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Women and Motorcycling: To Dress or Not to Dress?

Whenever I see scantily clad women posing next to motorcycles and complain that this is not quite the image we as women riders want to portray, I meet the argument that it’s perfectly fine because some women choose to do this, or I’m told to “chill” and “take a joke”.

Should I just chill, as suggested? – Kat

Hi Kat,

I don’t see anything wrong with it, why should you? The women aren’t forced to pose, so they must enjoy it. What’s the big deal? We’ve heard it all, and statements such as “chill” and “can’t you take a joke” are extremely condescending ways of simply dismissing your concerns because the other person doesn’t share them. What makes us comfortable and uncomfortable is often subjective. The issues will vary, from religion to politics to models posing with motorcycles, but the reactions will be the same. Those who have similar feelings will support your discomfort, while those who don’t see a problem will think you are overreacting.

Speaking up is the only way we can create change, but how do we best accomplish that? Outrage often triggers defensiveness and leads to further condescension. Silence will imply agreement. Humor works in some situations but not all.

Address it directly by calling it out. Rehearse stock responses to these situations so you aren’t caught flat footed.  Share your dislike, your discomfort and even how it affects you personally. Set limits on what language or visuals you will tolerate and walk away from condescending people. Ask questions such as ‘what image do you think the photo is trying to convey? How do you think women motorcyclists seeing this will feel? What message is this sending about wearing gear? Do you notice the men are usually active, mastering the machine, whereas the women are ornaments, not serious riders? Why aren’t competent, fully geared women shown? Is this a pose you’d like to see your wife/mother/daughter/girlfriend in?’ are just a few.

By changing our tolerance for such behaviors, hopefully we can change the culture, one photo, one model, at a time.

Lynda Lahman has a private practice as a Mental Skills Coach helping athletes, including motorcyclists, break through mental barriers to reach peak performance, get back after injuries, and find pleasure in their sport. She is now the only person to complete the eleven-day Iron Butt Rally as a pillion (twice) and as a solo rider (once). She is the author of four books; her most recent release is ‘The Women’s Guide to Motorcycling’. Lynda wrote a regular column in the print version of the Iron Butt Magazine.


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1 comment

Elisa Wirkala 2017 November 8 at 6:08 AM

Right on, Lynda! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Photos like this really get to me, too.


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