Oh, Richard

Last week, Richard Dawkins finally came out against racism and sexism. It turns out that, aside from his well-documented feelings about the 800 million or so terribly oppressed Muslim women out there (every single last one of you, by the way, because Islam is a giant monolith that is exactly the same for everyone and it just so happens to be precisely as bad as the worst Orientalist stereotypes that the West can come up with) there is another group whose plight moves the professor to speak out.

I am referring, of course, to middle-aged white male British academics who wear loafers. Or should I say l*s? For to the good Professor, no slur is more offensive than a pair of well-crafted and comfortable shoes.

So yes, there was a palaver, Twitter collectively sighed, facepalmed and snarked their little hearts out (I love you, by the way, Twitter), and Our Richard dug his heels in.

You’re probably wondering why I’m bothering to tell you all of this. Dawkins says something ignorant, it’s pouring rain, must be a summer’s day ending in Y somewhere in Britain and/or Ireland, eh?

See, what happened next was that he, well.. he hit off one of my sensibilities. Check this out:

According to Dawkins, the people uniquely unsuited to educate him on matters relating to human society are… the people working and/or studying within one of the major academic disciplines devoted to the study of human society. Richard goes on to snark endlessly about sociology and sociologists, going so far as to call it a social “science”. Seriously. Look:




A little aside here, which I feel obliged to add. My own background is in sociology. One of the side-effects to working in the social sciences is having to deal with a regular barrage of people from the ‘hard’ sciences (I’d say that isn’t a word coined by a social scientist) who think exactly as Dawkins does: that sociologists, by virtue of being sociologists, are less qualified to talk about society and social science than biologists, physicists and the like. People who have never taken a sociology class in their lives, who know nothing about social theory, research, methodologies (and the reasons behind them), who figure that they somehow know more about it than, well, the entirety of sociology and sociologists. And anthropology and anthropologists (lovely bunch).

You’ll notice that at no point above does Dawkins have a point to make other than poo-poohing the social sciences. He doesn’t have any evidence (aside from the Oxford dictionary) to support his claim that there is something inherently sexist and racist about pointing out his sex and race. He’s engaging in the most ludicrous of, yes, ad-hominem attacks: saying that sociologists can’t educate him on sociology because they’re sociologists, and that sociology isn’t a real science because it’s not.

But that isn’t quite the point I want to make here. I want to point out the sheer hypocrisy of Dawkins’ attitude.

One of the stories I loved reading in one of his earlier books- it might have been the God Delusion, maybe not- was about one of his professors. Who had, for decades, taught a particular side of a particular debate in, well, biology I guess. One day this professor went to a lecture by someone who was able to demolish the case for what this guy had been teaching for decades. The good professor went up to the lecturer at the end of the hour, thanked him, and shook his hand. And then went home to rewrite his course material, because boy was that suddenly out of date.

This is what Dawkins claims to admire.

But there’s another thing. Dawkins himself spends a lot of his time defending his field. He’s an evolutionary biologist, and the world is filled with people without the faintest idea of what either of those things are about who nevertheless dispute the very existence of evolution. He’s as familiar as I am with the phenomenon of people who know nothing about his field disputing even the validity of science itself. Of scientific methods. Of things which have been extensively studied and observed.

You would think that a person who claims to value skepticism and questioning of one’s own biases, and who faces a daily barrage of ignorant dismissal of his own field, would know better than to engage in knee-jerk insults and poo-poohing of fields he knows nothing about.

I sincerely doubt that he’ll ever read this, but if he does, I have this to say: Be a scientist, Richard. Show a little of the skepticism you have inspired in others. Learn about social theories. Understand how they are applied. Learn about social research methodologies and why we study things the way we do.

Because right now, Richard? You may be a great biologist and I’m sure you earned the hell out of the qualifications you have. But not one of them is in a social science. Which means that every person with a PhD, an MA, a BA, or even a year or so of social science modules under their belt is qualified to school you on this one. And if you are interested in science as a tool for learning about the world, as opposed to your position as a tool for beating the opposition, you will sit down, get out your pen and paper, get ready to take some notes and listen.

Oh, Richard

Reading the Comments: Space, Funerals and Toesie-Woesies

I read the comments today. Oh, boy.

