This is what men apparently see when I’m with my scooter [image source].
A week ago, after a long day at work, I found myself incredibly frustrated with the societal double-standards that I face as a female motorcyclist [yes, I ride a Vespa, but I think that the word ‘scooterist’ is stupid, so I’ll stick with motorcyclist]. I’d parked my shiny red vehicle on the tiles outside the office, and it took a couple of attempts to roll it off the stand because of the slippery surface. This is a completely normal problem, and I dealt with it quickly. But, in the short time – thirty seconds or so – that it took me to get off the stand, not one but two men offered me help. I politely declined, but I couldn’t help feeling really annoyed at the situation. Why, as a female, do men think that they need to help me with my scooter?
Now, maybe I’m overreacting, and one of those businessmen was a fellow motorcyclist who understood the frustration of trying to roll off a stand on a slippery surface, but honestly, it didn’t look that way. To me, it looked like two stuffy men in business suits found themselves a damsel in distress, and thought that they could help. If I’d been male, I can guarantee that neither of those men would have offered their assistance. Last year, I passed my learner’s test on the first try. One of the men in my training group failed. So why, as a female rider, am I still regarded as less capable than a male one?
This isn’t the only time that being a female rider has welcomed me unfair attention. Earlier this year, I went to see Bush at the Palace. Attending the gig alone, I came up with a plan that involved snagging a chair on the upstairs balcony, and sitting on top of my helmet, to ensure that I could definitely see over everybody’s heads. This was far from the first time that I’d been to a show by myself, and I took a book to pass the time between bands [I know, I know, reading in the dark is bad for your eyes]. The book itself [Marieke Hardy’s You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead] served as an invitation for a few people to approach me and ask what I was reading, but it was my motorcycle helmet that convinced two men that it would be fine to not only sit with me, but to lecture me about riding safely.
Now, these two guys [whose names I cannot for the life of me remember] were actually really nice, decent people. Staind fans, they didn’t care too much for the main act, but were very excited for the support. I didn’t mind chatting about the model of my Vespa, or the ease of parking in the city. And I certainly didn’t mind chatting about the bands that they’d been seeing lately. But, I did kind of mind when they started warning me about riding in the rain without leathers, and making sure my hair was out of my eyes before I put my helmet on. Yes, I was still a learner rider, but I was – and still am – smart enough to know about basic safety. This was just another case where, because of my gender, men felt the need to be macho and protective.
On Saturday, I passed my motorcycle licence test. I am officially no longer a learner. I am just as qualified as the other two women, and the eight men who completed the training course with me. I’m not some silly little girl who needs men to help her roll off the stand, or warn her to wear leathers. I’m a licensed motorcyclist, just like any other – and as a regular commuter, I’m statistically less likely to get into an accident than recreational rider. So don’t treat me differently just because I’m female, okay?