[Carolyn Ellis, aka Kali, rode in the Critical Tits Ride for several years before becoming one of the principle organizers of this storied Burning Man tradition. This post is part of the Digital Rights Blog Series.]
I care deeply about camera and privacy issues on the playa. This has not always been the case. My first Critical Tits Ride changed all of that – no woman who enters that ride with any degree of vulnerability comes out the other end unaware of the cameras and their misuse. To ride is to experience, and witness first hand, the cost of photography without consent.
To understand the harm inflicted, you must step inside the body of a woman riding topless and attempt to feel how vulnerable and courageous an act that truly is, even at Burning Man. My greatest wish, for all who ride, is that they would be witnessed with nothing less than compassion and respect. As a rider and now member of the CT Crew, I would like to offer a perspective from the “composition material” – those who inhabit the images taken, the riders themselves. Join me, if you would, for a perspective from inside the ride. . . .
It feels fabulous, and I mean fabulous, as a woman to ride topless on my bike!!! No man can ever understand the freedom of a topless bike ride in a female body. I was slipping free of the ‘rules’ of my family, culture and government – so well programmed that I thought they were my own. A collective oppressive cloak was sliding off of my body and being powdered into playa dust by all those goddesses on bikes. It felt so good and free. An adventure like this would land me in jail in the default world!! Here at BRC, it was a lyrical day on a bike.