A Little Respect for Kristen the Bike Thief Thwarter

This video is getting a fair amount of play on the Internet.

You may have already seen it.

A thief, caught on a security camera, begins to take off with a bike. Someone, identified as Kristen, runs out and thwarts the thief.

WCG LetterKristen is the employee of a communications company that knows the value of social media. The company has offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Austin, and London–not to mention a slick Website. They appear to encourage and accommodate bike commuters.

A male co-worker (or maybe a boss) of Kristen saw an opportunity and sent me a message hoping that I would share this video with our readers. The message is reproduced on the right.

I don’t want to embarrass this guy, so I’m going to call him George.

George: Kristen knocked over a bike thief. She can probably kick your butt. So before I oblige your request to further promulgate this video, let me say…

Kristen is a woman, not a girl, you knucklehead!

Sheesh! What decade is this? But thanks, George, for the tip.

Remember that heroes walk among us. They work among us. One sits in a cube not far from you.

BTW: Just in case Kristen doesn’t have a superhero uniform, I’ll be sending her a Commute by Bike t-shirt.

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21 thoughts on “A Little Respect for Kristen the Bike Thief Thwarter”

  1. sygyzy says:

    I had to read the post and then the letter 5 times to see what you were upset about. Seriously? He’s her co-worker and is praising her. I am sure she’s not offended by the word “gal.” Great video, saw it elsewhere. Glad to see you spreading the word but way to go off on a completely unnecessary tangent.

  2. Michael says:

    I agree with sygyzy.

  3. mombrakesforbikes says:

    “George” says “the girl in the video,” not just “gal.” Frankly I thought the email sounded patronizing—why the hell wouldn’t a woman take on some jerk trying to steal hers or a coworker’s bike? Yeah, the thief was huge, and she’s small. But think of shrews and tarantulas: both small, both very nasty when crossed.

  4. Emily WK says:

    I wish I could figure out how to explain why it matters, but I can’t. I don’t have the energy.

    I just wanted to say thanks. That is a woman, not a girl, and it is awesome that you noticed.

  5. daralyn says:

    To be honest, on first reading the letter, the language (calling her a “girl”) didn’t bother me at all. I’m sure I use that term all the time without thinking about it. Then I turned it around, and substituted the word “boy” for “girl”, and it does seem crazy…no one would refer to a grown man as a “boy”. “Guy”, sure, but not a “boy”. So, I think it is a point well taken, if possibly a little bit picky 🙂

  6. Tom Bowden says:

    She’s Wonderwoman if you ask me! Bravo! Let’s hope she continues to use her superpowers for good and not evil!

  7. Ted Johnson says:

    With the suggestion that this was a “completely unnecessary tangent” and “possibly a little bit picky,” I’ve spent some time thinking about this today.

    “George” also wrote back and revealed that the message he sent to me had been co-authored by a female manager.

    So I confessed to George that I was telling some co-workers about this video, and I myself almost said “girl.”

    The power of suggestion? No. I haven’t cleansed myself entirely of using “girl” on adults. I usually catch myself before it comes out. And if I think about it, it’s usually because I think of the woman as immature — it’s a subconscious “tell” (as in poker) if it ever comes out.

    For example: A former co-worker of mine, was a very bright woman in her early 20’s. She was the only other science buff in the office, and we could geek out together sometimes–and she could always talk over my head when it came to science. Yet, she seemed very naive and immature in her disposition. Several times I caught “girl” on the tip of my tongue when I was talking about her to others.

    Although I have no information on how Kristen is viewed and treated by others in her workplace, I’m hoping her new status as a bike-thief-thwarting Internet celebrity might change the way she’s viewed and treated by those who found it so natural to refer to her as a “girl.”

  8. Lisa Black says:

    Thanks Ted, it matters and I appreciate your calling it out.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Girl, gal, lady, adult female, woman. Who cares? Way to make a mountain out of a molehill and take away from the original point – some dame helped stop a bike thief. Get over it.

  10. Misty says:

    I used to be one of those people who said, “Good grief, what’s the difference?” but I have seen first hand how language shapes how people think about things. Yes, even in a seemingly positive context, the diminuitive “gal” is at the very least patronizing, and the term “girl” is just offensive, whether the speaker realizes it or not. And if you’re a /man/ out there saying “What’s the difference?” maybe you should just stfu. 🙂

  11. Paul says:

    Thanks, Ted for raising a thorny issue. I’m male, a bike commuter, a father of two boys and a school counselor. And this issue matters to me.

    “Gal” is seen as no big deal by many. So is the term “gay”. Many people (especially kids) use it to refer to something less than desirable. I work with gay youth who are devastated every time they hear it.

