Motorbikes, Kids and Gender

It started thawing on Friday and the snow is almost all gone by now. Instead, we got rain all day long and horrible sludge and mud everywhere. The air was also surprisingly chilly, though it had gotten almost ten degrees warmer since Thursday. I vastly prefer the snow.

Today was the annual biker Christmas meeting at a local motorbike dealer. Now I don’t ride a motorbike, but my Dad does and I occasionally go along with him to motorbike exhibitions and meetings. This is one of the nicer events, because there’s free food, though I still could’ve done without standing in the cold rain staring at motorbikes.

At these motorbike events, there are always some parents with kids. And the way these kids interact with the motorbikes on display is always so depressingly gendered. The little boys are inevitably enchanted by the bikes, though there was one kid today, who was far more interested in one of those decorative neonlight tubes and tried to play lightsabre with it – I must confess I had to suppress a smile. Little boys often clamour to be allowed to sit on the bikes and their proud daddies lift them up and let them play mini-bikers. Some of the smaller ones even mimic engine sounds, while the older ones announce which bike they want to ride once they’re old enough.

Meanwhile, little girls usually stand quietly next to their fathers. They don’t ask whether they can sit on the bikes nor do their parents lift them up for a try. Even if the girls are obviously interested in the bikes, the parents don’t let them sit down and pretend to ride. And the older the girls get, the more they look like they’re fervently wishing to be somewhere else.

This pattern even persists, if a family has both male and female children. It even persist if the mothers are bikers as well. In fact, family men can only keep up their motorbike habit, if they have the support of their partner, because bikes are expensive and young families raising kids usually have other priorities. Most of the time, bikers are either very young men up to their mid twenties or old men over forty-five. The ones inbetween drop out, because they are too busy raising kids and paying off mortgages.

I always find this gendered treatment of kids with respect to motorbikes depressing. Why don’t the dads let their daughters sit down on a bike as well as their little sons? Because I doubt that none of the little girls are interested in motorbikes. Even stereotypical pink princess girls could get something out of motorbikes, because a lot of motorbikes are glittery and gleaming as hell. You can’t tell me that something like this could not excite a little girl’s interest. Yet most of the girls are not even encouraged to show interest.

Now I was already an adult when my Dad started getting into motorbikes, so I never was in the situation of being a kid at one of these events. Yet I’m pretty sure that my Dad would have encouraged me to sit down on one of the bikes. I probably would have refused, since I was terrified of motorbikes as a kid. They were loud, they were scary, you always had to watch out that one of them didn’t mow you down on the bike lane (this wouldn’t have been proper motorbikes, but scooters and mopeds, the bane of my teens) and they served no purpose in my mind. Why ride a bicycle with an engine, if you could have a car? On the other hand, if I had actually grown up with motorbikes, I probably wouldn’t have been as terrified of them as I was.

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One Response to Motorbikes, Kids and Gender

  1. Pingback: Cora attends a biker meeting and gets a Tiptree | Cora Buhlert

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