The first place I went- as is my wont of a morning over a nice cup of Barry’s- was theJournal.ie. Lovely little news site it is, and the 9 at 9 is just about right for my precaffeinated brain. I saw a column by Norah Patten, who wants to be Ireland’s first female astronaut. As someone who spent most of my childhood dreaming of climbing out of this great bit gravity well we call home, I gave it a click. Turns out that Norah had the same dreams I did, but she’s spent her life doing everything she can to make them a reality- she’s an aeronautics engineer who’s Chair of a Space Management and Business Department, teaches at a Space Studies Program and is generally the kind of high-achiever who makes the likes of me simultaneously feel terrible about our sofa habits and want to get out there and cheer our Local Woman Made Good on. Now she’s entering a competition that’s offering 22 people the chance to go to space. No better woman, I say, before toddling over to give her my vote.

And then I cast my eyes below the line and you have got to be kidding me we are not doing this wtf? The very second comment

But Nora – who will make the dinner and do the washing/ironing in your house?

Oh. Well. Okay. It’s going to be like this, isn’t it? Really, internet? Really? Let’s see what else the delightful folks from the bottom half of the internet have to offer:

Chill out dude, this poor girl has not the slight chance of getting into orbit so no big deal.

She will prob bring the wrong shoes!

Surely there must be some sort of quota system in place for female astronauts? It would be unjust to the sisters if they have to acheive high places on merit alone.

And oh yes, there is more but my poor ctrl-C key can’t take it. This is a fairly light-hearted story, though, so you’d expect the comments to be a bit on the jovial side. I popped over to something a little more serious- a  report on the death and funeral plans of Dolours Price. If you’re not familiar with her, Dolours was a Provisional IRA member who’s known for car bombings and hunger strikes. Her death is bound to lead to some complicated feelings. Off I go below the line and:

Jais she was a fine bit of stuff….

Well. Um. Okay. In fairness, most of the comments were sharing their (justifiably heated) opinions on Dolours’ checkered life. But there’s always one, and normally more than one, who take any mention of a woman in any context as licence to let us all know precisely how they feel about her looks. Always. Every damn time.

A little later I’d moved on from the news to charming stories about fluffy animals and ended up clicking on a link to a story in- of all places- the Daily Mail about Elton John and David Furnish’s new baby. Who is a baby! Toesies! Little fingernails! Sleepy frown-y face! As I was on the Daily Fail, I had zero intention of reading the words between the pictures of happy people with babies, but I ended up scrolling down too far and my eye hit on the words “very selfish” beginning a comment. As I’m sure you know, once you’ve started reading a comment you’re going to end up following it to the bitter end. And when it’s a comment on a Daily Mail article about LGBTQ folks, I really do mean the bitter, bitter end. Let’s see what Jen From Southampton had to say:

very selfish, elton is 65 for goodness sake!!! my dad was 47 when i was 20, this baby probably wont have one of his dads by the time he is 20! people should think about the needs of the children before they have them for their own selfish reasons.

Wait, what? Jen From Southampton thinks these guys shouldn’t be having another baby because one of his dads mightn’t survive into his adulthood? That’s almost reasonable. I mean, ageism is a thing and it’s likely that Our Elton will be able to afford the kind of medical care to give him at least another few decades. But this feels almost like progress. Maybe. Almost. Kind-of.

In conclusion: sexism is infuriating. Some people who comment on Daily Mail articles seem to have run out of homophobia. Dogs and cats may possibly live together. And I’m going to leave you with a nice song.


Reading the Comments: Space, Funerals and Toesie-Woesies

#NeverAlone: bigotry and solidarity.

This was originally a comment by Arman Maroufkhani over at my post When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and Vulnerability on Monday. Reposted with his permission, because it’s the kind of thing that I think we should really, really do. 


Racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes and all kinds of other hateful and bigoted people can often make you feel small and alone on the internet. Those of us who believe in equality and solidarity often scroll through comment sections, conclude that everyone on there seems to live in some paralell racist, sexist, homophobic universe and get too angry/sad/overwhelmed to post a response. So their bullshit goes unchecked. It’s left to stand. They and many of the readers are left with the impression that the bigots represent the majority of people, BUT THEY DON’T.

To combat the hate on many Swedish news sites and forums activist Kawa Zolfagary started a hashtag, #AldrigEnsam. It means “never alone”. You use it when you’re trying to discuss something in a rational way on the internet and people respond with hatred and bigotry, or when you are challenging bigots and feel like they are drowning out your message and give the impression of representing the majority. You share a link on Twitter, Facebook, your blog or anywhere else to where you need help together with the hashtag so other people can come help you.

