Over the years I've found women to be far more sensitive to my gregarious and aggressive nature. Perhaps this is because I'm opinionated, stubborn and usually quite vocal about my beliefs and that really pisses some women off. I've stopped apologizing for being bold and started accepting the consequences of my behavior.
My honesty and forthrightness have brought some of the most wonderful women into my life, especially over the last 5 years. I feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever have. But I am learning there is always a balance. With praise also comes criticism and like most people, it can be sometimes the criticism on which I focus.
Within the women's motorcycling community there seems to be a deep sense of territory. Perhaps some of the women who have carved their niche aren't willing to share the spotlight, simply because they've worked so hard to get there. Perhaps they didn't want to carve a path for others to follow, but to simply create their own private, exclusive niche.
Certainly this doesn't apply to all of the women of motorcycling notoriety I've met. Genevieve Schmitt, Alicia Elfving, Lisa Brouwer, Brittany Morrow and Laura Klock have gone out of their way to help me on my journey as a motorcycling publisher.
I've been told I need to pay my dues, earn my place, and to wait, step back, and learn more about the industry before I try to be included. That advice has been noted, but rejected. I've been in publishing for over 10 years, had hundreds of articles published in print and online, and even though I don't know all the players in this industry, I know about publishing. How can I learn if I am not attending events, meeting people and asking questions?
In my opinion, it seems the only requirements for inclusion into this community is to:
1. Ride a motorcycle, either on front or back
2. Have a desire to meet other women riders
I'm on a mission to take personal responsibility for my behavior. If I am knowingly harming anyone, I pledge to make changes. That is not something new with me, as I've been living my life this way since I got off of drugs in 1993. I believe that my experiences in life begin with me; my attitudes, my behaviors, my choices. I am not a victim, even though at times I've felt like one. I'm doing my best to move out of self pity and into action.
So, I reached out to a few women riders whom I greatly respect to get their views on this topic. It is my hope to get to the sources that cause this friction among the women riders and find solutions for change.
Madhavi Priya Davila
Makeup Artist, Key Holder at MAC Cosmetics
2003 Honda Shadow 750
Owner of ProGuards Crash Bar Protectors
2008 Harley Davidson Peace Officers Ultra
Annette Presley, LCSW
2007 Yamaha V Star 1100
Founder/Editor of WomenRidersNow.com; Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame Inductee 2001
2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide
1. What do you see as the problem with building a strong and cohesive women riding community, if any?
Madhavi: I notice that women can sometimes be competitive with other women. This in turn leads to insecurities, jealousy etc. I've seen women purposely exclude other women they felt "threatened" by from group rides, moto events etc. A lot of times it seems certain women (the insecure ones) like to be the center of attention at meet ups, rides etc...especially if there are men on the rides. They don't want competition so to speak. It's stupid and I've never been able to grasp that way of thinking. On the other hand I've met a lot of cool biker chicks who are encouraging and love to ride with other women etc. I hang out with those ones!
Priscilla: I think we (women as a rule) are our own worst enemies. We tend to cut each other down more than give support. In the riding community there is mostly type A personalities.
Genevieve: The number of women riding motorcycles has skyrocketed over the last decade. There are millions of women riding their own motorcycles. The evolution of this is similar to the growth in women climbing corporate ladders and breaking through glass ceilings. Insofar as women identify a need to create a community around a shared passion to network, and exchange ideas, those groups will arise.
Annette: Women have generally been socialized to control, sublimate their natural competitive spirit. As a result women do not learn to express competition in a healthy way. We are raised to see other women as competition. Who is really a blonde, has bigger boobs, nicer butt, dates the football star, has the nicer house, the best behaved kids? Seeing other women as competition and threats is socialized in to us in very innocuous ways.
Media promotes comparisons to each other. Jealousy and envy are also natural emotions that occur when we want something or want to be like someone. This competition affects every female relationship we have. Our strength will come in our confidence in ourselves. Our power will come in our support and encouragement for each other in spite of our differences. I have seen Facebook attacks on someone who says they ride slower, faster, someone who doesn't wear a helmet, someone who has more followers on their Facebook page, someone who doesn't ride many miles, rides the wrong motorcycle. We are our worst enemies.
The female archetype of the "wild woman" is what I imagine when I see a woman rider. She is someone not bound by the rules that keep women subjugated. She is a threat to subjugated women, and the men who want to keep us controlled. How sad it is that we play a role in attacking each other in that same way.
