Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lady Bicycle Faces

I have no idea if this is real or not, but I find it amusing.

It's a list of don'ts for women on bicycles from 1895.

Note that it's not a list of "dos and don'ts." Just a list of don'ts. Like it was threatening enough for women to ride bicycles at all, so Gawd forbid they ride bikes on their own terms.

Some of my favorites include:
  • Don’t criticize people’s "legs." [Not sure why "legs" is in quotation marks! Were they called something else back then?]
  • Don’t cultivate a "bicycle face."
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.
Note, too, if you read the entire list, how the list polices gender so that a woman's bicycling behavior would accord with stereotypes of femininity. The lady biker is ordered not to boast, not to wear a "man's cap," not to refuse assistance, and not to race. Society granted that women could bike, as long as they remained humble, non-competitive, the opposite of men/masculinity, weak, and in need of help. That is, as long as they remained different from, and not in competition with, men.

Femininity, the conventional narratives tell us, is a woman's "natural" state of being. And yet, look at all these rules that women have to learn so that they may properly display traits that are allegedly inherent in them. Doesn't the existence of these lists beg the question of how inherent "femininity" is in women? Wouldn't women, being women, Already Just Know how to properly Bicycle While Woman?

Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole thing is that, within this list of commandments telling women what kind of clothing and accessories not to wear, how not to wear their hair, what kind of faces not to make while biking, we also see the following order:

"Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you."

I can't imagine why a lady biker would ever think that.

It's just so classic, isn't it?

Women are excessively body policed, gender policed, and judged and then implied to be self-absorbed for being aware of that fact. Women have to know what the Special Lady Rules are, but we can't let on that we know that the rules exist and that people are holding us to those rules.

Can't. Fucking. Win.

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