Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Building A Strong Women Riders Community

I've found joining the women's motorcycling community to be quite difficult at times. Even though I hope to make a positive impact on everyone I meet, I know I can't please everyone. I am finding that I, and many other women, are being ridiculed and insulted, find exclusivity, and outright "Mean Girl Syndrome" when we want to be included.

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
Age 39
Makeup Artist, Key Holder at MAC Cosmetics
2003 Honda Shadow 750



Priscilla Griffith
Age 60
Owner of ProGuards Crash Bar Protectors
2008 Harley Davidson Peace Officers Ultra









Annette Presley, LCSW
Age 59
Psychotherapist
2007 Yamaha V Star 1100







Genevieve Schmitt
Age 51
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.

10 comments:

  1. I agree with everything ALL this beautiful women, including you, Sash.

    It mostly comes down to two kind of characteristic traits:
    1. Bullies [the insecure ones]
    2. Confidence [secure in who they are]

    I love the quote paraphrased:
    "When we busy encouraging and lifting women up we don't have time to tear them down."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your post, Sash. Yep, I can completely relate. I have yet to find camaraderie with any women riders and it's not for the lack of trying.

    Over the many years I've been riding, I'm met and conversed at length with plenty of wonderful women whom I've met on organized rides, but none have seemed to have wanted to forge any sort of "women who ride" sort of friendship. Is it because I don't ride a Harley? Is it because I always wear a helmet? Is it because I'm overweight or that I don't wear makeup or or or?? Who knows and at this point in my life, I really don't care. Would I like to hang with some great gals to ride with? You betcha! But, with or without female friends to ride with, knees in the breeze will continue for me, smiles from ear to ear will continue for me, enjoyable rides on my shiny black, beautiful, metric cruiser will continue for me.

    Safe travels to you, wind sister!
    Annie

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a very good point & very glad to see it being brought up & discussed. I truly believe it's about the ride and not about the self image one tries to portray. In my years of riding I've started out solo then ventured out to groups. Even started a Women's Riding & Mentoring Group with three other women to help new riders grow & enjoy riding like we did. Later I became involved in a Women’s Riding Meetup running both for several years. I truly enjoyed watching the ladies as they grew and became more confident. I’m still very good friends with many today. But as like in many groups I ran into the women who were out to prove something and were very intimidating to others. Some very exhausting. Always wanting to prove something never wanting to improve their riding skills just wanting to show they were too good for that. I found that it was best to just stay away. We need to respect each other as we do riding. Thank you for this topic. I’ve found many places to share it.

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  4. Wow, way to go ladies! The truth shall set us free. It is confirming to know that we are not alone in our fears, struggles and longing to be in relationship and fellowship with each other. This is something that most of us have experienced in grade school on the playground. We will always face obstacles in our desire to form relationships with others who have common interests. It is our choices, response, and attitude that determines what the outcome will be. I am so proud of my sister bikers who contributed to this article. You ladies ROCK!

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  5. With a lot that has happened on that Facebook, this is refreshing to read. I have disengaged from a lot of women riders on social media because of the knocking down. My constitution is to not let the bully get away and that has been hard for me to not to defend, however, going back to my roots with respectful fellow riders is the best remedy to the negative side of this.Just so disrespectful. Sometimes, it is better to just walk away with a clean mind.

    I chat all the time when I ride and I love that there are so many women who just love to find others of the same make. That is the one thing I have so much enjoyed, Integrity, confidence, respect and strength with a whole of bunch of laughter, smiles, rides and tales to tell make strong women mentors. That is key to keep this sect worthy. Good post on the Q & A and looking forward to reading more like this Sash.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So much insight on this page! As a women who has worked really hard to create and fill a niche in this industry, I do understand wanting to protect my hard work. Feeling as if I am in competition with other women is something I have to fight every day. My human nature, how I was raised, and what the media tells me to do are all fighting each other on this issue as well. My internal struggle is just as competitive and cutthroat as the industry itself. That's a battle we have to fight every day... Isn't that enough?