Let’s start an English language hashtag of our own and use it on Twitter or Facebook when we’re fighting the online hate and need help. Share a link on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else to where you need help together with the hashtag #NeverAlone.

Please share!

#NeverAlone: bigotry and solidarity.

A Linkspam For All Seasons

Brain hacking and tracking

I’ve been having a fairly interesting time lately. I don’t have a job at the moment- I was going to say “I’m not working”, but it turns out that I have more than enough work and projects to fill my time. I’ve been looking into tricks and widgets to keep track of things and improve my life. Here’s a few that have been seriously helpful:

Unfuck Your Habitat

As the tagline goes, UFYH is “terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes”. Tips, tricks and challenges for getting your house in order. Also, celebratory gifs. Lots and lots of gifs.

This site is magic. I started UFing my H, made a few to-do lists of 20/10s, and before I knew it I’d UF’d my life.

750 Words

You know how I just said that UFYH was magic? This is magic too. A simple, simple kind of magic. It’s easy. You just sign up and write 750 words each day. It’s private. You don’t get to edit them after the day.

Also, the numbers go up and if you make the numbers go up enough  you get cute little badges. Never underestimate the power of making the numbers go up.

Writing every day means, well, that you’re writing every day. I’ve found that writing every day not only makes my writing better and means I’m getting ideas down on paper, but it’s also a brilliant way to dust off my brain. Get the cobwebs out from all those seldom-used corners. Like I said, it’s magic.

Also, they have one-month challenges! Write every day for a month and you get another cute little badge! I’m doing October, but I’ll probably sign up for November too. You should all sign up and join me!


From the same person who brought you 750words. 836pm is, I’m afraid, not magic. It’s just a sweet little tracking idea. You take a picture at 8.36pm every day. You put them all in a place. Me, I pop them onto instagram. It’s a cute way to get yourself taking pictures of things and remembering what you’re up to. Also, if you’re not getting out much, finding a new and creative way to photograph your sofa every night’ll be fun, at the very least.

The rest of it

Seems like you can’t turn around without bumping into an argument about same-sex marriage these days. Datbeardyman’s been having a letter exchange about it in the Kerryman. On a completely different- and really, really interesting- note, Radical Bi says Fuck marriage, fuck equality. Whether you agree or disagree, there’s definitely a lot of food for thought there.

By now we’ve all heard about ‘friendzoning’, that disgustingly misogynistic way of talking about women who don’t want to fuck a particular guy and instead go around being friends with him. (How dare they, amirite?) If you’re sick to death of hearing about friendzoning, then what you really, really need to read about is puzzleboxing. It’s like the cooler, more sorted, awesome counterpoint to the douchey kid that is friendzoning. You’ll love it.

As we’re talking about things that are annoying, Saoili wonders why (the hell) it’s considered okay to be sexist about children. Seriously- what’s with that?

And finally, Colm from Cork Skeptics has a quick guide to identifying baloney in everyday life. Good to know, Colm. Good to know.

A Linkspam For All Seasons

Weighing in on ElevatorGate: Perspectives and Privilege.

  1. Before I start: Trigger warning for talk of potential sexual assault and misogyny. Oh, also orientalism and Islamophobia and talk of FGM. Also describing the opinions of MRAs, PUAs, and an immensity of mansplaining, so even if you don’t need TWs, you might want to affix a small pillow to your forehead.

Also, if you happen to be my mother, than I’m warning you that I use several different swearwords here. If you’re Richard Dawkins, then you’re not my mother and you don’t get to complain if I swear.

If you’re lucky enough to not have been in the more skeptically and atheistically inclined corners of the internet this weekend, you’ll probably not have heard of ElevatorGate. Here’s a summary of events. For those of you who are already well aware of what’s been going on, I’ve popped some headings up so you can skip the summary, if you like.

What Happened at the Convention

Last month was the World Atheist Convention here in Dublin. One of the speakers was Rebecca Watson. Rebecca spoke on a Communicating Atheism panel. Her talk focused on her experiences as a female atheist activist- particularly her experiences of misogyny and inappropriate sexualisation. That night she went to the hotel bar with other attendees. Stayed up chatting till 4am, at which time she said to everyone that she was exhausted, that she’s had enough and was going to bed*. She gets into the elevator. A man follows her in to the elevator, says that he finds her very interesting, and would she like to come back to his room for coffee. She declines, goes to bed.