    A lot of kids call each other “retarded”. That’s no big deal either until you say it around my co-worker who has a Downs Syndrome son. Its unacceptable in our office to use that word as it’s also demeaning.

    Almost everyone now agrees that the “N” word is unacceptable. But think of the years that people used it regularly. The demeaning effect it has is so clear now.

    Pet names for women fall into a similar category – demeaning with or without intending to be. Intent doesn’t matter at some point. We’ve passed that point in our society. Men don’t have to endure it and women shouldn’t have to either.

    Thanks again, Ted. Like you, I’m still learning, too – daily sensitized to such things by the people with whom I work. If anyone should care about this stuff it should be people who care enough for the planet and it’s people to ride bikes.

  12. Ken Grubb says:

    Huzzah Kristen! And let me just add, while it’s hard to tell from the video, it appears that the thief was a fair bit larger than Kristen. Everyday people doing the right thing.

  13. Paul2 says:

    excellent point by Paul, clearly calling a woman girl is the same as calling black people n@ggers, or gay people f@gs, or even mentally impaired people retarded. yes, it is the same thing.

    ironically i find that making a big deal about calling a lady girl is more insensitive and creating more problems than it attempts to solve.

    retarded post by ted johnson… what is the female equivalent of “guy”?

  14. Steve Jones says:

    Oh come on people grow up please! Girl or woman. Never mind. If it matters to you so much, at what specific age and time of day does a girl become a woman and would we be able to tell that from the video? If there is no specific INTENT to be rude or insulting why complain about it…because it’s not accurate?Everyone in the U.S.A. wants to complain or sue just because their sensibilities are offended.
    Oh dear!
    I love the way the boys/males/men ( does that cover it girls? oops, I mean women, of course ) didn’t do a lot to help. Ride after him on those bikes GUYS and run the thief down! he
    got away too lightly.

  15. Ted Johnson says:

    Think of the most badass woman you know. The woman you respect the most, whether she’s your mother, Margaret Thatcher, or Xena Warrior Princess. With this woman in mind, say, “I really respect that girl.”

    If that doesn’t feel strange to you, then perhaps you are quite sincerely in the habit of using “girl” neutrally when you refer to women. However, consider this a heads up. You sound foolish to a lot of people.

  16. AM says:

    Good video, but they didn’t give the thief the beatdown he richly deserved. At the very least, he should’ve been held for arrest and made to pay for the lock he destroyed. The their probably went somewhere after that and stole someone else’s bike. And again the next day. So not a major win.

  17. Julian says:

    On a lighter note, we had a person come into our shop yesterday and get verbally “angry” with us because we wouldn’t lend him a pair of bolt cutters to cut his broken lock. His cheap dollar store lock had apparently jammed when he went to unlock his bike. Why in the world did he actually expect a bike shop to help him do this, especially when we had never seen him before?

  18. Will says:

    So, let me see if I understand. It’s not ok to call a woman a girl, but it is ok to call some well-intending guy a knucklehead cuz he didn’t use your preferred title? Seriously…?

    Also, I have a penis, I am a boy.
    My wife, who I respect very much, has a vagina, she’s a girl.

    Last comment – the doctor I saw last week for my physical (who I also have a lot of respect for) – he’s a boy.

    Demanding special labels and demanding respect is foolish. Take respect in whatever form the giver offers.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      What? Now “knucklehead” is an insult?

      Knucklehead, Your Lordship, Farty Pants, Xylophone, Anethesiologist… What’s the difference? Are you trying to tell me now that words have intentions, meanings, and consequences?

      For the next week, whenever you would ordinarily say your wife’s name (or any other nickname or endearment you might normally use), instead say “girl” instead.

      Instead of, “How was your day, Joan?” say “How was your day, girl?”

      Instead of, “Honey, where are my house keys?” say “Girl, where are my house keys.”

      Instead of, “My wife is in Austin,” say “The girl I married is in Austin.”

      Get back to us and tell me how that goes.

  19. Paul S. says:

    If I had a dime for every time I heard “men” referred to as “dudes”, “guys” or a “boys” without incident, I’d be a very rich man. On the other hand, if my boss turned to me in a meeting and said, “boy, go get me some coffee,” I’d feel offended as can be. It’s all about context.

    The letter showed affection for the woman involved. I’m willing to bet she had no issue with how she was referenced. If he talked about her as one of his “office girls” while all the well paying jobs went to men, I’m sure it would be a different matter.

  20. Dan says:

    So now there are no longer “girls night out”, “boys will be boys”, ” good old boys”, “Country/city girls”? Folks….if you are that thin skinned and spend your entire life looking for things to be “offended” by, you are loving a sad sad existence. Get over it!

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