Language is a powerful tool, especially when communicating with your cycling mates while racing when oppressive words and phrases have a tendency to just slip out.
When the name Brandeis University pops into my newsfeed, I am compelled to read further. Just as youth is wasted on the young, I am proud of the education I received but did not appreciate it when I could have utilized the resources to my benefit as a student. Regrettably left to live vicariously through my degree.
Brandeis University Releases Oppressive Language List
99.9% of the time, the news is praising Brandeis’ top-notch science department and recent advancements in research, but this wasn’t one of those times. The headline read “Brandeis University Releases Oppressive Language List.” I cringed!
Just so you know, I did not base my decision to attend Brandeis upon any ideological belief, religious, political, or otherwise. I was vaguely aware that the famous social activist Abbie Hoffman, the founder of the “Yippie” party and proponent of the counter-culture “Flower Power” movement, played tennis at Brandeis in 1959. But that was the extent of it.
If This, Then That
My college choice came down to a straightforward IFTTT scenario presented during my final campus visit.
When the number of universities that offered a full-ride scholarship, one, was greater than the amount of financial assistance my family was able to provide, zero, it triggered a call to action.
I enrolled before leaving campus.
Open Minded In My Spare Time
I would describe myself back then as open-minded, as much as a pre-med biology major could be, but I didn’t declare as such. When it came down to a choice between supporting the often overzealous idealism of my peers or wasting the youth of my youth buried in a textbook, there wasn’t one.
Bench Warmer, or should I say, “Athletically Average?”
To immediately dispel any inaccurate notions regarding my ability. I did play soccer for Brandeis, but NCAA Division 3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships, nor was my gift for being athletically average worth a penny unless you factor in increasing the team bench’s surface temperature.
To be honest, my political tendencies seem to have subtly drifted to the right, like a late-career Peter Sagan in his final kick to the line. As my modest standing in the GC of life has slowly become worthy of defending, and the waning potential for more podium finishes squeezed into the barriers, I have been inadvertently relegated to the back of the progressive peloton.
Being Apolitical is perfectly fine with me. I have simplified my priorities at this point in my life, narrowed down to family first and foremost, cycling second, and often used as a metaphor for measuring all other situations and circumstances.
Get Woke Bike Racing
Thankfully, there is very little ‘woke’ about bike racing, especially when you consider the pre-dawn hour my mates and I choose to line up. Or so I thought.
The Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC) of my alma mater has released an “Oppressive Language List” on its website that encourages the school community to cease using words and phrases that “perpetrate and perpetuate oppression.”
Acknowledging language as a “powerful tool,” the aim is to “remove language that may be hurtful” and replace it with more inclusive, neutral language.
Speak Before You Think?
Often accused of being the speak before you think type, I read further, hoping that if I used neutral words without thinking about them, perhaps I would have more friends.
The more I scanned the lengthy list, the more I began to feel that I already had enough not-so-easily offended friends and confirmed that some adrenaline-fueled cycling communication might require a “woke” up call. Or maybe not.
Bike Racing Needs a Woke-up Call
For instance, in the “Violent Language” section of the list, I came across the phrase “Killing it.” The explanation is that if someone is doing well, there are other ways to say so, like “Great Job” or “Awesome,” without equating it to murder. Okay, I could do that.
Then in the “Identity-Based Language” section, there is “You guys” with the alternative of “Y’all, folks, folx, friends, loved ones, or people” because it is oppressive to “lump all people under masculine language or within the gender binary, which doesn’t include everyone.”
“Insane” replaced with “That’s bananas, wow!” and “Lame” with “Uncool” because “ableist language can contribute to stigmas and trivializes the experiences of people living with disability and mental health conditions.” Not the first words that come to mind when racing, but okay.
In the “Language That Doesn’t Say What We Mean” section, the word “Victim” is replaced by “Person who has experienced…” because “labels make a person feel reduced to an experience.” I’ve already graduated, so I am going to say it.
That is precisely how I want the “person who has experienced” my blistering 3.5 w/kg attacks to feel. Can I say attack?
Well, I don’t know. But I do understand why Brandeis doesn’t have a cycling team. There is an option on the website to “Submit a Suggestion for the Oppressive Language List.” I think I have a few.
The Oppressive Cycling Language Short-List
Your Best Oppressive Cycling Language Suggestions
Please know that my satirical attempt at shedding light on an important subject is in no way meant to trivialize it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t hide behind the anonymity of social media and do so.
I can’t wait to hear your Oppressive Cycling Language suggestions. Please keep them tasteful. Comment Below.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!