All photos curtesy of Portrait Exposure Photography.
Growing as a person is a concept I’ve always struggled with. Maybe it’s more of growing into myself that I see as the problem. I grew up becoming embarrassed of my extroverted, stubborn, individualistic personality, and I began to feel ostracized. I have always been the most outspoken person in my family, and the trait left my family shushing me for years. It is an odd feeling; being told that you are “too much” so you feel as though you must hold back and shrink to be “enough.” So, my eleven-year-old attempt at adequacy was to speak less and be unobtrusive. But then silencing myself developed the habit of constantly questioning everything I had to say. Why am I saying this? These people don’t want to listen. I don’t belong here. Is this out of line for me to say? Did I make them uncomfortable? Did I overwhelm them? I became secretive of my list of obscure hobbies and honest opinions in an attempt to normalize myself and be more “acceptable” and “manageable”. I thirsted for connection, but since I didn’t even know who I was versus who people wanted me to be, I often found myself putting energy into the wrong friends, studies, and hobbies. So, now that I have made progress down the road of self-acceptance, I find myself feeling more defensive than I had previously.
How do I be a good woman in 2020? What does that even mean? Be a “good woman.” And is that against being a good biker? Does being a good woman mean I have to sacrifice my joy, my peace? For example, how much housework do I expect my man to do? How much housework am I willing to do? What is the fair division of housework and where is the responsibility as me, the “good woman,” realistically “supposed” to do in combination of my full-time job and hobbies? How many runs, gym sessions, friend meetups, and creative outlets must be sacrificed for dishes and laundry? Sometimes I feel like who I am is at odds with being a stereotypical Southern “good woman.” When my boyfriend tells me “but I want to go outside and do the guy stuff” in response to washing laundry versus greasing my motorcycle chain, it wrecks me. Do I have to choose between what I want to do and the chores to keep the house running? But I want to maintain my belongings, which involves both the meal’s dirty dishes and my bike. I love my motorcycle. I want to be the one able to care for it since I am the one paying for it. Obviously, I also love my man, and I also want to care for him. I also don’t want to ride pillion on my own motorcycle, but we won’t get into that.
Sometimes, I get lost in the expectations for women. I feel the pressure to do it all and to look good doing it. I agonize to make it look effortless. Sometimes, the charade of perfection robs me of my authenticity. I know I stated I had made progress in self-acceptance, but we are doing a great disservice to women if we pretend that the struggle between self and society doesn’t exist. Some women’s goals align with the traditional female role, and I support their choice! Obviously, motherhood and housekeeping are admirable and necessary pursuits. But. You have to admit they align much more with what society expects from a woman and is much more readily accepted. But what about the women who aren’t called to motherhood? Where’s my support? Why do people feel so solid in their opinions that they tell me “you’re going to die alone,” “you’ll change your mind,” and that I disappoint God. But do I though? Do I really? God didn’t make me this way to apologize. I am worthy and purposeful even if you personally don’t understand my stance. My opinion is valid, just like others that differ. Realizing my validity is a crucial component to recognizing myself as a whole, unbroken person.
I hope you, reader, understand my frustration a little more. How I have spent years fearing that my personality made me a “bad” woman and less worthy of achievement, and how pursuing motorcycling further personified my failure at being a good woman.
Firstly, I got the whole “You can’t control what people say/do/think, you can only control how you act/think/feel.” Likes yes, totally. I pride myself on doing what I want despite the consensus. I will not ignore the pressure and judgment that female bikers are put under by male riders and other biker girls. I feel constantly scrutinized. Anywhere I go someone is waiting to point out a flaw. Random people will come up to me and state that my bike is too big for me when I know that smaller women than me ride larger bikes than mine. And those women inspire me to try harder and push to develop stronger skills! Someone once said to me that if you bring up a problem and don’t offer a solution, then you are just complaining. I don’t want to just complain. I want to make the situation less powerful. I want to let other girl bikers know that I celebrate the challenges that they are overcoming, the bikes they ride, and the trips they take. I want to be a source of support, comradery, and empathy. Being pitted against one another is exhausting. I want girls I can ride with. I want to send pictures of bikes I want and not get “you can’t handle that” as a response. I want help with my gear color coordination and the actual procurement of solid, well-fitting women’s gear. I feel politically inclined to add that not all men are invalid sources of rider friendships, opinions, and advice. I greatly value the input of my talented boyfriend and other male riders. I’m simply saying that the scrutiny has got to die. The dismissive sighs, headshakes, and comments have got to stop. Maybe I should “be the better person” and get over it, but no. My solution is: I can be supportive and all those positive gestures, but it can’t be just me. Other women have to want to do the same and men as well. Which I know they do! I see it on Instagram, Facebook groups, and online forums, and it brings joy to my heart. However, I rarely see it on the street, at meets, or in conversations. I want biker gal pals to hold me to a standard of skill; instead of judging someone for not knowing something, can’t we share knowledge? I see far too often women making mistakes and no one offering to educate. I’m not saying embarrass or shame her for not knowing something. I 100% realize that we have to be teachable, and I personally have to remind myself to check my defensiveness and be open to criticism. I’m simply tired of women’s skill not being taken seriously and therefore dismissed. I want bikers, men and women, to call out sloppy riding and hold each other accountable to do better.
And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m taking everything too personally. But I feel like if I stop taking it so personally, then that means I agree with them. I ride because I want to. Not just because my man rides, but because I’ve wanted to for as long as I can remember. Maybe my reactions boil down to past dissatisfaction, shortcomings, and judgments that don’t apply to me anymore. Maybe my failure to shed old pain keeps me hurting and projecting negative thoughts where they aren’t as prominent as I anxiously fret that they are. Maybe I cause myself more hurt than any of these other people or situations. Maybe this is a complaining rant because I’m frustrated about my jagged line of progress. But maybe it’s not just me, and maybe it’s time for an overhaul.
Welcome to self-acceptance.
I’m done silencing myself.