Monday, 7 May 2012

Sexism and Scooters

Years ago I did a television profile of a Canadian aboriginal woman artist who used a lot of images of horses in her work. She claimed that the horse changed everything for Native women on the plains by freeing them from dragging heavy loads.

Although I know little about the history of Plains aboriginal women, her words stayed with me, resonated with my own thinking about women and mobility. It has always seemed to me that my grandmother and my mother were strong women in part because they drove automobiles. My grandmother, in particular, came from a generation when the first women got behind the wheel. She drove everywhere on her own until cataracts stopped her in old age. There were many things she couldn't accomplish as a women of her era, but driving gave her the independence of managing her own time and the desire to see her daughters move into the wider world.

If you have any doubt that scooters and motorcycles are a feminist issue today read these stories. The first two are from Pakistan where women on two-wheeled vehicles are seen as ridiculous. The Tribune story contains an interesting fact about a bicycle-riding skills training program carried out in a region of Tamil Nadu in the 1990s. Done as part of a literacy campaign it increased women's mobility and independence.

The following story's not on point but it says much about perceptions of women on motorcycles. It's the story of the only female superbike rider in Manila. A great story. But the writer couldn't resist stressing the woman's long hair, red lips and fine body, and pointing out how "the idea of the feminine embracing the ruggedness of two-wheels gets the imagination flowing."

How a Vietnamese mother gets her children to school.

Photo taken In Ho Chi Minh City by Debi Goodwin

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