Truth time ladies, do you ever feel like the world just doesn't get that we actually like riding bikes? Like for fun, shopping, commuting, and just for the feeling of feeling good about ourselves? When I started blogging about my bike adventures, I wanted to inspire other girls to talk and create a dialogue of the everyday journey on their bike. Whether it be about cool new bike accessories, adorable oufits they biked in, things they made, or places they traveled to, I wanted to hear it all. When I was getting my early experience of biking in San Francisco, I got a lot of lectures about safety, wearing the right gear, and what to watch out for when riding with "the boys." Being the rebellious girl I had always grown up to be, I did the opposite of what I was told but still wanted to fit into the bike scene. I wanted to be that tough tatooed fixie chick who got the respect of her peers but realized, I'M NOT THAT GIRL. I'm just not and don't intend to be. When it comes to navigating the spaces between personal style, fitting in with the bike crowd, and self confidence, I definitely felt like I was caught in the middle of what made me a true cyclist. This is a lot like dealing with adolescent self identity, only now, I can handle it differently as an adult. Totally different.
Many self acclaimed feminists will blame the boys club of the cycling industry, only, I find that many of these women are trying to be accepted into this club too. Not only that, guilt and shame their sisters for wearing skirts, polka dots, high heels, bows, and quirky helmets. And if you're wearing lipstick, high heels, and riding around for leisure, you're only using the bicycle as an accessory. I keep coming back to this idea, especially since I've been blogging this long, that what is accepted in bike culture is not always acceptable FOR ME. It never feels good to deny my sense of self or style in society or on a bike just because "it's true bike culture" "tough" or "hip". One may think it's not a big deal, but ask any woman and some men about her experience in a bike shop and they'll tell you "it sucked". I mean, I've been there and it did suck! Being rejected and looked down on for a simple question in my quest for participating in something I absolutely love, sucked. (please note, this is not about bike shops or boys clubs.)
So how did I deal with it? I gave up and accepted that I'M NOT THAT GIRL. I realized that wanting to feel unique, feminine, and good about myself did not make me a bad feminist or cyclist. It doesn't mean that I'm being oppressed or that I lack the ability to think for myself, quite the contrary. Wanting to dress up and adorn oneself is completely natural & normal and I believe that policing other women's choices in any form is not helpful or acceptable. I think that this idea of a "real cyclist" or a"true feminist"is austere and minimal in a sense that you should wear this, ride this bike, not make a spectacle of yourself and use a bicycle as an accessory, is just oppressive. So here's my point: if you want to wear sparkles, heels, and lipstick on your bike ride, or just in life, DO IT FOR YOURSELF.
I would like to say that dealing with this issue for so long didn't make a difference but it did. Not just in my own life, but in many other girls lives. I mean, look at how many women are getting on two wheels! Being the optimist I am, I would like to think that most of us ladies ride our bicycles because it's fun and we love the adrenaline and that gives us self confidence and happiness, rather than because it's hip and we want to fit in.
Look, I'm not saying that you should throw your bike into the lake and call it quits because dealing sucks, I'm saying that expression belongs to the individual (with respect to others) and self love is the tool to biking the way you like. In my quest to deal, I embraced my consistency for sensitivity, quirkiness, and girly things. My sisters can tell you that I always had to do things differently even if it meant doing it alone. That translated to giving my bike a remodel to express my style and wearing whatever I felt made me feel good, skirts, bright colors, polka dots, lipstick etc. The expression of ourselves is powerful and self love is just a part of how we like to bike.
Let's also take into note, that bicycles helped feminism and changed fashion, giving women the necessary tools for fun and self expression in style too.