Tuesday, November 10, 2015
I want to tell you about a really sexist, bizarre, shitty thing that guys do when they talk about women, and why they do it, and how it applies to cycling, and what I think it all means. So dig in there and be patient with this very calloused thing I'm about to explain to you, and I'll try to help make it all make sense by the time I roll out of here in 10 minutes.
What I'm here to tell you about is Tractor Factor.
And it goes like this.
There's this inane, bizarre, sexist way that men objectify how a woman looks, a very simple rating scale that I'm sure you're familiar with: a simple number rating of 1 - 10. "She's an 8." "She's a 10!" "Oh man, she was a four. Ugh."
That sort of thing. You've heard of it before, I assume, though if you hadn't I'm sorry you had to read about it here first. It's not only a calloused way to objective the complex nature of beauty, it also tends to dumb the entire worth of a person down to a simple number. And I do mean Dumb. We're talking about the most basic of male instincts here. Not something anyone is proud of, I don't think: it simply IS.
But here's the part you might never have heard of: Tractor Factor.
Tractor Factor basically works as follows:
"Bro, she'd probably only be a 6, but she drives her own tractor, and it's a John Deere. So she's a 9."
You see what happened there? An otherwise modest "score," if you will, was amplified by an outside factor - in this case, quite literally, a tractor. The gifted lady in this case has a 1.5X tractor factor, resulting in a Net "score" of 9.
Congratulations, you've just entered the human male brain at the very bottom floor. Welcome. And again, I'm really sorry.
While still abhorrently sexist, Tractor Factor actually serves to add some level of natural complexity back into the overly simple 1- 10 scoring system I mentioned above, thus restoring (in a minimal way) the very subjective and nuanced way that a person actually perceives the beauty of another person, and thus (I hope) helping to right the wrongness of the 1-10 system in a very minor way.
Ok, let's get back to bikes. Because that's what you came here for and that's what I actually know something about.
So a 2005 steel 26er hardtail with a little rust around the edges isn't exactly a bike that you're excited about spending some time with this winter, right? But put some 2.4's on there, a short stem, and some 700mm wide bars with new grips and wait, what? Yeah, you'd ride the shit out of that thing. You might not tell your buddies about it, but you'd do it, and you'd love it. A subtle difference changes the whole game.
Ditto that for your road bike. Again, it's a mid 2000s aluminum frame with a triple crank and some really heinous shifting. So you sell it, right, because you're just not into it anymore. And some guy buys it, and he lovingly bolts on a double crank with some new cables and housing, some new grip tape, and maybe even some new tires and boom - it's like seeing your ex-girlfriend with another guy, and she looks great. They look super happy, and they drop you on the steep climb coming back into Free Union. You're a fat asshole, and you're an idiot.
None of this is revolutionary psychology, nor is it a mode of thought that I think anyone should subscribe to in a broader sense. The male gender of our species simply lacks the ability to understand worth in much more than black or white terms. Tractor Factor, sexist though it remains, is a useful vessel for trying to overcome this.
In summary, you need some new tires for the winter. But more than anything, don't be that guy. The beauty of a person (or a bike) is actually bound by you, not them.
See something for what it really is for a change.
Up, up, up.