Gender Empowerment Mechanics (G.E.M.):
Every Wednesday 11 – 6
GEM happens every Wednesday from 11AM-6PM, offering participants support with all their “D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) and D.I.T. (Do It Together)” mechanical and community-building needs. The goal is to to provide a safer, welcoming, and empowering space for people who may feel less comfortable in what’s often assumed to be a male dominated atmosphere, while also making friends, having fun, and building community!
Our GEM program is reserved for women, trans and non-binary identified persons. During these days, the shop is operated only by women, transgender, and non- binary people. Only those who identify as women, trans or non-binary individuals are permitted; no exceptions will be made for any reason (this includes patrons, volunteers and staff).
The purpose of GEM is to promote balance by creating a safer, welcoming space for learning, socializing and fixing bikes. Women, and trans persons are under-represented as cyclists and in the world of bike repair; studies show a 3:1 ratio of male to female cyclists, and the numbers are even more imbalanced in the world of bike repair. THIS IS SO TRAGIC!! Bicycling is a wonderful empowering activity, and being able to keep your own bike in good working order is even more confidence-enhancing!
Mechanical repair has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Bike repair shops are often staffed entirely by male mechanics, and marginalized genders are treated differently, both in subtle and explicit ways. Differences in treatment could include:
– assumptions that people assumed to be women need more help than people assumed to be men, to the detriment of both
– failure to explain the nature of technical problems to people perceived to be women (making the assumption they won’t understand or are not interested)
– comments about a person’s appearance and gender representation
GEM help reduce barriers to bringing more women, trans and non-binary persons into our shop, which helps GLC to train & recruit non-male mechanics for all other shop days, making those days more welcoming for everyone.
If you are not a woman, trans or non-binary-identified, you can support this important initiative by:
– respecting the space and not entering during GEM
– learning about the types of oppression (both obvious and subtle) that people may experience
– being cognizant of how your actions can affect others
– talking to others about the issues behind GEM
Sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination can be obvious or subtle, neither of which are acceptable. The offending person may not even realize that their behaviour is inappropriate. All shop users are responsible for helping to make the Good Life Community an inclusive space.
On any day, volunteers can help to combat discrimination by:
– welcoming all patrons to the shop
– helping all patrons equally, being conscious of who you help, for how long and why
– letting everyone develop their own skills, and assist only where a task is too difficult for the member
– offering assistance in a respectful way if a patron looks confused or uncomfortable
– respecting personal space (do not touch other shop users)
If you encounter discrimination or behaviour that makes you uncomfortable:
– if you are comfortable doing so, respectfully intervene by telling the person that you feel they are being disrespectful and would like them to stop
– regardless of if you intervene or not, report the incident, including the date, time and those involved to a Greaser or any member of staff.
We greatly value the importance of welcoming and supporting all people at The Good Life Community Bicycle Shop. The Good Life Community should be a safer place for anyone to visit regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, size, sexual orientation, nationality, language, or ability. GLC actively addresses any behaviour that is disrespectful towards any shop user. All patrons, volunteers, and staff must treat all other shop users with respect.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do women, trans and non-binary persons need a separate day? Don’t women already receive equal treatment?
A: We have strong policies supporting equitable treatment for all our patrons and volunteers. Sadly, gender-based discrimination still pervades all social spaces, and The Good Life Community is still a part of that broader community. We are not interested in preventing those who may harbour (knowingly or unknowingly) discriminatory attitudes from using our shop; we are interested in ensuring that when anybody uses our shop, they are respectful to everyone and aware of the power of their actions. Because everyone is welcome, and because some of the gender-based assumptions we carry are deeply ingrained, we may still see examples of behaviour from patrons and new volunteers, including:
– double-checking the work of a female mechanic with a male mechanic
– asking to speak with a mechanic (making the assumption that a female volunteer must not be a mechanic)
– referring to female mechanics in a diminutive or condescending manner (e.g. the phrase “lovely, dear, sweetheart”) is belittling and not welcome in the bike shop
– interrupting non-male mechanics while they are explaining technical matters
– making sexual advances on mechanics, patrons or volunteers
– taking tools or parts out of the hands of non-male patrons
– assumptions are often made about trans and non-binary people (e.g. incorrect gendered language being used to identify them, such as gender pronouns “he, him, she, her”)
None of this behaviour is acceptable, from anyone of any gender or directed towards anyone. But we cannot simply pretend that it doesn’t still happen. GEM is just one part of a larger program we have to address these issues. Anti-discrimination training in tandem with strong policies, and active recruitment of non-male volunteers for other days of the week are also part of our solution. Our goal is to make the shop a space where no gender ever dominates to the detriment of others. We look forward to the day when GEM will not be necessary, but for now, they help us to address real and ongoing issues.
Q: Isn’t separating a group of people based on race, gender, class, etc. called segregation, which is a bad thing?
