Toxic femininity: oh, the men I hate when I’m on my bike

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

This post was inspired by someone on Twitter a while ago who objected to the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ and wanted to know if there was such a thing as ‘toxic femininity‘. I don’t know that there is, but this is the scenario that leapt to mind. 

I don’t hate men, but I do hate this man. We race together towards a red light. He’s not far behind me, but he definitely is behind me. We yank on our brakes to come to a halt, and he pulls up next to me. Then, side-by-side, we sweat. We pant. We eye each other up. Then amber, green: go – we’re off. Another futile race which he cannot possibly win. He’ll try anyway, why not? And I don’t care if he tries – I like that he does. I swallow his attempts to beat me like shots of tequila and cum, delighting in how bitterly they burn as they slide down my throat.

I don’t hate men, but I hate this man. I hate him because he thinks he stands a chance of beating me, despite having lost every single time so far.

I am angriest at men when I’m on my bike. When twats in jeans and t-shirts riding Santander-branded tanks trundle up beside me at the lights. On my right, as if they’re faster. On my right, like they stand a chance at beating me on kick-off. I ride a bike with gears and slim tyres, and roll my eyes at the audacity of them thinking they could take me.

I want to nudge them in the ribs and say ‘Oi, dickhead! It’s not even power, it’s technology!’ I may not be on the bike equivalent of a Ferrari, but mine’s definitely a Ford Focus and even that can crush your fucking tank.

But they try to overtake me anyway. They cut me up anyway. They cycle slowly in front of me.

Those on better bikes are no better themselves. Men cut me up because they think they are faster, then when I overtake them in twenty seconds’ time they tut like my presence is the thing that’s hindering their speed.

I want this to be their fault, not mine, but there’s an element of rage here and that’s definitely on me. I don’t just want to beat these men, I want to beat them because they’re men. I want to show the boys that I can win. That I’m faster, better, stronger. Show them that I can be anything – except underestimated.

So me and this guy, we sweat together at the lights – a brief détente before the next fray – and I pant and tense and scowl. Get my right foot ready on the pedal for take-off.

I dare myself to do it – beat this man. Just this one man. Fucking show him.

I know the sequence of the lights, so I am ready to kick off one heartbeat before amber appears. It’s plenty.

By the time he kicks off too, I’m two lengths in front of him. Then three, and then four, and after that I don’t know, because I’ll only allow myself that single glance behind, to check I won. I won’t look back again, and he won’t catch up with me until the next red light.

It’s an utterly pointless race, and perhaps it only exists in my imagination anyway. But still.

I like to imagine he’s surprised and disappointed to watch me speed off ahead of him. I like to imagine that when he gets home, he hurls his helmet angrily into a corner and curses me. I like to imagine these things, because I hate this man.

I hate him because he thinks he can beat me – because he saw ‘woman’ and thought ‘slow.’ I hate him because he saw the curves of my arse and didn’t notice the muscle underneath.

When I’m on my bike, I am free to hate the men. The ones who cut me up, the ones who nudge ahead of me at the traffic lights because they see ‘woman’ and think ‘weak’. The ones who make a deliberate point of pulling out of side streets in front of me, as if they’ll be inconvenienced by riding behind. The ones who tell me ‘cheer up!’ or ‘easy!’ as I ride past them. The fucking guy who asked me ‘what’s that face for?’ when I was scowling at the road ahead. The other one who told me ‘woah, girl’, like I was a horse.

There’s no logic to this. None. I do not hate men, but on my bike I’m free to hate these men. The ones who piss me off and get in my way and think I’m fucking slow. And still there might be men who do not mean it – who’d be baffled to hear my inner monologue of victory and spite and rage. I don’t care, they don’t matter.

I like making them watch my arse as I whizz past.


As I say, I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘toxic femininity’ (unless we mean ‘internalised misogyny’ which is probably a topic for a different blog post). But there are times, like the above, when I realise I’m leaning in to anger at men in ways that may well be unhealthy and/or unfair and I think that might be the closest I can see to it. My rage is inherently tied into me being a woman, and how I see myself from that perspective, which is what the phrase ‘toxic femininity’ conjured for me the first time I heard it. It may be bollocks, though. It was just fun to write.  

