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The Bicycle Face Edition
The Short Story - Issue 13 - June.2021
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about bicycle face, tiny pockets, the 19th amendment, and how sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.
So, let’s hop on our bikes, feel the wind in our hair, and glide right into The Bicycle Face edition.
Hey, Bicycle Face
Okay, I’m sure by now many of you are wondering what the heck is bicycle face and why does she keep mentioning it?
Basically, when cycling became a “thing” and women started realizing that it offered them newfound independence and fun — some doctors *cough* men *cough* decided that women risked a very serious and very real and not at all imaginary or made up medical condition called bicycle face. Some went so far as to warn women that their faces would be permanently disfigured if they rode a bike. They claimed the condition was caused by the effort to maintain one’s balance and the overall exertion by those not meant to exert themselves.
What did it look like?
usually flushed, but sometimes pale
often with lips more or less drawn
dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness
sometimes characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes
Yes, this seems like a very real face disease caused by a bike and not the look of a woman exhausted by men telling her not to ride her bike.
A Pocket of One’s Own
This past month, my husband and I both bought new running shorts. We bought the same brand, from the same store — except he bought the “men’s” version and I bought the “women’s” version. They should be identical right? No. His have POCKETS. His shorts are like 75% pocket. He has two very large pockets on the sides and then a huge pocket on the inner leg liner for his phone. Guess how many pockets mine have? Guess. The same number as the number of women who actually had bicycle face: NONE.
Women’s clothes have been largely pocket-less for pretty much ever. There are a ton of not great reasons: body image, independence, status, etc. Annika Barranti Klein wrote an amazing piece on the history of women’s pockets, their evolution, and their relation to the suffrage movement. Check it out.
One of the more hilarious parts of the bicycle/pocket drama was that men at the time seemed genuinely afraid of what women were up to.
In her piece, Annika cites a New York Times article that featured quotes from a tailor “claiming that all women wanted bicycle costumes with pockets specially made to hold their pistols. As you might assume, men hated this, because why would a woman need to carry a pistol except to shoot men?”
Votes for Women
So, at this point you might be thinking, “Okay, Ava, dudes were scared of pockets and didn’t like women riding bikes, but what does bicycle face have to do with the 19th amendment?” SO MUCH.
Susan B. Anthony said that the bicycling “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”
Our foremothers bravely risked permanent bicycle face to help us gain the rights we now enjoy. *a single tear drops from my bulging eye and slides down my pale, weary bicycle face*
Okay, that’s about it for this edition! We had a bunch of new people join the list this week, so I just want to say “Welcome! I don’t always talk about imaginary face diseases!”
Also, since we’ve had a little fun poking at Victorian Era men, I’m gonna leave you with a screenshot of my interaction with some modern mansplainers on Twitter this week.
Until next time,
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