A: The Good Life Community does not exist in a social vacuum. That the space, on any given day, is most likely dominated by males, and that volunteers and patrons of all genders carry with them social norms that likely expect males to be stronger cyclists or mechanics, is true for all days of the week except GEM.
This means that traditionally male-dominated spaces such as bike shops tend to segregate, to the benefit of men, without any conscious intent. GEM Nights are a conscious recognition of this, and an organized effort at countering the problems it creates, with the goal of shifting The Good Life Community so that no gender dominates on any day.
Q: Isn’t restricting access to Good Life based on gender a violation of human rights?
From the Alberta Human Rights Commission:
Community organizations can provide services only to men or women if those individuals have been unable to participate fully in society based on their gender, and would not otherwise have access to the services. For example, a recreation organization may set up an exercise program only for women to address the lack of such activities in the community.
It is worth noting that GLC isn’t actually restricting access to men. It is only because of dedicated people that we are able to open at all. In the average month, we have about 230 hours of programmed time at The Good Life Community. GEM nights compose only about 11% of that time. Interested in helping us open up even more hours to the public? Volunteer!
Q: What about a night for gay men, or people of colour, or children? Aren’t there other oppressed or marginalised groups besides women, trans and non binary persons?
A: We have programs for youth, for people living with disabilities, and for people facing financial barriers; and we are strong supporters of LGBTQ communities. Are you interested in helping us offer even more programs? Get in touch with us!
Q: What if someone is a transgender person who identifies as male, or identifies as non-binary, genderqueer or another gender identity that is not “woman”?
A: All transgender or non-binary identified people are welcome to participate in GEM.
Q: What is the point of affirmative action initiatives anyway? How can you promote equality by giving special treatment to only some people while restricting access for others?
A: On the surface, affirmative action- the idea of giving privileges or spaces to certain subsets of the population for the sake of ensuring equality of access to certain events, services, facilities, etc. seems self-contradictory. However, there are social and psychological forces at work.
Suppose we noticed there’s an activity we’d like all people to feel free to participate in, but a definable sub-group seems to be avoiding. We ask them and they say they’re not comfortable doing it, they haven’t seen others like them doing it and it seems like the majority group doesn’t support them or even think they can’t do it, or do it well enough to be worth doing. A way of addressing this is to provide a protected space where we encourage sub-group members to try it, practice it, get good at it and see others like themselves doing it. With their new perceptions they can hold their own in the mainstream and be role models themselves, encouraging general participation equally in the population at large.
So, affirmative action (promoting a sub-group) can help in overcoming initial barriers to participation, eventually resulting in equal access among the entire population and ultimately the elimination of the need for the affirmative action space. It can be a very effective bridge to equality.
Q: All this gender stuff confuses me. Is GEM about bikes or about gender?
A: Hopefully it’s not too confusing! It’s mainly about bikes and bike maintenance but it’s also about empowering those of us who might otherwise not have a dedicated space, to learn, fix their bikes and have fun. So, basically, BOTH!
Q: I am a man. Can I just come in and pump up my tires really fast?
A: We do not make exceptions, even for staff or committed volunteers, as then the shop would be de facto no longer reserved for women, trans & non binary folks. We cannot sell bikes or allow entry for quick repairs unless you are woman, trans or non binary identified person.
Q: I am a man. Can I send my girlfriend/wife to pick up parts for me?
A: If you identify as female, trans or non-binary, you are welcome to come work on your partner’s bike at our shop during GEM . Our mechanics will happily assist you as much or as little as you need, whether you have never touched a wrench before or you’re a professional mechanic in your day job.
However, if you are a man who is sending a woman in on your behalf with a shopping list while you lurk just outside the door, you are being extremely disrespectful to both the woman who is helping you and to the goals and volunteers of our program. Our aim is to empower and educate women, trans and non-binary folk, and by standing outside you are disempowering and belittling the people working inside and reinforcing toxic gender stereotypes.
Q: I am a woman shopping for a bike. Can I bring a male friend with me to GEM night to help me choose a bike?
Our staff are extremely knowledgeable, experienced and honest, and can help you decide on a bike that is right for you and your needs as well as help you make any needed repairs to it. We work hard to dispel the common feeling many women have that they must bring a man with them to the bike shop to get fair treatment or to speak for them, or that they need a man’s opinion to make a decision on their own bicycle. Of course, buying a bike is a big thing, one that your partner or friend will be interested in since presumably you’ll be sharing wonderful cycling adventures together. So we encourage you to ask for help, and we can get you rolling with confidence!
***This description is based on the original text from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Gender Equality Program
Box Socials – The Thursday of Every 3 Months @ 7:30pm
Box Socials are the consensus-based inclusive decision-making meetings that everyone’s invited to and that form the future of the Good Life Community. This is a big deal! You’re invited whether you’ve been to every meeting ever or haven’t even been into the shop.