.  “Hey, Bike Lady!”  Most of the kids never really bothered to learn my name, but that’s cool, ’cause I could never remembered their names, either.

Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth about all those other gendered descriptors forced upon me.  Never quite felt right about “woman,” and “girl” is a bit of a stretch for this 29-year-old.  Titles of Ms. versus Miss, and the dreaded “girlfriend”?  Don’t get me started.  (They all give me the heebie-jeebies.)  But “Bike Lady”?  That’s something I can get behind.

I am currently the only “woman” working as a mechanic in my [rather large] local shop.  And I’m one of … three? … four? professional lady techs that I know of in Madison, versus at least 100 dudes.  We generally hear about each other because of the novelty of such a thing; news spreads through the cycling community almost as fast as wheels can fly.  It was kind of funny when I first met a fellow lady mechanic new to town: “So YOU’RE Sarah Tops!  The only girl mechanic in Madison!”  I soon discovered a third lady tech also associated with my shop.  Suffice it to say: It’s nice to find more ladies wrenching on bikes for a living.

Being a female-bodied bike mechanic can be challenging at times.  Although Madison is a pretty progressive town, I still get the patriarchs who don’t realize that they’re being kind of offensive. In my experience, the icky comments almost always come from customers.  Just two weeks ago, I had an older gentleman come in, innocently aghast to see a woman behind the service counter.  “Wow!  A woman bike mechanic!”  I get this a lot, and some days I love it, some days I hate it, and the difference is all in the unspoken body languages.  The customer offered me his bent wheel.  When I broke the bad news to him that his wheel was “totaled” and that he’d need to replace it, he looked me in the eye and asked me, “How long have you been a mechanic?”  Uhhh… five years professionally, dude, so I friggin’ know when a wheel needs replacing, thankyouverymuch.  My coworker that night, a male sales associate, was watching the exchange and stepped in to agree with me that the wheel indeed needed replacing.

I don’t get too bummed out, because it’s usually older men that say this kind of stupid shit, and I don’t blame them personally for having grown up in a very different era with mentors who reinforced degrading gender stereotypes.  I’m kind of proud that I can amaze them with my greasy, estrogen-fueled presence.  Plus, I get the benefit of adding their behaviors to my growing list of stories.  I get a little more irritated when the comments come from women.  In fact, if my memory serves me right, I think it was a lady who insisted on working with a male mechanic one day at the non-profit shop I managed.  Part of my job duties at that shop was to train our young coworkers in mechanics, so I was constantly helping them do bike repairs and answering their questions.  When the customer went to our newest hire for help “from a man,” the teen kinda shrugged and said, “I don’t know; you’ll have to talk to Sarah — she’s the mechanic.”

There’s also the times I’ve been hit on at the shop, which is generally a nuisance, and even more a nuisance when you see older male customers hitting on the teenaged employees.  That’s just gross.  However, the time I was hit on because a man was admiring my leg hair was an even mixture of gross and HILARIOUS, especially because he offered to drive me around in his expensive vintage Cadillac.

The good news is that I’ve had a blast working with a lot of the dudes at the shops I’ve been involved with.  Most men are actively supportive of women in the bike industry, and I feel as though I’ve been treated fairly as a fellow collective member, employee, coworker, and manager.  The non-profit shop I worked at was MAJORITY female (although the tech department was almost wholly male), and I thrived in that environment. Many men have taken the time to train and mentor me in bike repair, customer service, parts-buying, managing, and community organizing.  I wonder what it would have been like to have learned this stuff from non-dudes, which is why I’m working hard on becoming that role-model for the next crop of lady and trans* bike mechanics and shop owners.

Working in a male-dominated space, the parts that make me wince is the off-handed comments or distasteful jokes that affect me not as a mechanic, but as a female-bodied person.  It’s the kind of crap you hear from dude-bros everywhere: fat-phobia, obsessing over women and sex, the occasional gay joke, and, yes, a fair amount of cock jokes.  (Okay, I will admit that I like a good cock joke … when appropriate.  Which is admittedly tricky.)  These comments are not all that common in the cycling circles I’ve been involved with, but they do persist.  Sometimes they catch me out of nowhere, like last night, which may have spurred me to get off my ass and finally write this blog post.  Two coworkers and I were getting ready to close up shop, casually discussing female mechanics.  “We used to have two full-woman mechanics.”  I asked what he meant by “full-woman,” thinking it had something to do with weight and gesturing to my belly.  He answered by gesturing to his invisible breasts, making a comment that a trans-woman tech was not “full” woman, as if erasing her existence and her struggles!  I exclaimed something along the lines of “Oh!” and stuttered something in defense, but we were all distracted with closing, and I was confused because I really like the guy who just spewed utter SHIT out of his mouth.  Twenty hours later, I am still kicking myself for not making it more a point to call out this trans-phobic, sexist bullcrap.  As I edit this post a week later, I feel like I missed my chance.  But I’m SO prepared for that next comment that comes up, and I’m going to kick some metaphorical ass.

Which brings me to my next point within the scope of “Being a Bike Lady:” Being One of the Guys.  It’s a skill that I’ve grown quite good at, I think.  I spent most of my life hanging out with dudes, except for that awkward-makeup-and-padded-bras stage in junior high.  A tom-boy, you could say.  Perhaps my close relationships with boys and men have allowed me the privileges and abilities to comfortably take up space in male-dominated places, … and have allowed men to occasionally feel comfortable enough to make stupid sexist remarks around me.  I tend to be pretty confident and straightforward, which helps me put up with a lot of shit.

If you look at mass media and dominant culture, there are a million reasons why we don’t see more women in the bike industry.  First off, Park Tools don’t come in pink!  Okay, so that was a joke, but, honestly, toys marketed to girls are never toolsets; they’re play kitchens and baby dolls.  When you google-image-search “woman mechanic,” half the hits you get are soft-core porn.  And do you know how fucking hard it is to find a decent pair of women’s work pants?  Like, actual work pants, not the kind you wear as a waitress at Applebee’s.

I guess what I’m trying to say that bike shops are still full of testosterone and the occasional machismo that shines through, which is why there aren’t many of us Bike Ladies out there.  We’re headed on a good trajectory, though, as more and more women step forward as leaders in the bike world.  And I have crushes on all of them.

To end, let me explain why I like “Bike Lady,” because I know you’re all dying to know.  First off, the term is a collision of macho and femme: the greasy, gritty, uncontrollable bicycle; and the delicate, playful, prim-and-proper female.  If you know me, you know I like collisions.  Secondly, “lady,” to my complex brain, is a word I associate with gender play.  The term “lady” is often thrown around in burlesque and drag scenes and used by feisty feminists, playing up femininity and the power of choosing femininity to express oneself.  Every day, I feel like I’m playing out gender, and so “lady” seems a better fit than “woman” and the myth of some kind of shared “sisterhood.”  Thirdly, “Bike Lady” reminds me of all those sweetly mischievous kids who wanted to learn how to fix their bikes, and they’re a part of strong memories that I carry with me as inspiration and guidance.