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Back in 1896 men didn’t call women sluts.

They called them “bicycle face”.

Why? Because bicycles <gasp!> helped women 💪 make their own dating choices.

IOW bikes were the first dating app. That scared men.

Let’s talk about it.

Hold on to your bodices people, THIS IS A THREAD
1/ a few years back we were engaged by a dating app to do some strategy work

One of the big problems on dating apps?

Men behaving badly.

So per our remit, we did some research. Here’s some of what we found.
2/ About 120 years ago, men warned women that riding a bicycle could permanently deform their face.

Their chin would jut.

Their brows would furrow.

Their cheeks would freeze in an unbecoming rictus.
3/ Some physicians blamed the seat.

Others blamed the vibrations.

Some blamed the strain of pedaling and keeping one’s balance.

Journals warned women that riding a bike could cause “apoplexy of the brain”.

They called this malady bicycle face.

4/ Women with bicycle face were “characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes.”

Weak women were in danger. Dyspeptic women, too. And especially young women. And especially the old.

Of course, this was all especially bullshit.
5/ But it happens to be bullshit for an interesting reason. This was the time of the bicycle boom. And women — much to the chagrin of men who’d prefer they remain in their drawing rooms — were out in the streets, wind in their bloomers, riding bicycles.

And they were ascendant.
6/ IOW: the bicycle disrupted everything.

Invented in 1886, the “safety bike” was, after the horse, the first entirely personal & private mode of transportation.
7/ Better than the horse, it was affordable: about a hundred inflation-adjusted bucks cheap. A bicycle didn’t need to be stabled. A bicycle never got tired. Or needed to be fed. Or pooped.

8/ Streets swarmed with them.

Businessmen rode to their offices.

Bicycle clubs sprung up, and repair shops, and race tracks. Velodromes became popular. Bicycling from towns into the country became popular. Map makers made small fortunes publishing roadbooks and guides.
9/ For women, the safety bike was a benediction.

Unlike its predecessor, the big-wheeled “boneshaker”, women could mount the safety bike easily. But they couldn’t ride wearing a dress.

Out: bustles and crinolines.

In: knickerbockers, bloomers, and pants.
10/ Today this may seem like no big shakes, but at the time the bicycle did something profound: it removed women from their cloistered social sphere and made them visible in public.
11/ Bicycles had such an egalitarian effect that you can draw a clear line from women riding bikes to women getting the vote.
12/ “Let me tell you what I think about bicycling,” said Susan B. Anthony, in a 1896 interview with the New York World. “It has done more to emancipate women than anything else in this world.”

13/ And that included in the realm of dating, too.

Riding a bicycle, women could escape the hidebound courtship conventions of the time.

In lieu of closed carriages, open cycling down the street.

In lieu of scripted ballroom dances, adventurous country rides.
14/ In lieu of an afternoon stroll accompanied by an elderly chaperone, women and men could ride away, on their own, together.

By providing independence and mobility to their riders, the bicycle literally changed how men and women made decisions about their romantic lives.
15/ Of course, using new technology to increase our independence and our mobility happens to be how we date today.

***Bicycles were one of the first dating apps.***

But women’s newfound freedom made men nervous. Hence that gaslight of the Gilded Age: ew, bicycle face.
16/ Bicycle face still exists today, only we don’t call it that. We call it slut shaming — the practice of criticizing women who are perceived to violate expectations of behavior and appearance regarding sexuality.
17/ In the 19th century the expectation was that women remained cloistered and dependent. The bicycle disrupted that narrative. It allowed women to leave the cloister and become more independent.

"Bicycle face" was a failed attempt to shame them back into traditional roles.
18/ In the 21st century, the expectation is that women make independent choices.

Slut shaming is a retrograde attempt to make a woman feel ashamed of those choices and dependent on a man’s.

IOW: Get off your bike. Go back to your drawing room. I am the man, do what I say.
19/ Slut shaming happens everywhere. Replies on twitter. Comments on YouTube. And especially, revoltingly, obnoxiously—slut shaming happens on dating apps.

Ask a lady friend and she’ll likely handclap it for you: shut shaming happens on dating apps 👏 all 👏 the 👏 time.
20/ Especially, but not exclusively, slut shaming occurs when a woman rejects a man.

When she, so to speak, keeps pedaling on by.
21/ If this seems like an arbitrary point to make, consider:

Dating apps, like bicycles, are a way of expressing freedom to choose in public.

All those apps work by the same pedal-around-town principle — that is, make more decisions (x) in less time (y) using speed (z).
22/ In the case of bicycles, your decisions (x) are about distance: where can I go?

Your time (y) is simply the number of those decisions you can make given the speed (z), the bicycle.
23/ Dating apps: same same. With a dating app as with a bike, you literally change how you make decisions because of your changed relationship to distance and time.
24/ This formula was also true for the personals of 19th century England, which aggregated attention via newspaper (“seeking a woman having good teeth and little feet”)...

25/ ...And it was for the tender frugalities of the first online dating site, Match.com, which aggregated attention via web site (“subscribe to contact members for under $25/month!”).
26/ The evolution of dating has continually been towards maximum possible reach (more x, less y) with maximal possible speed (z).
27/ If this description sounds grossly clinical, consider the motives of Mr. Gary Kremen, founder of Match.com, who spent SO MUCH MONEY on 1-900 phone calls he decided it would be more efficient if he could find women by looking them up in a searchable database.
28/ IOW: Romance, for Gary—for ALL OF US—was *literally* a numbers game.
29/ Here's the point: dating apps have done the exact same thing to human relationships that bicycles did—They have rearranged how we relate to each other by organizing their users around their functions. We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us, etc.
30/ But one big argument I’m going to make is that we don’t take dating apps seriously enough as a definer of what it means to be a human being.

That *hyper-efficient and convenient coupling* MAY NOT BE in our long term best, humans-living-among-humans interests.
31/ Many of us are just so accustomed to swipe-swipe-swiping that we forget that dating online is not just “meeting more people in less time” but “meeting many more people, in much less time, every single day, no matter where you are”…
32/ And THAT is so cursory an experience that it fundamentally changes what it means to value another living, breathing, bones-and-a-butt person.
33/ The most unfortunate consequence is that dating apps often do the opposite of what they purport to do.

That is, we take a lot of pleasure from online dating, but the pleasure seems to consist mostly in **loathing a great many of the people we meet.**
34/ Anyway WOAH this thread went tapestry in length!

As part of our client project I wrote more about the challenge with dating apps and how moving too quickly online can dehumanize your fellow travelers.

Here’s part 1: medium.com/article-group/…
This concludes my rant on bicycles, dating apps, and unfortunate methods of Victorian address.

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