After a year of dragging my feet on it, I recently became a member of Randonneurs USA (RUSA).*
I finally joined mostly because a friend of mine ultimately convinced me that it was worth it to support something that I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of, even if it does seem, at times, rather snooty and elitist. I don’t have to be snooty and elitist, after all, even if I become a member.
So I joined, and I got my membership packet in the mail yesterday–a surprise to me since I didn’t realize I was going to get a whole welcome packet. But yay! Swag from the Randonneurs! This is what I got:
Look carefully at that picture. Do you see any women in their materials? Hm. Not on the covers. This is a curiosity and, I admit, a soapbox of mine, so I felt compelled to count people. In both the handbook and the magazine, there were 172 people pictured. Twenty seven of them, or 15%, were women (one of them was Lynne Fitzsimmons from Oregon–go Lynne!:)
Honestly, I don’t know if that’s high or low compared to how many women are actively involved in randonneuring compared to how many men–so I don’t know if RUSA is faithfully portraying the existing demographic, falling woefully short, or maybe even trying to aim high. But regardless, I can never help but wonder about the chicken-and-egg phenomena here. Do women not get involved in randonneuring because they’re simply not interested in long-distance cycling, or do they stay away because it doesn’t seem, from the materials that exist, like something that women do or to which women are welcome?
Even the name of the magazine, American Randonneur, is masculine. A female long-distance cyclist, as the Handbook very carefully points out, is a randonneuse, not a randonneur. So an American Randonneur, that magazine title character, is definitely a man. Pluralizing the magazine title to American Randonneurs, though still masculine, would at least be the plural form that could involve singular female riders as well as male. Not to make too big a deal out of it, but this is the kind of invisible normalizing that ends up influencing, without us even thinking consciously about it, what we perceive as reality.
So I don’t know. I don’t think that RUSA is trying to be sexist, and I bet if you asked them they’d probably say that they’re actively trying to get more women involved. But that takes more than simply saying “more women should do this.” It takes making it not seem like something that only men do–and that means, at least initially, working really hard to make visible the women who do it.
And for my own personal effort, it takes inviting all my female friends to ride with me:)
*Side note: I just looked up RUSA on Wikipedia for a user-friendly definition of what it does, and it calls itself the “Audax Club Parisien-approved brevet coordinating organization for the United States.” Ha! That might mean something if you know what they’re talking about, but it’s definitely not helpful if you don’t already know something about randonneuring. I’m scheming a “randonneuring for non-randonneurs” blog post as we speak:)
…Oh, and I apologize for the plethora of randonneuring posts recently. I’ll get back to other stuff now:)