Gendered, As A Rule
Bikes for Bobby, Bikes for Betty. Bicycles teach young people many important lessons. Lessons in freedom. Adventure. Independence. Responsibility. Community.
Bicycles empower riders to go their own way. Vehicles for individuality.
In the US, kids' bikes also teach another very powerful lesson. They teach our kids about the specific boundaries they are expected to operate within in order to conform to their assigned gender roles.
Sugar and Spice, Some Things Nice
Most bikes for our daughters ask one thing of female riders, "Be Cute." The bikes are branded with objects and characters that are valued for their prettiness. Girls are to be seen.
Electric Stardom- Sassy n' Sweet
Jewels & Pearls- Junior Popstar!
Hey, at least the bee is going for it!
There is nothing wrong with prettiness. When Little Oil came over here and looked over my shoulder and saw that princess bike her first reaction was, "Papa. I like that bike! I wanna ride it one day." That's okay. Princesses as role models are problematic, but not evil. What concerns me about the sharp gendering of kids' bikes is that they allow for so little choice. Betty has her role spelled out for her clearly and that Lil' Honey up above is the closest I've seen to an indication that that role includes any measure of agency whatsoever.
Frogs and Snails, Broken Tails
One common theme among bikes for Bobby is, "Harm."
Major Damage is king of this category. Magna has been branding bikes with this name for years and it never ceases to amaze me. What parent is thinking, "Hmm, what do I want out of a bike for my kid? I know, serious harm! This Major Damage is just the thing for Little Butchy!" The Major isn't alone, however.
Same joke as above.
Okay, Schwinn, that's taking it a step too far!
Wheelie- lil' tough guy
That cartoon on the frame pad is pretty adorable. And "tough" is an admirable trait! I hope my kids are tough! I hope that they are cute, too! Again, my point isn't about these lessons being all bad, it's about the choices being offered to kids being so limiting.
Little Else Exists.
I am not the only parent nor the only bicycle retailer to notice how hard it is to find bikes that aren't so sharply gendered.
Is a neutral colored bike without stickers or decals too much to ask?
Happy Third Birthday, Little Oil! We love our Princess-Pirate-Popstar-Pugilist-Powerhouse!