I Can't Believe We Still Have to Protest this Shit
A group of young women defies convention by forming a competitive cycling team – in central Afghanistan. Watch it here;
Love them, wish I could send over a shipping container of bikes and equipment for them.
It's always a sobering moment to see things we take for granted denied to people in other areas.
Those of us interested in history probably already know that the right for a woman to ride a bicycle in public was/is a hard-won battle.
The history of women’s rights, women’s suffrage is long and varies depending on which country your ancestors came from. My ancestors hailed from mostly the UK and France, and I grew up reading about the Pankhursts, the WSPU, the English suffragettes, and the thought of these women being jailed, being beaten almost to death, their hunger strikes and forcible feedings – well, it makes me very very angry. The movie Suffragettes is being released in November 2015, check it or hit up Google to read some truly appalling facts about our very recent history. Sheila Hanlon, who I have linked to below, is a good source.
But this is a cycling blog, and to stay on topic I’ll dial it back to just the bits about bikes. [My feminist agenda blog is published elsewhere.]
In 1902 Leceister, England, Alice Hawkins was a shoe machinist in a local factory and member of the Clarion Society Cycling Club, the only cycling club at the time which permitted women members although even in that progressive club there was still gender-related bullshit, “Lady members add a great amount of interest to our clubs runs and are a real source of help to us, mere men, when it comes to the inevitable tea-time.” Woo hoo, let me pass you a cucumber sammich.
Alice cycled around Leicester promoting the women's rights movement, causing outrage by being one of the first ladies to wear pantaloons in the city. She was reported in the local newspaper for “outraging public decency”.
Read about how during the fight to win the vote, the bicycle became not only a tool but also a symbol for the emancipation of women.
To end I’ll quote American civil rights leader, Susan B Anthony, who in 1896 said:
"I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood."
I’ll have a little think about how I let my fears stop me from cycling for so long, and how I blithely threw away a right these women literally died to give me. It’s not a comfortable thought.
Perhaps I can find some way of translating these thoughts to an actual useful deed. I'll come back when I figure it out. And I apologise for the erratic font size throughout this blog but I don't care enough right now. Very much a First World Problem.
[Edit] UNICEF has a program where you can donate towards buying a bike to allow workers to reach children in remote villages. The super versatile Bicycle can transport teachers, health workers, vaccines, nutritional supplies and more. Plus, it's energy efficient and cost-effective.
UNICEF.org in your country.
Bikes 4 Life http://www.bikes4life.com.au/ recycles and restores discarded bikes and gives them to disadvantaged families in Australia and overseas.