Get off the Back!

Posted at Jun 26, 2015 8:54 pm

Originally posted on Musings and Ramblings, May 20, 2015.

No, that’s not a typo for get off my back – it is get off the back. The back of a motorcycle, that is – and into the driver’s seat. My Dirty Harriet Mystery Series features a Harley-riding, butt-kicking, wisecracking female private eye. She drives and maintains her bike herself. And when she rides with her man, he sits behind her. Harriet is a Biker Girl. What exactly does that mean? Here’s the best definition I’ve found:

red_girl_on_harley_davidson_by_animalniko047-d5td5dtBiker Girl: \Bik”er\ G[“o]r, n. A girl, woman, who rides motorcycles of any brand or origin. She is not afraid to take control of her destiny, or to take risks. She is gifted with a strong desire for adventure and fun, and finds both atop a bike. Biker Girls are not the property of anyone but themselves, and will not be intimidated by social mandates of what girls/ladies/women should and should not do (Woman Rider Delphi Forum).

Lots of ladies these days are Biker Girls, but even if you’re not, you can still live by the “Get off the Back!” philosophy – it’s a metaphor for taking charge of your life. Here are a few notable Biker Girls who have exemplified this attitude. And probably not coincidentally, all of them have also been quick with a quip (like my own protagonist).

bessie stringfieldBessie Stringfield broke through gender and racial barriers by becoming the first African-American woman motorcyclist to ride across the US in 1930, when she was nineteen years old. Throughout the next two decades, she made eight more cross-country solo motorcycle rides, which took her through the Deep South during a time of extreme racial prejudice. During World War II, she became the first female civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, carrying documents between U.S. military bases. She once won a motorcycle track race disguised as a man – but when she took off her helmet, revealing her identity, she was denied the prize. Bessie was married and divorced six times. She kept her third husband’s surname, saying, “He asked me to keep it because I’d made it famous!”

Ann Richards was the governor of Texas from 1991-1995. Although officially she was the second female governor, she is considered the first one elected in her own right, since the first female governor, “Ma” Ferguson, “inherited” the job after her husband, “Pa” Ferguson, was impeached. Ann was known to curse and laugh as loud as any man. As a county commissioner in the 1970s, she would “out-bubba the bubbas by picking her teeth with an ivory toothpick and cleaning her fingernails with a Swiss army knife during commissioners’ meetings,” according to a Texas Monthly article. Currently, nearly ten years after her death, Ann is the subject of a documentary, a book, and a stage play. Ann boasted Texas-style big hair to go with her big persona. Among her many quips and zingers was: “I get a lot of cracks about my hair, mostly from men who don’t have any.”

martina navratilovaMartina Navratilova (like me, born in Prague, Czechoslovakia!) is a tennis legend and an inspirational leader to women young and old. Many have called her arguably the best tennis player ever (male or female). She amassed an unmatched number of professional records over the course of a career that spanned four decades. Martina is involved with charities that benefit animal rights, underprivileged children, and gay rights. On the subject of aging, Martina has said: “The ball doesn’t know how old I am!”

Hats off to these and other women who’ve “gotten off the back.” What about you? Even if you’re not a biker, how have you gotten off the back and taken charge of your life (or plan to)?

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