This phrase is widely attributed to Gloria Steinem, the implication being that many women may well have no need for or even use for men. The humor derives from the fact that sexual and lingustic stereotypes make the brain expect to hear 'water' as the last word.

A web site called The Phrase Finder at http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/index.html quotes from a letter sent by Gloria Steinem's letter to Time Magazine in autumn 2000. Part of her letter is quoted below.

"you credit me with the witticism 'A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.' In fact, Irina Dunn, a distinguished Australian educator, journalist and politician, coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the University of Sydney."

The Fish and the Bicycle

Consider the physics:
how could she pedal
with fragile membranous fins,
sit with slippery tail,
steer with gasping mouth?

She breaks the surface,
peeks up goggle-eyed
at his bold chrome frame,
his knobby cocked handlebar,
his rugged hunky tires.

Dory knows that Schwinns can't swim.
Undersea, the salt and wet
would rot his shapely seat,
rust his shining chain,
blister his pearly paint.

But she'd be happy to drown in the air,
flip and flop on the gritty boardwalk,
shake to flakes in the stinking heat
for just a single slimy ride
on her Adonis machine.

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