Off the Rag

Why Body Positivity in the Motorcycle Scene Is so Important

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This is a guest post written by our friend Beth at Big Girls Ride Too.

We’ve all seen them: side boob-sporting vixens draped over sport bikes and waifishly thin blondes seductively straddling cruisers. Images like this are prevalent across social media and other motorcycle-centric outlets. Now, I’m no prude, but pasties aren’t going to save you when you eat shit.

The frequency of these types of sexualized images was a big turn off for me when I was considering buying my first motorcycle. I work in the beer industry, and I’m fed up with the cheap advertising methods people still, inexplicably, turn to in order to sell a lifestyle and products in male-dominated industries. I have a lot of confidence, but the fact that this “type” of girl seemed to dominate motorcycling culture made me feel like I wouldn’t belong. I’m nearly six feet tall, just south of 200 pounds, and my shoulder width can only be described as “linebacker-esque”. I can pour myself into size 12 pants on a really good day and to top it all off, after I had my son, my already laughably small boobs withered away into a handful (at best). My tattoos aside, I’m about as anti-stereotypical rider chick as there is. Where do I—where can I— fit into this culture so dependent on aesthetics?

“Where do I—where can I— fit into this culture so dependent on aesthetics?”

It’s taken me a few years of riding and a few different bikes (I currently have a 1977 Honda CB550), but I finally came to the realization: I can fit in anywhere. I ride with tiny Asians daredevils who can barely reach the pavement, but far exceed my experience level (and cuteness level). I ride with thick women donning long gray braids, lace-up leather vests, and enormous Road Glides. The common thread is that we ride. Sure, there are a few actual women riders who are blessed with amazingly symmetrical faces and single-digit pant sizes, but there are tons more who, like me, have to shop in the men’s section and have dangerously squeezable muffin tops.

That’s why I started Big Girls Ride Too. I don’t post that often—with a 16 month old, I don’t get as much time to ride as I’d like—but my goal is to show that there are real women with real bodies who really ride. (Don’t even get me started on the pushback I’ve gotten being a motorcycling mom—I’ll save that for another post!) It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the hyper-sexualized advertising stuffed down our throats, but hopefully it’s a small contribution to the women intimidated by “the uniform” of female motorcyclists between the ages of twenty and forty. We aren’t all Redwing booted, Captain’s hat wearing, denim vested babes with full sleeves and crop tops. And if you are, I’m super down with it! Some of us are frumpy, flat assed, frizzy haired weirdos with double chins and astigmatism. But we’re all beautiful.

Body positivity doesn’t mean skinny-shaming. It means loving and accepting who you are and not judging people who are different than you. It’s feminist, it’s intersectional, and when wielded properly, is totally empowering. When wielded improperly, it can be damaging. (I recommend reading the Racked link I include below for more information.) It’s about freeing the nipple, whether it’s to breastfeed or just let those puppies air out without being afraid of being assaulted. It’s about offering plus sizes in your clothing line and being ADA-compliant during events. It’s about supporting women who choose to bare it all instead of exploiting them. It’s a fine line, but it’s one we all need to be aware of, inside and outside of motorcycling.

Fat, skinny, classically hot or not, I finally realized that as long as I love the way I look and love the ride, that’s all that matters. I hope that BGRT helps inspire other fellow chunksters to take the plunge and feel the freedom. If you’re interested in learning more about the intersectional body positivity movement, here are some good places to start—but I encourage you to do your own research to find your own voice:

Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based beer writer, mom, and biker with a 1977 Honda CB 550K. Read more of her work at bethdemmon.com or catch her on the road in Joshua Tree (her favorite place to ride).

6 Comments

  1. I can appreciate this article on so many levels! I am 5’6″ and 120 lb. ‘s. I know what you’re thinking, what’s she got to complain about? Well, for starters, I don’t have curves I have angles! I also have a baby belly I refer to as Roo (Once you’ve named it you’ve pretty much accepted your fate, right?) and barely-there boobs that have deflated with each kid that’s evacuated my womb. I look nothing like the magazine pages pinned up on any garage wall in America! At 35 I’m just learning to appreciate the fact that I don’t look like those women and I never will, and that’s okay.

  2. I’ve been riding since the 90s and never ever thought about my appearance or compared it to the pics of girls draped on bikes .
    They were just models to get guys to look at that brand of bike .
    It was a break though when they started making womens bike gear . I wore a small mens for years .

  3. Deborah Johnson Reply

    I am a larger gal in my 50s, I call it working on what you’ve got. I am a firm believer in exercise, healthy eats as well as a rational awareness of my build, coupled with the challenges of aging. I am solid as a rock, ride old school bikes and look towards golden years with mobility and strength. I am not a supporter of some of the extremes of body positivity and see some younger ladies on a crash course to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Some are carrying around too much weight for the capacity of their cardiovascular/skeletal capacity. May not be a popular opinion but its based on personal experience, observation and medical fact.

  4. Karen Golec Reply

    I loved what you wrote… and body positivity is not about skinny shaming! It’s about proclaiming the fact that I belong too… even though I’m 5 foot five and 300 pounds. When I first started riding I questioned whether I belonged simply because I couldn’t find any gear in my size. I have since found some fantastic companies that do cater to women my size, and I think there are more and more all the time. I’m a decent writer, I have some long-distance trips under my belt now, and I have found quality riding gear that keeps me safe even though I’m a big girl. On the surface, I am probably atypical. My riding pants are the only pants I ever wear… I’m always in skirts and dresses and I look like the Mennonite next-door … but I love the freedom of the road and the miles clicking behind me. I have only found acceptance in the riding community so it was simply the over-sexualized advertising that made me feel I might not fit in and I’m really glad I didn’t let that hold me back. These days I happily don my plus sized gear, point my bike in a random direction and make sure I pack a couple of skirts for my non-riding time. Life is good. 😉

  5. Thanks for this. I love to ride but sometimes I can’t help but wonder just how fat I look from the back. This is a good reminder to stop body shaming myself. I don’t do it to other people, why is it OK to do it to myself?

    Ride on, wind sisters!

  6. I know what you mean. I got on my first bike when I was just a kid. Years later I rode with my husband but on our 10 anniversary I asked for my own bike. Now I read with our women in Indy. We have lots of fun on and off bikes. (Indiana Ok Girls. Let’s Ride) It is hard to find time with life but with our group we make sure to stay in contact with each other. We never give up and any rider and always encourage each other.

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