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.

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Play hard, look cute!