a short wrist update.
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July 2, 2002
I've been thinking a lot this evening about a post made on Sport-Touring.net earlier today. The original post centered around some innocuous thoughts the author had had on his ride in to work. One of the bullet points was something to the effect of "Women, SUVs, and eating just don't mix", pertaining to inattentive drivers. I followed up with my standard tongue-in-cheek-but-still-making-a-point "I think you meant People, SUVs, and eating...".
There were many other replies, mostly to other comments about gear and commuting that the original post had touched upon, but eventually the author replied to my response. I don't have the exact phrasing in front of me, but the gist of his response was that the really inattentive drivers out there are, by and large, women. Women are the "soccer moms", they're the ones dealing with screaming kids kicking the back of the seat and trying to feed Junior in the front seat all the while dealing with business matters on the cell phone.
Another female member of the boards posted back, saying that no one should judge a book by its cover, that perhaps the soccer mom in the SUV comes home and parks the Ford Excessive next to her Gixxer. Most of the replies to that (and I'm heavily paraphrasing and streamlining here) heavily doubted it, saying that "the women on this board are the exceptions" and that "most women won't ride" and "more women should ride" but that, in general, women are still the inattentive soccer moms.
Now, I should disclaim this by saying that none of the posts were in any way, shape, or form inflammatory, even though in re-reading the above, I sort of make it sound that way. I'm just trimming out content irrelevant to my current thought process, and in doing so, I did strip out context. So, grain of salt and all that.
That said, I've been idly thinking over those posts tonight. I've come to the conclusion that it's very contradictory to want more women motorcyclists, but to then stereotype women as poor and inattentive drivers in the next breath.
I'd be willing to bet that most women never make a conscious decision not to become motorcyclists. The generalized "women" that we wish more motorcyclists were aren't the ones who try the MSF and realize it's not for them. They're not the ones who've had family members or friends killed or injured and have promised themselves that the risk isn't worth it. They're not even the ones who suffer irrational fear whenever they see their sons and husbands climb on their bikes for a Saturday morning ride. They're a stereotype -- and they don't exist in a vacuum.
That's right. You heard me. Women don't spring forth from the womb with hard-wiring saying "bzzzt, no motorcycles here!" As the other female poster pointed out in her comments, it's about the life details of the person driving the car -- not the genitalia. The bike certainly doesn't know the difference.
So what happened? What happened to me and Kim and Cat and Diana and Terri and FastCat and KitKat and Sara and Debi and Carla and Holly and Kathleen and Rachel and Lauren and Gwen and Cindy and Barbara and all the others... what happened in our "life details" to make us tell the stereotypes to fuck off and let us climb on top of a bike? What happened to us that didn't happen to the soccer mom in the SUV?
Or...more possibly...what happened to them that didn't happen to us? As a child, I was never told that women were supposed to be poor drivers. I was never told that women didn't ride motorcycles. I was never told that women were supposed to be bad at math and science. Were they? By the time I learned that women weren't supposed to like computers, I was already a computer science major. I didn't know women didn't ride bikes until I'd already bought one and was reading up on them online. I was fortunate. By the time the stereotypes hit me -- I mean really hit me -- I was already doing the things the stereotypes said that I couldn't so, and so I could get angry and get bemused and laugh and cry and want to kick someone in the face for telling me lies. But I never once believed the stereotypes, since I knew I was already conquering them. I may have ovaries, but I can teach most guys I know how to sync carbs and use a torque wrench and how it feels to get that perfect line through the twisties.
But what about the soccer moms? Do they believe the stereotypes because they don't know better? Did they grow up believing that women don't ride bikes and that it's OK for women to be on the cell phone and shoving drive-thru at Jimmy while piloting the Ford Excessive because, dammit, That's Just What Women Do? What if, for every time someone posts "women don't blah blah women do blah blah, but you gals here are the exception"....what if they're telling their wives and girlfriends and, god forbid, daughters that same thing...but without the exception part? Do we create the stereotype by spreading it? Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy?
What if, every time someone was about to say "women drivers are so inattentive", they instead change it to be "drivers are so inattentive"? Will that prevent one person from making a gender-related correlation? Will that stop one young girl somewhere from thinking that women are bad drivers? Will that one young girl then grow up to be a self-confident and secure motorcyclist?