BY KRIS FANT
Have you ever faced gnarly terrain while unfamiliar riding partners looked at you with question marks in their eyes? Ever been the only woman in a 10 person off road group ride? Has anyone ever been surprised to find out you are not a pillion?
It is not unusual for there to be one or two women in a large group ride, however, women are a growing segment in this market.
Since the inception of Women ADV Riders, I’ve been immersed in images of strong, independent, female riders, yet occasionally caught myself questioning “why is this so important?” After all, I rarely participate in women’s-only activities, and love to ride with my husband. I’ve always wanted to think of myself as “one of the boys” when we are out with friends. Yet, there is a reason that Women ADV Riders is vital at this moment in our history.
First, join me in an experiment. Stop for a moment and think. What do you think of when you think of women adventure riders? Be honest, did you take a moment to think? What was the first image that popped into your mind? Some folks first thought is a scantily clad woman draped over a motorcycle. Others picture a woman astride a BMW R1200GS wearing full adventure gear, rolling down intense rocks. For some it is a pillion as a ‘backpack’ and others, a strong female pillion is leading the way from behind. At times, it is a lady decked out in pink. Some picture slow riders, some picture falling. Interested in what your unconscious might tell you? Click here. Scroll down and click on Gender and Careers. It is not motorcycle specific, but does speak to our biases around women and home. I’m sure you can think of 100 reasons your results came back the way they did. I certainly did. We are culturally programmed from birth on with beliefs about how each gender should behave.
The historically perceived differences between men and women are being socially challenged. Physical anatomy no longer defines gender, and people are challenging socially assigned gender roles in every area of life. Researchers agree that there was an evolutionary advantage toward men being thrill seeking conquerors, however that potential evolutionary proclivity has been socially nurtured through the centuries. Female outdoor adventurers, including ADV riders, can face gender specific challenges. Women often feel they need to prove themselves to their male counterparts. “Females are expected to be clean, gentle, and docile.” Have you met a clean, gentle, or docile adventure rider? When I’m riding I’m dirty, stinky, I cuss like a sailor and have to be assertive with my motorcycle to get where I’m trying to go. At this point in history, being a woman rider in a mixed gender riding group means having your competence questioned, regardless of the statistics showing women riders are involved in fewer crashes overall.
How Do We Fix It?
Implicit bias is going to continue to exist until as a society, we have been exposed to enough positive female role models to actually modify our unconscious mind. To overcome implicit bias, acknowledge the reality of women riders today, develop a personal desire and commitment to change your bias, whatever it is, and put yourself in the place of anyone who has been at the receiving end of this bias. Seek out counter-stereotypical role models. Look for the strong female role models. Moms and Dads: tell your daughters they can do anything, expose them to every possible activity regardless of it’s typical fan base. Watch for subtle micro-aggressions and stereotypes, and confront them, every single time. Don’t make jokes at the expense of someone;s gender or engage in conversations that paint women as weak. In your words, show all genders are equal.
This is why Women Adv Riders and other women’s publications, groups, and events are vital to the success of women in motorcycling. In order to be seen as equal by ourselves and others, to be able to show up as a rider rather than a ‘lady rider,’ and to get our needs for gear and machines met, we must come together, every gender, to make motorcycles a passion and vocation where everyone is equal. We will succeed.
You know something, that’s not how we see things around here. We do value the role of women in motorcycling and we do our best to include all mixed value systems in what we do. I personally found that your article was leading me down a route that I don’t subsccribe to. It’s almost as though you need it to be this way so you can rebel. Well it’s not like that around here. We do respect all riders regardless of race, gender or political pursuation. So I don’t subscribe to your approach and I continue to value riders for who they are, you make the assumption that all male bikers fit your stereotype and I have to disagree. Some of us respect and value the contribution from all members of society. Don’t try and take that from us and shape the environment to fit your needs.
I appreciate you writing. I agree that there are some folks (all genders) who have worked incredibly hard to overcome the gender inequalities that have existed in our society for so long. And, not everyone has the subconscious bias, but it certainly surprised me when I did, and I surround myself with amazing men who care about equality and gentleness and amazing women who work to balance strength and femininity. Gender means so many things to so many people! So, I’m truly thrilled that people who are in your riding group feel accepted and equal; I’m definitely in some riding groups where I can say the same. And, at the same time, that’s not the norm I hear from my peers, and that’s not what the research shows, so to me, this is the time to work toward changing the unconscious assumptions of folks who do make them, and media is one way to do so. Thanks again for sharing your perspective, and thanks for reading!
I applaud the efforts to have a woman’s only ADV magazine. I think anything that shows women riding motorcycles of any kind and size is worth while as we need more ways to introduce women to riding and getting involved.
Thanks Mary! You have been an inspiration to so many, including myself. I’m honored to know you!
Hi there, I log on to your new stuff regularly. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep
I have ridden all my life with the guys, starting in the ’70’s. I have always been treated as an equal and probably because of how I carried myself. Never expecting help, but like any rider, asking for it if needed. I was never catered to just because I was a girl. I think it’s all in the attitude you bring to the ride. Don’t boast and overstate your abilities – male or female. Be prepared and able to take care of your self. And for those old school gentlemen who still feel compelled to assist even if you don’t want or ask for it – be kind. They were raised right, but will learn that once the helmet is on, they just need to see another rider. The one thing I hate more than anything on a ride is the woman who’s clamoring for attention – that is not why we ride!
Excellent article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our website.
Keep up the good writing.