In the middle of moving and stress at the moment, so apologies for the random posts and publication schedule. Normal service will resume… at some point! 


  • Truthandbarephoto says:

    Great post, sounds like your bike was a lot more expensive than your glasses. I’d never beat you off the line on my cheap fixed gear but I’d definitely admire you as kept pulling away at speed. Anyway, I immediately thought of this episode of Why Are People Into That, I’m sure you are familiar with Tina Horn.

    Your posts are always enlightening and entertaining and I loved your contributions to Sex Pots. I hope your new living arrangements are taking shape and that they’ll soon feel like home, somewhere to start making great new memories.

    You are a National treasure.

  • Phillip says:

    I can feel it too. My parents bought a full size use Schwinn with big wheels and tires to save money. My mother would help me up as it was too high for me to manage. Then one day I managed. For years I rode crazy through the streets. Then ‘English’ bikes with three speed hubs showed up and their high gear was one tooth less than my rear sprocket. I put on another rear sprocket one tooth less than the high gear on the thin tire bikes. I was strong for all the hours and hours of delinquent behavior and I broke the peddles off and had to get stronger ones. The same went for the handlebars which I had flipped upside down in order to have the posture to put most torque on the road. I could beat the English bikes and I had the muscle to keep up even when they were using their lower gears. Then one day as I was putting maximum hurt on the bike in order to go just a tad faster…… THE FUCKING CHAIN BROKE. I fell on the bar and it really, really HURT! I limped home pushing the bike very slowly. Did I learn??? HELL NO. That must qualify as toxic masculinity.

  • Zeero says:

    I have literally (and regularly) had men in the gym walk away from the frame I’m using to do pull-ups because they cannot bear that a *girl* is doing more reps, with better form, than them, a MAN. The audacity of me, to be stronger than them at this thing society tells them they excel at more than my assigned gender. That, or the back-handed compliment of “wow, that’s really impressive!” when I’m doing a pretty simply exercise that they definitely wouldn’t comment on if I was a dude. The subtext is of course “that’s impressive for a girl”. It’s small and selfish and not very zen of me but I get a lot of petty satisfaction out of those interactions. Yeah I’m a small framed woman, yeah I’m strong as fuck and I’m also probably at least 10x more flexible than your average male gym monkey. Be intimidated by my perfect pull-ups and widened your worldview at the same time, why dontcha. It’s like they think I should be flattered that they’re amazed I can do something that they – a man! – can do. Fuck off eh mate. Also stop grunting so much when you’re barely lifting any weight; no one’s impressed.

  • Bex says:

    I’m not fast on a bike, but I am in the water. I don’t look like I’ll be fast, all curves and boobs and approaching the water with an obvious limp, slow on land, fast in the water.

    You have described exactly how I felt in the Before Times (it’s all different now) when a new middle aged man would come along to the ‘early birds’ session for the first time and immediately lower himself into the fast lane. He would push off from the side – making a big splash – just before I turned and then slow the speed of the whole lane with his posturing. Inevitably he would drift across in a way that made overtaking awkward and if I managed it he would cross sides in the middle of the next length to get in front of me again.

    I swam extra fast those days, demonstrating my speed, technique and tenacity. None of them ever told me what they were thinking, but I ascribed thought to their action and it made me mad. It still does. In the fast lane at my local pool I hate *those* men.

  • Erin says:

    Hmm, interesting take. I read through a few definitions to make sure I have my own thoughts on what toxic masculinity is, and this is Wikipedia’s definition:

    In the social sciences, toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall.

    So to flip that to what “toxic femininity” might look like, maybe diet culture? The cliche some people buy into it women being catty and ripping each other down?

    Anyone who is offended by the term toxic masculinity typically gets an eye roll from me, but he does bring up an interesting point. There are definitely female stereotypes that are perpetuated that are also rather harmful.

  • Mosscat says:

    I hear ya and Bex, I’m with you! Pushing 60 and I will explode before ‘that’ twat in the pool beats me. See these shoulders and these sturdy short legs? Yup, just made for showing you up. I tell myself to grow up and all that stuff, but I like it….

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