by Latina Rider
The bike community website, LAFixed.com, is not a safe space for queer feminist of color. I didn’t engage as much as I should/could have in order to come to this conclusion with more substantial evidence; however I think the reasons why I hesitated to interact in the site and the response I received to the few posts I made speak volumes in favor of my conclusion.
I came into the site believing a shared interest in bikes can create a community that evolve from simple conversations about cycling into conversations about gender, race, class, sex, and sexuality in relation to bikes, but I was proven wrong quickly. Lafixed.com is set up between three different categories, “Off-Topic,” “Sale/Trade,” and “Rides/Events.” Out of the three I chose to focus in the “Off-Topic” conversations because of the higher possibility of discussion on intersectionality and its influence on the cyclists’ usage of their bike. I went through the preexisting discussions and quickly found unchecked racist, sexist, misogynist, and heteronormative remarks, which made me think about the users: Who are they and how do they identify? The avatar icons and usernames do not really help in establishing that, but I think it’s fair to say that whether or not they identify as a white heterosexual man, they all become this generic user. People have to erase components of their identity to fit into the culture of this site.
When I looked into the “Rides/ Events” category I came across a weekly/bi-weekly bike ride for women identified cyclist titled “Ladies Ride|Tuesday|7:30pm|Long Beach (Covia & 2nd at the Stbx.” It is the only female space on the site (that I found), but all users can see it and post in it if they’d like. The discussion focuses on the bike ride, whether it’s being postponed or if the location is changing with a few exchanges between the users about their personal life. When I noticed this, I wanted to point out the gender division and to some extent segregation. To get this message across I posted a new discussion in the “off-topic” category calling out female-identified riders into the “off-topic” category. The first response was just the link of the “Ladies Ride” event, which I took as “here’s the space you’re looking for, it’s the only space you have.” The second response was a welcoming from one of the common participants of the “Ladies Ride” discussion inviting and welcoming me to that space as well as the facebook group they created. I thanked her for her welcome and soon after that my discussion was erased from the site, and everything moved along as if it never existed.
Will this site ever be a safe space for queer women of color? I do not know, however it seems to me that this site functions like the society outside of the Internet where every space is a male dominated space and women have to seek and create their own safe space. The female identified cyclist have their own closed bike rides, “Ladies Ride” discussion on LAFixed.com as well as an even more private facebook group to plan the events (I tried looking for with no success). I can only hope that the discourse I had imagined at the beginning of this research happens in these safer and secluded spaces. If they were to happen on the “Ladies Ride” discussion on LAfixed.com I feel like the trolling and anti-feminist bashing that happened to Daniela Meza in the “I am a Feminist” group in the site ExperienceProject.com would be recreated. It would be awesome though if I was proved wrong.
For the next step of this research I do not plan on engaging any further in the site. I hope to interview some of the female identified cyclist who use the “Ladies Ride” discussion and attend the ride, especially the user who invited and welcomed me to the discussion and Facebook page. I also plan on talking with female identified bikers who blog and discuss about their cycling through a Feminist lens. My questions would revolve around their experience in LAFixed.com and the male-dominance in bike culture.