Thursday, November 01, 2012

"No decent woman or girl is ever seen on a bicycle."

I happened upon this article outlining women's etiquette from the 1940s in Spain and had to laugh. Not just at how uptight it is but at how now the amount of women riding bicycles in a community is increasingly becoming a bellwether of how strong, safe, and healthy a city is in bracing bicycling as a form of transportation.   Is there some implicit modern sexism built into this idea?  In effect, if women ride it is because they feel safe in doing so and everyone knows that women are more safety conscious than men? the conclusions or not, it is pretty clear that the number of women cyclists has increased in Reno pretty drastically in the last decade.  Anecdotally I'd say that I typically see just as many women in urban riding situation and the same is also true of weekend recreational rides.  I would call that a "good thing."


It’s one thing to look at a Victorian list of don’ts for women on bicycles with amusement-softened outrage, perhaps because we have the luxury of looking back on those times with the detached smugness of an evolved society. But it’s quite something else to encounter a similar list from an era too uncomfortably close to our own. Such is the case of a poster James Michener makes note of in Iberia, which he encounters pinned to a church door while traveling across rural Spain in the late 1960s. Dated July 11, 1943, and laid out by a bishop as a code of conduct for local life, the twelve-point directive bespeaks religion’s persistent, matter-of-factly subjugation of women:

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