One day I stopped believing in God. Some may think it is because I have been at the receiving end of unrequited love or other similar pain. I think that kind of pain comes close to what I will attempt to describe here. It’s more of an existential crisis really. My experience when I entered the male-dominated, and largely male-governed, sport of cycling as a woman would prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. In other words ,’the moment that changed me’. Please, understand that I now equate cycling to emotional pain; well not the sport itself, but rather the highly messed up gender- imbalance in that space. This is not the conventional story though because I have unknowingly and knowingly inflicted pain on so many kind innocent male cyclists too. It hurts the most when you are both victim and perpetrator in any non-diverse/ transformed environment. I just hope the personal anecdotes I share will be a reminder why we need diverse representation of every kind of human in all spaces, not just sport.
I swear I have felt like I dehumanised so many of God’s kind male humans in cycling. You don’t ever walk away the same after dehumanising another person – whether it’s on a race, class or on a gender basis , which is the case here. Being a woman, I am used to the objectification of women you sometimes see in the media, but never did I once think I would deal a similar kind of soul-defying blow to the kind and innocent brothers I would meet in cycling. It was purely unintentional and you don’t recover from such things (your conscience simply never lets you rest). It’s hard to explain, but I think dehumanisation is not necessarily just about how you treat people but also how you end up viewing them (both intentionally and unintentionally). There’s no doubt that, when you’re in the minority, for example us women in cycling, there’s always a chance that you lose sight of the individuality of the next male cyclist, let alone their dignity and individual humanity. You almost end up tempted to see them as one big whole undifferentiated mass. The natural matters of attraction between male and female in such a gender-imbalanced environment are just insanely abnormal too, and it is frankly unhealthy and non-life enhancing for any human to be involved in these non-diverse spaces and situations.
Everything happens for a reason I suppose…
The important thing is I ride my bike less these days, and it’s partly because of the messed up social relations in my sport. It can’t help but impact one on a very emotional, human and definitely spiritual level. I would find out later, about a week into my stay on a cycling club whatsapp group, that each of the gentlemen were married… Naturally, I didn’t know this, but the older father figures on the group must have thought me suspect, for allowing myself to be a lone single female on what was an all-male cycling group. Being extremely competitive, and having found acceptance in a cycling club (after countless rejections and emotional rejections before that ), I wasn’t ready to let this long- desired “acceptance” or inclusion opportunity into a cycling club whatsapp group pass me by. Why did I not notice my pathetic sense of emptiness and desire to belong immediately there? Some things come from a spiritual emptiness , are heightened by social circumstances and then culminate in unusually painful and confusing experiences in sports that are stratified on a gender basis.
If existing in spaces that are untransformed or non-diverse can cause one to be so hurt and also be a big perpetrator of hurt to others, I think we should just work to make all spaces inclusive for everyone. This includes all hobbies, professions and sports.
God, I still ask why did you allow this to happen? You know I wouldn’t have taken up a bike had I not been too injured to run. I want nothing more in the world than to do right and be genuinely liked and loved. I just pray for healing and health for every other human I have encountered in our not-yet transformed space of cycling. No one-should have to undergo more soul-destroying and mind-boggling experiences, let alone existential crises. I never knew the moment I entered cycling would be a moment that changed me. Let’s hope it is for the best , not only for me but for my other kind talented and divinely-created fellow cyclist human beings.