Category Archives: feminism

Women have a RIGHT to Feel Safe

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know I recently had a very visceral reaction to this article “10 Tips to Reduce Risk to Your Personal Safety on a Solo Motorcycle Trip” on Women Riders Now. To summarize the tips offered, the article basically says “Ladies, know your place in this unsafe world where your are prey and, just in case, carry a concealed weapon and prey to Jesus.”

Yeah, this is 2017 and an article’s best advice for women on a solo trip is 1.) do not camp in scary, lonely places, 2.) do not ride on scary, lonely roads, 3.) really, just avoid scary, lonely, places altogether, 4.) look tough, 5.) be ready to escape, 6.) do not look cute, wear lipstick or dress cute, 7.) be very, very cautious even when you are not in scary, lonely places, 8.) avoid the darkness (darkness makes every place a scary, lonely place), 9.) carry a concealed gun because really, it is a scary world even if you take precautions and 10.) prey to Jesus.

Here’s a pic of me looking cute, in case you didn’t think it was possible. AND it is exactly how I looked on the road.

I cringed at this article (I will save you the picture of me cringing).

Nope, it did not mention one thing about gear, extra gas (like my RotoPax tank), GPS locators (like my SPOT), emergency IDs (like my RoadID), a cooling vest for hot days (like my Bilt), a small toolkit (like this JAS Metric SpeedKit), a tire inflator (like mine from Slime) or a whole host of other gear. Check out this photo of all my gear. I can tell you all about it.

No mention of getting extra training like the Total Control Intermediate Rider Course I took at 2WheelSafety (there is a photo of me getting safety training). Actually, there was nothing really about motorcycling. Just a bunch of crap about how women need to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe in this dangerous, dangerous world.

Then, I wrote this comment on Facebook, on the article and in my own post…

I just rode solo from California to North Carolina and will continue this trip to Massachusettes in a few days after spending time with my newborn nephew. I pretty well broke every rule here, other then preparation. I’ve also solo-ed on four wheels for various long-distance and long duration trips including a trip where I only camped in the back country or a remote campsite in the middle of nowhere. I’ve even back countried solo for 14 days with nothing more than a backpack and certainly no concealed weapon because they are usually no-nos in National Parks. My pickup even broke down on a Blackfoot Reservation where I spent time hitchhiking to help then had to have it towed off the reservation for service.

I admit, I have taken some unnecessary risks on a few occasions, but I prep and research before I go.

The fear and suspicion outlined in this article first saddened me and second angered me. The idea that as women we need to even consider this as necessary precaution to prevent ourselves from getting hurt is a sad, sad, sad statement of the world and country we live in. We have to play it safe and not do the fun routes lest we make ourselves victims and be at fault if anything happens. Of course, as any motorcyclist knows, better alive than right.

It also angers me that this is the world we live in. That we all have to live like we are prey having to avoid things we love so we don’t end up attacked, injured or dead. Very few of these tips would apply to men. Articles for men about riding solo would tell them to take the road less traveled and have fun and throw caution to the wind and make is once in a lifetime trip and make memories. But now, us women get patronizing fear articles.

I am a mechanical engineer with a masters degree from MIT. I always hated the women in engineering groups that wasted my time on career balancing and making it in a man’s world and how to cook fast meals for the family. I now bristle at these articles geared toward women that encourage us to go around acting like targets for violence.

Sad and Mad.

The email response from this Women’s publication?

Sadly, it was invalidating and chose not to enter the debate about feminism and women owning their RIGHT to feel safe.

Hi Kimi, I’m saddened that you read this article, which we’ve gotten very positive responses to, as a “patronizing fear article.” In fact, the writer’s entire introduction was about each of us making personal choices, and then she outlines what she does. She never suggested that these are tips everyone should abide by. Take what you like, leave the rest. Motorcycling itself is an inherently dangerous activity, and those of us who choose to partake even while knowing this, are then faced with the choices of how to minimize our own personal risk (or not). When WRN publishes these types of articles, it is in attempt to provide readers with information to help arm them with the knowledge and tools to minimize their risk. It’s not about instilling fear, its about offering solutions and suggestions.

Name Removed, Assistant Editor

Here is my response to that.

As a professional publication, WRN should not hide behind the “take it or leave it” bit. It should own its content, especially content provided by staff. This is an article written by a staff writer for an online publication on a public forum.

