Vintage Sexism: How Ever Did Belles Go Biking?


Image via tumblr user retrozone

To celebrate National Bike Week and the curious coincidences that we as women sometimes encounter when faced with the wonders of advertising, we’re taking a look back at ads urging us to push past our monthly magical visit from the menses to get back on those two wheels and ride off into the sunset — or to a girlfriend’s house for commiseration.

Many of these date from the late ’60s and early ’70s when the feminist movement was in full swing. And while NOW petitioned for equality in the workplace for future generations, advertisers were hard at work finding ways to appeal to those same young women by empowering them as consumers with the finest selection in panty shields. A common thread —  aside from the fact that straddling a hard piece of leather while cramping, fatigued, irritable, and bloated can sound like a joke —  is that many of the models brazenly don white shorts for their joyrides.

Take the ads above and below: Both show women who are fully confident as they cruise through their respective scenes in fully-starched splendor. In the spot above, two friends make their way through a neighborhood absolutely oblivious to their current state. The copy reassures that their product is, so different you forget what day it is. A tampon that makes you forget your period by induced amnesia. Are they dipped in Thorazine? Sign me up!


Image via eBay

The ad below explores the wonder of convenience these press-on feminine towels provide by explaining how they work in detail. More importantly, it seems to suggest that the safety offered from unexpected accidents is the second most important precaution a woman can take when it comes to bike safety — so stock up! As an added bonus, the additional protection means more time to think about things like grocery shopping and spending time with the kids.


Image via

Our final ad tells the story of Kathy in the white pants who is forlorn because she just got her period and is concerned that she can’t go on a day-trip with friends due to her spacial limitations. You see, Kathy can only pack a certain amount of items for her biking trip, and while tampons would save space, she’s dubious unless she can find one that offers adequate protection.

Thanks to compassionate friend Anne, she’s now in-the-know about these nifty carry-along, oh-so discreet tampons. Shockingly, Kathy only needs 4 tampons for her entire trip. (I’m not sure how long they were in the woods, but that seems impressive and slightly hazardous.) And thanks to the compact size, she has more room in her swank new backpack for more important things like ribbons for her braids. The best part — Fred has no idea what’s going on.


Image via Mom’s Basement

+ While hopping on a bike to combat cramps isn’t my idea of a good time, are these ads suggesting that women were somehow incapable of triumphing on two wheels without superior hygiene products? There are many ways to stay active — and stylish (sans white pants) — not to mention that bikes are a phenomenal way to get around no matter the time of the month. So, what are your thoughts on this? Share your feedback about the curious case of Belles on Wheels in the comments below!

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  1. Leah 05/07/2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I don’t find these particularly sexist, though they obviously capitalize on concerns women tend to have during their periods. Their messages are exactly the same as contemporary ads for similar products; so, yes, they’re manipulative in the way all ads are, but they seem to be making an attempt to come across as empowering rather than controlling.

  2. Miranda 05/16/2014 at 9:25 am #

    Reaching. There’s nothing controversial here at all. Old ads with chicks in white pants – how sexist (*sarcasm*)! I think you are reading something into these that simply isn’t there.

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