by Kristel Liakou
In 1915, Effie Hotchkiss went on a long nomadic journey on her motorcycle and since then, she has been known as a pioneering female motorcyclist. Indeed, Effie and her mother travelled across the country with a Harley-Davidson V-twin. They covered a grand total of nine thousand miles (14.484 km), starting from Brooklyn to San Francisco and back to New York. They were officially the first women to ride cross-country on a motorcycle. That behaviour can be explained considering that during the time of WWI, women were actually liberated from patriarchal power; as men were too busy fighting for their country to care for such matters. So Effie and Avis opened the way to other American women to ride a bike; therefore to take their lives in their hands.
By way of contrast, in the 1950s you could see women on motor-bikes only as the company for badass motorcyclist men. They could have been girlfriends of sexy Hell Angels boys, but they could not have been riders themselves. Women used to be defined by the males of the outlaw gang. They actually used to wear vests with saying patches such as “Property of…”. To put it briefly, they were something like an accessory that completes the whole outfit.
A few years ago, empowering women movement became big. Consequently, that evolution created a new notion –women riders. The first female motorcycle club poped in Portland, Oregon under the name “Babes Ride Out” in 2013. In the same year, photographer Lanakila McNaughton -rider herself- exhibited her photo-reportage, “Women Moto”. Her project documented the new wave of modern female motorcyclists. She “promotes and presents, the freedom, independence, excitement and personalities’ of “the born to be free” woman motorcyclists”. Through Lanakila women-motorcyclists find their “voice”.
Nowadays women own the front seat of a motorcycle; they do camping trips and establish motor-clubs in every part of the world. There is a club in Berlin so-called “The Curves Berlin”, another one in Denmark under the name “The Throttle Dolls”, the “Foxy Fuelers” in Sydney and much more in the U.S.A. like the “Tiny Daggers” and the “The Littas”. The latter has chapters in more than 160 towns, consist of more than 4000 female members. More and more women are starting to ride and female biker clubs are becoming popular. There is a sense of community in biker clubs; women are building strong relationships and feel liberated from the patriarchy’s ideals.
Whilst motorcycle riding has been stereotypically seen as a male-dominated activity, things starting to change dramatically. According to Motorcycle Industry Council’s survey in 2014, the estimated number of motorcycles owned by females is 14 percent, a 50 percent increase over the last 10 years. As has been noted, female riders are changing well the deviant identity of motor-riding.