One of your taglines is “the longest running—and most comprehensive—resource for female motorcyclists anywhere.”
As a place offering this service, I assume information provided by your staff writers are part of that wealth of “resources” it aims to offer. Sure, the article offered a disclaimer that these are preferences, but the author also chose to use authority as a staff writer for what aims to be a credible publication to provide advice. This response asks me to disregard that authority, that expertise and that advice as merely a personal preference?
As a reader and consumer of WRNs content, I offered a reaction to the content WRN is providing. Invalidating the opinions of readers by claiming the publication does not offer authority on it’s advice is unfortunate. Rather than engaging in a debate about the place of women in society and stand for a feminist point of view that us women should be allowed to own our space in the world without fear and without having to take ridiculous precautions , the publication has chosen to hide from this pre-eminent issue in the world for women.
Instead of embracing how we women should behave so we stay safe, WRN should be standing up for rights of women riders to feel safe – no matter how we behave (unless we are not wearing all the gear all the time). Like so many aspects of society where men dominate (which is really all of them), WRN should produce content that proclaims women are here to ride and we are here to stay and we are here to own our place in the world of riding. Refer to content by Amber Tamblyn on sexism in the film industry. And this response to that op-ed by Mary Kate McGrath. You can also see work by Brianna Wu (who is also a motorcyclist, by the way and general BAD ASS) and Anita Sarkeesian (another BAD ASS) in the tech industry.
Now, you might say, “But motorcycling is a leisure sport and we don’t want to be controversial.” Well, in my opinion, if women have to do things like not wear lipstick or ride fun roads when alone, then our presence is already controversial. Furthermore, it isn’t just industry. Take this Serena Williams piece in Time. Or this reflection on the sexism of the Olympics.
And yes, even other motorcycling publications are tackling this issue. That is Chris Cope, a male author, writing an article on an issue about women. Funny, I thought us women would be able to articulate our perspective better than some man, but per this response, it appears a man is carrying that torch rather than a publication with another tagline saying “An online motorcycling lifestyle magazine from the female point of view.” I guess the WRN perspective from the female point of view is to avoid this type of content and invalidate the women who wish to voice our opinion that we belong with our lipstick, our cute tee, our tight jeans, our skirts and our cute bad ass selves and we deserve to feel safe no matter what.
No need to respond or worry over further reactions or contradictory or debatable response from me. I will no longer read, recommend or follow this publication. Good luck with empowering women using soft tactics.

Ultimately, ladies, I cannot say this loud enough WE HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

That is all.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

No fucking gimmicks. That is all.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

Happy Cooking and Happy OWNING your place in the world.

Day 11: Topeka to Pacific – Angry White Male

“Well, lookie here, a woman on a motorcycle. Bet she’s real tough.”

I was sipping coffee and snacking on a gas station breakfast that had sat under a heating lamp.

Before being verbally assaulted, my day actually started out pretty good. As I headed off, the sun rose burning orange and red into a hazy and humid morning. As it was 7am the Sunday before Labor Day, the roads and highways were empty. Foggy patches of condensed humidity hovered over low ditches, ground depressions and inside thickets of trees. The thickness of the air dampened road noise and whatever else might be stirring.

It was a serene and calm, but by the time I was having my coffee, the heat started seizing the day and the humidity was popping. Humidity and assholes with big mouths make me cranky. This guy made me cranky.

I scanned over my smarmy antagonist – white, 50s, fat, sweaty, unkempt, smoke yellowed teeth, wearing a thinning T-shirt with its arms cut off so he didn’t get armpit sweat stains, a trucker hat worn way back and unsuccessfully covering grey, balding hair in need of a cut. He, his two dopey-looking but physically imposing sons and his squat, unpleasant-looking wife had gotten out of a beaten up 80s king-kab Ford pickup truck with shot suspension and a bedful of old worn tires. The boys looked at me with something like hungry curiousity that felt slimy as they smirked at their pop’s clever statement. His wife regarded me with a glance of judgmental disgust.

Given my odds, I thought better than offering a “Tougher than you, you fat fuck.” Instead, I went for bored indifference despite the fact I managed to take in all their glory at a glance. Since he didn’t pursue it any further after exiting the gas station, I suppose it worked. But, really, I suspect he expended everything in his smart-ass remark bank account for the morning with that one statement.

