Gender, Class, and Age Formation While Cycling: Embodied Performativity and Materiality on Two Wheels

Authors: Léa Ravensbergen*, University of Toronto, Ron Buliung, University of Toronto Mississauga
Topics: Transportation Geography, Gender
Keywords: cycling, embodiment, gender, class, age
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper frames the embodied experience of bicycling with theories of performativity and materiality. In doing so, it sheds light on power relations underlining of identity-based differences in cycling behaviours. Drawing from interviews completed with newcomers to Toronto enrolled in a bicycle mentorship program, this paper highlights how context-specific social norms exist around who can cycle appropriately. These norms act as regulatory frameworks for identity performativity. Though these norms can be resisted, they work to make gendered, classed, and age-based differences in cycling behaviours appear innate. Cycling can also be an experience of ‘intense embodiment’ in that it can bring the absent body back into consciousness. This experience is dynamic and elicits contradicting emotions. Furthermore, cycling is not only found to increase people’s awareness of their materiality, but also their fluid boundaries thereby challenging the notion of ‘secure’ bodily boundaries. These material processes can be gendered or classed, and can influence access to mobility and public space. By identifying these identity formation processes as they relate to cycling, this paper challenges dualisms that make gendered, classed, and aged-based differences in cycling behaviour appear innate.

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