Warning: Contains unladylike language. You’ve been warned.
I’ve had my 1990 Kawasaki Ninja 250r for less than a week, and people are already trying to take it away from me. And give it to my boyfriend.
Some background: I’m a 20-something female college student. I’ve had my motorcycle license since I was 16, but just doodled around on my dad’s ’74 Honda, which he was kind enough to lend me upon request. The electric start only functioned about half the time, and the bike didn’t really believe in the concept of idling, but I made it work. I finally squirreled away enough cash to buy my own bike, and went for a sportier (and slightly more reliable) Kawasaki. My boyfriend, who does not have his motorcycle license and has no desire to get one, nonetheless fully supports my reckless love for all things two-wheeled and motorized.
Now to the issue at hand: Somehow, by being a woman and buying a sportbike, I appear to have violated a fundamental law of the universe. This has been made clear to me several times, but most blatantly right after I finished my second ride on the new crotch rocket and dismounted next to my apartment.
As I removed my helmet and guided the bike onto my driveway, a neighbor walked past. A friendly guy my age with whom I’d chit-chatted a few times before. He paused, took in the helmet in my hand and the bike next to me, and asked, “Whoa! Cool bike. Is that your boyfriend’s ride?”
Now, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but if I saw someone holding a motorcycle helmet, wearing a motorcycle jacket, and holding a still-hot motorcycle, with no one else around, I would probably assume that the person in question owned the motorcycle. Again, and I emphasize, there was no one else around. Yet somehow, this neighbor needed to create a fictional motorcycle-riding boyfriend to explain my relationship to this sportbike.
I wanted to scream “IT’S MY MOTORCYCLE! MINE! I DON’T NEED A MAN TO RIDE MY MOTORCYCLE FOR ME! FUCK OFF!” Instead, I opted for the more reasoned reply of, “Oh, haha *insert vapid giggle*, it’s actually my bike!” to which he responded with a appraising up-and-down look at me.
“Wow, then, you really are the full package.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between, leads us to the crux of the issue: Society gives us two ways to view women and their relationship with motorcycles. Either you “ride bitch” behind a man or you’re sexualized beyond reason. And when I say “beyond reason,” I mean it. Just google “women” and “sportbikes” and see what images show up. Or rather, don’t, because I gathered them for you here:
My neighbor was trying to give me a compliment (I think) and I’m not here to dive into the huuuuuuuge cultural issue of men making unwanted quasi-sexual comments about women in public. More eloquent voices than mine have written prolifically on that subject.
I also don’t want to single out my neighbor as the only offender here. In the last seven days, I’ve had no less than 13 friends ask me, incredulously, if I had a motorcycle license upon learning that I bought a bike. To which I responded: No. I just bought a bike I can’t ride, in the hopes that maybe some nice man with a motorcycle license will come along and let me sit on the backseat.
The nice lady at AAA who helped me transfer the bike title into my name kept asking me what type of car I was buying, even after I mentioned that it was a motorcycle several times, then finally exclaimed, “Oh, that’s right, you said it was a motorcycle! Now what in the world is a nice girl like you going to do with a big, scary motorcycle?”
When I asked my dad to teach me how to ride a motorcycle, it was because he’d picked me up from school and softball practice on his old bike for years, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I still remember riding around my neighborhood on the backseat, holding on to him for dear life at 15 miles per hour and wearing my purple bicycle helmet, because we didn’t have a brainbucket small enough for my six-year-old noggin.
I have three little brothers, two of whom are old enough to drive. Of the three of us, I’m the only one with a class “M” license. My dad never made bikes about “boys” vs. “girls.” I wanted to ride, so he patiently stepped me through easing out the clutch, kicking it into gear, and cornering safely. He signed both of us up for a safety course, and took me to test for my permit and license.
I’m proud of the work I did to earn my motorcycle license. I worked my ass off to afford my new bike. Every time someone questions my ability to ride or my ownership of my bike, it feels like a slap in the face.
So please, I ask everyone, of all genders, to be mindful of how we still feel the need to unnecessarily assign gender roles to everything, whether its a sportbike, a Barbie doll, or even a school subject. Awareness leads to understanding, and understanding leads to more respect for everyone.
Or, you know, just stopping fucking assuming I can’t ride my own goddam bike. Geezus.