The evolution of the motorcycle community hinges on dropping sexism from events, and everyday riding.
Here's the thing: I'm a fan of the ladies. I'm a fan of looking at the ladies. And, when there is mutual agreement to do so, I'm a fan of touching the ladies. That's just the way I am. Some deep something within drives me to think this way—to look at certain females and think: "Oh, golly, I think I'll keep looking."
The Methodist and Baptist churches that my parents and grandparents dragged me to until I was in my late-teens would describe my behavior as normal, red-blooded and American. I personally wonder if there really is such a thing as "normal" when it comes to sexuality, but I will say that I have no problem with how I think. I'm a man and I like women, and I'm OK with that.
So I will admit that when I go to a motorcycle show, such as last week's EICMA, and I see that every manufacturer—and, in some cases, accessories provider—has festooned its product with extraordinarily gorgeous women, there is a part of my brain that shouts: "Oh, golly! Tight clothing! Exposed flesh! Ample cleavage! Shapely bottoms! Huzzah!"
And when I say "brain," I'm not really talking about my brain.
But here's the other thing: I'm a grown-ass man. And part of being a grown-ass man is having developed the ability keep my "brain" in check. In connection with that, part of being an adult and enjoying adult relationships is understanding and accepting that the people with whom you are interacting are also adults. And that involves things like empathy and attempting to see situations from others' perspectives.
Which is why it annoys the ever-loving tar out of me that extraordinarily gorgeous women are adorning manufacturers' products at every motorcycle show and event I attend. It's an outdated practice that is frustrating, backward, and almost certainly damaging to the actual reason for the show or event: motorcycling.
When I see these women, lithely straddling the latest two-wheeled trend, there surfaces amid the flurry of "Oh, golly!" thoughts and feelings an increasing discomfort, as I consider how I might feel about all this if I were a woman. I suppose if I were a particularly randy lesbian, the initial response would be similar to what I feel as a heterosexual male. But thereafter, I suspect I would feel a sense of alienation, a feeling of being dismissed and not taken seriously.
I would feel that the people who had placed this Lycra-clad ultra-goddess on a Yamaha/Honda/Ducati/Indian/BMW/etc. didn't actually take me seriously as a customer. I would feel there was an intrinsic failing on the part of this manufacturer to understand me, my interests, my wants, or my concerns. And by extension, I would feel that there is no real place for me within the communities that center around motorcycles. Quite possibly, I would feel angry, but almost certainly I would feel a desire to ignore this world and to find some better way to spend my time and money.
Because when I reverse the scenario, when I imagine some oiled-up cabana boy lustfully caressing a fuel tank, I know for dang certain that is not the sort of thing that's going to sell me on a motorcycle.
Recent years have seen more manufacturers building bikes to appeal to women. Lower seat heights and tighter ergonomics are offered as a concession to smaller physical stature. But the continued presence of stiletto-heeled eye candy at promotional events makes all that feel like a token gesture, no more genuinely aimed at welcoming women into motorcycling than the Barbie yoga mat that most sportbikes call a passenger seat.
I can see a place for certain kinds of models at these shows—of both sexes. At EICMA, two members of the Hell's Angels turned up and started jumping on various Harley-Davidsons. I wondered for a moment if it was a stunt. Their being ushered away by security suggested it wasn't.
But it made me realize that there's nothing wrong with having a model who serves as a kind of aspiration, a way of saying: "This is how you could look on our bike." That's fine. Dress up guys and gals in branded gear and make them pretend to be hipsters, adventure riders, sportbikers, and so on.
But no one is planning to ride a Triumph Tiger Explorer in hot pants and six-inch heels. That woman is just eye candy. Glorious eye candy, for that part of my soul that never left the fraternity house (Phi Delts!), but eye candy nonetheless. And for all the people who aren't me, it's potentially insulting.
I have never taken my wife to a motorcycle show because I fear the latent sexism she would experience would defeat the years that I have spent gently trying to encourage her into biking.
I'm a fan of the ladies, but I'm also a fan of motorcycling. And to me, it seems that in order to make the latter even better you need to involve far more of the former. And the way to bring those ladies into motorcycling is not to subversively tell them that their value is measured on their ability to affect my "brain." Instead, it's to see them and treat them as equals. Genuine equals, genuine adults, deserving of the same respect and lack of ogling that I would afford another man.
The first step in doing that is in manufacturers changing how they display their products. It's something that should have been done a long time ago.