Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: My social challenges of working in the motorcycle world.

2.16.2012

My social challenges of working in the motorcycle world.

It's been a rough couple weeks for me at the motorcycle store so I'm going to rant now.

I'm not a fan of being snubbed or ignored while trying to provide customer service on a sales floor. Despite my background in long-distance riding and my knowledge of many a model of motorcycle, it is usually the tendency for quite a number people who walk in to automatically gravitate toward the first male employee they see, regardless if I am the closet person in proximity to them. In ironic fashion, I find myself snubbed in subjects involving parts/accessories for sale, which is my main department. Of course, my co-workers will usually direct those questions back to me, but I wish I didn't have to depend on them to get the attention.

On average, it will usually take me about 1-2 minutes in a conversation (if I can keep their attention long enough) to convince a person that I actually know what I'm talking about. When the store's busy, that's time I really don't want to waste on establishing my credibility. There are times where I just don't even bother - if the boobs have a voice then there's a problem, right?



This is a fight I will never win out here, especially in the Midwest. The only thing I can do is continue to be a stand-out in this crowd of comformity and overbearing, old-fashioned ideals of women as the "bitch in the back." Although this image is not as prevalent as it was, say 20 years ago, it's still quite noticeable in places like Central Ohio, where bikes don't ride more than a few blocks, cruisers are still the predominant body style of machine, and women  are required to be pretty and have a high tolerance for alcohol to be welcome.

And just to add to the conversation, here are some of the many things that irk me when it comes to the image of women and motorcycles:
  1. The over-usage of idea that motorcycling is an "empowering" tool for women. I hate the word "empowered." It's an implication that I've already been automatically written off as incapable of performing the job that I am currently doing. That word is never used for the males in our species. I mean, how many times will you ever hear "this empowered man is riding a motorcycle?" Regardless of how much freedom and latitude that we as American women have gained, our language will always be a reminder that we can still be considered part of a lower status in certain contexts.
  2. Not all women like or want a cruiser-style motorcycle. Unfortunately, quite a number of women are cajoled straight into cruisers by male riders (who sadly don't know any better themselves) when there are multitudes of makes and models out there worth trying out. Quite a number of female riders prefer standard/dual-sport style bikes because of their lightweight, upright position which is usually more comfortable than the laid-back position of cruisers that place all a rider's body weight on the lower back.
  3. In response to #1, I can't stand it when a person realizes that I do ride a motorcycle and the automatic supporting question is, "Do you ride a Harley?" That's like someone automatically assuming that I'm a teacher because I have an English degree. A more appropriate question would be, "What kind of motorcycle do you ride?" And then expect to be surprised.
  4. Riding a motorcycle does not automatically turn me into a lesbian. It can be an assumption/stereotype in some areas of the nation that a woman who enjoys riding her own motorcycle is gay. Married, single, straight, or gay, women who choose to ride do it for the sheer enjoyment of the sport. Strength and sexual orientation do not go hand in hand; there are weak individuals from both sides.
  5. Riding a scooter does NOT make me any less of a motorcyclist. Choosing to use an automatic transmission does not exempt me from following the laws of the road, knowing how to maneuver a two-wheeled vehicle in an emergency situation, using the brakes, or putting my foot down at a complete stop. It requires just as much gumption to operate a scooter, or should I say, automatic motorcycle, on the road as one with a manual transmission. 
Perhaps this bothers me more than most female motorcycle operators because, frankly, I do not fall into the normal stereotypes of a female on a motorcycle. I ride more miles in a month than most men out here in Ohio do in a year. I ride every month of the year in every possible, non-icy weather situation. I ride several states over, not the nearest bar. I ride solo most of the time, but you're more than welcome to follow me. Tank tops are not part of my riding wardrobe, and the only curves I care about are the ones I carve on the road.

If that's you, just remember you're not alone. We're too busy having fun to publicize it.