nietzsche and cixous go bicycle riding


the other day i'm in the local cycle repair shop getting my ride worked on when i overhear a sales guy refer to one of the bikes as "she." the customer responds in kind. breathed into existence, as with the great ocean-going vessels of yore or the sleek sports cars of today (or the internet of tomorrow?), "she" becomes that amorphous yet political name of the fetishized vehicular object. gender is there where we are looking for it, no doubt.

(one suspects this is not what nietzsche had in mind when he suggested that one must ride woman like a horse to push through the other side of a western patriarchy.)

but our technologies do not have a gender, at least not one that we can identify as inherently "stable" over time. they rather become gendered precisely in "how" they approach and engage the contexts and contingencies of relation. though there are always material considerations to these contexts and contingencies, gender, too, is amorphous, always outflowing that she-name attempting its capture.

shall we at least play the game? if there is in fact a gender to be located in these objects, it is not in their being-ness as static artefacts but rather in their possibilities for becoming — of literally making explicit the setting forth of change in which we are always already emerging. frances willard, for example, might have also thought of her bike as somewhat of a "she" but this she-name was an expression of collective empowerment and contemporary feminity, of attitude and dirty hands. she wanted to go as fast as the boys, and she did.

do not confuse this with the question of absolute speed, however. it is instead a question of passage. while the biking artefact has changed little over the past century, the choice to bike, like the choice to travel by ocean-going vessel today — the choice to "she" — has now become one of slowness.


"she alone dares and wishes to know from within, where she, the outcast, has never ceased to hear the resonance of fore-language. she lets the other languages speak — the language of 1,000 tongues which knows neither enclosure nor death. to life she refuses nothing" (cixous, 'laugh of the medusa').


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