every girl needs a bike

Galaxy has been reading Life of Pi. I’m reading Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton. It’s monstrously huge, and full of complicated politics which I’m having trouble remembering from Pandora’s Star. Oh well. I have some issues with his gender politics at times, but I do love the galaxy-spanning intrigue…
oh wait… back to the other thing I was writing about…
So, Galaxy’s reading Life of Pi:

I didn’t agree with Pi’s stance on agnosticism:

It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gesthamane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. … But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.

Perhaps the … quote explains why I walk; and I suppose that public transport could sometimes be described as immobile. I wouldn’t, however, characterise doubt as static. I think doubt is the opposite of stasis. Doubt is a state of never arriving; surely it’s resting after the arrival at an imagined certainty that produces inactivity?

I’m agreeing with these points – the bit about pt as immobile and resting in/with/after certainty as producing inactivity.
… although, on the latter point, I’d probably like to note that certainty can be galvanising. I’m never more productive than when I’ve arrived at a plan and am set to work on it. And sometimes, doubt can be paralysing: maybe it’s selfdoubt that the paralysing force, though? There’s nothing more likely to make me hesitate than a crisis of selfdoubt or indecision. Do, don’t, do, don’t: I’m far more likely to do if I haven’t paused to panic over a particular thought, over and over again in that sort of heart-pounding anxiety that makes you worry you’re going to gag on your own pulse.
Ok, but back to the pt point. But I’m going to wander off, on a tangent, really, rather than addressing the serious question in Galaxy’s post, or seeking out Pi to test the source.
I’m not so much a walker as a bike rider, and I know the greatest appeal for bike riding is the independence. I know when I’ll get somewhere, and how, and I get no end of satisfaction from being fit enough and physically coordinated enough to get from one place to another in the inner city without getting killed or dying of exhaustion. For me, getting myself about – being master of my own mobility – is exhilarating and energising. It’s independence as empowerment, and the empowerment of knowing exactly what you’re physically capable of. The same sort of thrill I get from doing something difficult at yoga (usually upside down and involving ropes), the sort of thrill I get from a stream of useful and clever thought (sigh – I need that now, mid-chapter), the sort of thrill that is the greatest motivating and mobilising force I know.
There is no greater inertia than that being satisified that you couldn’t do something, or that you don’t care that you don’t know whether you could do something or not.
Sitting on a tram, at the mercy of traffic and power outages and rampaging ticket collectors, there’s no way to prove that I could opt out of various physical and economic limitations. I know there are folks who feel that fare evasion is tactical resistance and all, but – personally – I think it’s far more exhilarating to zip past a halted tram on the downhill slope of Swanston Street, feeling like I’m going a million miles an hour, muscles quivering in that really working way, riding my endorphines and not prefacing every journey in terms of conflict or resistance. In this way simply choosing another way to get around is exciting and stimulating, but also productive and valuable.
For me, to ride my bike (or to walk, though riding is more exciting – more endorphines, greater speed, the thrill of mechanical skill and mastery, etc etc etc) is to choose to find out what I am physically capable of. I’ve always thought that girls wearing skirts for their school uniform functioned as a limitation on their physical (and social?) activity. In choosing to ride my bike, I also choose to sacrifice impractical fashion for pragmatic trousers or shorts, sensible necklines, resilient hairstyles, tough and comfortable shoes, limited jewellry and so on.
And not having to concern myself with challenges to my modesty that a skirt on a bike offer, or the ridiculousness of heeled shoes on pedals frees me to enjoy the experience, to take satisfaction in my independence, to take pride in my abilities, and to seek out further physical challenges. To see just what I am capable of in my body, and on my own terms.
I wonder, though, if physical ability is really another way of talking about physical control as a way of gaining social control – of the self, in the case of women? I know that eating disorders are read by many therapists as a means by which young men and women gain control of their lives, symbolically. Exercise, likewise.
I think the key point there, however, is when choosing physical control becomes and obession and ultimately adversely affects further rights to choose and to be independent: damaging health to the point of illness or death; damaging a social or cultural life to the point of isolation and loneliness.
I don’t doubt that my riding a bike is a manifestation of my feminist sensitivities. Every girl needs a bike?

2 Replies to “every girl needs a bike”

  1. Today, before I read this, while I was sitting at the bus stop, I was thinking about bike travel. I was thinking I do need a bike–and all those feminist/body reasons sound like something I should experience. But then I think about the hills in Brisbane, the heat in Brisbane… you saw how much I sweated just filling up water bottles for my fridge. Yes, I am a big baby. Perhaps if I think about it a bit more I’ll work my way up to mobility as a mode of transport…

  2. it’s far easier for me to spruik about the joys of bike travel living in flat melbourne.
    remember how much bike riding i did in brisvegas? none!…well, not after i left school, anyway.
    i think perhaps the point is not so much doing something physically incredible, but rather doing something which you find incredible. in yoga, everyone has different levels of physical ability, genetics, lifestyle and how each person uses their body results in different body types and finding different things difficult or easy in yoga. which is why i like yoga so much: there’s no point whatsoever in comparing yourself to anyone else, because we all have different issues.
    it’s far more productive to work towards increasing body awareness generally (ie learning to become aware of different muscles – not in a hippy self actualisation way, but in a way where you can then isolate that muscle and do something with it – relax it, energise it whatever), in improving fitness, and in having muscles do the right job, working as much as they need to (and no more or less) to get the job done.
    doing all this stuff means that you can approach new physical challenges with confidence in your ability to give it a go. when you don’t do physical stuff, you worry more about hurting yourself, you think things are harder than they are and you don’t really understand what you’re capable of. and not just in a hippy philosophical way. it’s about thinking of your body as the most wonderful, complicated and fascinating tool – and that any body at all, whether it’s 100% ‘perfect’, missing a leg or really old, is still an amazingly great thing. that you can do wonderful things with.
    i think that we spend too much of our time worrying about our bodies or distrusting them – particularly women – and that we need to be reminded of things little kids know – bodies are great. and doing physical stuff rocks.

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