A few weeks later, Rebecca puts up a vlog in which she talks about the things she’s been doing, including this. If you don’t fancy looking through all of it, she talks about the afternoon panel from about 2:30, and her comments on Elevator Guy start at about 4:40.

Here’s her criticism of Elevator Guy:

“Just a word to the wise, guys? Uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable. But I’ll just lay it out that I was a single woman, in a foreign country at 4am in a hotel elevator with you. Just you. And I.. Don’t invite me back to your hotel room, right after I’ve finished talking about how it creeps me out and it makes me uncomfortable when men sexualise me in that manner. So.. yeah”

That’s it. She didn’t call ElevatorGuy a rapist. She didn’t say that this was the worst thing that has ever happened. She didn’t say anything, in fact, about the intentions of ElevatorGuy. She said that a thing had happened, that in that context it was highly inappropriate and made her feel uncomfortable, and she advised people to not do things like that in future. She then, by the way, goes on to say that loads of other people- both men and women- at the conference were awesome.

What Happened Next.

I’d love to say that what happened next was that the internet said “oh, right”, and toddled on about their business with just a little bit more of an idea of how to not make people feel incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe that some people asked for clarification on what had happened, got it, and than moved on. Because this? This should not have been a big deal.

But these things are always big deals.

Accusations fly of how Rebecca hates men. Of how she’s a feminazi who doesn’t want men to ever be able to talk to women. About how men can do nothing these days without being accused of being rapists. Of how she’s making a big deal over nothing** and should Get Over It. Of how she’s villifying poor, innocent ElevatorGuy*** who was probably just a shy, socially awkward chap who wanted nothing more than a cup of coffee. Of how she’s some kind of big-headed vanitybot who can’t accept that obviously an offer of coming back to someone’s room for coffee and a chat at 4am is hardly ever an invitation for sex, and how dare she think that anyone could be attracted to her.

All because, by the way, she said that a thing made her feel uncomfortable and that people should probably not do things like that.

But then things got worse. So, so much worse. Because here is where Richard Dawkins got involved. Yes, that Richard Dawkins.

What Richard Did Next.

Richard Dawkins commented on this. Fortunately for me, Jen McCreight has done a marvellous job of covering this one, so I don’t have to. But because I’d like to keep at least one or two readers here for the moment, I’ll quote RD’s original comment (as posted in Pharyngula):

Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


If your forehead’s all bruised from the headdesking, don’t blame me. I told you you’d need that pillow. I wouldn’t be surprised if RD finished this screed with an entreaty to Watson to finish off her vegetables because there are poor hungry kids in Africa**** who’d just love a plate of mushy, overcooked broccoli.

There are a few things I’m not going to even start with here. The lumping of all Muslims into one big, amorphous blob. The assumption that no Muslims are, in fact, Americans. The equation of a religion with a billion or so incredibly diverse followers and the actions of assholes who choose to interpret that religion in a very particular, very narrow, very fucked-up way. Because those things? Those things are important. They are big deals. They are not things that I wanted to leave unmentioned here. But they are also things for another day, and another post. Because here I want to focus not on the ways that the skeptical community can be prejudiced against other groups. I want to focus on the ways in which we have just treated one of our own.

What RD did was not unique, or special. It was not particularly different to what many other people had done. All it did, really, was fan the flames. And oh, what flames there were! Flames and flames and flames and flames and flames. And flames. And that’s just the flames on my own little RSS feed.

Wherein I get to the point.

And here is where I get to what I would like to say about this. What I’m talking about is mainly about how the discussion of this has gone- which is, in turn, a thing which mainly exists in the comments of the posts I’ve linked to so far in this post.

I want to talk about how what happened has been framed. And what that says about who is and is not privileged in our society.

Let’s go back to those accusations against Watson that I mentioned earlier. They tend to fall into a certain small number of categories.

  1. Rebecca is, herself, privileged. Loads of worse things happen to women every day and she needs to get over herself.
  2. ElevatorGuy wasn’t a rapist! Why are people being mean to ElevatorGuy? Can’t a guy catch a break around here? Why did Rebecca call him a rapist?!
  3. Rebecca wants to outlaw flirting. If a man can’t approach a woman in a suggestive manner, then nobody will ever have sex with anyone, ever.
  4. This is totally just another way that women make false accusations against men. Just like those false accusations of rape that happen all the time. ALL THE TIME, DOODZ.
  5. So, yeah, women get raped. But what about the poor non-rapist men who feel uncomfortable being associated with rapists?
  6. …yeah, I’m just expressing my opinion. You want me to not express my opinion now, huh? Fuckin’ feminazis, trying to silence men.

