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Breaking Stereotypes, The Indian ‘Bikerni’ Is Out To Reclaim Her Space In The Male Dominated World

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By Anusha Sundar:

A sleek Honda Xtreme, gushing wind in the hair, an expanse of unending road ahead and the adrenaline rush of it all. Ann Philip, a young, amateur biker, also an active racer, takes to the road whenever she gets the time to. According to Ann, biking means breaking boundaries — ‘For me it was this need to break the stereotype. It was this total unleashing of every ounce of grit to show the guys that it is no longer their domain.’ There are hundreds of women in India like Ann who are slowly asserting themselves, reclaiming spaces that aren’t considered their ‘thing.’ Biking might in the most stereotypical notions be considered a men’s zone, but the daring women of today are changing it all. And in India, they are doing so with utmost pride and vigour.

Picture from 'The Bikerni' Facebook page
Picture from ‘The Bikerni’ Facebook page

India is the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, but it is only the men of the country that are privileged enough to ride them. Even if women are seen on motorcycles, they are often just passengers, being driven by their sons, brothers, husbands or fathers. It is rare to find women riding motorcycles because they are not considered capable enough to handle these ‘powerful’ vehicles. Our ‘sensible’ media of course adds to this immensely prudent reasoning. Mahindra’s advertisement for their latest Centuro 110 reads: ‘Ye khel nahi haseeno ka. Kab tak tujhe samjaun mein?’ Bravo Mahindra, for not only an utter lack of creativity but also a mindless and an unnecessary attack on women. However, it is very important to note that these notions do not appear out of nowhere. It is a product of a patriarchal set up that has subdued women for centuries and reduced them to household activities and baby producing machines. Braving all the imprisoning labels, the patriarchal rules and the mind numbing pigeon holing, women bikers are rising above the stations that society has laid for them and racing off into beaten road tracts.

Although women bikers are a new phenomenon for a society like ours, they are quickly increasing in number and are becoming more widely known. The Bikerni’ is the first All- Women’s Motorcycle Association of India that brings together new motorcyclists and similar-minded women from across the nation. Founded by Ms. Urvashi Patole in the year 2011, Bikerni aimed at breaking the male dominated field and creating a platform for India’s women bikers. It is special not only because it is an immense source of motivation and empowerment to all its members but also because it stands for an unyielding revolt against the society’s biased compartmentalization. The association created a new record by being the largest group of women motorcyclists to drive up to the highest motorable road in the world: Khardung-La. Apart from organizing drives, Bikerni also supports and conducts social awareness campaigns related to women and child development. Consisting of 374 passionate, tough women, their next goal is to expand into rural areas as well. Although Bikerni is but the first women’s motorcycle association in India, it has caused a spurt in the growth of several other smaller organizations and created a ripple in the once male centric world.

Women bikers have made us proud because they have been daring enough to take the first step in this dangerously judgemental world. They have demolished all the clichés of motorcycling being about macho men, scary gangs and tattooed muscles. They have announced to the daunting world that they cannot marginalized anymore and have become one of the many symbols of the resonating hope of the country’s women.

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  1. Babar

    According to Ann, biking means breaking boundaries – ‘For me it was this need to break the stereotype. It was this total unleashing of every ounce of grit to show the guys that it is no longer their domain.’

    According to me, biking is about getting from one place to another. It has never been a stereotype, unless feminists are deliberately trying to turn everything into men vs women. No one has ever said that it is a man’s domain. Women choose to ride Scootys because they are lighter, automatic, and presumably easier to handle. In fact, I see a lot of guys on the streets riding a Scooty, without making a fuss about how it is a woman’s domain.

    Biking might in the most stereotypical notions be considered a men’s zone, but the daring women of today are changing it all.

    A woman has to be ‘daring’ to ride a motorcycle? Why do you think of women as weak?

    They have demolished all the clichés of motorcycling being about macho men, scary gangs and tattooed muscles.

    The majority of men who ride motorcycles are frail. How many macho men do you see on the streets riding motorcyles?

    Even if women are seen on motorcycles, they are often just passengers, being driven by their sons, brothers, husbands or fathers.

    That is because women have the luxury of male drivers.

    Bikerni aimed at breaking the male dominated field and creating a platform for India’s women bikers.

    Everything that a man does is apparently a ‘male dominate field?’

    Consisting of 374 passionate, tough women, their next goal is to expand into rural areas as well.

    Why have you used the word ‘tough’ in your sentence?

    It is a product of a patriarchal set up that has subdued women for centuries and reduced them to household activities and baby producing machines.

    Would you like your father to be a stay-at-home dad, cook food, look after your siblings, while your mother goes to work? And were you not happy at the birth of your siblings, or did that turn your mother into a baby producing machine?

    1. Shweta Sachdeva

      “Would you like your father to be a stay-at-home dad, cook food, look after your siblings, while your mother goes to work? ” Sorry to burst your bubble pal, but that’s exactly how it is in my family. My mother’s in the Army and my father has taken care of my brother and me all these years. I wasn’t even aware such categorizations and stereotypes exited until I was told so by the society that ‘it wasn’t normal’. For me it hardly made a difference that my father gave up his job to become a stay-at-home dad. It was the society that reinforced and mocked the idea.
      Also, my father is all for giving me a bike (he in fact taught me to ride it – the first thing I learnt to ride in fact), but it is the society AGAIN which has scoffed at his liberal and open-minded attitude.
      So before talking of stereotypes and dismantling them, try to straighten your own stand on them

    2. Babar

      How many people do you know out there whose mothers work and fathers are stay-at-home dads? Or maybe you are going to tell me that all men want to be stay-at-home dads and all women want to work but society doesn’t allow it.

