Final Feminist Friday to discuss gender and bicycles


Photo courtesy of Ebere Agwuncha

Feminist Friday speaker Jennifer Hibben, a campus pastor at the Wesley Center and associate pastor for the Collegiate United Methodist Church, discussed with attendees the idea of Jesus as a feminist on Nov. 15.

Loretta Mcgraw

The Margaret Sloss Center For Women and Gender Equity at Iowa State will be hosting its final Feminist Friday of the semester today.

Jeremy Withers, associate professor of English, will be leading this week’s discussion over “Gender and Bicycles in 1980’s-Nostalgia Science Fiction” at 1 p.m. at the Sloss House.

Withers will use this time to take a closer analysis over the traditional ways in which women are portrayed in the science fiction genre — in shows such as “Stranger Things” and comic series “Paper Girls” — and how they are portrayed with the modern transportation of the times — such as bicycles.

“These texts, a lot of them, have sort of problematic depictions of gender when they’re referencing or showing people using bicycles,” Withers said.

Withers’ study on this topic led to the publishing of his first novel, “The War of the Wheels: H.G. Wells and the Bicycle,” back in 2017 and the creation of another novel, “Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles: Contesting the Road in American Science Fiction,” set to release in July 2020. Withers’ second novel will explore the topic of cars versus bikes, which he said is a very real problem in today’s world, deciding how much space in cities should be reserved for cars and how much for pedestrians and bikers. 

“Only boys get to be mobile,” Withers said. “Only boys get to have fun on bikes, and I find that very problematic that they’re bringing that part of ’80s culture into shows and texts. They’re not realizing there’s this problematic gender element.”

What originally inspired Withers to take on this particular academic study on bicycles was that during graduate school in his 20s, he picked biking back up for fun, and he said he hasn’t stopped since. Now, each day he bikes to work, hauling his daughter behind to bring her to daycare, despite weather conditions, to reduce his own carbon footprint.