Riding and your femininity (or not!)

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BY SARA PARLIER

Taken in the right light, everything we come across can be some sort of metaphor for the bigger pictures in life, and ADV riding is no different.We all have our view of this adventure mosaic, and each unique addition only serves to make it more beautiful, interesting and intricate. Some take pride in their strength, others their finesse, and still others their bravery.

Lately, we’ve spent some time here at Women ADV Riders exploring the strengths of being female riders, and what we think that means for the bigger picture. What about riding and femininity? We’ve discussed things that make us angry, like half-naked women in moto ads, and things that bring us joy, like our community and sisterhood.

It’s left us with as many questions as answers. But it’s also opened up a wonderful dialogue, where we’ve been exploring all of these aspects of ourselves both as women and as riders. What does it mean to be a Woman ADV Rider? Where is our ‘femininity’ in this pursuit? Should femininity even be an aspect of it, or are we all just riders? What unique perspective might we bring to the table as a woman?

riding and femininity

While we’ve loved hashing this out together, we invite you to pull up a chair and tell us about what you think being a woman and a rider means.

Maybe it’s not about being feminine at all…

From our side, Egle feels riding provides a space where you can finally get a break and just be yourself.  “When I ride, I am grateful I am not expected to be feminine. That very special space – on the bike and on the move – is where I DON’T have to be anything but a rider. This is where I am just me. This is where I truly and honestly don’t care about how I look. As women, from the ages of 16 to 60 (although these numbers are probably different nowadays), we are ‘supposed’ to be attractive. And not just privately, but when we’re out partying, at school, at uni, at work, at home, every bloody where! Even in this day and age, we’re ‘hot or not’ first, and only then we are competent/interesting/authoritative/intelligent/spontaneous and everything else. It’s exhausting!”

“So on the bike, in my second-hand textile and leather gear, I am grateful for that space where I don’t need to think of this expectation at all. ON the bike and on the road, I guess I’m gender-less, in a way. And it’s such a great feeling for me, to have this moment of peace and NOT be judged in that way.”

riding and femininity

This idea is an important one. When we ride, we feel like a rider first and everything else second. And I’m personally afraid this is often missing for many women in other areas of their life. It can take time to find the place where we feel comfortable enough not to conform to expectations. A friend highlighted this for me recently as she described going to board meetings in her family company. In the beginning, she’d dress the part. But as she matured, she realized that her real power lay in showing up in her work jeans and boots. The others were then forced to listen to her words – not her clothes.

It also matters what we call things.

Kris took it further, addressing why it matters what we call things. “I realized why I dislike the term ‘woman motorcyclist’ vs just ‘motorcyclist.’  It came straight out of Lean In, an amazing book by Sheryl Sandberg, but I didn’t connect it when I read it.  If you put the word ‘woman’ in front of something, it assumes the standard audience is male.  We don’t say ‘Men’s group ride’, ‘Men’s motorcycle campout’, and etc.  I guess they do have Man Cave and Guys night.  But, when we talk about a company being led by a “woman CEO” we are reinforcing the assumption that CEO’s are usually men.  I think this can be a tool for a while (First Woman President!!) But, the goal is to show up as a woman, not labeled as a woman.”

riding and femininity

But what about when we want to feel a little feminine?

For my part, I spent some time struggling with a female-new-rider identity crisis. My gear initially made me feel as though I should wear a sign to explain to passersby why I don’t ride in cut-off shorts and a tank top. I likened it to the kid in “A Christmas Story” as his mom bundles him up for walking to school in the snow. I don’t feel that way now. Being protected is all that matters. It allows me to focus on all the positive feelings I get from heading out on a ride. The strength I feel, the joy that comes from grabbing a handful of throttle, frankly, makes me giggle. I even relish the apprehension that comes with traffic or a difficult obstacle.  

As we hashed through these things, we realized that being feminine and a rider are definitely not mutually exclusive. If wearing very feminine gear is your thing, go for it, and do so unapologetically. Personally, my love for the look of tough, off-road boots cannot be overstated. However, I happen to have a thing about my caring for my fingernails and having them painted. I don’t get bent out of shape if they break, and they don’t stop me from taking care of business. But I absolutely bring a file with me on the road. I refuse to feel like this takes any of my power away. We’d never think less of a man for wanting to comb out a well-cared-for beard after a day on the trail. I don’t see this as being any different.

It’s all up to us!

Elisa had more to add on this theme. “Like Sara, I sometimes find myself craving a more traditionally feminine feeling. Not dresses, not heels or a skirt, but something. So, I’ll admit, on every long ride I do, I eventually stop and buy something that makes me feel feminine, because this seems to be the quickest trick”.

“It might be a cheap trick, but for some reason it makes my masculine and feminine sides (both strong in me) feel a little more balanced. While I hesitate to call it my secret ‘tradition’; it’s happened multiple times. That, and I always carry one tube of mascara. I don’t carry any other makeup. But that one tube really helps the Eros side of myself that often gets ignored for too long while out riding.” 

riding and femininity

Leigh summed it up so well in the “No Girls Allowed” piece when he said, “Cloaked in our riding gear, on bikes of differing sorts, we all become equals.” That’s it. Whether we choose to find little things to help us tap into our feminine side while we’re on the road, or really dig in to the equality that riding gear brings – it’s all to the good. Every difference and unique quirk is part of this mosaic that we’re  building as an ADV riding community.

So here’s your invitation – write to us and let us know what being a Woman ADV Rider is to you. Do you feel like one of the guys and love it? Do you just ride and don’t feel that it impacts anything for you at all? Or do you feel like it makes you appreciate your feminine aspects even more? We’d love to share your feelings, experiences and stories with other riders. Contact us at womenadvriders@gmail.com, through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

PHOTOS: ALDONA TEMPERATURA

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