How valid are feminist complaints?

I am sure I am not the only man, or woman for that matter,
who has wondered just how valid are the complaints that feminists make.
No doubt some of them are valid, but are they all?
Do (some) feminists go out of their way to portray themselves as victims?

In most cases, that is a hard question to answer,
as so many of their complaints depend on the state of their mind:
E.g. "Men are undressing me with their eyes" (Really?)

But I just (on 2014-05-02) ran across a feminist complaint that seems provably unjustified.

Consider the following article,
which appeared on page 8 of the 2014-05-02 Washington Express,
a paper the Washington Post distributes freely,
especially around Washington area Metro stations.
The emphasis and some comments have been added by the author of this blog.

The Alexandria Spokeswomen lean — and bike — in
By Vicky Hallett Updated: May 2 at 1:00 am
Washington Express, 2014-05-02

No one wants to feel like a stereotype.
So Jennifer Hovis, 37, is pretty uncomfortable
with the fact that when she’s riding her bike —
which is practically every day —
she’s just one blowout away from turning into a damsel in distress.

“I’m one of those people that instead of carrying what would help with a flat,
I have my credit card and phone so I can be rescued,” the Alexandria resident says.
The reason Hovis has never learned how to fix a tire herself?
She’s been too intimidated to take a maintenance class at a bike shop.

These shops aren’t purposely cultivating a vibe that’s off-putting to women,
Hovis says,
but that’s the result of employing male-dominated staffs
and carrying products designed mostly for dudes.

And that’s the issue the Alexandria Spokeswomen, a group founded last fall,
will address with their first “Women on a Roll” ride this Sunday:
The trip, which starts at 10 a.m. in Jones Point Park,
includes visits to five Alexandria bike shops.

Hovis, who serves on the group’s leadership committee,
explains that the event isn’t a protest.
It’s a chance for dialogue.
Every shop knows the riders are coming.
The goal is to share ideas that will make women feel welcome —
and then spend more money, so everybody wins.

In a letter the Alexandria Spokeswomen (alexandriaspokeswomen.wordpress.com) wrote to the shops,
they laid out their wish list.
They’re asking for periodic women-only rides and classes
[Wait a minute.
What if there were men-only rides and classes?
How long would it be before a phalanx of women's organizations,
starting with the National Women's Law Center,
starting filing law suits claiming illegal discrimination?
Hypocrisy, thou name is feminism.]
gear that’s suited specifically to female cyclists
[At the bicycle shop I occasionally shop in,
they seem to have as much clothing (specifically gloves) for women as they do for men.
As to the hardware,
do women have different requirements than men when it comes to
derailleurs, chains, gear wheels, pedals, cranks, hubs, handle bars,
brake calipers and cables, wheels, tires and inner tubes?
As to frames, certainly skirts require a different frame,
but many women just wear bicycle shorts when they ride,
so they can use the stronger men's frames.]

and greater recognition of the fact that
women are an important force in their industry.

(According to an August 2013 report by the League of American Bicyclists,
60 percent of bicycle owners age 17-28 are women.
Another finding: From 2003 to 2012,
the number of women and girls participating in bicycling rose 20 percent.)

Shops have gotten better about outreach to women in recent years,
says Gwen Toops, 27, who considers herself a “casual but dedicated cyclist.”
It’s still hard, however, to shake the feeling that
she’s not being taken seriously by store staffers.
Too many times, even when she’s done her research, she says,
“they’ve talked down to me,
with the assumption that I don’t know anything.”

[I can certainly sympathize with a well-meaning store clerk
who has to guess the level of sophistication of the person, male or female,
who is asking the clerk questions.
If they go one way, they can be criticized for "talking down".
If they go the other way, they can be criticized for assuming too much.
Is it possible that this problem is not gender related?]


Back to comments by the author of this blog.
Consider in particular the statement highlighted above:

The reason Hovis has never learned how to fix a tire herself?
She’s been too intimidated to take a maintenance class at a bike shop.

Now, there’s a lot I don’t know, surely especially about women,
but one thing that I do know is that statement cannot be true.

That statement involves two issues:
1) That she is intimidated by the atmosphere at bike shops.
2) Is taking a maintenance class at a bike shop the only way to learn how to fix a tire?

The intimidation factor is a subjective one, depending on the state of Hovis's mind.
But that there are many other ways to learn how to fix a tire is undeniably true.

Before I point out some of those current ways,
I will digress on how I learned to fix a bicycle tire.
(Those not interested in my personal experience may skip to the current situation by clicking here.)

When I was in college, many years ago, I had a clunky 3-speed Schwinn that I used for personal transportation (no car).
But the college had an annual “Beer-Bike Race” in the spring, that featured teams of amateur jocks riding at breakneck speed around the academic quadrangle (the university had a department of mechanical engineering, so many of the bikes were lovingly tailored for speed).
When they completed the circuit, they would climb on a platform and chug a stein of beer.
When that was done the next rider on the team would set off in the circuit.
So there you have masculinity (male riders only at that time, of course!) as defined at that college: bike riding and beer drinking :-).
I was too poor when I was in college and grad school to afford a ten-speed,
but when I got my first full-time job practically the first thing I did
was buy a good ten-speed.
That was at Proteus Design on Route One in College Park, Maryland,
which sold me a wonderful Falcon bike, “Designed by Ernie Clements”, bronze in color, made with Reynolds 531 tubing, for $155,
which I upgraded over the years with precision-made SunTour and Shimano (or was it Sugino?) components.
(Unfortunately the bike was eventually stolen :-(

But of course the first question, at least for me,
was how to maintain it?
Being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted to maintain it myself.
So they sold me a wonderful book on bicycle maintenance,
Anybody’s Bike Book by Tom Cuthbertson,
written and illustrated in the somewhat hippie, Zen style of the time
(the book was published in Berkeley, California),
but explaining everything you needed to know in clear, amusing prose and illustrations.
It made learning about the bike fun.
And it certainly taught about how to fix flats.
Without “taking a maintenance class at a bike shop.”

Current instruction on how to fix a bicycle tire can found by googling
fixing bicycle flat tire.
The first entry which came up when I googled that was
an extremely good, well-organized and detailed (with a video!) article from rei.com:
Flat Tire on Your Bike: How to Fix It”.
If you want a book on the subject,
visit amazon.com and search on bicycle maintenance.
There are many books on the subject,
perhaps some at your local book store or library.
I just checked my local library, and they have 17 books on that subject.
Of course yours may vary.

Back to the complaint mentioned in the article.
Am I the only one who thinks that some women,
who seem to find their way onto the pages of the Washington Post with great frequency,
go out of their way to cook up things about men to complain about?

But how about the reason asserted for not attending such a course?
Wikipedia's definition of intimidation is:
Intimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that
"would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities"
fear of injury or harm.

It is not necessary to prove that
the behavior was so violent as to cause terror
or that the victim was actually frightened.
It seems to me that's a long way from
"cultivating a vibe that’s off-putting to women ...
the result of employing male-dominated staffs
and carrying products designed mostly for dudes."
How on earth can
"employing male-dominated staffs
and carrying products designed mostly for dudes"
cause a person of ordinary sensibilities to fear injury or harm?
Not only do I "just not get it",
I don't believe it is true.
Is this not a case of something we have seen far too often from feminists,
using language normally reserved for serious harm
to describe inconsequential aspects of life?

And by the way, what about describing all men who ride bicycles as "dudes"?
From the context, I don't think that is just playful rhetoric,
but intended as a put-down.