2. How have you been impacted by the negativity of other women berating you, not just in the riding community, but in your lifetime?
Genevieve: Anytime you put yourself out there as a journalist, you subject yourself to the opinions of others. I try not to let those opinions affect me. There will always be caddy, insecure people who will do their best to knock others down. With Facebook and email it's easy for angry insecure people to fire off a note without checking their emotions first. I've found in my personal and professional life, if you are always kind and deal with people with the utmost of integrity, then it's easy to identify the insecurities in others and let what they say roll off your back. I choose to come from love and end up praying for these kind of people that they can find their way out of the darkness.
Madhavi: I've experienced being pushed away by some women because of their issues etc. I try to avoid negative people like that altogether but some women are always gonna be haters.
Annette: I was raised by a single parent. She was always waiting for that man to come riding in on his white horse to rescue us. Needless to say, it never happened. There were many boyfriends that came and went as I was growing up, but no one who ever stayed. Both of my parents were alcoholic and I had no safe place. I knew I was different than most kids. I knew their families were different than mine. I tried very hard to present a "normal" appearance, but the "mean girls" we're quick to let me know when I failed. I tried diligently to win their approval, but I never did.
Women could not be trusted. I had to purpose in my own therapy to develop female relationships.
Recently, I have found some women in the Motorcycle Community to critical to different opinions. I have supported a couple of women who were attacked by others, and got very harsh messages about this. There were judgments and name calling. I left many women's motorcycle pages as a result. I only belong to pages where I see support in our differences as well as our likenesses, and encouragement for transparency.
Priscilla: I’ll have to say, I haven't had many issues with negativity. If I have I didn't realize it. I began riding with guys. They were wonderful. Once I began to go to women forums (Women Who Ride, Rumble Sisters) I began to see some of negativity.
I think it's easy for people to post a message online that the would never say in person. I have seen so many "shit storms" started that way. When I see this happening I just distance myself from those posts. Often, I will write a comment, but erase it without posting. After re-reading it, I realize it could be misconstrued. I would rather my thought go unsaid than to be misunderstood and cause harm.
3. Give me one way we could all incorporate into our lives that would build a stronger relationship with other women.
Priscilla: I think we can build better relationships by being a friend we would want to be. Less judgmental and more caring. But sometimes there are some people that you can't please or change their mind. And that’s OK.
Annette: We must get to know each other. We have to move beyond "how many miles have you ridden?", "how long have you been on the road?". These are good places to start, but then we need to go deeper. Most of us started riding because we weren't like everyone else, we have stories. We need to listen to each other's stories of failure and success and relish in the strengths embodied in women. If we don't understand, then we need to ask to understand, not to get ammunition to judge or change them. We must purpose to know each other, really know each other.
Genevieve: People we react from one of two places, love or fear. Not both. There is a lot of gray area in between, but basically, we're acting and reacting from one of those places. Fear is all about negativity, darkness. Love is positive and full of light. If we all come from love and humility, putting others' needs before ourselves, there'd be no ill will towards others in this world.
Madhavi: I work in a predominantly female environment. The beauty industry. So I lose patience sometimes when women take out their frustrations and insecurities on myself or my co-workers. I try to make a conscious effort of being more patient and helping them see their inner and outer beauty in themselves and to always remember I may not know what difficulties in life they are going through that day.
4. What are your final thoughts on this issue?
Genevieve: I'm excited about the record number of women riding motorcycles today. There are hundreds of women motorcycling groups thriving all over the US—and the world!—proving that when a woman humbles herself to another, putting another's needs before her own, good things can happen.
Madhavi: Motoladies need to unite and stick together! We gotta have each other's backs, always!
Annette: There are inexpiable things I get from my relationships with women that I will never get in a relationship with a male. My women friends "get me". They "get me" because they also have a story. They can support me because they know where I come from in a way that only a female can know. I will not ever give up seeking out female relationships. Women bikers are a unique minority. We have so much to give.
Let's meet on common ground and quit judging the differences.
Priscilla: I think first and foremost we are riders. It doesn't matter if your male, female, black, white, purple, ride cruiser, sportbike or three wheeler. We all ride for different reasons. Some ride to be with a spouse that rides, others ride to get away from our everyday life and all of us ride because it's fun.
We ride. That's the common denominator. Let's not over think it. Just enjoy it!
My book Rude Biker Chick: Lessons From My Daddy is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Give me your feedback on it once you've read it! I look forward to hearing from you.