Bicycle-riding ladies and other threats to manly order

Click on the pic to see it in its full-sized glory!

So I linked the other day to Kate Beaton’s awesome comic about the obstreperous velocipedrix (inspired by the cartoon I used to illustrate this post). But since then I’ve had bicycle-riding-ladies on the brain and I thought it was worth another post. Besides, it gives me an excuse to use the cartoon above, which Beaton linked to in her Hark, A Vagrant post.

The notion that bicycle- (or velocipede-) riding women are inherently hilarious (or inherently evil) may seem a tad quaint now, but back in the late 19thcentury, when bicycling really took off, these cartoons were every-fucking-where.

And what was so unsettling – even scary – about the specter of women on bicycles? As historian Clare S. Simpson explains:

The independent mobility of cyclists raised genuine alarm for their physical, if not moral, safety; simply put, the bicycle could easily take women to unsavoury places where they might be endangered physically (for example, by being attacked), or morally (for example, by being seduced into imprudent conduct with intemperate company).  . . . Drawing on previous knowledge of the kinds of women who deliberately made themselves conspicuous in public, that is, prostitutes, there would be a strong tendency to conclude that cycling women were far from respectable: not exactly prostitutes, perhaps, but possibly women of loose morals or with an undeveloped sense of propriety.

Now why does this sound oh-so-familiar? Because it is so scarily similar to many of the arguments I run across amongst Men’s Rightsers and Manospherians today. Change a few words here and there, and we could be talking about the Slutwalks, and the ludicrously overblown “criticism” of them we’ve seen from MRAs and misogynists generally, who insist again and again that women must be “held responsible” for their actions.

What actions? Going outside dressed in something more revealing than a nun’s habit. Going outside at night. Not reacting with gratitude when dudes patronizingly lecture them on the perils of being a woman in public. It’s the same old shit: the “independent mobility” of women is pissing off a lot of men even today.

That’s why so many MRAs got so angry about the case of Lara Logan, the CBS news correspondent who was sexually assaulted while covering the protests in Egypt last year — many in the MRA camp weren’t so much angry at those who assaulted Logan as they were at Logan herself, for daring to cover political unrest in another country … while being a woman.

That’s why it always strikes me as a little odd that MRAs routinely describe their movement, such as it is, as a new one. It’s not. Theirs is a reactive movement, and a reactionary one – and not just because some of them literally think women should be denied the right to vote. It’s because so much of what they obsess about is the same old shit that pops up whenever women have stepped up and challenged their traditional roles.

Of course, these guys aren’t simply angry at women doing traditionally masculine things – from going where they like, on bikes or foot, to covering world politics. They’re worried that newly “masculinized” women will turn men into a bunch of emasculated pussies.

While poking around to find more cartoons to illustrate this post with, I happened across several that show just how persistent this worry is. Take a look. The first couple are from the turn-of-the-twentieth century; the third is from the 1970s. Notice a theme here?

This same old theme is handled a bit more subtly today, as this bit of clip art shows. Note the pink apron, in case you didn’t get the point: a man washing dishes is an emasculated wussy.

Of course, in the Manosphere, things are not quite so subtle. It’s telling that amongst MRAs and other modern misogynists the insult of choice for feminist men is “mangina.”

Here’s how one little manifesto defines the term. (I’ve edited out a lot; it’s pretty fucking repetitive, though students of misogynist psychology may wish to read the whole thing here.)

Manginas are pseudo-men who fixate their lives on getting a sniff of the female genitalia (figure of speech) at the expensive of others and by betraying real men.

Manginas see women as an ultimate being, places them on a huge pedestal, mind focuses only on sex or the satisfaction of women all the while not giving two bits a damn about his fellow man. …

A mangina is not a man, and we wouldn’t dare honor them by gracing them with the title. …

A Mangina seeks continuous approval from females thereby becoming their servant.

Manginas support women’s issues which are against his fellow men. Someone who espouses feminism but is really being suckered into a form of chivalry in which women’s interests take precedence over men’s. Unaware that they are merely “useful idiots”, doing what women want in the vain/hope of getting laid. When his usefulness is over she tosses him out with the rest of the rubbish. …

A Mangina is a self-depreciating man who subconsciously hates himself and blindly believes women are superior to him. He has been raised to think masculinity is inherently wrong – perhaps even a genetic/evolutionary/social flaw – and must be corrected by embracing his “feminine side” to the point of losing the very qualities that make him male.

