Bloomers on Bikes
Chapter 6 continued: The Intimately Oppressed

Although we do not live in the 1800‘s I consider that by reading this book in the way that I am, and posting this blog, I may very well be decreasing my feminine appeal factor. This book is agitating me - and a lady is [was] supposed to “avoid agitation.” I am not “lightening cares” nor “soothing sorrows”....I am, I believe, “warning against dangers” and “watching over interests” (our interests)...but I certainly am not “augmenting joys” nor “comforting under [these current] trials”...and, I am not “by [my] pious, assiduous, and attractive deportment, constantly endeavor[ing] to render [men] more virtuous, more useful, more honourable, and more happy.”  Although, believe me, I definitely have a voice inside of me that tells me I should be, that I would be a more appealing woman - attractive and lovable- if I were doing those things. I’d say the “cult of true womanhood” is alive in certain parts of all of us, at least I know it is in me.  

And so the fear of being regarded as a “spinster”, or at least the image of that, is still present. But where did that term come from? It came from the industrialization of spinning - turning cotton fiber into cloth; and the demand that came with it for young girls, 15 - 30 years old, to work the spinning machinery in factories. They were called “spinsters”. They were the beginning of the feminine rights movement. Women “...were trapped in the bonds of the new ideology of “women’s sphere” in the home, and, when forced out to work in factories, or even middle class professions, found another kind of bondage [they were over worked: 14 hour days, and underpaid: one third to half of what men were paid.] On the other hand, these conditions created a common consciousness of their situation and forged bonds of solidarity among them.”

And, so, I’m going to live my life in honor of and with thanks to the spinsters - kicking my  closeted belief that a woman must desperately avoid becoming one, to the curb; transforming my negative image of them - planted there by so many unhealthy mythologies of my time and before - into one of pride. I’m going to make myself some real bloomers and then I'm going to get on my bicycle and ride! Because, as Zinn has just reminded me, the suggestion and design of bloomers by Amelia Bloomer, was not a fashion statement, it was a revolutionary act of functionality and freedom, reclaiming women’s rights to move as quickly as they liked; to walk up the stairs AND carry important things that had a weight to them, at the same time, without risk of tripping or fainting; to ride a bicycle! And this freedom led to all sorts of reclaiming.

More on this chapter tomorrow.




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