Future Building

Investigating intersectionality in biking habits

Read Toward feminist geographies of cycling

Using a systematic search strategy, this paper reviews the literature about gender and cycling and critically assesses existing approaches to study the topic. Most studies use a binary conceptualization of gender, a cross-sectional research design, and quantitative analysis to examine male–female differences in cycling behaviours, stated concerns, correlates, and barriers. The two hypotheses at the centre of most of this work are (1) that women cycle less than men due to greater safety concerns and (2) that women cycle less, or at least use bicycles differently than men, because of their more complex travel patterns that arise from greater household responsibilities. While the literature draws attention toward travel characteristics, it often relies on a simple binary conceptualization of gender. In doing so, it identifies differences in male–female cycling patterns, but it rarely sheds light on the gendered processes underlying these differences. In this paper, we argue that research into cycling as a form of mobility could be strengthened by engaging with feminist theories such as performativity, intersectionality, and embodiment to advance a more nuanced understanding of how gender and other axes of identity are intertwined with cycling.

Concentrating on how gen­der shapes mobility without considering how mobility shapes gender is problematic because it can result in studies that ignore the power relations that exist between these social categories. Furthermore, failing to do so can contrib­ute to gender-based inequalities. For example, it can encourage harmful gender stereotypes (e.g., girls don’t bike because they are scared), inhibit people from fully expressing themselves (e.g., I can’t admit I find cycling dangerous because I will be called a sissy), or justify the status quo (e.g., women will never bike as much as men because they are more fearful).

Emphasis mine.

Performativity might be helpful in cycling research to understand how the bicycle fits into the identity perfor­mances of some people, and not others. It may be difficult for some people to perform the identity of a cyclistor to perform their own identity while they cycle.

Emphasis mine — haven’t encountered this term but seems self-explanatory.

👀 interesting point — would you begin to investigate this by interviewing women who do ride versus those who don’t?

[Young (2005)] observed that women generally are not as open with their bodies as they walk, sit, throw, or carry things as meni.e., their legs stay closer together, they take smaller strides, they hold things close, and they move the entire body less… Young (2005) interpreted it as a way in which patriarchy influences mobility at the scale of the body. She argued that feminine movement displays an ambiguous transcendence (i.e., women’s bodies being lived as a burden), an inhibited intentionality (i.e., holding back while also committing to a task), and a discontinuous unity with its surroundings (i.e., the disunity between the parts of the body that commit to the task and the part that do remain immobile)… According to Young’s analysis, in mainstream American culture, some women in com­parison to men are not encouraged to use their full bodily capacities and to develop specific bodily skills.

(Citing Young, I. M. (2005). Chapter 2: Throwing like a girl: A phenomenology of feminine body comportment, motility, and spatial­ity. In On female body experience: Throwing like a girl and other essays. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.)

The article also discussed the differences in the types of trips women take — particularly “trip chains” that fulfill household needs and caregiving.

PDF available on Google Scholar

(Via The Conversation)

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *