Iranian women, bicycles, nonviolence & freedom

[su_pullquote align="right" class=""]“It has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.” Susan B. Anthony, 1896[/su_pullquote] With the temperature dropping, I thought I’d see fewer bicycles parked at the Naperville train station this morning; but no, the racks were full. Many were lightly dressed, none lighter than the guy with the bushy gray mustache who air-fived me as he passed, wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the 40-degree F weather and smiling. I wore four layers, gloves and a hat, but even with the wind freezing my face muscles, I smiled, too. I can’t help smiling when I ride. Sometimes I sing. Steve Jobs described the computer as “a bicycle for our minds.” It extends human intelligence. It lets us take our minds further and faster. So do actual bicycles. Humans have done some happy thinking while pedaling. Most cyclists I pass smile, often before I smile at them. Even the intense, spandex-clad ones nod with a gritty joy behind their wedged sunglasses. Drivers who wave me through intersections even though it’s not my turn smile. Pedestrians on the sidewalk smile. Their dogs smile. I know why I’m smiling. I’m on a bicycle! Sometimes in a suit and tie. It's 7:30 AM and I'm having fun. Amplify what my legs can do by connecting them to a pair of wheels and I’m grinning like a kid with a newfound superpower. So why is everyone smiling back? My simple theory is, seeing people on bicycles makes other people happy. Most people, anyway. Unless someone ran into you or cut you off, when’s the last time you looked at a cyclist other than Lance Armstrong and got angry? Probably never. That is why you will never get a job in the Iranian government. That’s also why I am so proud of the Iranian women who are now engaged in the most moving (enjoy the pun) civil disobedience against a recent fatwa from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He received a question on Facebook about whether women should bicycle in public. Women have been cycling publicly in Iran for years. But when someone with more free time than sense posed the question, Ayatollah Khamenei gave the answer he wanted: “Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned.” He added that it “exposes the society to sedition.” In other words, the fatwa is about two things: coddling some men’s inability to control their eyes and minds and trying to control women’s minds and bodies. That’s Iran’s government for you, but they're not unique. Like any number of governments, it is afraid of vocal minorities and insensitive to the majority, particularly the female half. It may sound like religion, but it’s politics. If [...]

By | 2017-06-10T23:48:52+00:00 October 14th, 2016|½ of Us|0 Comments