      I am all up for women riding motorcycles if that is what they want to do, but why does this have to become a gender issue? Women PREFER to ride an Activa or a Scooty because it is more comfortable. In fact, it is men who are victimised, as they are told that they have to be men and ride motorcycles.

      This article is a prime example why feminists are hated all over the world, why many feminists come out of their delusion and leave feminism, because it is not about women’s rights or empowering women, but about demonizing men and women’s superiority over men. If there is anyone who should be complaining, it is men, as they are called ‘being girly’ when they ride a Scooty, as it is lighter and automatic.

      Please note how the author uses words like ‘daring’ and ‘tough’ in the article for women who ride motorcycles, because it is in her psyche that women are weak, not mine.

      The worst part is that women have the luxury of comfortable, light weight, automatic Activas and Scootys, and yet they choose to ride motorcycles simply because they feel the need to compete with men, because that is the agenda of feminists. Also, with words like ‘male dominated society’, ‘men’s zone’ and ‘patriarchal society’ thrown in, the author very cleverly plays with the emotions of readers, making them feel that women cannot ride bikes because of men. No ma’am, women do not ride bikes because they don’t feel the need to do so, but now they will, since this has become a platform where they can compete with men.

      Thank you.

    3. Gomathi

      I should say that you are very lucky. A majority of girls do not have the privilege to grow up in such an environment.

    4. Gomathi

      Babar, It would be nice if everyone thinks like you. I, of course would like my husband to share the household work. Sit at home an raise kids-No. I believe that both genders need to have the equal opportunity to explore the outside world and share the responsibility of house work.
      Sometimes as you said, you do certain things to break the stereotypes. For a person like me who grew up in a male dominated family, breaking stereotypes is like enjoying freedom. Telling your people in action that you cannot be subdued. Sometimes, breaking stereotypes becomes a necessity. Opinions can differ on this.

  2. Green Lantern

    It is female bikers and not women bikers, just as it is male bikers and not men bikers. Regards.

  3. Prashant Kaushik

    Why Does a Bike make some one feel Manly and Strong ?

    Ans- Not because it is huge and bulky, but because it is robust, has higher power&push, and more durable.
    It gives a peculiar feeling that one is in perfect control of things around himself, and that he is much prepared for unforeseen challenges. If it rains, snows, storms, or if he has to travel long distances, , he is prepared for all.
    Conclusion:-
    Sitting on top of a bike or scooty or any other vehicle, would make no difference, as long as your entire dress is pile of vulnerabilities.
    1) Your high heel sandles with no protection to toes and with topping tendency.
    2) Your fragile dresses which can be torn off with a minor scratch or bruise.
    3) Your baby cute helmet.
    4) Your short leggings which will never protect you in case you got a slide on the street.

    I am afraid many feminist will pounce on me and ask what right do i have to comment on the rightness of a Girl’s costume and shoes, but that is exactly what the problem is.
    We need to change this mindset. I see an overwhelming number of female riders with scant regards to physical protection.
    There is no gain in Copying Man without copying the essence of being in control and being prepared for various unpredictable factors of real life.

    I would appreciate a girl and term her as breaking the boundaries if she wears tougher, resistance and protective dresses, and reduce her vulnerabilities.
    Therafter it is immaterial whether she rides a scooty or bike.

    But this is the sad part. We cant do so. We must not dare suggest anything related to dress or costumes because that will, as per a lot of new age writers, this would be relics of male chauvinist patriarchal society.

    P.S. I admire the girl in the pic and ‘Bikerni gang’ for promoting helmet awareness.

    1. Gomathi

      Mr.Prashant, Leave those concerns to us. We know to take care of ourselves.

  4. Anuja

    First, this article is simply about an unusual buzz seen, of women riding motorcycles. It isn’t war. Hey, anybody who wants to ride a motorcycle is free to do so. This isn’t a competition. About the men reasoning out so finely how women’s frail, delicate costumes aren’t fit for riding, well those who taking riding seriously always wear full riding gear, irrespective of their gender. You should take a good look at the riding accessories shops, you’ll be surprised to fine a women’s section there. i know many who don’t give a damn about buying a new saree or a party dress but they’ll easily shell out rs. 6000 (from their own hard earned money) for that riding jacket. Prashant Kaushik, exactly my point about that frail little girl doing a wheelie, she’s not wearing heeled sandals nor a cutsie helmet now is she? Men, take a chill pill and for once, enjoy the passing scenery while you sit pillion.

  5. Pratima

    I have a male dominated family where women are considered as “people who are supposed to look after the household chores”. I come from a family where I was raised as equal as my brothers. Hence riding a bike came naturally. But now??? “No you cannot ride a bike, just go and cook for me, take care of the baby” are the only things that I get to hear. So obviously the urge to break the stereotype comes naturally. It is just to show some stupid people on earth that a woman also can ride bike and its not a male thing to do.

    Also, let me ask the men out there. How many of you can afford to take leave from work if your son/daughter/wife is unwell? Very few for sure. That is because, even if a woman is sick, she can take care of everyone or everything. She is working for herself. So let her take off is the attitude that comes out. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Imagine that you have a AUDI and your wife or GF asks you to give it to her to drive. What would be your expression? “Ah.. No hon, why don’t you take the small car as I have to go elsewhere”. Because, most of the men think that women don’t know how to drive and cant risk it by giving expensive car.

    So, yes it is to show the men that we also can do things like riding a bike.

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