Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Scooter Feminism


First, a confession. About 15 years ago I got it into my head that there was a market out there for a coffee-table book featuring Nikon-made photographs of Roman women navigating the city on scooters and cycles. My camera has changed--it's digital now--but the adolescent fantasy remains, weakened by an aging body but also strengthened by my decision, a few years ago, to get a scooter and ride those streets. You won't believe it, but my interest in this subject is feminist; riding a scooter on the streets of Rome requires courage, a certain athleticism, decisiveness, even strength. It is liberating. Let's call it scooter feminism.


Waiting for the light to change and the charge to begin and there, on my left and on my right, chicks on bikes. One on a small scooter, perched on the front of the seat, reaching for the handlebars with short arms, knees pressed against the metal, all earnestness. Another policing an unruly skirt in the breeze. A single working girl, headed home from the office, in slacks and impeccable white blouse, purse on the floorboard. A tough girl in leather and full helmet, astride a fast bike known, perhaps unfortunately, as a crotch-rocket. (The girl in pink, above, is on a crotch-rocket). Most girls wear jeans. Occasionally, high heels (photo at left) and often, sandals (last pic), which offer scant protection when you're underneath a scooter that's sliding down the asphalt.

One day in the spring of 2007, I dropped Dianne off at Castel Sant'Angelo, where they were doing a show on art work that had been stolen and recovered, or something like that. Instead, I planned to take some pics of chicks on bikes. I crossed the Tevere on the nearby Ponte Sant'Angelo, then crossed the wide and busy thoroughfare known there as the Lungotevere Tor di Nona, and took up a position downriver on the corner of Via Paola, my camera ready.

The results were not what I had hoped for. It proved harder than I ever imagined to identify at a distance a woman I wanted to photograph, and harder still--indeed, impossible, given my skills-- to capture the action moving by at 35/50 km per hour. About all I could manage were still photos of women sitting on their cycles and scooters waiting for the light to turn green.



And even that was challenging, not to mention embarrassing. The ladies know what you're up to, even if you don't (see right). I like the yellow top. A good example of dressing for safety.


The book project is on hold.

Bill

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