Mean Girls in the Motorcycle Industry
Mean Girls of Motorcycling? What is that about you ask? I’ve been a motorcycle rider since 1996 and have unfortunately run into many “mean girls” in the motorcycle industry. I thought I’d share a story I was reminded of when we had some mean girl attitudes with the ladies in Kenya. We are working to build community and teach the ladies how to collaborate, support each other and lift each other up. Success can be enjoyed by all and when there are those who you think are your friends or supporters but they really have an agenda to keep you down, you have to stop that when it happens in a group.
We had an incident when I was there where one of the ladies had a bad attitude and was making snarky comments and dissatisfied because we weren’t able to raise enough money to take them on a trip. After a couple days of this bad attitude the other ladies were getting tired of it too.
It’s sad when women don’t lift each other up. It’s something I’ve never understood. You get connected or become friends with someone and think they will support you, but they don’t and in some instances do what they can to tear you down.
I had a mean girl incident happen to me early on in my involvement in the motorcycle industry.
I started riding when I was in my mid 30’s and did my first 4 years of riding on the “other side of the road” in the UK. I saw most of Europe from the seat of my Harley. I traveled all over England, Scotland and Wales, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Spain and even Norway. I also did a ride on a dual sport bike from Anchorage Alaska up through the Yukon to the Arctic Circle and back.
By the time I retired from the military I had thousands of miles of riding experience….and now I’ve ridden in Kenya!
There weren’t many women riders when I started but it started to grow and expand. I wanted to inspire more women to ride and set out on a mission to do that. I developed a brand called “PINK biker chic” and set off to develop programs to get more women to ride.
What I didn’t realize is that I was considered old by motorcycle industry standards. Although many women riders were 10-20 years older than me at the time, the motorcycle industry still had a skewed idea of a woman rider being a younger 20 something model type even though no one that age was riding a Harley. One of the dealership owners told me he knew what I was trying to do but wasn’t sure the industry would catch up to that idea. I didn’t give up but there were too many negative things going on with women in the industry that I finally got tired of and left it.
During the time I was building the brand I had one very well-known woman who had what you would consider celebrity status in the industry ask to meet up with me. I had only been out of the military a short time and as one person told me early after I left the military, I was nice but didn’t have a clue about the “real world.” There was some truth to that as I had lived in the military environment for over 2 decades.
I would innocently meet this woman thinking she had good intentions, but I later learned her intentions were to size me up and eliminate me if I got in her way.
We met at a local motorcycle hang out and had a nice chat. I thought she was nice and seemed like she wanted to help me succeed at what I was doing and be a mentor and a friend. However, I quickly learned that was not the case. I was starting to speak at women’s events called Women’s Garage Parties at Harley dealers sharing my story of how I learned to ride. She was going to be speaking at an event at a dealer in San Diego. I contacted the dealer and asked if they wanted another speaker. I indicated I knew the woman speaking too.
You would have thought I committed the crime of the century by “using her name without her permission.” What? OK, maybe I’m clueless and don’t know the proper protocol for something like that but what happened next was over the top from anything I had ever experienced.
She called me up after the dealer told her I indicate she knew me and screamed at me for 20 minutes. She threatened me with legal action, put me down, told me I was a loser and how dare I use her name. She called me names; told me she was going to ruin me and make sure I never spoke anywhere again and that my days at doing anything in motorcycling were done. I was so shocked and taken aback that I started crying and couldn’t stop. Why was she doing this to me? She seemed so nice and supportive and now wanted to destroy me, for what? Saying I knew her? I was completely confused. The fact that I was crying gave her power to continue berating me. Those were the days when I would attempt to compel someone to listen to my point of view. I explained that I had no bad intentions, but she wasn’t hearing it. She was furious and out for blood.
I forget where I was going but had pulled over and was so upset when I got off the call that it took me quite some time to calm down. I had never had anything like this happen to me before. It was extremely toxic and destructive behavior.
I called my close friend still crying and she helped my calm down. I don’t know if she tried to get me shut down but a few years later I actually was invited to speak at that dealership and the owner is actually an Air Force Veteran. Maybe if I did some research I would have been able to build a relationship with my veteran status and not mention the name of someone I thought was there to support me but actually only wanted to size me up and keep me down due to her own insecurities.
I learned a valuable lesson about people that day. You see I’d only dealt mostly with people in the military. Sure, we lived in the world but really weren’t part of it. Most people in the military have a certain way of operating and everyone lived by that code or ops tempo. It was actually a life where you knew what to expect.
Thinking back on our initial meeting, she bragged a lot about all the celebrities she hung around and things she’s done. She was beautiful on the outside but not so much on the inside which showed in her reaction to me using her as a referral. Still to this day I am perplexed by her over the top reaction to my simply saying I knew her. That’s all I said and it got turned into a big issue.
I think about how I would have handled that had it been me. I certainly would not have ripped the other person apart like she did to me. I may have asked for a heads up or if it’s someone I would refer, ask if they would like me to make the referral first.
She knew I was trying to learn how to operate in business and what I wanted to do. When we met, she said things that led me to believe she supported me, would help me and maybe even mentor me. I wasn’t imagining that. However, as I progressed through the industry, I heard from more people how that she had done that to others too.
It's always good to look at the lessons from a situation like this.
1. Make sure someone is ok with you using their name as a referral. I hadn't encountered that before. Even though she was wrong with how she treated me, it made me cautious and more aware.
2. Leave Emotion Out -this is a strategy from my Think Like A Negotiator book. You aren't going to compel someone to see your point of view when they are angry or emotional. My mistake was trying to do that through my own emotion and the more upset I got the more she tore me down.
3. If you did something wrong or something that offends someone, even if you didn't mean to or know you were doing it, apologize and ask what we can do to move on from there. Obviously this woman wanted to rip me apart so no level of apology was going to work. I will share in a future blog about how that did work in a different situation.
During my time in the industry I was an approved journalist for Harley Davidson and could take out any bike I wanted from their fleet center as long as I wrote about it. I had an online magazine called GoPINK Magazine and I did video’s and blog posts about riding the bikes. I interviewed people at motorcycle shows and events at dealerships and other events. I interviewed Karen Davidson of Harley Davidson and won 3rd place in the Harley Owners Group Ladies of Harley Motorcycle Memories contest for my story about losing my kids grandpa in Europe while we were on our way to a motorcycle rally in France. I also appeared in an ad campaign for Harley Davidson one year for their 2006 model bikes and had a photo of a motorcycle trip to Spain appear in American Iron magazine. I was also featured in a veteran segment article for AARP magazine. I had many other adventures and have ridden many miles. Maybe I’ll share some of those stories here on the blog.
The bottom line is mean girls anywhere never get respect. They may yell and scream and get what they want in the moment but in the end, no one is going to respect that behavior or the person if they don't make amends for their outburst. We are all human and make mistakes, it's how you handle them that makes the difference.
Keep the rubber side down....