Ages ago, I posed this blog about women and running. which touched on the concern about how ... you know ... my vagina might fall out while running.
Well, a few weeks back I stumbled across another article about how women weren't supposed to bike, either. Here are some fun snippets, or feel free to read the entire article yourself via the link above.
Some late 19th century doctors warned that — especially for women — using the newfangled bicycle contraption could lead to a threatening medical condition: bicycle face.
What was bicycle face?
"Over-exertion, the upright position on the wheel, and the unconscious effort to maintain one's balance tend to produce a wearied and exhausted 'bicycle face,'" noted the Literary Digest in 1895. It went on to describe the condition: "usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness." Elsewhere, others said the condition was "characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes."
Why was women biking REALLY a problem?
In 1890s Europe and the US, bicycles were seen by many as an instrument of feminism: they gave many women a measure of increased mobility, began to redefine Victorian ideas about femininity, and were eagerly taken up by many women active in the suffrage movement. Bikes helped stoke dress reform movements, which aimed to reduce Victorian restrictions on clothes and undergarments so that women could wear clothes that allowed them to engage in physical activities.
Thank goodness, someone saw the light:
In 1897, The Phrenological Journal quoted Chicago doctor Sarah Hackett Stevenson putting the issue to rest: "[Cycling] is not injurious to any part of the anatomy, as it improves the general health. I have been conscientiously recommending bicycling for the last five years," she said. "The painfully anxious facial expression is seen only among beginners, and is due to the uncertainty of amateurs. As soon as a rider becomes proficient, can gauge her muscular strength, and acquires perfect confidence in her ability to balance herself and in her power of locomotion, this look passes away."