my mom and her bff on their bikes

By Andrea Dickinson

Write about feeling empowered, she said.  

Go deep, she said.

The tossing and turning began.

It all started with a conversation about sport-bike riding in the early 2000’s.  As a suburban 35 year-old housewife and mom…at the time, I felt it was a source of empowerment.  My best friend and I got our motorcycle licences – we weren’t about to put our fates in the hands of our husbands by riding on the back of their motorcycles, while at the same time, we weren’t about to “let them have all the fun” – in the words of my best friend.  

When you are a young woman who's playing the role of “mom” 99 per cent of the time, getting out on a “crotch rocket” and having that very rebellious and thrilling, but mostly, independent, experience is what feels like empowerment, and I guess it is.  Since it requires one’s mind and body to be very much engaged in all aspects of the activity, one could describe motorcycling as a meditation because being present is really necessary. That’s a huge part of it’s appeal.   As much as my main purpose in life, as it unfolded and unfolds, appears to be Mother of Awesome Girls who are now Awesome Young Women, one still needed to get the hell out on your own, and you know what you aren’t going to do? You aren’t going to put one of your kids on the back of a 600cc inline 4.  I mean, you can, but if you don’t have to, why would you? ( It’s a seemingly perfect escape until you factor in all the risks!)

So. Me on my sport bike and my best friend on hers really was an empowering experience if you equate this activity to  something that many men do every weekend… motorcycling with other men, having an adventure, having bonding time, and mostly, having freedom from their responsibilities.  My question is: does one need to engage in a male-dominated activity in order to feel empowered? A pastime that men feel totally entitled to and one that as a woman, you feel brave and ballsy, but also get so much flack for participating in because it is high risk…so the whole time you’re a little bit (or sometimes a lot) on edge about your safety…and feeling badly because ‘if anything happens to me…’… and how we are told to “be careful” six million times in our lives and now we are being so naughty.  Is it empowering? Yes, I think so...

Learning to ride a motorcycle was a challenge and developing a whole new skill set was empowering.  The first time I had to actually go on a motorcycle ride in real traffic was terrifying, but I did it.  We rode through the mountains of Andalucia, Spain, Arizona, and all over Ontario and the Eastern USA.  There were many times where I was really unsure and nervous, but I pushed through and did it. So, for me, overcoming really intense fear was empowering. 

Now that was almost 20 (eek!) years ago, and it's not so unusual to see women riders nowadays.  Regardless,  it was thrilling to have so much (vibrating) power between your legs, and you could ignore your male counterpart telling you to ride at lower revs (heh). It was liberating and it was rebellious.  I no longer ride (although I have pangs when I see a sport bike riding by)….but now,  as a 52 year-old woman, my viewpoint regarding empowerment has nothing to do with riding a bike, but it has everything to do with having the strength to push through fear, in whatever form that it may be.  

Jessica Salgueiro