cycling · fashion · gender policing

Bike ride, pants optional!

SkirtBike“The skirt that inspires more women to cycle,” says the headline but really it’s not about an item of clothing but about a bike ride in which participants wear skirts.

See The skirt that inspires more women to cycle.

SkirtBike™ is a fun, colorful and friendly women bicycle ride, where the skirt or the dress is the proper outfit. Inspired by the huge cycle chic wave that rapidly spreads from Copenhagen to New York and Tokyo, two sisters started in 2010 the SkirtBike project as an advocacy blog that promotes urban cycling to women in Bucharest, Romania. The goal was to encourage women to cycle and to increase the number of bicycles on the streets by promoting their use in everyday life, going to work, school, shopping or any other daily activities. Twice a year SkirtBike goes offline for a a fun, stylish and friendly women bicycle parade. Since 2010, ten other Romanian cities have joined the SkirtBike movement, making it a national event, Almada from Portugal and Athens from Greece were inspired by Romanian parade and made something similar in 2013 and  more than 5 cities from Romania will join SkirtBike next year. ”

I’m all for efforts to get more women out on bikes and I’m even a person who wears skirts and dresses (with bike shorts underneath) while riding.

In some moods, though usually not my sportier moments, I like to wear pink, even paint my finger nails, and I don’t mind looking cute. (True confession: I own pink and red pjs with hearts on them and I’ve worn them to feminist philosophy sleepovers.)

But SkirtBike worries me with its mandated femininity.

I’ve been wondering lately about the motives and assumptions behind efforts like this and the “heels on wheels” ride. I think it must be that organizers think that feminine women have more difficulty entering the world of cycling. But I’m not sure that’s right.

The barriers that exist seem to me to be based on sex, not gender, and I’m not sure that my butch sisters feel any more welcome than I do in the world of cycling.

If cycling is a man’s world and the alternative is a sea of pink skirts, I’m not sure we’re doing much for gender inclusion really. I’m not a big fan of the radical feminist Mary Daly but I do recall fondly her line about not achieving androgyny by taping Farrah Fawcett and John Travolta together. There’s lots of room in the gender spectrum in the middle, between the two.

I guess it grates (for me) because it’s aimed at creating a more inclusive cycling culture but does it in a way that excludes non-skirt wearing women.

I love women’s bike rides but in this case the messaging could be better. Rather than mandating femininity, it would be nice to see them saying something like “you can even ride if you’re wearing a skirt” or even “cycling: pants optional!” Let’s not exclude in an effort to include.

I love the picture below. I just want to think of the skirt wearers as part of the mosaic of women on bikes and not as the only women riders worth celebrating. I like the idea of women’s rides too. Just make the pink, the cupcakes, the skirts, and the heels optional.

Post posts that are relevant:

Play hard, look cute!


13 thoughts on “Bike ride, pants optional!

  1. This doesn’t even work for me, and I love skirts and dresses. But I don’t particularly want to wear them on a bike (aside from those “running” skirts, those work pretty well). A) I do not have a slow, sedate fixie and B) I don’t want to be slow and sedate.

    Yes! Let’s get more women on bikes! As long as they’re nice, not unreasonably fast, and pretty!

  2. In DC there’s an event called the Tweed Ride where people get dressed up in their dandiest clothing and ride around the city– not just women in dresses, but men in suits and hats. I always thought it was neat– cycling has the image of having a spandex uniform and being very sporty but this brought it into the realm of fun and casually recreational.

    I’m not sure this helps to dudebro culture in more sporty cycling, though; they seem like different worlds.

    1. We have one of those down here in St. Petersburg, and it’s really cute. However, it is also not practical as I can only imagine wearing those kind of clothing for about a month out of the year.

  3. I think whenever there is a ride that specifies how people should dress, it’s a problem (exception: themed rides like Tweed Ride, Halloween, etc). Why not just make it clear that you CAN wear skirts and things like that and that you don’t HAVE to wear spandex, etc if you don’t want to? Just really emphasize that it’s not only for people who gave the whole kit get up, and then it’s more inclusive!

  4. I love “Cycling: Pants Optional”! That just makes me laugh – and gets the point across. I also like G’s comment about the Tweed Ride, because that seems to bring people together with something fun, rather than separating them. But “skirtbike” does nothing for me. If anything, it makes me much *less* inclined to bike.

  5. I can see it being a cute sort of themed thing, like the Tweed Ride that G mentioned, but if they really want to get more women on bikes, it’s going to take more than just a parade of ladies in cute skirts on bikes. Sure, I don’t discount the idea that fashion concerns might deter some women, but I’ve seen plenty of photos of European women looking perfectly stylish while cycling.

    I think a more fundamental problem – and one that a SkirtBike does nothing to address – is the fact that cycling is perceived as dangerous (and in some places, like Florida, it really can be). But that’s a huuuuge problem and maybe it’s unfair to expect that a fun event can tackle that. I guess I just think that the idea that women just need to see that cycling can be stylish is kind of insulting when the problems are a lot more serious than that.

  6. I agree that there are a lot if more serious inclusion and safety aspects of biking to address. And that it should be billed more as a super spandex is not required to bike versus skirts required. But I think the tone of the event has a lot to do with where it was started and the more traditional gender roles and clothing choices in those countries: Romania, Greece, Portugal. Not that the organizers shouldn’t also be pushing back against those boundaries but perhaps they thought let’s tackle one step at a time.

  7. The barriers that exist seem to me to be based on sex, not gender, and I’m not sure that my butch sisters feel any more welcome than I do in the world of cycling.

    If cycling is a man’s world and the alternative is a sea of pink skirts, I’m not sure we’re doing much for gender inclusion really.

    Spot on!

    Not a cyclist, but this makes huge amounts of sense to me.

    I remember a similar discussion going on in the sciences, with the idea that if we present a super-femmed-up version of STEM to teenage girls, they will be more likely to get, or stay, interested enough in it to pursue it in college. My comment whenever it came up was that that approach wouldn’t have worked for me as a teenager — I am decidedly butch and the femininity and heteronormativity would’ve been Kryptonite to me. It might not’ve been enough to scare me away from STEM altogether, but it would certainly have kept me away from any of the female-specific stuff.

    It seems to me that, if you want to attract more women to your whatever-it-is, you could do better than offering a “women’s” version of it that alienates all women except those who like the same things you think women like.

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