Women acting like men; men acting like women. These were the bugbears of the velocipedrix-hating, women’s-suffrage-opposing assholes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; they were the bugbears of the protoypical woman’s-lib-hating chauvinist pigs of the seventies; and they remain the bugbears of an astonishingly large number of those in the Men’s Rights movement today.

And that’s why it, too, will end as a joke, remembered as a quaint holdover from earlier times rather than the progressive civil rights movement it sometimes pretends to be.

In the meantime: Kate Beaton, fucking hilarious, right?

NOTE: I found a whole bunch of awesomely retrograde cartoons from bygone days while looking for the illustrations for this post. I’ll be posting some of my favorites soon.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on January 4, 2012, in antifeminism, evil women, homophobia, life before feminism, manginas, misogyny, MRA, oppressed men, patriarchy, rape, rapey, reactionary bullshit, sluts, vaginas, white knights. Bookmark the permalink. 87 Comments.

  1. Alan Moore believe torture is useful/redemptive. That’s more than eccentric, and far from lovable.

  2. Notice how the servant girl and washerwoman both have sort of a monkey face. Presumably they’re Irish.

    Misogynists never tire of making fun of the fact that ladies have fleshy bits. It’s terribly amusing when women move around because those bits wobble! Har har har!

  3. “It’s terribly amusing when women move around because those bits wobble! Har har har!”
    But I had been told than hetero males likes when ladies’ bits woble!

    Pecunium and Noadi, do you have an opinion on how to treat the work of someone you loathe while loving said work? I can’t reconcile the fact that I hate, for example, Orson Scott card while loving all the books I’ve read by him.

  4. @Xanthe


    Converting the score to a straight percentage is a bit tricky, as even most crazy people will only get a small fraction of the maximum possible score. Therefore, to stretch the scale out, and to allow moderately crazy people to achieve respectable scores, a grading curve was used. The first 30 points each add 2% to the final score; the next 20 points each add 1%; all subsequent points add 0.5%. A 100% score is reached at 90 points. Beyond this, the curve fails.

    When the Kookometer was written, I assumed that this failure mode wasn’t particularly important. Surely no real person could be that deranged? Needless to say, I had yet to encounter an MRA.

  5. Alan Moore believe torture is useful/redemptive. That’s more than eccentric, and far from lovable.

    Was this from V for Vendetta or was this an interview later (regarding water boarding)?

  6. In case anyone is wondering about the mice in the bicycle-lady cartoon, they’re there to show that unlike the “old woman” the “new woman” isn’t afraid of mice! You can see a picture of the “old woman” behind here who is afraid of mice.

    Also, here are a couple of posts that were in moderation for awhile; just wanted to make sure everyone got to see them: The second, shorter one is kind of hilarious.

    Roscoe P. Coltrane | January 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

    To my mind, there are two distinct issues in play here:

    1. A man’s perception of his own emasculation
    2. The genuineness of a man’s emasculation

    In my experience, most feminists will freely acknowledge that perceived emasculation exists, even that it is pervasive among many men. But most feminists will usually attribute a man’s perceived emasculation to his perceived loss of power and privilege. They will then go on to agree that in feminism’s wake, men have indeed lost some gender-based powers and privileges, and being feminists they will probably consider this transfer of power from men to women be a good thing in the name of equality. They will then proscribe a solution to the man who perceives himself as emasculated. He should identify his perception of emasculation with an irrational fear of losing his unjust privileges, embrace the loss of his privileges, and get over himself. His emasculation was never genuine; he just “felt” emasculated because he was not enjoying being rightfully taken down a notch or two. In my experience, that’s the feminist view of emasculation; emasculation is just a misconception of justice manifesting itself. The misconception of emasculation is born out of male power and privilege, says the feminist, and the sooner that you as a man learn to embrace the justice of your own loss of power and privilege, the sooner you’ll grow as a human being.

    But what gets left unaddressed amidst the feminist rhetoric is whether the man in question genuinely was emasculated. I wonder if feminists even consider it possible for a man to be genuinely emasculated, with this being considered a negative thing. If a man can genuinely be emasculated, then I ask where is the empathy? This blog is devoted to mocking misogyny, but I suspect that the author believes that it necessarily indicates misogyny when a man feels emasculated. But does David actually acknowledge that the perception of one’s emasculation may also be born out of the genuineness of one’s emasculation? Does he consider genuine emasculation to be even possible? And if so, more importantly, does he care? And if so, then what is his advice for a man who has been genuinely emasculated? I fear that even genuine emasculation — not just perceived loss of power and privilege — is something that the feminist would encourage men to embrace as a positive thing. Masculinity? Who needs it! says the feminist.

