Letters To The Editor

by

Donna Warren

May, 2005

I received this letter from a young girl in Utah.

"Hi, my name is Kelly. I am 13 1/2 and live in Park City, Utah. I see all kinds of movies about motorcycle gangs who do bad things, but never see anything on motorcycle clubs with regular people. I found your website by accident. You don't look like bad people. It's really confusing. I know there are different types of motorcycle groups "gangs" and "clubs". What's the difference and what is your group.?

Sincerely,
Kelly"

Since getting Kelly's question, I've been thinking and except for the movie "Mask", I can't remember ever seeing a main-stream movie that showed a motorcycle club or group in anything resembling a good light and even in "Mask", the characters were low class and kind of seedy if I remember correctly. (It's been over 10 years since the last time I watched "Mask" and I know it was based on a true story which may explain the economic level.).

So, I asked the members to comment and here are their replies.

From Jan:

"I feel at this point in time unfortunately "gangs" are usually tied to violence. I do a lot of gang prevention work with children and adolescents. As we all know gangs have become a significant problem across the US. Most motorcycle gangs who call themselves a gang have engaged in violent or illegal acts.."

From our VP, Liz :

"I think that given our questioner's age, she may not be familiar with the connotations of those
terms. There are no official definitions that I know of, but the term "gang" usually has very negative connotations - implying that the group is involved in illegal activities including drugs, violence, and other antisocial behavior. The term "club" simply implies a group of people who share a common interest in motorcycling.

The Spokes-Women are definitely a "club" and we are very careful to avoid the term "gang" because it does not represent what our club is about. In fact, we represent quite the opposite of a "gang" by virtue of our commitment to safety, our charitable activities, and our desire to represent a positive image of motorcycling as reflected in our Constitution and Bylaws."

From Judy:

"Unfortunately, Hollywood chooses to portray motorcyclists as outlaws and rough characters because it sells more movies. In reality, the outlaw bikers are only 1% of the total number of folks who ride motorcycles. Most folks who ride do so because they love the sport and the challenges associated with it, not because they want to appear rough. I have met countless people through motorcycling, and they are all first-rate citizens.

Most motorcyclists are probably people you wouldn't "expect" to ride. We come from all walks of life, we're mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers. Construction workers, carpenters, doctors, lawyers, professionals. You get the idea. Motorcycle clubs, with a few exceptions (like the outlaw clubs for example) raise money for many different charities. Most motorcyclists belong to clubs, not gangs, and are wonderful people!" (Editor's note: The fact that only 1% of motorcyclists belong to "Outlaw Gangs" is why the members of outlaw gangs call themselves 1%ers.)


From Roe:

"Judy's reply works as a response to the girl's question. It hard to tell what she's been told and she's only seen movies involving, as Judy put it, 'Hollywood" spin. Which usually involves gangs or a James Dean persona. I'm sure in Utah there is not much to tell or show her otherwise. Don't forget Ladies, we live in a pretty progressive state on many levels. In NJ, women motorcyclist represent many types of people. In Utah I'm not sure she would see (that kind of) diversity ...and Women could also be perceived differently, especially if they ride a motorcycle."

From Kate, a prospect:

"Hi Kelly, my name is Kate and I am 52 years old. I just had my birthday. I live in New Jersey and I like to ride motorcycles! I like to go to the Spokeswomen meetings here and learn from them how to ride safely. I hope someday to be a member of their group.

I am sure if you met members of the Spokeswomen motorcycle club that you would like them and they would like you too! Spokeswomen are regular American women, Moms and daughters and sisters. They are probably a lot like other fun women that you know in your town. The interest that unites them is MOTROCYCLING!!!!

It is fun to ride a motorcycle and feel the wind in your face but you have to be skilled at it to be safe out there. So the spokeswomen get together to share safety ideas and all the fun clothing that they wear to protect themselves and be comfortable while they ride. They also have some good ideas about what they can do as a happy group of healthy strong woman to help others who are not so lucky in life. They do some things to support charities as a group that each woman could not do on her own. There is a lot of strength in the group. I hope you find a good group of girlfriends to share in a sport that you like and share ideas to help others.

Your interest in our club here in New Jersey of motorcycling women tells me that you are the kind of young lady that will find a group to help others and have fun. Good Luck Kelly and if you come to New Jersey, I hope you visit a Spokeswomen meeting. They will have some donuts and juice for you and be interested in your ideas about motorcycling."

So, you see, Kelly, it's Hollywood that has created the myth that most motorcyclists are outlaws because it sells more movie tickets. In truth, although some bad people do ride motorcycles, most motorcyclists are just regular people who happen to like motorcycles.

 

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