As I was roaring down an infamously steep hill on my famously unsafe Honda sports bike, a show-stopping thought crossed my mind. Is this ladylike? Through the progression of time, the ideas behind what befits a “lady” have undergone drastic changes. We’ve gone from being confined in corsets to participating in Congress, and it’s really quite impressive.
But even with all of this good change, I was curious what such leading ladies as Abigail Adams and Queen Victoria would think of my adventurous cruise down the curving backroads of rural Tennessee. Would they applaud my daring, or be shocked by my audacity?
I have to admit, I've always been the adventurous type. Yes, I muddied myself playing outside on more than one occasion, and yes, roaming our family farm was a favorite pastime of mine.
However, I always managed to clean myself up and resume the innocent, poised air of a little girl before going back into the public. I didn’t grasp at the time what I was doing, but looking back, I realize that I was merely attempting to meet the expectations that, even at such a young age, I felt obligated to keep. Expectations of being ladylike.
Once I entered high school and endured what was puberty, I found it even harder to relate the two sides of me. The part that was impulsive and adrenaline-seeking, and the classy, well-mannered young lady that I felt society expected of me. Basketball and running were my two outlets of choice, as well as deer hunting with my dad.
However, even with the opportunity to exploit my boldness and take risks, I didn’t feel satisfied with that side of my identity. The reason for this being that those people outside of the family only ever saw the quiet, sweet-looking girl who didn’t say much. Because that was the only side of me that I ever showed them. Because I didn’t feel that my daring would impress them. Because I thought they would think less of me. For being less of a lady.
Regardless of the rights and privileges that women have gained over the years, it seems that there is a prevailing stereotype of a woman. Women are constantly teased for their tears and sensitive dispositions because we were created to be caring and empathetic.
And that isn’t a bad thing! Yet in all of the teasing, the reality of the female nature is lost. People put us down because of our nature, and we respond by attempting to hide that nature, hide our sensitivity. Which leaves us feeling unsatisfied and discontent because we don’t feel safe revealing our true selves. And that is a great tragedy and an even greater loss.
You see, this is because women were created with tender hearts. Created with tender hearts capable of feeling emotions so deeply. Of relating to others and sympathizing with them. But even with this tenderness, this vulnerability, there is a part of us that longs for adventure.
Something that longs to dance the line between daring and danger. But how do you respect the standards of ladylike behavior while satisfying your passion for adventure?
The answer is simple. Being a lady is not about wearing skirts or riding sidesaddle. It's not about crying over cute puppies or loving babies. Women can do those, and they do. But those alone do not define what is ladylike. There is so much more to being a lady than can be contained in a couple hundred words.
A lady is kind and generous.
She is wise with her money and in her relationships.
She pours her heart into others and pursues her passions with zeal.
But she is also incredibly strong, and unafraid to face challenges.
So. Can a lady ride a motorcycle? My answer would be: yes. She can be strong and daring while riding astride her two-wheeled beast. And how do I know? Because my name is Hannah, and I ride motorcycles. And I, friend, am a lady.