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6 Women Jamming the Wind “Mastering a Harley is as American as self-reliance and independence.” “Unless you’re a woman.” The female riding world, unlike the male world, is made up of women who ride and women who passenger. Sometimes women do both, but that’s pretty rare. Unlike men, women are not readily defined by class, age, style of riding, or how many years they’ve been riding. Women who ride defy the categories that can be used to divide men so easily into separate bundles. While typically white and heterosexual, the riding woman can be working class, professional, or a full-time stay-athome mother. She can be well educated or a high school dropout. She can be rich or poor. What these women all have in common is their love of bikes and their defiance of female stereotypic behavior. None of these women play it safe. None follow the path of female socialization into timidity. All these women are bold. Each is bold in her own way. Women who passenger are different from women who ride. Women who passenger are usually thought of primarily in terms of their sexuality because of their association with wild men. Any woman who does such a bold and dangerous act as riding the wind behind a questionable character must surely be nothing less than a sexual outlaw . She is the slutty seductress adorning the pages of biker rags. She is the naked calendar cutie leaning voluptuously against the hard and stark machinery of the motorcycle. She has already broken the rules of “normal” propriety; who knows what other rules she will break? Who knows how she will act? She is society’s wicked woman and every young boy’s secret wet dream. While she is many things in America’s collective mind, she is considered beyond redemption and polite society. Women who ride are different from women who passenger. Women who ride break even greater conventions. These women refuse to ride 88 Women Jamming the Wind on the back of the bike. For all the censure received by the sexual outlaw, she is at least following a recognizable gender role. She rides the rear. The woman who rides her own bike is not behaving like a woman at all. She is in charge of her own bike. She makes her own destiny. Women in America have not been raised for this. The riding woman is seen as a gender traitor. All women in the biking world experience various levels of disapproval . Usually, the lure and love of the bikes, the men, and the community is strong enough to compensate for that disapproval. According to male writers (Wolf, Thompson, and Hopper and Moore), women are peripheral to the biker world. Necessary but peripheral. They are also classified in relation to men, rather than in relation to bikes. Indeed, male writers of motorcycle culture have not considered women as riders at all. Wolf devotes only one page of The Rebels to women. According to Wolf, women who participate in the outlaw biker world are passengers and fall into one of three major categories: “broads,” “mamas,” and “ol’ ladies”: These categories are fundamentally distinct statuses and represent different ways that women relate to the club and to its members. “Broads” is the general term used to refer to a wide range of women who drift in and out of the sub-culture. It is an introductory stage of social interaction with one or more members on a casual and usually temporary basis. “Mamas” are women who maintain an informal affiliation with the club as a whole. This informal affiliation includes social-sexual interactions with the members and, in some clubs, an economic arrangement . “Ol’ ladies” are women who have established a long-standing personal relationship with an individual member. An ol’ lady may be the member’s girlfriend, covivant, or wife. The women in these three categories play sub-cultural roles that meet distinct male needs and result in different types of male-female relationships ; from “loose broads” and “mamas” who often become the passive objects of displays of machismo and sexual gratification, to “ol’ ladies” who are respected as long-term personal companions and loved as the active partners of club members. (1991, 133) According to Wolf and all male writers before him, male bikers view women only in relation to their man; they are all seen as “loose broads, ” “mamas, ” and “ol’ ladies. ” While all passengering women are, indeed, dependent upon...


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