Tag Archives: Pants

The cycling pants of shame

London was not built for cars.  It’s a well know fact that driving your clunker through the city is the slowest and most expensive way to get around.

The fastest – and incidentally cheapest – way to travel is on two wheels.  It was with this in mind that I decided to brave the rough roads of London and embark on that momentous expedition:  my first cycle to work.

Previously I had only been able to gawp in envy at the fit elite – all honed arms, and sculpted thighs – as I trudged from the tube station, chocolate bar in hand.  Now I would be one of the noble few.  I could see myself wizzing past the commoners as they watched my bum disappear into a distant land of endless cool.

Being a cheapskate, I had acquired my little sister’s bike in exchange for paying our dad 40 quid to cover a window she broke (I’m not the only one in my family with the ‘oops!’ gene.)  However, my sister had originally bought the bike when she was 14 years old and into pink.  Florescent pink.

In spite of this rather embarrassing inconvenience, I was undeterred.  Armed with my little-girls bike and an oversized helmet my local bike dealer had duped me into buying, I set off into the unknown.  I was certainly prepared.  I had packed some spare underwear to ride home in, just in case I sweated more than usual.  Knowing that this was a distinct possibility (due to the fact I hadn’t exercised in about a year) I had packed the oldest, grimiest, most granny-like pants and bra I owned.  What a pro.

Things were going well.  The sun shone as I headed towards Paddington, a vision of enviable cool.  As I turned the corner into Spring Street, a rather attractive bearded gentleman shot me a grin.  ‘Amazing.’ I thought to myself ‘Even dressed up like a demented 12 year old, I’ve still got it.’

It took me about six seconds and a hundred yards to realise what was really going on:  My backpack had come unzipped.  My tights were wrapped around my back wheel.

My underwear was strewn back down the middle of the road.

Let me level with you.  Spring Street is littered with cafes and restaurants – basically involving quite a lot of people sitting outside, people watching.  Right now they were watching me.  Me, and my skanky underwear.

In a mad panic I threw my bike to the ground and ran back down the street, my oversized helmet bobbing from side to side as I picked up my abandoned items.  With every ounce of dignity I had left (er… not much, for those of you who were wondering) I jumped back on my bike and rode away.

It’s been three long and difficult years since ‘the incident’.  After therapy, prayer and a lot of strong liquor, I finally feel that I’m ready to move on.  So, at the end of this month I’m going to face my fear: buy a bike and re-try the cycle to work.

I’ll be packing good underwear.

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Embracing the F word

The moment I decided to come out to my dad was, if nothing else, an anti-climax. “Dad, there’s something you should know…” I began with the sombre self-realisation of a 27 year old about to dump a life-shattering bombshell at her father’s door “…I think I’m a feminist.”

There was a pause.  Followed by a suppressed snort of amusement. “Um, love, we’ve known this for about 12 years.”

Oh.

…hang on, What?? Why the hell didn’t someone tell me?!

Bill Bailey: Bearded, comic legend. Also looks suspiciously like my dad.

 The list

There was a reason I had taken so long to realise what was so obvious to my parents. For most of my life I had been sold a rather narrow view of what a feminist was supposed to look like. There was a list. And my personal CV just didn’t match up:

I don’t want to burn my bra. Years ago a well-meaning relative told me that “A feminist is someone who burns her bra in public”. Being twelve, I didn’t actually own a bra so this immediately presented a barrier. By the time I did, I’d already had enough underwear-in-public shaming incidents for one lifetime.

I’m not raging with anger. I never thought I could be a feminist because I just wasn’t angry enough. And I had been told once, by a boy I fancied, that all feminists were crazy, extreme angry people with bad haircuts. I’ve only ever angrily sworn at another person twice in my entire life – once when I got plastered and spent a full hour drunkenly shouting at God, and once when I mustered up enough spite to call my brother…brace yourself folks… a “bloody boy!” Yeah, you read that right – Bloody. Boy. – words so badass they make the recipient’s toe hair shrivel up in fright (…or just cause them to laugh in my face, resulting in me running away. Crying.)

I am not invincible. I hate hate hate walking home alone late at night. I struggle with heavy boxes. I cried at the end of Terminator. Twice. I suck at team sports. Sometimes I require the help of another person when over-optimistically scaling the park wall at ten to midnight and getting stuck on top of the fence.

Occasionally I find myself wishing I were built of unscratchable, unbreakable, ‘I don’t need nobody, damn it’ stone. But then I realise that a life like that would be really boring and require almost no courage whatsoever.

I like God. Even when I’m spewing drunken swear words in his general direction, ultimately I’m still a fan. In fact, I don’t think I would ever feel comfortable enough to get drunk and swear at someone I didn’t like. If I ever swear at you, by the way, you’d better damn well take it as a bloody compliment.

I like men. There are men in this world who have inflicted horrific oppression on my gender. But there are also men out there who have championed the end of exploitation, inequality and abuse. Some of my feminist heroes are, in fact, men. If we’re going to truly stamp out violence against women it’s going to take all of us – men and women – to bring about lasting culture change. The appalling suffering directed towards my sex isn’t just something that women should grapple with. It presents an issue for humanity as a whole.

In addition, men can grow all kinds of awesome facial hair – shadow, stubble, BEARDS!! C’mon, people!

The other list

However, there is another relevant list: Sexual violence. The 55% pay gap between men and women in the finance sector. Forced marriage. Porn which depicts sex as something ‘you do to’ rather than something ‘you do with’ a woman. Female Genital Mutilation. Honour killings. The fact that many women in the public eye are judged first by their appearance, rather than their policies, achievements and character.

This list may not make me rage with hatred, but it makes me feel pretty sad.

I think a woman should never be beaten with sticks for simply uncovering her arms. It’s gutting that little girls in some families are sold off to brothels because they’re not valued as much as their brothers. I think men should seek to protect, and partner with, the women in their lives, not beat them to a pulp.

I don’t think we should settle for how things stand at the moment.

And that is why I, ladies and gents, am a bra-wearing, fence-scaling, man-lovin’ feminist.