10 April 2008

The great dedorkification project: Failed

I had a hypothesis: Would drivers respect me more if I looked and acted less like a dork and more like the other female cyclists in the neighborhood?

To test this hypotheses I performed a very unscientific experiment: I got all dressed up in my best office wear (time to shift wardrobes anyway, with spring finally here), donned my nice red coat (aaack, there's a spot of grease on it now! why can't I do anything without getting grease where it doesn't belong?), and adopted the most nonchalantly self-assured pose I could muster. Once on the street I proceeded at a pace that was slow and stately, hugging the line of parked cars and rolling through stop signs, flashing a charming half-smile at all who made eye contact. All without cursing.

Was I treated any nicer by the motorists?


I should not have been rolling through stop signs, but it's very hard to come to a complete stop and get a foot down in these shoes. In fact, it's very hard to do anything at all in these shoes, with the notable exception of tearing up my Achilles tendons. Why do the norms of fashion demand that women wear such completely impractical footwear?

Unscientific conclusion: It doesn't matter how you look, because most Americans already think that bicycles are dorky enough to trump everything else that you do. Therefore, wear what you want and ride such that your behavior demands respect: stopping at busy stop signs, taking the lane where needed, riding at speeds comparable to the flow of motor traffic when possible, wearing your brightest and most reflective accessories, etc. Oh, and the fashion industry is sexist and cruel, so to hell with them.

Update: In somewhat related news...

Come on, Americans, we're embarrassing ourselves in front of Europe! (As well over half of my countrymen erupt into uproarious laughter.)

I did like the last bit:
"One thing is certain, if anybody gets together to ride in memory of me - unlikely, i know - I'll be having no lycra, no goofy specialist bikes and no helmets. Promise me that. And tell the world that facts and science beats fear-mongering any day."

I agree, except with me you would be absolutely free to wear a helmet if you wanted to (gotta put that sticker somewhere), and I would allow exceptions to the no-lycra rule for these two jerseys.

[Tip o' the helmet that I wear to keep my hair out of my face, really, to Cyclelicious.]

Updated update: Sorry, I just can't get over my stupid-yet-awesome new jacket:

Reflective stripes are the new black! I'll just keep telling myself that.


At 09 April, 2008 15:31, Blogger Eric Allix Rogers said...

Interesting. I hadn't really paid much attention to whether how I appear makes people treat me different (I don't look nearly as dorky in the summer, for instance, when I'm not wearing neon).

I do have a larger-scale pet theory on this subject, though, which I concocted after moving back down here from Lakeview. In Lakeview, the only cyclists you see on the streets are the hardcore, dorky ones, for the most part (at least where I lived). So drivers treated all cyclists pretty badly. But in Hyde Park, I think drivers are so used to hippy-dippy college students riding broken down bikes without brakes, no helmets, weaving and swerving, being unpredictable, etc, that they treat us all with grudging respect, because they're really afraid that they might hit someone.

That could just all be in my head, though.

At 09 April, 2008 16:03, Blogger Dingbat said...

My take: people respect those they can identify with. That identification can come through any means--I've got it easy hauling a kid trailer because people can make a connection with parents and/or kids.

If you're a hipster dedicated to looking 'different'--a lot harder for people to indentify with you. Similarly if you're lycrified and power-gooed.

The vibe I try hardest to give off during rush hour is "working stiff jus' trying to get to/from the job." A little rumpled, whatever, it's about, "we're in the same boat (traffic) together."

Hyde Park is hard to play on the appearances angle, since it's so dedicatedly diverse--and you're just as likely to collide with a dork, a slickster, a hipster, a doctor, janitor, a cube rat, a gym rat, a Reg rat....

At 09 April, 2008 19:19, Blogger Fritz said...

If there's *any* question at all about my level of dorkitude, here's a recent photo of me.

At 09 April, 2008 19:47, Blogger Jennifer said...

Ah, but Fritz transcends dorkiness by clearly not caring.

Whee! That looks fun. I wish I were that coordinated.

In seriousness for a moment, I suddenly wonder if there's a gender issue at work here as well. I mean, I always tend to look dorky even off the bike because I'm a jeans 'n' sneakers person, which for men is normal but for women tends to scream "I don't give a donkey's ballsack about my appearance!" I swear the looks I got from people weren't quite so... judgmental, when I had boy-short hair and a dark blue parka and got called "sir" a lot.

At 10 April, 2008 09:02, Blogger SiouxGeonz said...

I dunno, I think there are local cultural differences - *and* our own perceptions (often it *is* all in our heads).

I sense a difference when I'm on a different bike as well as dressed in sweats and tea-shirt as opposed to lycra. (Hey, it hasn't been warm enough for just jersey & shorts in a hundred years.)
But... it's been suggested that I'm simply recognizable as a Local Eccentric and beyond categorization as dorky, hippy-dippy or academic...

At 10 April, 2008 17:03, Blogger Fritz said...

About goofy bike clothes: I wore lycra quite a bit when I lived downstate. Illinois gets awfully swampy in the summer time. Europeans aren't quite as picky about body odor as Americans, too.


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