BarbieCore and Bikes: Taking Back Femininity

This weekend is the opening of the much anticipated movie, Barbie! If you’re living under a rock, just go watch the trailer. If you’re not excited about it, well… you’re lying to yourself and others.

In 2022, the red carpet started to trend towards bright pink, and now with the launch of this new movie the trend of wearing bright pink colors is skyrocketing. This trend is called BarbieCore.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea and especially how it relates to biking. Last week Momentum Mag put out an article about embracing this trend in biking, and honestly I found it underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong it was just a fun, fluff piece about pulling more pink into your riding. But the more I think about it, the more I feel BarbieCore is not fluffy. I see a chance to take back femininity in sports and a chance to feel empowered. The bicycle has a long and storied history in and around feminist movements. And pink has a long history mired in misogyny and being used to underestimate women. I mean, that was literally the plot of Legally Blonde.

The History of Pink In Sports

I personally hated the color pink growing up. I was an athletic kid who played a lot of sports, was very tomboyish, and never wanted to be seen as “girly” when it came to my athletics. I grew up with the insult, “you throw like a girl”. My goal was always to be as good, if not better than the boys so I wouldn’t be cast into the role of weak women. This view was obviously wrong, and clearly a product of the society that I grew up in. Thankfully with lots of badass role models in my life, my perspective has changed. However, I still have issues with the color pink.

This may be tied to the usage of pink in truly outdated practices like “pink it and shrink it” or as a way that society harms women through the “pink tax“. I think this Momentum Mag piece particularly stuck with me because their combination of BarbieCore and biking was just here is some pink you can wear/accessorize with, without delving into the deeper meaning. It came across as very “because women like pink”. That’s not just an outdated ideal that will lose businesses money as women make up more than half of the US’s spending, but it can also be harmful as this Harvard Study shows. Gender bias in product design leads to increased harm to those not included in the design process.

There is also a perceived, inherent femininity to pink. Mean Girls shows this trope by having its “pretty and popular” plastics (i.e. barbie dolls) state that “on Wednesdays we wear pink”, and the one gay character having a pink shirt because of his feminine demeanor. Everything about the culture of the color pink was everything I rebelled against as a child.

The Rise of BarbieCore

So, what is with the sudden rallying, myself included, around the color pink in 2023? Is it just because of the movie? I say no. To me BarbieCore is not just about wearing pink. It’s about the idea of taking back femininity and wearing it like a badge of honor. Being empowered to wear the color pink without there being some sort of expectation. It’s not men’s products masked in pink for women. It is the pink you choose to wear, not because it is the only option.

I think this Mashable article, Think pink: The rise and evolution of #Barbiecore, says it best.

The idea here is that a Barbiecore-enthusiast is no longer chained to expected femininity; rather, it is a choice. Barbie-like accessories, clothing, and the color pink itself have been reclaimed as liberating, and even as symbols of strength.

Meera Navlakha

Let’s face it, identifying as a women and especially being a person with a vagina in the United States right now is tough. We have a hard time electing women into higher office, Roe v. Wade was overturned, trans rights are being restricted, and the right to choose is constantly being attacked. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but to me it is a rallying cry to remind everyone that you have a choice. You can wear hot pink without stereotypical labels. People have layers.

BarbieCore and Bikes

Another issue with the magazine article (I promise I usually like their stuff and they have a niche) is the assumption that you will need to get bicycle specific items to embrace the trend. This is an issue I also have with an Outside magazine piece on wearing denim while riding… coming soon to the opinion column).

I strongly believe that one way to get more women, femme, trans, and non-binary people on bikes is to not limit them to a standard ideal of what a bike rider looks like (and to create safe spaces for them to express themselves and be themselves). You know the type. The cis-white male in his mid-30 to mid-60s, riding a carbon fiber bike, in a skin tight kit, and aggressively passing everyone. The one who would take one look at someone all in pink and think that he has to show them how to be a “proper cyclist”. There is nothing inherently wrong with this look (I’ve sported it) as long as it doesn’t come with the attitude.

I personally still might not wear a full, bright pink outfit, but I do LOVE a pop of color. It’s time to feel comfortable pulling out that bright outfit, whether it is a kit or just street clothes. BarbieCore is about empowering you to have fun with it and know that there is no pre-conceived notion that comes with it. Remember, it’s more of an attitude that should make you feel empowered in your femininity. I have seen amazing nail art, beautiful dresses, and bright colors all over. Don’t let others dictate what you wear when you ride a bicycle. You are strong and you are not to be underestimated.

Will there still be a dude who feels like they should move around me while stopped at an intersection because they are in their clipless pedals and I’m on my sparkly single speed bike and wearing a sundress. Sadly yes, but it’s time to ignore the haters and do it anyway (and try not to run him over when pauses to clip his foot back in proving that he wasn’t really faster than you… that’s a true story).

BarbieCore’s Underlying Message: Support Women

To me, BarbieCore is not just about taking back femininity, but also supporting all women. As someone who grew up playing girls sports in high school, I know first-hand the frustration in how little our sports were celebrated.

And now as an adult it is hard to find and discover women’s pro sports. I learned this year (2023!!!) that we have a pro-women’s hockey team in Boston who is kick-ass and no-one covers them. Our 4-time World Cup Winning US National Women’s Soccer team had to file a law suit to be paid as much as the men’s team who has never won a world championship. Female athletes are constantly under-valued, diminished, and brushed aside.

The cycling world is no different. This year will mark the second Tour de France Femmes (avec Zwift). The Tour begins July 23 (same weekend that Barbie opens… coincidence? Probably, but still cool). This tour only exists after years of pushing the Tour to create a women’s version and even then they still only made it a week… For more of my thoughts on the Tour de France Femmes check out Shaping the Future of Women’s Sports. Your mission (if should you choose to accept… is to accept the following mission) if you care about the advancement of non-men’s sports is to watch the Tour! It’s some excellent racing.

Also, sadly, I can’t mention this tour without referencing the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) who is the governing body of the Tour, and how they recently have shown themselves to be terfs and no longer allows Trans athletes compete, which will put a damper on this year’s tour and I hope they come to their senses soon and retract this decision (though they are not known for being a progressive organization).

#barbiecore #watchthefemmes

Leave a Reply