Four years ago, in the living room of one of Riverwest’s signature Polish Flats, a group of female bike enthusiasts decided to break away from the “boy’s club” that was-and still is, in some ways- dominant in the culture of Milwaukee biking.
Enter the Pedal Pusher Society, Milwaukee’s only all-female (and female-identified) bicycle gang. But you know, the good kind of gang.
On their website, the Pedal Pusher Society clearly defines its goal:
Our mission: to create a supportive, independent and empowering bike culture in Milwaukee while simultaneously having an awesome time.
Pedal Pushers—mid-length pants that women rebel women began wearing instead of skirts to make riding a bike easier in the 1940s.
Society—a body of individuals associated or viewed as members of a community; a group of people defined together for a specific purpose; the condition of those in a community, rather than in isolation.
Put them together and you’ve got a bunch of biking riding rebels who’ve got each other’s back!
The PPS mission is clear and simple, yet slightly controversial. At its heart, PPS is for women that love their bikes and want to be connected to other women who feel that same. Through this exercise in camaraderie, PPS also aims to challenge the male-dominated underground bike culture by creating a safe space for women to ride.
Echoing the feminist “we can do it!” attitude, PPS eschews the pretension that is often present in bike culture — as a Pedal Pusher, you’ll be able to find and ride the bike that works for you, learn how to perform repair and maintenance on your ride and feel empowered with a bike between your legs.
I caught up with some PPSers at Riverwest’s Stonefly Brewery for a little Q & A about what an all-female bike gang can do for Milwaukee.
PPS: It’s important to note the distinction between the PPS’s mission to create a new bike culture from the PPS functioning as a stepping stone up the social ladder of acceptance into the dominant bike culture. We hope to create a bike culture free of oppression — including sexism, hetero-centrism and racism. Another value of ours is to be inclusive and empowering. No matter who you are, we don’t care what type of bike you ride, how you dress or what you look like — we just care that you bike, or want to bike!
Our hope is that someday racism, homophobia, sexism and all other oppressions will be demolished but until then it’s the reality that [these] oppressions exist and affect everyone on a daily basis. Given that reality, the PPS aims to give women and trannies, both of whom experience the negative effects of male privilege, the space to just ride bikes.
TCD: Have you received any negative feedback as a result of making PPS exclusive to women and transgender people?
PPS: A sentiment that is often reiterated by men in response to the PPS is, “If I start a bike club and hang a big sign on the metaphorical door that says ‘boyz only, girls keep out’ that would be wrong, right?”
The answer depends on the intention of the club. If the club was founded by men wanting to address male privilege then that’s one thing, yet the fact of the matter is that these days men don’t have to hang a sign on their club’s metaphorical door. The dominant underground bike culture is a definitive boy’s club – the message of that sign is enforced without it being there, resulting in the systematic exclusion of women or any other group that would fall within an “other” category.
PPS: Some men have stated that they feel like our exclusion of men in the Pedal Pusher Society is “reverse-sexism.” By its definition sexism, racism and hetero-centrism are the combination of prejudice plus power, meaning that sexism is the combination of social stigmas about women and male privilege and the power that is inherent in that privilege. Thus, those without male privilege cannot be sexist.
Undoubtedly, each Pedal Pusher has many wonderful male friends whom she bikes with on a regular basis and thinks is swell, yet the PPS is comprised of women and trannies because sometimes it’s just nice to have the space to process and have fun with people who share the same identity as you.
TCD: So, what exactly do the Pedal Pushers do?
PPS: These days we have a ride or event about once or twice a month as well as fancy embroidered jackets, business cards, and two music videos showcasing our style and rebel attitude to the tune of Eye of the Tiger and Michael Jackson’s Beat It.
We also hold group rides on the first Thursday of every month where the route is decided by those in attendance. We may ride two blocks to a neighborhood bar or we may ride across town to go canoeing. These rides get members to explore new parts of the city they may have never even thought of. Just the other month we went to Havenwood — a state forest within the Milwaukee city limits — who knew?
TCD: How does one join the PPS?
PPS: Any women or trans person who wants to be a Pedal Pusher is welcome to join us, all that’s needed is to show up and ride!
The Pedal Pusher Society’s next group ride is on July 2 and they’ll be hosting another Prom late this summer- keep your eyes peeled for other upcoming events on their blog.
Up next, meet your neighborhood Pedal Pusher!