    As part of a younger generation, and yet a seasoned rider of 10 years, I see how drastically social media has changed the game recently. As women, we already fight for equal pay in general. But today's currency seems to be attention even more than dollars, and women have been fighting each other for attention since the dawn of time. The good news is, attention is in infinite supply. There isn't a finite amount of "likes" in this world; there will always be more clicks or double taps where that last one came from. I see that fact benefiting our need for attention because we can cross-promote without feeling like we're losing anything. Truly strong women will build each other up rather than tear each other down. Being in cahoots makes everything we produce better, more well rounded, and stronger.

    Some of the things I've accomplished in the last 10 years that I am most proud of, I could never have done without the help of other women. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to help shape and steer the newcomers regardless of their age or how long they've been riding. Being a positive influence on the community I love isn't just about what I put out there, it also consists of helping others, especially those who are new as influencers, to understand what it means to have a network of amazing women rooting for you. That's a legacy I'm proud to fight for - with my fellow female riders, rather than against them!

    So much love and respect for you Sash, as well as every one of the women you mentioned early in your article. I am so honored to have been on that short list, and humbled that you see me in that light. Unwound say "my job here is done" but in reality, we're just getting started!!!!

    -Brittany Morrow
    Founder, RocktheGear.org
    Brand Specialist, Icon Motosports

    ReplyDelete
  7. So much insight on this page! As a women who has worked really hard to create and fill a niche in this industry, I do understand wanting to protect my hard work. Feeling as if I am in competition with other women is something I have to fight every day. My human nature, how I was raised, and what the media tells me to do are all fighting each other on this issue as well. My internal struggle is just as competitive and cutthroat as the industry itself. That's a battle we have to fight every day... Isn't that enough?

    As part of a younger generation, and yet a seasoned rider of 10 years, I see how drastically social media has changed the game recently. As women, we already fight for equal pay in general. But today's currency seems to be attention even more than dollars, and women have been fighting each other for attention since the dawn of time. The good news is, attention is in infinite supply. There isn't a finite amount of "likes" in this world; there will always be more clicks or double taps where that last one came from. I see that fact benefiting our need for attention because we can cross-promote without feeling like we're losing anything. Truly strong women will build each other up rather than tear each other down. Being in cahoots makes everything we produce better, more well rounded, and stronger.

    Some of the things I've accomplished in the last 10 years that I am most proud of, I could never have done without the help of other women. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to help shape and steer the newcomers regardless of their age or how long they've been riding. Being a positive influence on the community I love isn't just about what I put out there, it also consists of helping others, especially those who are new as influencers, to understand what it means to have a network of amazing women rooting for you. That's a legacy I'm proud to fight for - with my fellow female riders, rather than against them!

    So much love and respect for you Sash, as well as every one of the women you mentioned early in your article. I am so honored to have been on that short list, and humbled that you see me in that light. Unwound say "my job here is done" but in reality, we're just getting started!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't get this whole concept. Why do I need to ride with other women? Why do people feel the need to force a relationship just because we are women that ride motorcycles? I have found that often times that is the only commonality. I have a busy life and I have found I do not enjoy group rides. To much competition and judging. To much riding where I don't necessarily want to go and riding to fast to enjoy my surroundings. The bottom line is these types of forced relationships are too much work and I dont have time or energy for it. I just want to ride my motorcycle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fair enough Diane. I can see your point.
      "Why do I need to ride with other women?"
      I don't think every woman does need that, or want that. But so many women value the relationships they get from others, just as Annette pointed out.
      "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'."
      Many women crave relationships with women and thrive in groups. You're just not one of them. To each her own.
      I love riding with my husband as much as you love riding with your spouse. I love riding alone. But I an growing as a woman by building relationships with women for the first time in my life. I'm expanding and it's been wonderful for me.
      At this stage in my life I need more than a man and kids in my life.

      Delete
  9. Just to clarify I have many Women friends in my life. I understand what you are saying about needing that female perspective. What I am saying is that these women come from all facets of my life, not just the one who rides a motorcycle. I guess when I retire I will have a different perspective. But I don't think we should work so hard to force relationships around a commanality.

    ReplyDelete

About Sash


People call me "Sash" because I'm a former beauty queen in my old home town. My father used to ride in an MC which got me interested in the culture. After my last divorce I said "goodbye" to Susie Homemaker and became the rude biker chick I always felt inside. (Read more...)