I have learned that sometimes being in an MC means death by 1000 cuts. I say this because you do not have the power to prevent those countless cuts from happening. Even the tiniest of things can easily build up to something massive – making one feel as if they are facing death by 1000 paper cuts.
The cuts started early. You’re discouraged and humiliated when first starting to learn to ride in a group. As for myself, I can remember standing on the side of a freeway terrified, cars rushing by, and everyone screaming what a failure I was. Yet, my thoughts were how was I going to kill myself and everyone with me?
Few people give you credit for how scary it actually can be when you are first starting out on a motorcycle. By nature, most women are not in the business of risk taking, especially when it comes to physical challenges. Initially that is a pretty big hump – not only to face but to conquer. To this day I still get anxious riding with others, even though I have gotten comfortable at doing it on my own or with my guy. A paper cut for every ride.
Another dilemma is that the majority of current MC’s have next to no women in them. There are men who are supportive of a woman who is attempting to prospect and fit in, without displaying any interest in them on a sexual level. However, the women who are companions to these men constantly see you as a threat. Of course you must be there only to find some man to be with, particularly their man. Another cut.
It is problematic when men do not take you serious, or for that matter, don’t even listen unless you are screaming. But now they say you are crazy. You learn pretty quick to be a bitch, be ignored, or worse yet, be pushed around. What you are left with is years of pushing yourself to hard because you believed you had something to prove to others. Numerous paper cuts for prospecting.
Now you are going to functions on the set. The men consistently make cracks and tell stories about how their wives/girlfriends don’t understand why they do this thing called motorcycling and give them shit about being in an MC. The men constantly justify their exclusion of their significant others, so they can run around and misbehave with impunity. Yet I take issues with the negative comments. The comments are clearly intended to be a joke they can all identify with, and most of them do as the population is largely male, strait and generally misogynistic. For those of us who are not men, it’s an ever present signal that we’re not considered a part of the brotherhood, that maybe we don’t actually belong like we originally thought we did. Very few of the women have the ability to stick together and maintain a united front for the protection of one another. The competition for male attention, not necessarily sexual, and need for their approval stands in the way of almost any real sisterhood. The heavy drinking easily can make you feel unsafe and put you in harms at events. A paper cut for every event.
You may work extremely hard, such as in in my case, and get into an MC to then find yourself consistently faced with someone in authority patting you on the head and dismissing any argument or concerns you have about things going on around you that are wrong. Dismissive of you as though you were nothing more than a child —something they would not do if you were “one of the boys.”
The cuts still keep coming.
Then there is a problem with your reaction to any given situation and this reaction becomes the focus of concern and not the situation at hand. How many time have I heard, “well yes that was fucked up but your reaction was wrong” for this reason or another. More times than not, once you calm down you may see they were actually correct in regards to your inability to maintain your composure. This leaves you feeling even more self loathing because of the constant feeling of failure in trying to negotiate the land mines if this MC life. When one feels so embattled, wrongly they may lash out in every direction in an ill guided attempt to find relief. Even with the self knowledge that you never set out to mess with someone maliciously is no consolation. The ever present feeling that you can’t get it right is exasperating. The cuts keep coming.
Some of these same men, who are supposedly your brothers, take to talking about The physical attributes of you such as, the way you dress or how much you weigh. This in turn can make a woman not only uncomfortable but lead to self doubt in herself. You are asked to cook and serve food for functions you should be participating in as an equal member of the group, but instead you’ve been placed in the stereotypical role of female duties. The brothers make sexually charged comments about woman around you and expect you to participate or at least behave like this objectification is cool. Others say that you don’t ride enough even though they hardly ride themselves. A thousand cuts for the riding world.
Every time you push to make things better or different, you are guaranteed a patronizing response from some man. If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested that some demographics just aren’t biologically predisposed to being a good club member, I’d be rich. On more than than one occasion, I’ve had people try to engage me in arguments about the importance of diversity only to later claim they “were playing devil’s advocate.” I’ve had people derail diversity discussions to victim blame and try to speak for the minority that they were not a member of. A paper cut for every time you speak up.
Before someone suggest that these patronizing responses are just jerks and not the general feeling, understand that is not the case. I get these responses fairly regularly. From my own club brothers. From people who know me. From prominent members of the community. From people who should know better. The cuts are deeper when they are people you hold to higher regard, in large part because they are so unexpected you have no way to anticipate who, when or where you will hear these comments.
Cuts, the deep and painful ones, that I have received I can’t even feel safe writing about here – because they’re either too personal or I fear the consequences…
When ever I talk about this, someone always tells me I’m just looking for things to get angry about. Downplaying my pain. As though my feelings are invalid. Perhaps they don’t understand that that was one of many things that happened that day or that week or that month or for the duration of my MC time. That you can’t detach and view these things in isolation. That no matter how tough you get, how thick skinned you are, paper cuts still hurt. I’m not the only one in bandaids trying to stanch the bleeding and focus on being in an MC because it truly is the thing that I love. I am terrified of the day that it becomes terminal. Death by paper cuts.