Where are all the female cyclists? We’re here and we don’t need your streamers.

Infographic from PeopleforBikes.

Where are all the female cyclists? We’re here and we don’t need your streamers.

By Claire McFarlane

As I read a column titled, Where are all the female cyclists? by a long-standing columnist that was published on July 9 in a major daily national newspaper (which we will not link to) – I became angry.

In the column, 'writer' Margaret Wente states that she knows why there are more men than women riding bikes.

The reason for this gender gap, according to Wente is not because we lack the infrastructure to make cyclists feel safe when they ride in the city (which is the actual reason most people who want to ride, don’t), but because biking makes women sweat. Yes, we sweat. “How, exactly, are you supposed to arrive at your job fresh-smelling and well-groomed after a hot ride in July?” asks Wente in the column. That, along with the dreaded “helmet hair” is, according to her, why there aren’t as many female cyclists.

Wente’s thesis is clearly problematic on several fronts. Does she really believe that women are so vain they would choose not to use one of the most efficient forms of transportation in the city just because it might mess up their make-up? It makes me cringe that Wente implies women should be wearing make-up in the first place and that they must always be “fresh-smelling and well-groomed.”

How do men do it? If male professionals are successfully biking to work then either they figure out how to groom themselves post-commute or they show up to work a little sweaty and a little smelly and no one cares. Why the double standard for women? Am I not capable of re-applying deodorant after a bike ride? And even if I end up a little sweaty, why would that be a big deal? Humans sweat.

The fact that Wente would suggest pink streamers to attract women to cycling is just offensive. Does she really think that women are akin to brainless little fruit flies, senselessly drawn towards bright-coloured objects? Surely, she could give us, and herself, a little more credit than that. Here’s the thing: this supposed gender gap in cycling really isn’t that huge. Yes, it exists, but it’s not the result of perspiration.

If you ask me, the cyclist gender gap exists (in part) because of people like Wente who try to tell women that they can’t ride a bike because it might turn you into something less than lady-like.

The truth is, we might not see full gender equality in cycling until proper infrastructure is implemented across the city and until we have full equity in the workplace. That said, in Toronto's downtown, just under half of all cyclists are women. Still, the city desperately needs protected bike lanes and a minimum grid of lanes that will allow cyclists to feel safe when they ride and encourage more people – including women – to ride.

Wente really needs to get her facts straight. There are so many amazing women who pedal across city streets from reverends to actors to epidemiologists to sex workers to heavy-metal singers and there isn’t much that will stop us from riding.

So Margaret, to answer your initial question: Where are all the female cyclists?

We’re here, and we’re kicking ass. So please stop spreading your misogynistic propaganda.

Claire McFarlane is dandyhorse's senior managing editor.

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3 responses to “Where are all the female cyclists? We’re here and we don’t need your streamers.”

  1. Kinga says:

    Great response to this. I don’t know if Wente is aware of how offensive she came across on this & out of touch with the reality of Toronto. I’m a female cyclist. I bike to work everyday in a helmet & a bit of sweat & messy hair has never detracted from my ability to look professional in the office.

    What I found interesting about Wente’s article is that it shows her personal fear of biking , as this is the second article I’ve come across by her that is along this vein. Wrote a post about, feel free to check it out if you are interested!


  2. MIchael A. says:

    Well written. Thank goodness someone responded with fact. M.Wente is clueless and misinformed. I would expect that type of trash article in the Toronto Sun — not the Globe and Mail. Guess it was a slow news week.
    Great job Dandy.

  3. Raphaelle says:

    Thank you for this article. This column got me so incredibly angry. I don’t think the Globe & Mail should support such patronizing, inaccurate, and offensive content.

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