Off the Rag

“Why do they still have their shirts on?” – Sexism on Two Wheels

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In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal and the #metoo social media movement that followed, it seemed like a good time to bring up something most women who ride motorcycles have experienced: the overt sexism of some men we encounter while riding.

A few weeks ago we went out for a ride with a small mixed-gender group. Sanna and Edy were setting up Sanna’s bike for a photo at a viewpoint. Two men pulled up on motorcycles, took one look at Sanna standing atop her bike out of earshot and couldn’t help themselves:

“Why do they still have their shirts on?”

I bristled – but as a group we ignored the comment. Then Sanna rolled her bike back to the turnout after her photo, and they were at it again.

“You sure handle that bike well…” – it was left unsaid, but we all knew it was there, the trailing “…for a girl.” After a few more veiled sexist comments and an attempt to take a picture of themselves surrounded by women, they rode off and left us at the viewpoint to reflect on the overt sexism we face as women with a “masculine” hobby.

Sanna posing – fully clothed

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We’ve all heard it as women riders – comments that imply we’re a novelty act out there trying to catch the attention of passing men and are unable to handle our own machines. Comments that suggest we’re just out doing it to look sexy until we’re “tamed.”

There’s the extra emphasis on the size bike you ride: “Isn’t 1200ccs a little big for you?”

There’s the extra focus on danger and permission: “You’re so brave. I’d never let my wife/daughter ride.”

There’s the attempt to seem masculine: “I used to ride, but I haven’t since I wrecked.”

And lastly, the sideshow finale: “Can I take your picture/take a picture with you?”

And with that last one, there’s always the concern they’re going to touch you inappropriately while they pose with you.

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What do you do? How do you confront this? It feels exhausting and fruitless to respond to every comment with something snide like “Yup, turns out you don’t need a penis to ride.” But it also feels weak and icky to just let it slide. There’s no real winning when you’re faced with casual derogatory comments anywhere, but this does feel like a unique space to respond. Because you know what? We are doing something women don’t “traditionally” do, and we should be the brazen babes these dudes are making us out to be.

So tell us…. what do you do when you’re confronted with casual or overt sexism or harassment on the bike?

Katie is somewhat obsessed with dogs and motorcycles - she has 3 of each. She rides a 2017 Triumph T-120 most days, and has a 1972 Triumph T-120 and a 1975 Honda CB360 to keep her busy on the weekends. She also has a deep love for vintage vans, mostly her 1967 Dodge A100.

2 Comments

  1. If I feel safe doing so, I call it out. Usually I get a sheepish laugh or a comment that I’m being “too sensitive” but that shit don’t fly with me!

    • Katie Reply

      Yes! Sometimes I’m too taken aback to realize what just happened and I kick myself for missing my chance to call someone on it.

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