is part of a genre — feminist bicycle science fiction — that I’m proud to say I invented, but which I hope lives well beyond this series.
By combining these three elements, I’m hoping to have it all, and for the most part I get to — at least in print. It turns out that the genre of feminist bicycle science fiction music is still waiting to be discovered, so in compiling this playlist, I was willing to settle for any song that met two out of the following three criteria, by some stretch:
- Related to bicycling (or critiquing car culture)
- Set in a speculative or dystopian future, or at least containing some strong science-y elements
- If not overtly feminist, at least sung by or about an inspirational lady, or playing with gender in some way
Here’s what I came up with. What would you add to this list?
"Electric Lady" by Janelle Monáe
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Janelle Monáe writes feminist science fiction songs, identifies as an android, and rides an electric bicycle. What more could you ask for?
"Rapture" by Blondie
In which a man from Mars eats your head and all the cars. Whatever, get back on the dance floor.
"Bicycle Race" by Queen
A wonderful hymn to going your own way. Apparently, Freddie Mercury didn't actually ride a bike, but he definitely did his own thing — even if he was a Star Wars
fan. The music video for this song features a lot of naked women riding bicycles (Internet feminists can debate the merits) and some epic hairstyles.
"Dance Apocalyptic" by Janelle Monáe
The end of the world is coming so everyone freak out…and dance!
"Only So Much Oil in the Ground" by Tower of Power
Further proof that cautionary tales go down best when you can dance to them.
"You Don’t Own Me" by Rasputina (cover)
This song was nominated by Biketopia
contributor Cynthia Marts, and it is the perfect accompaniment to her story of a terrifyingly realistic near-future patriarchy.
"Walls (Fun in the Oven)" by Jeffrey Lewis (cover)
This song technically meets zero of my criteria, but as this song states, you can’t pin Crass down. “Well I can make my paradise / Without your walls I am alive” could easily be about bicycling or gender roles, so I’m running with it. (This is Jeffrey Lewis's cover, but the original is worth tracking down.)
"First Step" by Jawbreaker
Recounts bicycling away from a lovelorn personal apocalypse. Bonus points for book metaphors.
"So Much Beauty in Dirt' by Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse is the ultimate voice of a car-bound generation, going on about the freedom of the open road even as their souls are becoming miserably encased in asphalt. In this song, they escape momentarily to get drunk and ride bikes, and it’s touching.
"Sally Ride" by Janelle Monáe
I just wanted to end this playlist with some amazing news: You’ve got the right to choose.
÷ ÷ ÷
is a writer and bicycle activist living in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in The Guardian
, Bicycling Magazine
online, Bitch Magazine
, BikePortland, The Magazine
, and Momentum
, among other publications. She has been featured on Democracy Now!
, in The Oregonian
, and on Oregon Public Broadcasting. She tours annually with the Dinner and Bikes program that she cofounded, and is coproducer and director of Groundswell, a series of movies about people using bicycling to make their communities better. She is co-owner and marketing director at Microcosm Publishing. Biketopia
is her most recent book.