27 Mar 10 things you can do to support gender equality in the rope community

Update April 2016: 

This post has been updated to better reflect all sides of the rope equation, including especially rope partnerships and bottoming. 

I never actually wanted to have to start Hitchin’ Bitches. I don’t want to live in a patriarchal, sexist society which holds men and women to different standards. I’m hoping to be able to live in a world in which we just have riggers, in the same way as we would just have electricians, musicians and doctors. Not ‘female doctors’ or ‘female musicians, while the default ‘doctor’ is understood to be male.

We are sadly not there yet, and I rarely hear at all the term ‘male rigger’ even if the ‘female rigger’ is used fairly often. When we have a default mode of a rigger being ‘male’ and cannot even express this because it is so entrenched in our own minds, that default will penetrate almost everything. Thing is, that there is people who don’t speak of riggers who happen to be female as ‘female riggers’ and I’m incredibly happy about that. In the meantime, those who treat riggers who happen to identify on the spectra of female or even ‘woman’ differently from those who aren’t, are doing their own community a great disservice. Furthermore, it also renders all other genders who enjoys being in rope completely invisible. 

I don’t want a separate chapter in Douglas Kent’s next book. I don’t accept the premise that I am weaker or lesser of whatever just because I also don’t accept the premise that I tie differently because of cunt and tits and assumed genetical set up, etc. I don’t need a chapter that is different because I am a woman. We need a chapter on how to tie bodies which are perceived as being different than the normative standards.

I’m not a special flower that needs special waters, and I’m not weak but if I’m in a public space rigging, you can bet there is going to be more disturbance, trying to ‘help’. If I tie with another person who gets pigeonholed as a woman, it is much more likely that both her and I will get unwanted attention/touch/comments. I spoke to another rigger about this, and they had the look of revelation, because they only ever had to defend or fend off others from their bottom. Guess what, they identify as male.

We also don’t need shining knights in armour telling us what to do. We pursue our rope with the same passion as anyone else and we seek knowledge as anyone else. We are fallible as anyone else.

I say this: if you wonder how you can be a support of creating a world in which we have less ‘riggers’ and ‘female riggers’ as the subsequent category here is a couple of things:

  1. Use the term that we are comfortable with, be it rope top, rigger, what evs. Don’t add on ‘female’ unless we say that about ourselves. Avoid words such as ‘bunny’ or ‘sub’ unless a person who you are speaking of specifically adress themselves as such. Start to asking for pronouns and attempt to use gender & powerneutral language in class situations unless it is really necessary or conducive for the teaching situation. Powerneutral language means that we do not assume a DS relationship in a rope partnership. Just because someone bottoms or tops with ropes does not mean that they are submissive or dominant in relation to the person who they are tying with. 
  2. When possible, check the people that you praise, hire or promote and watch out of unequal representation. I don’t want to be the token, but I bet you, that there is always going to be a possibility to include people who are as good as the persons that you take for granted. This is not just in regards to representation but also what kind of classes are offered and who the classes are directed towards. With an increase in rope partnering education there is a big chance that you can start asking for more for those who are already teaching. Ask more of your teachers.
  3. If you think we are hot when we tie, that is nice. If we look hot in ropes that is also nice. But don’t let that be the focus of your compliment if you really need to give us a compliment. People who are identified as women get’s automatically objectified every single day. Rope can be safe haven for many of us, in which we can do something with out bodies instead of just being looked at as objects. Also think about what you say when you do give for example a cis man in ropes a compliment which focus on their gender. It is often something like “Men in rope! Awesome!” Direct again, the focus of your compliment to something more substantial instead of reducing someone who you might believe to be of a certain gender to that assumed gender.
  4. Hold us up to the same standards. We are as human as you are. We learn, we wanna share, we want to be held accountable. Just don’t patronize us because that really sucks. Think for a moment about whom is being heard in various contexts.
  5. Don’t assume that someone who you assume is female will bottom for you in a class or in play. Don’t assume, period. One of the biggest things I hear from those who come to Hitchin’ Bitches is that they have wanted to tie for ever, but always end up on the bottom side because expectations and assumptions are so strong. Consider this next time you are at a ropegathering.
  6. Ask us about our experiences. Listen. Don’t try to tell us how we feel or should be. Ask us about what we need from those around us. Ask what you can do.
  7. If we have strong opinions, don’t call us bitches (we use bitches here as something empowering, and will not accept a skewing of that sentiment). If we make decisions you are not comfortable with, focus on that, not how tyrannical we are. If we get emotional, don’t call us hysterical.
  8. Do not give us separate chapters in a book. This is sexist, patronizing, enforcing a binary understanding of gender and adds very little to actually furthering of equality. Do not single us out in education situations based upon our gender. Try to find various types of representation when you create educational material. Not everyone is superslim, flexible.
  9. Stand up against consent violations. Theoretically or practically, in what ever capacity you feel that you can. Don’t go on victimblaiming. A safer space is never a safer space if we protect those who do not honor boundaries or consent. This regardless of gender. If someone express sexism or claim that we are special, weak flowers, stand up against them.
  10. Ask yourself how you conduct yourself and think about that this cannot just be riggers who are perceived as female that step up and take more space. There needs to be those who take one step back as well otherwise it will be a loud, crammed mess of ropey people trying to get past each other. Which is never good.

Thank you for doing what you feel that you can. Together we can create more inclusive communities.

2 Comments
  • workneverover
    Posted at 19:31h, 18 July Reply

    11. Use more photos like this one whenever possible (eg: tutorials, books, blog posts, event flyers, venue artwork). When you see things like that illustrated exclusively with male riggers/female models, point that out and ask for change.
    Stop visually equating “bottom/model” and “woman;” stop visually equating “top/rigger” and “man.” It’s subtle message, but WE NOTICE, and it’s not welcoming.

    12. Actually INVITE us to events, forums, etc. If female/nonbinary riggers and male/nonbinary bottoms are welcome, SAY that. If things were equal it wouldn’t have to be said, but considering the current situation, it does. At the very least, include images of us (see #11). We just need SOMETHING that says you know we exist, and that we won’t be treated like oddities if we show up.

  • He11oSweetie
    Posted at 16:00h, 06 February Reply

    Very helpful advice, well articulated, and holy wow do I love “powerneutral”!!!

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