Setting the record straight with WomenMoto
Published Thursday, 31-Jul-2008 in issue 1075
It didn’t take long after Thursday’s editorial for the online comments, letters and calls to flood our office. The gist: We’re a staff of misogynistic, mean-spirited, divisive, out-of-touch, fact-twisting, women-hating men.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the editorial “Silent march creates a roar by Dykes on Bikes,” (www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=12665) we sided with San Diego LGBT Pride for its decision to move the WomenMoto contingent to fourth in the parade, to accommodate for the “March for Those Who Can’t,” a silent, walking contingent of people raising awareness for human rights violations worldwide.
Some riders responded to Pride’s decision saying it created a safety concern and logistical nightmare for the motorcycle contingent; bucked tradition; and oppressed women. Others called Ron deHarte, executive director of Pride, a misogynist. We drew similar ire for our editorial. Considering the overwhelming response we received, we’ve decided to deconstruct our opponents’ arguments, point out potentially false claims, and restate our position.
The safety concern
Semo Cimochowicz, president of the WomenMoto group, said Wednesday her primary concern was the logistics of the contingent riding fourth and the safety of her riders. According to Cimochowicz and a number of riders who commented online, motorcycles running at a low speed (3-5 mph) on a mile-and-a-half parade route with multiple stops run the risk of overheating, which could lead to a safety issue for a rider.
We made three calls to two Harley Davidson dealers and one Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda dealership, and were told by two mechanics and a salesperson that air-cooled cruisers, driving at 3-5 mph for more than a mile, run a very low risk of overheating in San Diego’s climate; even older air-cooled bikes, they said, run a low risk. One said it was “almost entirely unlikely” the bikes would overheat, and another said overheating hasn’t been a problem in the hundreds of parades in which Harley Davidsons ride. The concern the bikes would overheat has never been grounds for motorcycles to lead any parade, he said.
If, however, overheating is a concern for a bike owner, the solution seems simple: don’t ride.
If, for example, a contingent of classic cars wanted to ride in the parade, or a privately-owned business wanted to use an old vehicle to lead its contingent in the parade and feared overheating, would San Diego Pride be expected to allow the business to lead the parade? If the fire department wanted to ride an old, classic fire truck on the parade route, but feared it may not withstand the stop-and-start and low speed traveling, would we allow it to lead the parade?
We think not.
Men vs. women
Before our editorial was published, before we took some riders in the WomenMoto contingent to task for their “temper tantrum” and whining, the Gay & Lesbian Times received letters saying deHarte’s decision to move the women to fourth in the parade was oppressive and misogynistic. Before our editorial was published, some riders in the WomenMoto contingent handed out flyers along the parade route encouraging spectators to write to the Gay & Lesbian Times and the Pride board of directors and the executive director to complain.
Yet, we’re charged with making this a divisive, men versus women issue. Make no mistake: this is not a matter of men versus women. We would not advocate for anyone to demean or degrade a woman for her affiliation with the WomenMoto contingent; we certainly have respect for many of the women affiliated with the group, Cimochowicz in particular.
What we do not support is the divisive, immature behavior some (read: some) riders of the contingent displayed by asking spectators to pick sides, distracting from the “March for Those Who Can’t,” and not working from day one to find a resolution – instead, the first course of action by some (again, read: some) women in the contingent was to call Pride’s leaders and our staff members misogynists. In the manner we editorialized on this last week, we’ve also used strong language to take to task men (the editorial on the Station 5 firefighters who sued the city for being forced to ride in the Pride parade comes to mind). In fact, we called them “weak-wristed, unstable, unsuited, incapable little mamas’ boys” (www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=10332).
The riders who say Pride’s decision to move the bikers to fourth in the parade is oppressive, and those who say deHarte and members of our staff are misogynists, are just plain wrong – and they should be ashamed of themselves for making this a gender issue.
It is mind-boggling that anyone would argue the WomenMoto contingent should ride first in the parade because of Dykes on Bikes’ longstanding tradition of leading Pride parades nationwide.
The right-wing Christian lunatics who argue to limit marriage to between a man and a woman base their rants on tradition – traditionally, marriage has been between a man and a woman. With the California Supreme Court’s ruling in support of same-sex marriage, we see some traditions eroding. Our community is fighting against tradition to win marriage equality.
Further, if a rash of violent acts against GLBT youth in local schools was reported this year, we’d want a contingent of youth, school board members, parents, local Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and a high school marching band to lead our parade. They would be our community’s No. 1 priority, and advocating for their visibility would be the most important issue we’d face.
Some say the first contingent should be the color guard, others say it should reflect the most important issue our community faces – regardless, we shouldn’t allow one group to lead the parade each year based on “tradition.”
Almost as offensive as the charge that those who don’t support the WomenMoto contingent riding first in the parade are misogynists, is the charge that we don’t have our facts straight. Well, here are the facts.
deHarte says he e-mailed Cimochowicz to try and resolve the conflict before Saturday’s parade. Cimochowicz says she received deHarte’s e-mail two days before the parade, but did not think the resolutions offered were reasonable.
She did not respond.
deHarte says he offered to order T-shirts for the contingent to wear, or placards for them to attach to their bikes, and offered to have the contingent ride with the “March For Those Who Can’t” at the head of the parade. deHarte says he thought the message would be powerful and show solidarity. Cimoshowicz says she does not recall deHarte offering to allow the motorcycle contingent to ride with the march, and says on such short notice, it would have been difficult to organize the contingent to wear T-shirts, carry placards, etc.
Cimoshowicz says she alerted her contingent to the change and the potential logistical challenges and allowed members to decide whether they would ride; Cimoshowicz says she was committed to riding in the parade, regardless of the contingent’s placement.
She says she did not encourage or discourage members from handing out flyers along the parade route – she allowed them to exercise their freedom of speech.
Cimoshowicz’s concerns were based entirely on logistics and safety; it was a small, vocal group who called deHarte a misogynist. Unfortunately, the small, vocal group, has been speaking louder than Cimoshowicz, who says she just wants to find a reasonable resolution for next year – something she has already met with deHarte about.
There has been no guarantee that the WomenMoto contingent will lead the 2009 Pride parade.
The women who continue to engage us, call us misogynists, and accuse us of dividing the men and women’s community are wrong, and we will correct them. We will tell them, again, they should be ashamed of themselves for calling deHarte a misogynist and for making this an issue of men versus women (again, before our editorial was published). We will tell them, again, to have a sense of entitlement that supersedes the importance of a contingent like the “March for Those Who Can’t” is shameless, egotistical and blatant self-promotion. As members of a contingent in the parade, walkers and riders are tasked with advocating for social change – not putting themselves ahead of the community’s priorities. It was right for Pride to shed light on the worldwide atrocities our brothers and sisters face in other countries. If some riders in the WomenMoto contingent didn’t like it – they could have stayed home. Better yet, they could have been productive and organized a fund-raiser to benefit a good cause.