Recently, in hopes of gaining some inspiration on the internet, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube about women motorcycle clubs, networks, and “gangs”. The Missfires, the Litas, Caramel Curves, you name it. As a woman, I feel empowered and inspired after watching these videos, until I start reading through the comments….
Many men felt it necessary to voice their opinions by writing “imagine the calls of sexism if it was a male-only bike club” or “if it were a men’s only club, it’s discrimination” or “lesbian club.” I kept seeing these types of comments over and over and over again and I got angry. This post is in response to men who have that attitude toward women-only motorcycle groups, with the hopes that I can give you more information on why groups like this exist and why they are important.
For decades, men have dominated the motorcycle community. Allowing women to join a motorcycle club is relative to each club. There is no universal rule that says women can’t join. Most traditional motorcycle clubs do not allow women to become full-fledged members, some clubs create a supplementary club for women, and others do allow women to go through the same prospect/patch earning process to join.
So in response, yes, women are allowed to join some clubs, but the majority of clubs are predominantly men.
If you see a group of 10+ motorcycles on the highway, how quick are you to assume they are all men?
To some extent, it isn’t necessarily a man’s fault. During the 50’s, it was tradition for men to be the bread winners of the family and work while the women were forced to stay at home to cook, clean, and care for the children. I don’t fault older motorcycle clubs for being men-only because it was the times. Over the next few decades and as society progressed to give women equal rights and opportunities, the “men only” rules have relaxed, especially with more modern clubs/groups.
One interesting aspect I learned through anecdotal evidence from women riders in traditional motorcycle clubs is the reason why women are excluded. Women are excluded from joining to prevent them from ruining the “brotherhood” of the group and to avoid any potential drama. For example, if your husband is in a group and a single woman joins, it can create tension within the marriage, between members, and becomes difficult to build/keep trust within its members. I think it’s a low blow to reduce women to their cattiness and sexuality/promiscuity, but that’s just my opinion and I’ll leave that there for you to think about.
So for years, women have been seen as just an accessory for you to place on your back seat, but what happens when women want to learn how to ride?
Learning how to ride a motorcycle in a male dominated community makes you feel unwelcome. If you’re in a room filled with 100 men and you’re the only woman to walk through the door, you’re going to feel intimidated, uncomfortable, and like you don’t belong. It’s no surprise that the more women ride, the more they want to “segregate” themselves, not out of malice but out of comfort. I feel more comfortable talking to a woman, and even a novice male rider, about how they started riding and what issues I’m struggling with on my bike.
Sidenote: I should also bring up the age differences between male and female riders, specifically for Harley Davidson riders. In my personal experience, the majority of Harley riders I meet are older (over 40), male riders. Not only do I usually get talked down to as a 25 year old woman, but I also get dismissed as a rider in general. Someone isn’t going to value my opinion on motorcycles because of my age and gender (which is why I love the internet/Reddit where I can remain semi-anonymous!). It’s not specific to motorcycles either, as I’ve experienced this at car dealerships as well. Again, it’s the tradition of technical/mechanical labor workers predominantly being men.
To break it down even further, the biggest reason I reach out to women is to get advice on gear. I can’t walk up to a man and say, hey, what kind of gloves do you think I should get? What kind of jacket do you think will be comfortable for my boobs? We all come in different shapes and sizes, and while a helmet recommendation is universal, men aren’t familiar with gear for bigger busts, wider hips, and smaller hands.
I don’t want to dismiss men who give advice based on their wives recommendations as passengers, because I do think it takes a lot of balls to put your life in the driver’s hands as a pillion, but there is a difference between gear for passengers and gear for riders. A jacket may fit your pillion comfortably, but might not be practical for the rider (think about the stretch of a jacket when you have tall handlebars vs. hugging your man’s belly as a pillion or gloves that keep a pillion warm but don’t have comfortable padding to hold the handlebars).
When I ride with other women, I’m scanning all of their gear and asking questions. How does it fit you? Would you repurchase it? What size are you in x product? I can’t get this kind of advice at my local Cyclegear where I hardly see a woman, or online.
Because there are fewer women riders, riding together builds a sense of community and a network. Worldwide groups like The Litas create a network for women to connect. As a Lita in the Bay Area, I can hit up the women down in LA and plan a ride, travel to Oregon and have a place to crash for the night, or be stuck on the side of the road in Sacramento and have someone to reach out to for help. I might not know the women in other cities, but the network we create becomes a valuable resource.
It’s very common for motorcycle riders to want to help each other out. Regardless of gender, if there is a motorcycle rider down on the road, I’m going to help out. I’ve had instances where my bike has been on the side of the road and rider after rider stops to make sure I’m ok. Its this sense of community that we have as riders, except stronger because we are women.
Just because some groups are women only doesn’t mean we hate men. Some rides are designated for women only, but not because we are anti-men, but because we are pro-women. In these rides, we are trying to build a bond and strengthen the relationships between the women in our group.
We also have co-ed or open group rides. For example, Curve Unit in the Bay Area has a Sadie Hawkins day ride coming up in February, the Litas San Diego host open/co-ed rides, and the Litas Bay Area have ridden with women’s husbands tagging along.
When I’m out riding on my own, I’m always looking out for other women on the road. When I do spot a woman, it’s inspiring and empowering because you don’t feel alone out there in a community full of men. And when you ride in a group of 10 women, its that feeling x100. We turns heads because women on the road are so rare and hopefully inspire other women.
And some women don’t want to join an all woman group. Some women feel fine in their group of friends and only ride with them. That’s ok too. We aren’t forcing every women to join our network.
So if you are passionate about motorcycles, why are you offended when you see a group of women riding? Why does it bother you so much that women are getting involved in the community? What difference does it make if I have a vagina or a penis and want to ride a motorcycle?
Motorcycles aren’t just for men. This isn’t YOUR hobby to claim. Women can ride too.
There’s a fear that comes from the unknown, so maybe the rarity of “women only” clubs is so unfamiliar to you that you don’t know how to react or cowardly comment on YouTube videos. Next time you see a woman riding, talk to her. She might be able to give you a pointer or two.