24 May 2017

Into, And Out Of, The Chaos

Now I'm going to tell you a secret:  You see, there's this place where we all meet and it's gonna change the world.

Someone told me I should write about a conspiracy or two--or at least hint at them.  According to that person who is an expert on what, I don't know, conspiracies and conspiracy theories draw viewers to websites the way free food draws, well, just about anybody to any place.

So...about that place and the meeting that will shake the earth--or modern society, anyway--to its foundations:  I'll tell you about it.  In fact, I'll even tell you who "we" are.

No, we're not the Illuminati or the Carbonari.  We're way more secret than that.  In fact, we're so secret that we don't even know who we are, let alone where we're meeting or why--let alone what the outcome will be.

But we exist, and we're holding such a meeting because, well, people who know better (or should) say that we are.  To wit:

The "they" in this snippet are female cyclists.  Specifically, it referred to the women on wheels who had emerged from whalebone corsets and hoopskirts some time around 1897, the peak of the first Bicycle Boom.  Now we were wearing shorter skirts or--shudder--bloomers with--gasp--socks!  Worse yet, we were setting new standards in fashion.

Now, all of you women who are reading this know that when we dress, we are doing it for each other.  I mean, when the Duchess of Cambridge wears one of those beautiful dresses for a gala or whatever, no man (well, OK, almost no man) pays as much attention to it as any of us.  I recall now a holiday spent with my brother and sister-in-law a year or two after they had their first child.   It was around the time Wheel of Fortune became one of the most popular game shows.  Watching Vanna White slink across the stage, my sister-in-law exclaimed, "I would love to wear that dress!"

The funny thing is that the bicycle, in a way, abetted this attitude.  When women started riding bikes, they weren't seeking approval from men.  If anything, they got scorn or derision from their husbands, fathers, pastors and other males in their lives--as well as some of their female elders.   We were riding and dressing for comfort and (relative) ease of movement--and to impress each other.  Since the men weren't going to approve (well, most of them, anyway), we sought encouragement from each other. 

Equally funny is that as we were mocked and scorned, we were also commodified.  At least a few businessmen saw that as we got on our bikes, we had more mobility--which meant more freedom to do all sorts of things. Like go to work and earn our own money.  And we could buy all of those outfits we would wear as we rode to our "grand rendezvous" where we got the "wobbly old world to wake up" and "adjust itself"--if, perhaps, not in the way the writer of that editorial intended. 

(At least they're not meetings of this organization.)

If you want to see a wonderful graphic story about how the bicycle changed women's history, check out Ariel Aberg-Riger's piece, posted yesterday on Citylab.

Speaking of late 19th-Century urban America, Aberg-Riger says, "Into this chaos came the bicycle."  And out came the modern woman.

Does that sound like a conspiracy, or what?

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