Strava vs. Women

I have been using an app called Strava to record my bike rides for the last four years.

Recently, Strava started promoting men in women’s sports. Specifically, a male cyclist named Rachel (nee Rhys) McKinnon, who has been setting “women’s” cycling records, because mediocre males still have physical advantages over elite females.

I have been urged to quit Strava and leave a one-star review. I may end up doing that, but I really don’t want to. Changing familiar apps is a pain in the butt; I have friends on Strava I will miss following; and I like having continuous records in one place. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with the app itself (other than harvesting and selling data in an exploitative asymmetric system, but unfortunately all fitness tracking apps do that). The problem is that the company itself is pushing anti-woman policies. I don’t want to support their woman-hating propaganda, but the price of quitting is high, for me and other women who use the platform.

So today I did this protest ride. I “wrote” the word WOMAN with my bike, and titled the result, “Woman Means Adult Human Female.” The word required about 44 miles, plus 16 miles to get to the start point, and about 5 miles to get home, making the whole ride 65 miles — just over a Metric Century.

I designed the route on a competing app called Ride With GPS, which I also used to record the ride simultaneously with Strava today.  If I have to quit Strava, at least I’m familiarizing myself with an alternative.

My hope is that other Strava users will do similar protest rides, spelling the word WOMAN and titling it “Woman Means Adult Human Female.” Anyone can do it; Ride With GPS is free and its route planning tools are easy to use. It would be heartening to see people do this, and use the very same misogynistic Strava to connect with each other (I’ve already connected to 2 cool women bicyclists on it today, because of this ride!).

If you’re in Central Illinois, I’d be thrilled if you rode the same route! But beware it has 7 miles of gravel. I chose these roads because they were the only ones near me that could fit the full word, including a residential area to make the zig-zag diagonal of the “N.” Detouring around gravel wasn’t an option today, because I had to stick to the plan to “write” correctly. But if I can survive 7 miles of nasty gravel on skinny road tires, anyone can.

I also made this mini-route in Urbana that is so short (4 miles) you could even walk it. It goes through lovely, leafy West Urbana neighborhoods, and some very nice University of Illinois campus. Note that Nevada Street is quaint brick, and Lincoln Avenue is busy.

If you do your own WOMAN ride (or walk, or run, or swim, whatever) comment or tag or email me and I’ll add it to this blog.

UPDATE 9-18-2019: Another cyclist has already done a WOMAN ride!

Big ups to Rae Faba of Ohio!

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UPDATE 10-13-2019: I did another 100km WOMAN ride, a variation of the same route: https://blog.ninapaley.com/2019/10/15/another-woman-ride/

Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

6 thoughts on “Strava vs. Women”

  1. This reminds me of an old song. About that pesky binary issue

    To the tune of “Both Sides Now”

    Dresses, bras, and high heeled shoes
    Panties, lipstick and some rouge
    Pink and glitter; French perfume
    You’ve looked at “woman” that way.
    But you will never ovulate
    Nor worry when your period’s late
    Facts are not up for debate
    No matter what you say.

    We’ve heard the views from both sides now
    And science books and still somehow
    It’s society’s illusions you recall
    You really don’t know “woman” at all

    Sashay down the avenue
    With all men’s eyes focused on you
    And withering catty attitude
    You’ve looked at “women” that way.
    But never taught from days of old
    that marriage is your main life goal
    and making babies is your role
    A life script so cliche

    We’ve heard the views from both sides now
    And science books and still somehow
    It’s Hollywood’s illusions you recall
    You really don’t know “woman” at all

    If femme accoutrements so chic
    Conceal a strong, robust physique
    Is it a fair deal, so to speak?
    A level ground to play?
    When clothes are shed inside the gym
    And plain to see that “she” is “him”
    Do we define just on a whim
    And hope facts go away?

    Your anatomy is not the same
    Society is not to blame
    It’s culture’s illusions you recall
    You really don’t know “woman” at all

    [share if you like!]

  2. WOW. Well, I would if I could, but I’d have to get out of Manhattan, be at least twenty years younger and in much better shape. Since that’s not really a likely option, I choose to admire, applaud and share this post and you. I’ve been a fan since ‘Sita’ sang those brilliant blues. Once again you have lifted my spirit up to that rare realm where truth and justice manifests as one perfect protest event (soon to be a mass movement I hope. Thank you.

  3. When I was in high school I ran 800m in 1:58. As a boy, that placed me 4th in my district. I had a coach who was a woman who had competed in the Olympics. She had the same personal record. Indeed, my personal record would have placed me 7th at the 2016 Olympics in Rio [1].

    The first 3 places were:

    1. Caster Semenya
    2. Francine Niyonsaba
    3. Margaret Wambui

    All three of these runners have XY chromosomes but they are not transgender. They are biologically intersex (in the literal medical sense) and they were identified as female at birth.

    Historically, almost all intersex people were identified as female at birth. If you didn’t have a particularly prominent penis, you were a girl. If you had a small misshapen penis, it might even be cut off by doctors to “correct” the intersex condition. In the west, this isn’t usually done anymore. There are also cases in which failed circumcisions have lead to XY chromosomed people being identified as woman by their doctors [2].

    Interestingly, intersex goes both ways. There are also XX chromosoned people born with small penises.

    I’m writing this comment mostly to raise awareness of the fact that this debate isn’t just about transgender people but is also about people who are born with physically non-binary morphology.

    [1] https://www.olympic.org/rio-2016/athletics/800m-women

    [2] https://www.bbc.com/news/health-11814300

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