The Riverside Art Museum is hosting “The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition,” an exhibit featuring the photography of Lanakila MacNaughton until March 16th. The Portland-based photographer is also motorcyclist and wanted to capture a female-centric perspective on the colorful and wild side of motorcycling that is either underrepresented or misrepresented in this male-dominant culture.
Lanakila’s portraits show women embodying roles that are typically reserved for male motorcyclists, including images where a male takes on the role of pillion passenger in an obvious gender reversal. Another interesting set of images depicts a desert road scene where two barely dressed ladies (save for the stickers on their breasts) ride missionary (a la Kanye’s “Bound 2” music video).
We were excited by the potential for this exhibit to further the conversation around reimagining the role of women in motorcycling. Although the number of women riders in the U.S. is increasing, in marketing and in product development women are still considered a niche demographic.
There is not much space in the culture for women to stand on their own without being coddled or catered to by patronizing marketing gimmicks or feeling ogled by every dude on the road. Simply developing bikes with lower seat heights and apparel with pink and purple flower schemes is not going far enough to really opening the doors of the industry guys’ club.
In the past year, there have been some fantastic spoofs of the “babe on a bike” trope that is so cliché and yet so prevalent in motorcycle culture. Jensen did a fantastic commentary on the persistent treatment of the female body as a sexual object rather than genuine target demographic.
The “Women Who Ride” exhibit aims to challenge that. However, Lanakila has chosen to represent primarily white women, barely dressed and speckled with tattoos and piercings. I would challenge her to expand the scope of her work and bring in women from all different walks of riding life.
What are your thoughts? Does the exhibit create space for women to participate in motorcycle culture on their own terms? If you are a female, what are your thoughts on the images and on the conversation we should be having about women and motorcycling?
Photos: © 2013 Lanakila MacNaughton / The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition – All Rights Reserved