Okay. So I’ll admit that I’ve taken a liberty or two with phrasing here. Guilty as charged. But the concepts are reasonably true to form. And here’s the thing about them:

They’re almost all talking about how men feel, and how ElevatorGuy felt.

This is a problem of framing, and one of perspectives. You see, Watson didn’t actually accuse ElevatorGuy of any terrible intentions. She just said that a thing had happened, and how she felt about it, and that people shouldn’t do those kinds of things if they don’t want people to feel uncomfortable. Particularly if the person in question has specifically stated that they don’t want that kind of interaction.

The responses don’t talk about that. The responses don’t talk about Watson’s perspective. They don’t frame the issue as one which is about her. They frame the issue as something she said, which is about men. Men are the people who are relevant, in these responses. Men are the ones whose feelings we should worry about, and think about, and consider.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and the discussion surrounding this is all about how the men felt to hear about it.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to having discussions be framed around them, that even when the thing being described is mainly about a non-group member, they are able to alter the discussion to be about them.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and is immediately villified and told that her concerns are unimportant.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to having discussions be framed around their needs, their issues, their comforts and discomforts, that they are unable to see a thing from an outside perspective.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and her concerns are brushed off and compared unfavourably to a relatively-marginalised group.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to their privilege that any marginalisation that is not incredibly extreme is invisible to them. So accustomed to their privilege that they cannot imagine anyone can walk in the same circles they do, exist in the same society, and not share it.

There are many, many more things that I could say about this. About why ElevatorGuy acted inappropriately. About the contexts in which this happened. But this post is about framing. About who gets to talk, who they talk about, and what that means. About whose perspectives are seen as worthwhile.

* Can’t fault her on this one, since I, lightweight I am, had begged off about three hours beforehand.

** She wasn’t the one making the big deal here. A minute or so of talking on a vlog? Not. Making. A. Fuss.

*** Did you see anything in that quote where she says ElevatorGuy is a bad person? Because I didn’t. She says that he did a thing, that she felt uncomfortable, and that people shouldn’t do that thing. I’m not a bad person because I ate the last of your cookies. I just owe you a damn cookie and should probably not do that again.

**** Just Africa, of course. And all of Africa. Because Africa’s a country, not a continent, and everything is the same there and everyone knows that all the kids in Africa are poor and hungry, and all the kids in Europe and the US are rich and full. (yes this is snark)

Weighing in on ElevatorGate: Perspectives and Privilege.

Unconscious Prejudice and Climbing Shoes.

Yesterday, me and my entirely lovely housemate C were in the unfortunate position of having no option but to go shopping. In Dundrum town centre. On a Saturday afternoon. Yes, it was every bit as bad as you think. But we’re recovering nicely.

One of the things that we needed to do was buy some climbing shoes for C. She knew precisely what she wanted the shoes to do, she had been to all the outdoor shops in town to no avail, and the only thing left for it was Dundrum, where there is a very lovely Snow & Rock where she got some perfectly good climbing shoes* a while back.

It was late-ish by the time we got there. There was only one person working in the climbing section, who was busy discussing shoes with two guys when we got there. We figured the polite thing to do would be to wait for him to be finished with them, and in the meantime we had a bit of a browse around. C tried on some shoes that were already out, I checked out some climbing books.

Those guys took ages to pick out their shoes. No biggie. They’re pretty specialised kinds of shoes, it makes sense that people would take a while picking them out. When the sales guy walked past us (frequently- we were between the other customers and the storeroom), we tried to catch his eye to indicate that we were about when he was done with the others. But he didn’t seem to pick up on us. Odd.

It took them about a half-hour to pick out their shoes and go. When they were gone, the SG came by where we were waiting again- but didn’t interact with us at all until C asked him if she could try on some shoes. He looked up, surprised, and said that the shop was closing now.

C told him that we had been here waiting for a half an hour while he was with the other guys. Again, surprise. And then, “Oh, I thought you two were here with them!”

