The trouble with answering the question I raised in the previous post, do we throw all our energies into fighting systemic discrimination or do we support individual women in mitigating the effects of discrimination, is that it’s a typical chicken and egg situation. As systemic discrimination reduces, more women will succeed, and as more women succeed, systemic discrimination will reduce. At least, I imagine this is the case, although I’m struggling to think of a situation in which I’ve seen that happening, largely because systemic discrimination is so embedded in our culture that I can’t think of a specific example.
But I guess I can draw parallels with other situations. I heard David Attenborough on the radio the other day, talking about conservation, and he mentioned what I believe is known as the tipping point. He said that when he came into the world of natural history, conservation barely existed as a concept, and for a long time those who supported it were engaged in a weary struggle uphill against the tide*. Then suddenly, in a matter of a year or two, things changed and conservation was everywhere, because the tipping point, or critical mass, or whatever you want to call it, had been reached.
*Yes, that should be ‘current’, metaphor police, but it’s my blog and I prefer the word tide, so there!
Similarly with cycling, the theory, which seems to be based in fact, is that the more cyclists you have on the road, the safer individual cyclists will be. One cyclist is the unexpected, hundreds of cyclists become an expected phenomenon and drivers of other vehicles adapt their behaviour accordingly. As more cyclists take to the road, the stronger becomes the pressure to adapt the roads to suit the needs of cyclists as well as cars.
And again, the number of cyclists on the road is also likely to affect the behaviour of cyclists themselves. If the only people you see cycling are fit young men with a “Bring it on” attitude to risk, you’re not likely to be attracted to cycling if you’re a risk-averse middle-aged woman like me. But if you see, and know, lots of other middle-aged women happily cycling, you’re much more likely to give it a whirl. And even the fit young Lycra knights of the road may be less likely to speed through red lights yelling at pedestrians if they have to get through a bunch of disapproving middle-aged cyclists to do so… So a virtuous circle is created.
Hmm. I quite like this discrimination/cycling analogy. More of this tomorrow, I think.