Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrating the Female Rider…If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right.

I've visited a few other blogs lately, where people have made comments regarding Harley Davidson's declaration of May being Female Ridership Month…or something like that. I've tried to put into words on these other blogs the way I see things, and I guess I'm failing miserably, because I get all the wrong feed back from the readers. So…I'm here, in my own blog space to clarify my position regarding Harley's Declaration of May as Female Rider Month, and I think I shall put this to bed there after.

Women have been riding the motorized version of the bicycle since the late 1800's. The engine size grew and so the designs changed to reflect the need for a stronger frame. Because of these changes, the world saw a change of the kind of women who rode the motorized two wheeled contraption. No longer was it considered a mode of transportation for the gentled society woman. Now, it was the black sheep who rode these noisy, dirty, unsafe and undignified modes of transport.

In the early days of motorized bicycle's you could find ads where the product sales pitch was aimed at the woman. But as the motorized bicycle grew into the motorcycle, the gentile woman was not permitted to operate this machine by herself. At least not without strong disapproval from her family, her social circle, and society as a whole! In the early part of the 20th century, if you were a female and enjoyed the thrill of motorcycling, you were more often than not looked upon as an outcast of your family and social framework. As a woman, you didn't have your own cache of disposable spending money…and you answered to your father, your husband, your brothers….and the whole of the community for any untoward behavior such as the operation of a motorcycle.

But throughout the short 100+ years of motorcycling history, there are female riders who braved the elements, the scorn of their families, of their communities and rode the motorcycles of their dreams! These women are the real heroes and champions of female ridership. I am at a loss to explain why the Motor Companies of today feel the need to try to make what we gals are doing today to be "special." It isn't.

We today, no longer have to buck the family, the community, or face social out casting because of our choices to ride motorcycles. Today we gals have jobs that allow us the freedoms to spend our disposable funds in ways that please US! It wasn't until the latter end of the 20th century the Motor Companies started to see us female riders as a true commodity, rather than as fender candy for our men and their rides. The motor companies are a bit on the slow side recognizing the female riders of their machines, and the way I see it, it's not because they didn't see us…it's because we weren't a large enough group with large enough disposable funds to direct advertising campaigns at us. Women started working more and more outside of the home by the 60's. It wasn't until the last quarter of the 20th century women actually made enough money to have something left over at the end of the month to start looking for credit of their own and buying big ticket items such as houses, cars, and luxury toys like boats and motorcycles. It's taken the motor companies much too long to honor the female riders. I see this as not honoring us, but rather as a marketing ploy…trying to catch up with the times…that women do have a say in the market place, we always have…

I don't mind the fact there is a month dedicated to the female rider. I am offended by the mentality of the Motor Companies, who seem to be disregarding the pioneer women of this sport and concentrating on selling me this newly designed bike, or that cute little accessory. I feel that if you're going to have a celebration of the female ridership, if you're going to have a rally centered on the female rider, then why not donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of your branded items at these rally sites (Colorado)?

I made this point once before. Someone replied she wasn't stupid enough to be sucked into spending her money on things she couldn't afford. Well it's got nothing to do with stupidity. When these women attend these rallies, they have budgeted so much for souvenirs. These souvenirs will be branded items that will cost way more than they should…because of the brand…and the profits will all go into the pockets of the MoCo…huge profits…without a single dollar going towards safety education or other type of programs dedicated towards the enrichment of the sport of motorcycling for women…or for anyone else for that matter.

The women of today's motorcycling scene are not being celebrated for and of ourselves….we are being used as advertising for the growing market of female disposable cash. AND THAT IS WHAT OFFENDS ME.

The motorcycle manufacturers want to celebrate the female riders? Start then with a campaign that honors women like Vivian Bales, who at age 20, set out to discover the USA on a Harley. In 1929 she covered 5000 miles on her bike. Those were days when road surfaces were often little more than hard packed clay or mud bogged passages of two stripes through a vast land of wilderness. Vivian Bales took her adventure alone.

How about looking into the exploits of Della Crew? She is a well known motor maiden who rode around the era of the 1915's and onward.

I have no problem with celebrating the ridership of females…I just have a problem with the motor companies who do it in such a way, that the women who came before me are forgotten and are not celebrated.