I haven’t thought about Gloria Steinem in years. Probably, since college.
But about a month ago, I was reading Porter magazine and there she was.
In college, I never really considered myself a feminist. Not because I didn’t agree with the ideals and goals they support, but because I found that the women I spoke to were really bitter. They were angry and some of the women I met through those classes just openly hated men. I guess that negativity was something that I didn't want to be a part of at the time.
But here I was on a plane, years later, California bound and on my way to the world’s largest all-female motorcycle event: Babes Ride Out. I was about to have an experience that encompassed women meeting, supporting, and encouraging other women. It wasn’t about man-bashing but about women-boosting, if that makes any sense.
As I read the article in Porter magazine, I remembered what made me not want to call myself a feminist years ago and I laughed. I realized that the younger me was kind of an idiot. Of course some of the women I spoke to then were upset or bitter, they were paving the way for generations to come. They had been fighting for a long time, and maybe, they were just trying to stoke the fire in all of us.
I read on, and towards the end of the piece, Steinem speaks to whether she will eventually 'pass the torch.' “I explain that I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much- and I’m using it to light the torches of others." she says. "Because only if each of us has a torch will there be enough light.”
That sentiment stuck with me, and when I got back from my trip, I thought about it more and more. Women supporting other women is important, but sticking together is key.
Since I work in the motorcycle industry, I started to think about what I could do to positively impact the women around me as well as the women I don’t know in the riding community during my day to day. As time passed, I started to meet with the other women at work and reach out to support other women who ride. Slowly, I started to feel my work align a little more with my life.
But, I did feel a little self-conscious about it.
My mother is an integral part of the harm reduction agency she works for and my roommate is a saint at the homeless shelter that she works at. Was I really doing anything impactful by supporting other women on motorcycles? I wasn’t sure, but it did feel good.
Almost a month after my trip, I attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women along with 8,000 others. The conference focused on how optimism, positivity and support are important because they ignite hope in other people. That alone, spoke volumes. And though it made sense, it was nice to hear out loud.
After the event, there was a book signing and I heard that Gloria Steinem would be there. Obviously I wanted to meet her, but she was already gone. I bought her new book, On the Road, anyway.
Later that night, I settled into bed with my pajamas on and DCar snoring by my side. I opened the book and found this:
“Before she leaves, my new friend tells me to look out of the big picture window at the parking lot.
‘See that purple Harley out there- the big gorgeous one? That’s mine. I used to ride behind my husband, and never took the road on my own. Then after the kids were grown, I put my foot down. It was hard, but we finally got to be partners. Now he says he likes it better this way. He doesn’t have to worry about his bike breaking down or getting a heart attack and totaling us both. I even put Ms. on my license plate- and you should see my grandkids’ faces when Grandma rides up on her purple Harley!’
On my own again, I look out at the barren sand and tortured rocks of the Badlands, stretching for miles. I’ve walked there, and I know that, close up, the barren sand reveals layers of pale rose and beige cream, and the rocks turn out to have intricate womblike openings. Even in the distant cliffs, caves of rescue appear.
What seems to be one thing from a distance is very different close up.
I tell you this story because it’s the kind of lesson that can be learned only on the road. And also because I’ve come to believe that, inside, each of us has a purple motorcycle.
We only have to discover it- and ride.”
I closed the book and smiled. I found my purple motorcycle some time ago. But suddenly, I felt much more confident about empowering other women to find theirs.
We are all passionate about different things.
Another woman's success is not your failure
when we are working towards the same thing.