The girl on the back of the bike

I recently posted on how the image on the cover of Harry Potter, Book 3, of Hermione clinging to Harry’s back as they flew on the Hippogriff, bummed me out. This image of male driving and the girl along for the ride is ubiquitous in the imaginary world. You almost never see a girl in front and a boy behind, or even a girl alone, and also, it’s extremely rare to see a girl on a female magical creature.

After my post, Orlando wrote in this comment:

Shall I share with you the moment when I learned to loathe Kerouac? This is it (from “On the Road”):
“In the empty Houston streets of four o’clock in the morning a motorcycle kid suddenly roared through, all bespangled and bedecked with glittering buttons, visor, slick black jacket, a Texas poet of the night, girl gripped on his back like a papoose, hair flying, onward-going, singing.”
Familiar image? What happened was two people went past; what they saw was one person plus accessories.

The Kerouac quote pretty much epitomizes the poetic subjugation of women in that repetitive image (coupled with the the adventurous title of the book, of course.) Kerouac is such a good writer and he does this image so well. And again, the image/ narrative would not be a problem if it were one of many; it is its dominance over our imaginations, the way other narratives have become restricted and repressed, even in fantasy, that is the tragedy.

9 thoughts on “The girl on the back of the bike

  1. In the film War Games the girl gives the boy a lift on the back of her bike. It doesn’t have many female characters but I liked the girl Jennifer. For a film from 1983 it’s pretty good.

  2. I’ll never forget when I saw on the news a few years ago the story of “a hiker and his girlfriend stranded” somewhere in Washington I think. The story was obviously about him, she was just on the back of his bike. Basically. Never mind that two people were stranded.

  3. I wanted to let you know I just finished the book The City of Ember. As the main characters are about 12 years old, you can gauge the usual demographic. I’m happy to say I thought it was a book that wonderfully portrayed a healthy boy-girl friendship. There were no romantic overtones. Plus the main female character is spunky, loves to run and climb trees, and gets very excited about decoding an ancient message. It’s a bleak story but the gender roles seemed to be handled respectfully.