Breaking Down Barriers

You’re acting like a typical woman.”

No wonder it’s so hard for people to get out of the whole “stereotype conversion” when it comes to genders and who does what. We have been told as children that women or girls cry and men should be strong and suck it up. Men are good at sports while women just “throw like a girl.”

I find it amazing on how people judge others based on gender. Not only are men judging women and vice versa, but other women and men judge others of the same sex.

The other night I was talking with two co-workers/friends, and for some reason I brought up my mountain bike was going to get a new chain ring to aid me with my riding. I’m always in my two easier gears and still having to put forth a lot of effort on hill climbs. I forget what my male friend/co-worker said, but I responded “I’m a girl and I have asthma issues.”

The female friend/co-worker then told me that I am not allowed to use the statement “like a girl” again; otherwise she’d kick my butt. I paused for a second, actually a little embarrassed-because I’m working hard at trying to show everyone that a 5’2” woman like myself, who was never athletically inclined, can bike like a badass. (Be mountain or paved surface, doesn’t matter.)
The day I rode the trails by myself.
Yup. I cried. SO happy!

Being a woman has nothing to do with my bike and how I can or cannot always get up a hill in an easier gear. Take the gender factor out and not read into it.

When I was out in the Van Peenen pines I thought long and hard about the conversation I had, what I’m working on doing for myself, and the experiences I’ve currently had. Travis and I sometimes butt heads when we’re out riding. I tend to frustrate him over my so-called “typical female” moments while I’m out there just being myself.
I’m an emotional person who wears her reactions on her sleeve at times-especially when it’s particularly exciting or challenging. I’m quick to get feisty and frustrated (at myself) over what I perceive as “shortcomings” but I am also easy to bring to tears when I’m extremely happy/sad/mad/frustrated. My tears are my release, never have I cried to attempt to “get out” of a situation for personal gain. I look at it this way; some people throw things, break things, or yell…I cry. Get over it.

I hate how I am a woman and my tears are brought up in a shaming way.

So and so didn’t cry.” Or “So and so didn’t get frustrated like you do.”
I’m compared to another female, another female who has a different personality than I am. This comparison brings up frustrating feelings within me-because I’m being compared to a female in the past. This is something that haunted me in my previous relationship with my ex-husband and it’s something that is completely unfair to do to another person. 

Comparing one person to another is like trying to put two puzzle pieces together that do not fit. It will not work!

As I rode I reflected on how far I have come with my riding skills. I’m not perfect; in fact I’m far from it. I’m not a “beginner” but borderline intermediate when it comes to the off-road scene. I’m pretty darn good on paved surfaces, but still battle confidence issues with both practices.

I thought of Travis and I; sometimes we to get into small tiffs when we're out riding together. I get frustrated over how I do not feel heard and how I'm periodically put into the “typical female” category. I get frustrated over how I feel fear and anxiety sometimes when I’m trying something that really does scare me-but I’m told to look at it like a “dirt path through the woods.” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t give me confidence and sureness that I will succeed. 
I don't want to disappoint Travis-I do not want to do that, hence my being hard on myself comes forth and turns me into a snarky dragon.

However…I cannot say that I haven’t thrown the “You’re being a typical man!” out at Travis. I am just as guilty of throwing out “typical” comments.

Long story short, if it weren’t for Travis and our ability to communicate (as frustrating as we can be to each other) I wouldn’t be where I am today on the trails without his coaching.
I also realized that I try too damn hard to not be “typical.”

How unfair is that?! You are shamed for being a “typical woman” so you try with all your might to not “be typical” but when you have a “slip up” you are called out on it and put to shame. 

Why is it so bad to be in touch with your emotions and feelings? Why are the various ways of expressing your feelings put on a scale of 1-10? Why are we allowed to judge what others’ feel and determine if they are being ridiculous or if their tears are justified?
As I road on the trail I made the choice. Stop comparing.

I compare myself to other women I deem higher up than I am a bad habit of mine. I continually put individuals on pedestals and feel like I fall short. This is something that has to change; this is something that has to stop. I need to stop comparing myself and the men in my life need to stop comparing me to other women. 

I also need to not care so much about how I react. Yes, there are times when one can overreact, but I am going to stop caring so dang much over how someone sees my emotional self. If I’m shedding tears over my success or temporary failure, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Acknowledge instead!

I may never reach the skill level as this woman or that, but I can at least achieve the best skill level I can…for me. I ride my bike for myself, not for this woman or that woman. I do not even ride my bike for my partner…I started riding before Travis came into my life. I love riding with him-it makes my heart feel full and grateful that I can share a simple joy with a loved one.

I cannot express how happy it makes me; regardless of our head-butting moments out there. The fact that he is willing to put up with me at my worst moments (and I with him) makes it work. The last ride we went on we had some wonderful successes and some trying moments, but I made sure that we ended the ride with a fist-bump and a smile.

We as individuals need to stop putting so much pressure on these so-called “gender roles” that have been set in place by our predecessors. They are completely pointless and bring forth so many negative emotions. I’m tired of trying to be a different woman than who I really am-I am a woman, I might get bitchy, and I might even cry-especially when I’m frustrated. It’s not because I was born with ovaries, it’s because it is who I am and how I react.

Photo Credit: Parker Deen
Silver Moon Photography
My success with biking is not because am female. It’s because I have an endless amount of determination and gumption to keep proving myself wrong. I can ride a bike. You better believe that I will keep breaking down walls and boundaries. I’m ready. Ready to show everyone that I have heart, soul, and a will to go above and beyond what I think I can do.

This is the first post in the Breaking Down Barriers series. I'm not sure how long I'll have this particular series go, but with the help of Wheelwomen Switchboard I'll post some posts that discuss the differences and similarities of men and women in the bicycle world.