Riding Bitch: new images

More than any other pattern of sexist imagery in the fantasy worlds created for children, I hate the girl on the back of the bike, dragon, or hippogriff. Recently, I posted:

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.

I’m going to keep a running tally on Reel Girl of images normalizing what I learned is called “riding bitch.” Please let me know if you see any and PLEASE let me know if you see the reverse gender positions.

Two recent disappointments:


I was very bummed to see the usually feminist Studio Ghibli put out this image to promote “From Up on Poppy Hill”




21 thoughts on “Riding Bitch: new images

  1. “Riding B*tch”? I don’t know what’s more offensive towards womenkind, the trope that puts females virtually “in the back of the bus” or the name of the trope that someone coined it with. Unless this is one of those feminist sites that “reclaims” the word ‘b*tch’ like all those other misogynist derogatory terms (‘Sl*t Walk,’ etc.) commonly referred to half of the human population as an insult, that’d make some sense.

    If not, I don’t think using those terms (“B*tch in Sheep’s Clothing,” “Alpha B*tch,” etc.) to refer to specific overused, commonly used, and badly used plot and character devices plaguing females will help people refer to female characters (Who in the end inadvertently represent the human female population and who’s reputation is bad enough as it is…) in a more respectable and fair way. I certainly feel hopeless for the equality of the sexes when we can’t even refer to females without sex-specific insults, something males (and possibly even some females themselves) don’t understand.

    If you ever heard of the show called “My Little Pony; Friendship is Magic,” Lauren Faust is a feminist who wanted the show to better represent girls & make them more ‘relatable’ than what typical “girl shows” normally do. Yet, the fanbase itself makes me believe Faust’s ambitious goal with the show was in vain.

    1. http://i.neoseeker.com/mgv/475336/336/31/bronies_before_hoenies_display.jpg (“H*enies,” an uncreative spin on “H*e.”) & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3haoLtJxyHY&feature=plcp (0:45-0:48)

    2. Sunset Simmer is called an “Alpha B*tch” http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirls 3. Sunset Shimmer is called a Queen B*tch http://www.toplessrobot.com/2013/06/laff_review_my_little_pony_equestria_girls.php)

    4. http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/06/so-yeah-raritys-awesome.html
    (Trixie is called a “Wh*re”)

    …It’s mostly the reason why I stopped going to Tv.Tropes.org when I could sense a badly used cliché myself and basically define it & so-called “Love & Tolerance “Brony”” sites (Where every other marginalized group seems to get respect or a lot more respect than the female marginalized group.).

  2. The problem with the RB image in Poppy Hill is that it implies the boy is the central character in the story, when in fact THE GIRL is the protagonist. This gets back to the problem of studios disguising or altering a girl-centered story to make it more appealing to boys, (see Tangled, SnownQueen, the American poster for Arietty, etc.).

  3. I remember 3 Ghibli movies that have the girl alone,

    Kiki’s Delivery Service http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61urbL5Q4vL.jpg

    Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) http://itpworld.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/mononoki-2_rgb.jpg?width=550

    Spirited Away (Chihiro)


    Inuyasha (anime) in many episodes Kagome is the one riding the bycicle while Inuyasha is in the back


    I guess anime surpass a lot with that ‘riding bitch’ conception.
    About From up on poppy hill, I’ve seen the movie, and that scene in the poster is just an random scene from the movie, I’ve check the japanese poster and many only featured the girl. That reminded me of other Ghibli movie, Arietty, the same happened with the poster, they put the boy in the poster with the girl, while the japanese only had the girl on it.

    USA poster: http://www.disneymania.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Arriety-550×814.jpg

    Japanese poster: http://www.heyuguys.co.uk/images/2011/06/Arrietty-poster.jpg

    I could only though of japanese works that surpassed that situation, hope i’m not bothering.

    • Hi osakadolah,

      Yes, in Arrietty the boy filled up most of the poster, b/c he is nbig and she is small, so he it “had” to be that way.

      Thank you for all these links!


  4. Reading the article i first though in Sakura, from Sakura Card Captors, an anime, Sakura is always riding in her flying wand, most of the time she’s flying alone, but sometimes she fly with her Tomoyo (female friend) and Syaoran (male friend) and they’re always on back. In all anime openings Sakura is flying in her wand or with wings alone.



    Sorry my poor english, love your site.

  5. I’ve noticed that the women in the Lord of the Rings movies always ‘rode bitch’ even though THEY were the ones holding the reigns and the hobbits were just passengers. Whaaaaat?! What do you think of women riding bitch even though they are the ones driving?

    • Hi Doug,

      I saw this and posted it on Reel Girl’s FB page. I like the post but think it misses the deeper issue: there need to be more strong female characters for girls and boys to wear.


  6. Not entirely relevant to your post since she is not the protagonist of this story, but here is a woman on a bike by herself–the Tooth Fairy in a Robert Munsch book. I’ve always loved it because it is such a contrast from the traditional view of the Tooth Fairy. Scroll down for the image. http://ow.ly/h8ME2

  7. I follow your blog and page on Facebook and normally agree wholeheartedly with your posts. and I do on this one up until the poster for From Up on Poppy Hill… where is the context to this picture? what’s the plot? is the poster actually sexist or representing a pivotal scene from the movie?

    my concern about not providing this context is that girls will sometimes ride on the back of a boys bike and are we saying that this, in of itself, is wrong because they’re allowing themselves to be subjugated by not being the one in front? what a responsibility for young women to bear! don’t get a lift on your boyfriends bike because if you do you’re letting women everywhere down…

    i am a passionate advocate of fighting sexism (and most isms but sexism is particularly close to my heart after living in the US for a few years) but i’m also wary of objecting to everything that doesn’t have women front and centre. i want equality of opportunity not total equality and i want art, films, books, TV etc to be a fair reflection of life and to open opportunities by challenging the status quo – not changing everything.

    i completely get the Kerouac point about making women an accessory (i had never thought of it like that before) and the rolling stone cover is grotesque – Tina Fey is the driving force behind 30 Rock and is hanging off the ‘big strong’ man’s arm…

    but the movie poster just looked innocent to me, it looked like someone (who happened to be a girl) enjoying a lift home with a friend (who happened to be a guy) or her boyfriend.

    without the context of the plot, it made me sad to think that we’re saying that getting a lift on the back of someone’s bike is wrong.

    • Hi Louise,

      I get what you are saying, but I hear that all the time. For example, with Hermione riding on the back of the hippogriff, commenters said that Harry is a good flyer while Hermione is smart. In the context of the plot the sexism makes sense but that is sexism. And again, if this image didn’t happen all the time, I would have no problem with it.


      • i still think it’s important to explain why, otherwise all the joy can be sucked out of living. people are good at different things and we can’t pretend that they aren’t

        the main problem is that in most movies women can’t be attributed what are considered ‘masculine’ traits like being good at flying/sport/driving etc as well as being smart, without it detracting from them somehow

        at the risk of being a bad feminist, while it wasn’t what could be considered a great achievement for women characters in literature, i’ve never found harry potter to be overly sexist and love all the books

        it just gets very tiring seeing sexism in almost everything. mainly because it seems like such an uphill struggle to change but. but sometimes, isn’t a bike ride just a bike ride?

        • Hi Louise,

          I love Harry Potter too, and I also think of myself as a happy person. Reel Girl’s tagline is “Imagining gender equality in the fantasy world” to emphasize the point is to be able to imagine, not impose PC doctrine. For much of the time, feminist writing is classified as the latter, and sometimes it fits, but that can also fall into the “Larry Flynt is a proponent for fee speech” mentality.


Leave a Reply