    John O. Merd, Esq. | January 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Dear Dave Futile:

    How do you manage to write such mediocre material and get approximately a dozen women to post comments at one-minute intervals for hours on end? 9:26am, 9:27am. 9:28am, etc., etc., etc. That’s amazing!

  7. Dude just emasculated all over this thread.

  8. Kyrie: Depends on the work/artist. If the things about the artist which I dislike don’t affect the work, I just don’t buy them.

    So, John Travolta’s Scientology, mostly doesn’t affect me. Card’s beliefs, always have (it was ca. 1984 I read a novella of his which was like Brin’s, “The Postman”, only lacking depth. It boiled down to, “Mormons are the only decent people, and they will save the post-apocalyptic world”).

    Moore… is problematic. He has interesting stories, but that element shows up in prominent places, so I just give him a pass. I won’t go out of my way to avoid it, but I won’t seek it out.

  9. cynickal:

    Alan Moore believes torture is useful/redemptive. That’s more than eccentric, and far from lovable.

    Was this from V for Vendetta or was this an interview later (regarding water boarding)?

    There are recurrent elements of the trope in carious of his works, most notably V for Vendetta, and The Watchmen.

  10. Rocoe: What do you mean by, “really emasculated”.

    Are his balls cut off? Is he forced to squat to piss, even in the woods? Does his voice get raised to low tenor, and his beard electrolysised away?

    Perhaps he is forced to undergo hormone treatments and grow breasts?

    Because apart from that all I see are social changes which affect where men stand in the relative pecking orders in the public sphere.

  11. It might be a similar sentiment behind all those unfunny tired “jokes” about how women are terrible drivers and shouldn’t be allowed behind a steering wheel. And also how they don’t know anything about cars, which can’t possibly have anything to do with the social norm that cars are for boys or girls being sexually harassed away from high school shop class.

  12. In case anyone is wondering about the mice in the bicycle-lady cartoon, they’re there to show that unlike the “old woman” the “new woman” isn’t afraid of mice! You can see a picture of the “old woman” behind here who is afraid of mice.

    Hey now! Mice scare the hell out of me, they carry Bubonic plague.

    @Penucium, that’s kind of why I gave up on Goodkind as well. For Moore it is a bit odd since he’s supposedly left christianity.
    All though, now that I think about it many, many religions have purification through suffering…

  13. “Hey now! Mice scare the hell out of me, they carry Bubonic plague.”
    Mine didn’t, they were pretty lovely fluffy pet. Sigh.

    Coltrane: less rhetorical dramatical questions, more details about the emasculation and the lost of your god’s given rights.

  14. Roscoe, the answer is no. No, it’s impossible for there to be objective “emasculation” because the concepts of masculine and feminine are entirely subjective and dependent on cultural context. (I suppose you could argue that there is one type of objective “emasculation”, which would involve the removal of the male genitalia but that’s entirely beside the point at hand since I hope you’re not attempting to argue that women are chopping dicks off willy-nilly.)

    It’s very easy for me to believe that some men feel emasculated either by the removal/redistribution of privilege or by the moving goalposts of gender. Since gender is not something you are, but something you do, the argument that feminism makes about the ways in which gender identity is fluid necessarily means that people who have been taught that masculinity and femininity are immutable characteristics are likely to feel they (or others) are being de-masculinized or de-feminized when what is truly occurring is that the binary boundaries boundaries are recognized as more fluid. For example, a man raised on a steady diet of common sitcom tropes might feel that I am attempting to “emasculate” him if I expect that he, say, do the laundry and take care of a child, while I feel that such things are not and should not be gendered so I am not taking away from his perceived maleness by expecting him to do housework.

  15. Alan Moore is also incapable of writing a comic without a rape in it. I love him and his magic beard anyway.

  16. @Shaenon Wait… didn’t he do Swamp Thing for years? 0_o

  17. Gacked from the feminist philosopher’s blog: a list of “DO NOT DO” rules for women bicyclists in the 1890s:

    “Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.””

    OMG, I want a bicycle face!

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