Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Wrangle: Cyclists, Post-Mo and YA Fiction by Alex Snider

Man, it's just been the week of ridiculously privileged/jerk-wad/reactionary articles and incredible kick-ass takedown responses. So, I guess the good guys have come out on top? Yay?

1. The continuing attack on Toronto cyclists

This just sticks so deep in my craw I can barely breath. Between this article in the Star that calls 95% of cyclists "rude and selfish" and this open letter to cyclist written by someone who thinks that if all cyclists simply follow all the rules of the road, cars will follow suit and you know not kill us. Shit like this really grinds my gears because unlike bad apples which release an enzyme which literally does spoil the bunch, a couple of jerk-wads who happen to ride bikes do not actually justify motorists playing fast and easy with cyclists' safety. 

Everyone is going to have an anecdote about a dick-weed on a fixed gear bike just like everyone has an anecdote about a dick-weed on a cell-phone in a theatre but no one is writing articles slamming movie goers for being 95% selfish and rude. Dick-weeds are everywhere and do their dick-weed things all over the damn place and yet when they're on bikes suddenly they are conflated with cyclists not with the rest of their dick-weed brethren (how great is dick-weed, by the way?). 

Rob "roads are for cars" Ford notwithstanding, there is a culture of hate being bred in Toronto against cyclists and a type of vigilante justice along with it where if cyclists step out of line at all, they are policed severely by strangers (I have a friend who decided, late at night in the pouring rain, instead of riding up to a notoriously dangerous intersection full of construction, rode the wrong way down a one way street and yielded to the one car that was coming at her only to have him cut her off and call her a "fucking cunt"). This 'war' is just setting up an opportunity to treat cyclists as pieces of garbage, to write hyperbolic posts and articles in which they're selfish monsters who want to crush anyone in their way. 

There are times when cyclists break the law and put others in harm's way. There are also, and in this case, in my experience this is the majority, times when they are careful and break the law when it benefits them but doesn't put themselves, pedestrians or drivers at risk. I really wish I had a philosophy background so I could properly argue this because I think that it's the laws and the set up of the roads/lack of bike lanes that are the real problem. Bikes are vehicles but they're not cars, and making, carte blanche, the same rules for both is antiquated. And while I don't think that just ignoring the laws is the solution, I don't see them changing anytime soon (certainly not while our mayor says things like "My heart bleeds when [a cyclist] gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day" and "cyclists are a pain in the ass") and I don't think that just applying a black and white follow to the letter and you're a good cyclist or don't and you deserve to get hit by a car standard really solves anything. 

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I believe cyclists are in the right when they don't make a full stop at a stop sign or ride down the wrong way on a one way residential street (ugh, the street I use to get to school, which is about 200 m., changes direction every 50 m. and I fully admit I still ride the wrong way on those few wrong way sections), or that I believe that cyclists are the second coming and can do no wrong (who the fuck rides and talks on a cell-phone and smokes a cigarette?!) but that I believe that this hostility towards cyclists and the extreme callout culture is dangerous. It leads to road rage and confrontation, we've seen it lead to death as in the case of Darcy Allen Sheppard and Michael Bryant. It leads to motorists driving more aggressively so that even when cyclists follow all the rules, they are in harms way, to the point where every time I ride my bike, I am almost hit by a distracted or careless driver, often I'm grazed, forced onto the curb or into parked cars. 

Should cyclists follow all the laws pertaining to vehicles? Yes. Are the laws fair considering that they're made for cars and not bikes? No. Do cyclists only deserve consideration from motorists, from those who literally hold their life in their hands, only when they follow the law to the T? Fuck no. 

The actual take down to all this cyclist hate is this amazing video, which I watched after yet another hellish ride home where someone decided to swerve into the curb lane to park but didn't bother to look for bikes and grazed me. Then had the nerve to yell at me. 

2. Did you know that Toronto is now a totally gay utopia?

Oh, Grid, not so smart in your first couple months to print this swill on your first page! Basically, this twenty-four year old who grew up in Toronto is so extremely privileged in his money and whiteness that being gay hasn't even been an obstacle at all. Paul Aguirre-Livingston never experienced any discrimination, any homophobia, his parents are supportive and even high school was like this kitten video. Which, I think is pretty great. Any queer kid who doesn't experience gay bashing? Amazing! 

What he has done, though, is wrap up his experience, his rare and privileged experience and presented it as the norm for his generation. What we have now in Toronto is Post-Homo, or Post-Mo if you will (I will not); a land of gumdrops and lollypops and our parent's "fabulously rustic country homes". And, now all the gay men (there was exactly one mention of lesbians in the 3000+ word essay and none at all of transpeople or bisexual people -- honk if you're into erasure!) can just sit back and make-out on the street all day because homophobia is dead. Yep, this little jerk-wad doesn't believe in activism because he thinks all the battles have been won because he can live like Will. Never mind Uganda's Kill the Gays proposed bill. Never mind that sodomy is illegal in 70 countries. Never mind that the struggle for equal rights nearly everywhere on the planet. Never mind "corrective rape" in South Africa to "fix" lesbians. Never mind the skyrocketing gay bashings in the UK. Never mind the suicide rates of LGBT youth. Never mind the American politicians like Rick "Santorum" Santorum who believe that homosexuality is akin to bestiality. Never mind all the homeless kids who have been disowned by their parents for their sexuality. Never fucking mind Ryan Lester, who was attacked in the Village on January 22. Never mind Chris Skinner

Be apathetic all you want, just call it what it is. 

Here are some really amazing articles that just destroy Aguirre-Livingston Post-Mo theory: 

One of the men whose photo and a quote was used for the Aguirre-Livingston piece responds at the Gaily

3. Will someone please think of the children!

There was also this article that bemoaned the state of young adult fiction today (kids today amirite?!) and how, gasp, visceral and horrific it all is (where is the Babysitter's Club when you need them?) All I have to say, because I'm really kind of spent from the bike thing and especially from the Post-Mo crap, is: Have you got your pearls ready? Ok, get ready to clutch them... YA fiction sometimes deals with real life issues! And! Sometimes, kids read them! And! Sometimes, kids enjoy them! And! Sometimes, those books that deal with oogey real life things like eating disorders or abuse or rape or death or addiction or homophobia or suicide make the kids who read them feel a little less isolated! Serenity now! 

Children and teenagers deserve our protection, no question. But they deserve our protection from eating disorders and from abuse and rape and death and addiction and homophobia and suicide, not from the books that tell them they're not the only ones, that it's not their fault. FFS. 

Sherman Alexie, who has quickly become my favourite person ever, wrote this incredible response that is really all that needs to be said on the topic. My favourite part is when he writes about the 17 year old who is scared to go into the army but who the author of the original post deems too young for YA fiction but society has deemed old enough to die for his country. 


  1. There is also "this video" made by a guy in New York about how he got a ticket for not riding in the bike lane even though it was obstructed... Hilarious AND infuriating! Just the way I like it...

  2. html half fail, ignore the quotes around this video. It is very much a video, not "a video"...