I don’t want to make this blog about being a woman motorcycle rider. For one thing I get slightly annoyed by the focus on a rider because she’s a woman. Whether it’s from herself or from the people around her. To some degree it takes away from the accomplishment of mastering a sport that in fact, is not at all gender preferential. It does not require testosterone or strength. Unlike being an NFL Linebacker or some other thing that is based entirely on stuff only men have.
But I do want this to be about women’s issues. And….
I understand the systemic bigotry women have overcome in order to ride. We weren’t/aren’t expected to be capable of it. Not only have I had men (MANY of them) ask me how I ride such a “big” motorcycle, but I’ve had women who were interested in riding ask me the exact same question. In both cases I point out the machine is powered by gas, not muscle. I also point out that an 800 pound touring bike on its side cannot be lifted up by a man on his own either. Well there’s a technique but that story would be for a motorcycle blog. Which this isn’t.
Women aren’t “mechanical” or “spatial”. It’s true I’M not mechanical or spatial. It’s not true it’s because I’m female. After I met my husband, seeing how not mechanically oriented I was, he asked me “how the hell did you manage to take care of a motorcycle”? Which baffled me. I’d think the answer would be obvious; “I paid someone…duh”.
Unless it’s your only transportation motorcycling is a luxury. The machines are expensive, they usually have to be insured and they require specialized gear. Women on the whole are lower income than men. Combine that with the other factors and it means historically women rode on back of motorcycles men bought, maintained and operated. A number of years ago there was a man’s motorcycling t-shirt with a saying on back: “If you can read this the bitch fell off”. I have one that says “if you can read this the bitch just passed you”. Love that shirt.
The most insidious prejudice about women riders relates to the danger. It’s a dangerous sport. If they get hurt or killed they are hurting their families and that is simply irresponsible. Which if true, is just as true of men. The difference for men is a dangerous sport or hobby is portrayed as manly, and courageous. Not irresponsible. You’re a stud if you’re playing football and risking death or injury. You’re a stud if you race a motorcycle or ride one, you’re a stud if you cage fight as a hobby or your job is in the military. If you’re a woman risking death or injury you’re being selfish and irresponsible. “How could you do that? What about your children?!” they ask.
Many of those NFL guys have children. I guess if they’re dead or disabled from an injury it doesn’t matter because they were manly men and their widows will be rich? A different kind of bigotry towards women all together.
Last but not least, as a woman on a bike, the men around me expect they’re better riders than I am. I often ride with groups of women and have had comments by men about a group of women riders being “scary”. In the first ten years I rode the only people I’d ever known who wrecked a motorcycle were my husband’s male friends. One of them, an experienced motocross rider but an inexperienced highway rider and the other one literally just drove off a curve at 55mph. Of course when my female friend overshot a corner comments were made about her being a woman.
It isn’t just men who think women are automatically less capable. I’ve known women who only feel safe riding their motorcycle with their husbands in the lead. Also baffling as he isn’t in control of their motorcycle. I see women riders, even experienced ones, deferring to men and accepting unneeded advice from them about how to handle a situation. Having been told forever and ever that motorcycles are primarily for men, they can’t help but believe it on some level.
Women who ride because of men is an entirely different blog. It happens. Harley Davidson knows it. They’ve got an extremely sexist and annoying commercial running that shows a woman on a Harley while the narrator is saying “So and so met her husband on her blah blah model Harley Davidson”. Fuck you Harley.
Considering the history one can potentially understand the self-congratulatory tone women riders sometimes adopt. It can be annoying but it isn’t unwarranted. Every time a woman rolls on a throttle she’s doing something she wasn’t supposed to be able to do. Something she’s still not expected to do well.
Yay for us