My headphone battery died and I had only my thoughts to keep me company for 100 miles. So, unfortunately, I thought about that asshole and wrote part of this in my head. Except for the missing MAGA hat, this dude was that angry, white, American male who helped put Agent Orange in office.

The degree of self-entitlement one must possess to casually dole out a statement like that to a stranger at a gas station who is simply minding her own business and sipping a cup of bad coffee is galling. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t give me that boys will be boys shit. Sorry, I don’t accept the bullshit about needing to insult a stranger to express your manhood. This is most certainly not a means of disguising your intimidation of me. Drop the act about how you just wanted to show off for your kids. Don’t you dare believe for one second your casual misogyny made you more attractive to me or your spouse.

I’ve heard all those things before from small men who willingly act like an assholes for their own gain. I’ve listened as someone else tries to explain it away with some bs about how these flawed me do these things out of fear, intimidation, anxiety, or whatever emotion poor men must hide in this society that oppresses them so.

I’m calling bullshit.

It is not about anything more complex or psychoanalytical than the poor white, male exerting his privilege to demean and talk down to people he judges less by virtue of their gender or color. That’s all. This sad specimen of a man in all his sweaty grossness said that because he thought he could. Because society deemed it acceptable. His hulking sons got the message loud and clear. They were given permission to openly examine me and objectify me. And his wife was given permission to feel satisfied that she was better because she knew her place. She wasn’t the one leaving herself wide open for ridicule.

I probably deserved it for standing there by a motorcycle, sipping coffee in public. Shit, wasn’t I asking for it out there flaunting myself and letting my freak flag fly for all to see right there at the side of the highway?

And now, I’ve said my piece. I won’t think about that greasy asshole again because there will be a future greasy asshole to take his place soon enough.

But I don’t want to end this all submerged in anger and indignation. I am happy to say, I’ve run into far more friendly and encouraging people than guys like this. So, I’d like to commit some of them to ink too.

  • The couple in the Sierras who was busting their ass to serve a full house breakfast, but still took time to talk to me about riding motorcycles.
  • The gentleman in Austin, NV who talked my ear off about all the cool stuff to look for along my route through Nevada. I wouldn’t have stopped to snap a shot of the Joshua Trees without him telling me about them.

  • The lovely owners and staff of the Silver Cafe who marveled at my adventure and served up a mean pulled pork sandwich. Even offering me some sauce to take home (had to turn it down, no where to hold it).

  • The two men outside of Zion NP who chatted with me for an hour about motorcycle adventures and motorcycles. Who didn’t mansplain anything to me as I dripped coolant down the side of my bike while trying to fill it with a coffee cup. And the woman who rode a Harley and joined in on the conversation.

  • The guy on the Harley heading for Las Vegas who offered me a beer (no thanks I don’t drink on the road), a bottle of water (thanks, but I just downed 32 ounces) and, finally, I accepted a USB outlet because mine was acting up.
  • The woman who mailed my GPS Spot back to me.

  • The innkeeper who found me unusual, but in a good way.
  • There was the amazing innkeeper in Page, NV. A woman who I could have sat with for days and talked about her own life adventures.

  • The small plane pilot and Lake Powell Boat owner who was more interested in my ride and ready to buy another motorcycle. I was more interested in how one gets their pilot’s license ad where one keeps a plane (asking for a friend).

  • In Navajo country, there were so many fine people who took a moment to ask about my ride, where I was going and where I was from and to wish me luck.

  • Somewhere along the Utah-Arizona border there is a selfie of me with two Navajo gentlemen at a lone trading post. They wanted a picture with this bad ass motorcycle woman they met.

  • The guy who was returning on a cross-country trip after delivering his son to college. He was so excited for my ride, I think he’s planning his own cross country trip right now.
  • The quirky waitress in Breckenridge who told my husband and I about her upcoming trip to Italy before she moves to Casper, WY.

  • The three guys who sat across the counter from me in Limon and opened the conversation with “That’s a good looking bike, what is it?”
  • My favorite motel keeper in Kansas and all the fine people there who keep my mom’s grave clean and with flowers. Especially her friend who got my last minute email and came straight over to the motel to see me.

  • All the people who treated me more like a person than an oddity to be openly stared at.
  • All the family and friends who greeted me with open arms, housed me, fed me and put up with me along this ride.

There are so many more moments that outshine that asshole. And I feel better right now remembering them.

Happy cooking and loving one another!