Imagine a world where riding a bicycle is a negative, even shameful act if you are of the female gender. Something as innocuous as cycling causing so much offence does seems far-fetched. But, a hundred years ago, cycling was almost exclusively a for men. Here’s a great blog that outlines how bicycles played a significant part in women’s equality. And it all stems from the Suffragette movement.
Thanks to the efforts of women who wouldn’t be restricted by social convention, we can now take cycling for granted. It’s just another mode of transport — regardless of gender. However, not everyone the world over has that privilege. Right now, girls and women who ride bicycles are breaking some serious rules in Afghanistan.
CYCLING THROUGH GENDER
In the documentary film Afghan Cycles, director Susie Menzies profiles an unlikely group of women who forge the Afghan cycling team. She charts their genesis in a nation that is openly hostile toward women riding bikes. But this film more than just a flattering portrait of a few mavericks. Menzies uses human insight in a way that makes the connection between a high profile national team and the everyday struggle of girls and women. In smaller, regional communities outside the capital city Kabul the stakes are higher for female cyclists. When a regular girl or woman defies the cultural and social norms of their gender, it can have a life-changing impact.
Menzies spends time profiling the Afghan women’s cycling team — that’s the headline story. The women on that team are breaking the mould at a national level. But what really stretches the imagination is the deeper narrative of a society that has yet to let go of the same social and cultural taboos that also existed in the West. As a creative storyteller, Menzies uncovers a deeper significance to the subject. By bringing to life the bicycle as a symbol of female emancipation for girls and women in Afghanistan, she inspires hope.