By Cindy Donis
Having explored the bike community LAFixed.com and determining that it wasn’t a safe space for a cyclist like me, a Questioning Latina who occasionally rides her inexpensive bike mainly for transportation, I wanted to explore other cycling websites that I considered to be safe spaces and learn about their creation, the way they function and if it’s possible to make a safe space in LAFixed.com.
I am an avid user of Tumblr.com and follow a variety of blogs that range from conversations/images on fashion, food, tattoos, books, education, race/racism, Feminism, queer movements, indigenous struggles for autonomy, and yes bikes. Recently while I was going through my dashboard I saw re-bloggings from the blog FixedWhileFeminist.tumblr.com. I went to the site and automatically fell in love with the content it was (re)blogging and its “Market Place” component for sale and trade. It reminded me a lot of what I had expected/imagined to find in LAFixed.com. So it got me wondering about the origins of the blog, the creator’s intentions with the blog and how it shapes who it attracts and what the space becomes.
In order to answer these questions I asked the creator if they’d be willing to participate, got a quick response, and sent the interview questions via email.
In general, like any space, they agree that “most fixed gear websites or communities are dominantly white and cis male…who ride fixed gear or are extreme hobbyists are usually upper middle or middle class, being able to afford extremely expensive parts and equipment, just for internet and cyclist bragging rights.” These spaces aren’t welcoming for anyone who doesn’t fit this identity and anyone who bikes for alternative reasons. Everyone else’s voice, concerns and opinions are overshadowed. Seeing as this pattern continued, there were clear intentions behind FixedWhileFeminist.tumblr.com, the creator had a vision:
“I created my blog intentionally to be a safe space for ANYONE who was interested in riding fixed gear or cycling as a hobby/sport. I specifically gear this towards cis women, trans* folk and non-binary individuals to learn about social justice and also see sick pictures and videos of fixed gear bikes. I also go out of my way to find pictures of womyn on fixed gear bikes, although there aren’t too many in comparison. I was sick of seeing womyn on bikes only being hypersexualized.”
These goals and intentions of the space are also clearly stated in the blogs About Me section:
“Fixed While Feminist is a blog for womyn, feminists and cyclists who love to ride fixed, want to ride fixed or enjoy bike culture. We understand that womyn are misrepresented in society, and cycling communities are not left out. Female bodies are often sexually exploited, female cyclists are often overlooked and bike companies overlook females who want to ride by not catering to their needs. We say screw that!”
Like I mentioned earlier, the blog also has a Market place component that is made to allow followers of the blog to share bike parts they are selling or willing to trade with others. It’s very similar to LAFixed.com; however, the creator also had a political ideology to support it. It’s meant to “let people on Tumblr network with each other, to keep it grassroots and like a collective.” It’s not to say that LAFixed.com doesn’t have a political ideology, but it’s not reflected or stated anywhere on the site making it become a “neutral” site that becomes a reflection of society outside of the internet.
Seeing as the blog is part of the larger Tumblr world, I wondered what the reaction from other Tumblr users was like and fortunately it’s been mostly positive. “Some people are very friendly and receptive… [others] question my authority in having this blog in the first place and send me hate mail or treat me a certain way.” Haters can keep on hating though (or hopefully changing their mind!) because she has 1200+ followers. The community the site is creating can only continue growing.
If this interview and blog highlights anything, it is the importance of stating ones intentions and political ideology on the internet in order to create a safe space. It allows other like-minded people to join the community and dialogue via the internet. If we compare this blog to LAFixed.com, this specific Tumblr can be an example to follow for a discussion topic in the “Off-Topic” category. If the first post clearly states the purpose, intentions and target audience for the discussion something great can come out of it.