“Biking is a Passion, not a Form of Exploitation”: Liberating the Bike on Tumblr By Latina Rider

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.

 

 

 

7 Comments on ““Biking is a Passion, not a Form of Exploitation”: Liberating the Bike on Tumblr By Latina Rider”

  1. Yippeeeeeee positive stuff. That’s really cool that the tumblr exists and that you were able to find it. Furthermore, the intentionality of the site is something that you don’t see often; a blog with a reason for being, acknowledging that other spaces exclude people. And awesome that they attempt to counter hypersexualized female riders, a image that is really overdone and offensive.

  2. Hi Cindy! Hmm. Something I’m wondering about is the movement from local to broad websites. Are most of the users on LAFixed in the LA-area? Maybe Tumblr’s size, and, in turn, it’s wider membership base, allows for a larger variation of opinion. It’s good to hear that Tumblr has been more receptive to the blog. When thinking about another creative website with a larfe membership population, YouTube, I can’t help but think of frequent negative comments, trolls, and put-downs. It makes me ponder the difference between Tumblr and YouTube…

  3. Cindy, I really appreciate the way you fused one of your passions into your project. Having done my project on Tumblr, I was really happy to see someone else exploring one of the sub-spaces that IS safe for women of color. I can’t wait to check out this blog!

  4. Cindy,

    I’m really happy you found this blog! I think it is exactly what feminists seek to find when looking for a safe space. And the fact that the creator is so dedicated to feminism and providing a safe space makes the difference. Although I can see what you mean in your last statement about having a clearly stated purpose, I will say that this is not always true. Often sites, like the Experience Project, which I used, do have stated purposes of building community but the site unfortunately ends up being abused by hate groups.However, this is very effective on a site like Tumblr where you can be selective of your virtual community members.

  5. This post is great, I think it is comforting and inspiring to find ‘the silver lining’ to problematic websites like LA Fixed. The fact that you were not alone in feeling excluded and unsafe in their space and found someone else who had created a new and improved (and actually safe) place is very cool. I also love the fact that she responded so quickly and thoroughly to your questions, she had some great things to say and really reflected the same topics you presented about in class and here in your ethnography.

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