Let’s go over some things, shall we? We entered the shop at a different time to them. We didn’t say hello to them or talk to them. We spent our time in a part of the shop several metres away from where they were trying on shoes. During this time we picked up shoes, C tried shoes on, and I browsed climbing gear. During the half-hour we were waiting, we didn’t interact with them in any way.

But we were two girls, they were two guys, we were in an outdoor shop- so I guess we must be their girlfriends?

After that, the SG was more than polite. He wasn’t patronising in the slightest. He asked C what kind of shoes she wanted and for what kind of climbing. They discussed it, he made recommendations, she compared a few different shoes, and twenty minutes or so later we left the shop with a brand new pair of lovely shoes to climb in. He treated her like just another climber, he was very professional. And once he realised his slip-up, he did let us stick around in the otherwise-closed shop for as long as it took.

And that is what unconscious prejudice looks like. People who don’t know that they’re prejudiced. Those of us who, when we’re aware of it, treat people equally. Who, quite likely, act in an egalitarian manner the vast majority of the time in our circles of friends and family. Who don’t see ourselves as sexist, or racist, or homophobic or ablist. But lurking in our subconscious, there are so many tiny ways that we can’t get past our conditioning. Conditioning, often, by equally well-meaning people.

It’s why it’s so dangerous. Unconscious prejudice lives in the cracks between the actions that we’re aware of and the things we do automatically while our minds are elsewhere. It’s in the snap judgements that we have to make hundreds of times a day to function in large-scale societies. And because it’s in the things we are unaware of, the things that we don’t even remember doing, it’s incredibly difficult to do anything about. And it does have real-world effects. While that incident yesterday was only a small thing, it’s one of many. It’s one of many that was notable enough that me and C both remarked on it. It’s ordinary enough that we were both able to come up with several similar instances and patterns that we have grown to expect. The vast majority of which are carried out by people who don’t know they’re doing them. And none of which are those which I’m sure we carry out ourselves every day, in a throwaway comment here, an extra few seconds of attention there. Innumerable tiny things.

By the way, before I finish: I’m not saying anything against Snow & Rock, or the salesperson there yesterday. Like I said, he was entirely professional, and they had some great shoes. I’d recommend the place, in fact. I’m just using one instance to illustrate a widespread phenomenon.


*Which have now been passed on to me. Yay! No more climbing failing abysmally to scramble up a wall in trainers!

Unconscious Prejudice and Climbing Shoes.

Taxidrivers and Cyclists

The other day I took a taxi home. At one point, we had to wait for a cyclist to pass on the inside before we could make a turn left*. The cyclist was on the bicycle lane, and they had the right-of-way.

Now, I’m used to taxi drivers talking about cyclists in less than flattering terms. But this time, the driver immediately started telling me about how he had to be careful around cyclists. I perked up, thinking that this might be an exception to quite a depressing rule. This was not to be the case, though, because the driver went on to say that the reason that drivers had to be careful around cyclists was because cyclists purposefully try to make drivers knock them down, so that they can sue them to make money. He said, in all seriousness, that cyclists would happily take a broken leg, or lose a limb, for the sake of the money they’d get from the people who hit them.

Can I have a WTF, please?

Now, I didn’t say anything. I was a few minutes from home, I didn’t want hassle, and to be honest this guy had already been making a lot of really dodgy ‘complimentary’ comments on my appearance and I didn’t want any hassle, or any more communication than necessary.

But here’s what I would have said:

Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Being a cyclist in the city is great, but it’s also scary. You’re small and squishy and practically defenceless, and you’re surrounded by big, fast-moving metal things with engines that are fully capable of mowing you down and turning you into a people-pancake in seconds. You’re constantly on your guard. And the people in those fast-moving** things are entirely likely to pay no attention to you, to pull up in front of you, to drive you either off the road or into the middle of traffic, to make a turn right in front of you without indicating, and if any of those things happen you’d better hope to hell you can get out of there in seconds, if that, or else that’ll be the end of you.

And this guy has the gall to say, from the comfort of his driver’s seat, with his seatbelt on and his airbag poised and ready to save his ass at a moment’s notice, that cyclists would just plain love to be run over?

I’m sorry, but no.

Although, come to think of it, if that’s what it takes to give drivers the idea that they might want to treat cyclists with a bit of consideration? I.. I may be okay with that. Provisionally.

*yes, we drive/cycle/etc on the left here.

** Okay, so there are times of day when they’re a lot slower than you are. Which is always fun.

Taxidrivers and Cyclists