Women and Bicycles

by : Marcia Henin

Nowadays, cycling is one of the most famous sports in the world. Both women and men enjoy riding bicycles; sport competitions are held and thousands of people join bicycle clubs. Bicycle racing is very popular; men and women, children and grownups master the art of bicycle riding.

However, bicycle riding wasn't always accessible to women. On the contrary: in 19th century it was consider inappropriate for women to ride bikes. The pose, which the bicycle riders had to take, seemed too vulgar. Some critics condemned women who decided to ride bicycles, claiming that their vulgar look is provocative and that they should be arrested, since women on bikes disturb social order.

Today, women riding bicycles everywhere, not realizing the importance of the mark the bicycle left upon gender relations. In the 19th century, cycling was considered male dominated sphere of activity, much like other sport activities, and women couldn't play a part in these spheres. However, as the years went by, women started to protest against such discrimination, and after many disputes were also allowed to ride bicycles. The shift in attitude towards women on bikes also brought other changes - women's emancipation changed the style of their clothes from the impractical long dresses and long skirts to sport dresses.

Bicycle riding played an important role in women's struggle for independence. It served a tool for increased freedom and opportunity to engage in sports together with men. Many feminist writers of today consider the bicycle one of the most important tools towards women's self control.

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