1. paratrup2012 says

    The law in India said that all pillon riders must wear a helmet. But Sikhs objected saying that their women must wear a raised head dress as an article of their faith and hence it would impinge upon their right to freedom of religion.
    An exception was made for Sikh women. But the problem came in identifying Sikh women. So the law is not enforced. As one of the Delhi Police bill boards said eloquently “After all it is your head”.

      • says

        Actually they show the heads of the driver being protected. I can show you plenty of pictures of women driving scooters wearing helmets while the man on the pillion does not. Please don’t immediately jump to conclusions with the battlecry of sexism when the reality is the battlecry should be “Health and Safety”. Indian health and safety is negligible.

        It’s actually a weird law where the police expect the driver of the two wheeler to wear a helmet not the pillion. (Never mind the fact that there is a picture where four people are on a motorcycle…) Mostly they wear it to avoid the fines. HOWEVER if there are no fines then Indians will not wear the helmet.

  2. David Hart says

    So, you know how many versions of Islam require women to wear complete face coverings, because it is somehow sinful not to, but doesn’t require men to similarly shield the world from themselves, and if someone points out how unegalitarian this is, the excuse is that if men were to wear the same face coverings they would be dressing up as women, which also apparently sinful somehow? And in this gallery it appears to be the done thing for men to wear motorcycle helmets but not women? I think I may have found our resolution:-)

    Now who’s for a campaign to demand that any man who insists that his wife or daughters go about in the headscarf must also himself go about with a motorbike helmet at all times and insist his sons do likewise?

    • David Hart says

      (and yes, I get that the people pictured here are mostly not Muslims, but still, it’d be a nice idea…)

  3. Pavel says

    i think its quite a genaral sight you see when you are in Bangladesh or subcontinent i guess.My uncle used to ride a motorbike and he used wear helmet because of avoiding any fines.Police could stop you and fine you like whatever or they would take some bribe.I can tell looking at these senarios why the men are wearing helmets.And With the Pictures wr the hot girls sitting at the back where do i start.Girls want to be seen with hot guys.If they wear helmet no-one would notice them.They only wear helmets while there are police or checking around .Otherwise couple like to look cool as a pair.I have not seen-heard any guys pressure any girl-lady-woman not to wear helmet .Some woman dont like it cos they think they look weired(in subcontinent my own aunt and Cuz sis)..but in Oz everyone wears them ..Accept the hot one’s who love show off how super cool it is with a girl on a bike!! i respect all rights of hman and woman and abut really woman need to take some resposibility for our (men-woman)..own safety!!

  4. Gorbachev says

    Um, before anyone gets angry, note:

    Laws are often poorly enforced, and where they are, usually only for the rider and not the second. If there were no helmet laws, most casual riders, as well as passengers, would be helmet-less.

    These photos were cherry-picked. If the rider were a woman, and not a man, and the passenger were a man – the same effect would be observed.

    In all places where I’ve ridden, when a woman spontaneously gets on behind a man, or a man behind a woman, only the rider of the bike has a helmet.

    Also, many women who have ridden with me outright refused to wear a helmet. This is a conscious, active female choice, if not demand. It would damage their hairstyle, and that’s unacceptable to them.

    This is entirely manufactured outrage against men for no possible good reason. There’s absolutely no patriarchy at work here. It’s somewhat sad, in fact.

    At best it’s ignorant; at worst, disingenuous. I expect better.

      • Gorbachev says

        It’s a movie. The male character is being portrayed as weak, secondary, next to the cool, powerful female. He’s not just wearing a helmet, but a particularly childish and un-manly helmet.

        By contrast, the female is wearing nothing – free-flowing hair, attractive, aggressive, strong. He’s weak.

        more evidence: He’s smiling like a giddy child or the streeotypical teenage female. She’s calm and sure and strong, with a serious expression; not too serious, because she’s confident.

        This is naked role reversal, in order t portray women as Strong, Independent and Tolerant of the weak, self-abasing male.

        This is a standard post-1990 Hollywood meme. We see it everywhere. Far from being anti-feminist, this
        the message of feminism: Women are tough, strong, independent and powerful; men are simpering, weak, cowering behind a woman’s profound prowess.

        Added the rest of the context – the rest of this movie – with Jim Carrey’s character playing buffoon, and it actually borders on the anti-male, rather than just pro-female.

        I think this is not the point you’re trying to make.

        But nice try.

        • mynameischeese says

          Nah, I just googled “female motorcyclist” and tried to find one with a female cyclist wearing a helmut and the male not wearing one, as you suggested I would find. But I couldn’t find any. Not many photos of female bikers with male passangers. Probably because (as the photo I linked to suggests) there’s something unmanly about a man being driven by a woman. It’s like a subtler version of the patriarchy in Saudi Arabia where men don’t want women driving at all. In this watered-down patriarcy, men will let women drive motorcycles, but don’t want to be seen with them.

    • says

      First, put up or shut up.
      Where are those many pictures of the woman rider with a helmet and the second man going bare?
      Second, do you understand that a society that teaches women that their looks are more important than their lives says that women unnecessarily dying in traffic accidents is perfectly acceptable?

      • says

        I live in India mate. It’s not sexism that determines whether you get a helmet or not so much as local enforcement of helmet laws. In most parts of India the PILLION doesn’t wear a helmet.

        So I have travelled on a scooter with a lovely nurse on the front wearing a helmet with me on the back.

        It’s just that in India men are often expected to do the driving even on HER scooter. It’s like if you are going somewhere in the UK or USA the person most likely to start off driving is the man.

        Take it from someone who works in India. This isn’t sexism so much as “poor health and safety”.

  5. Gorbachev says

    In almost all cases, in all walks of life, during any emergency, men are always expected to sacrifice themselves for women and children. Children I understand. But for men to sacrifice themselves for women they don’t know or aren’t obligated to?

    This is, again, manufactured anger at no issue. The true deception is this: most societies, and certainly Western ones, allow women to be cowards and to accept protection during threats; but men are expected to be tough, strong, and to endanger themselves for women, including those responsible or those who are irresponsible – merely because they’re men and the “weak” are women. There’s much shaming of men who do not sacrifice themselves.

    That’s the subtle subtext to this post, given the missing cultural context. I find it objectionable.

    If men and women are equals, then they should equally die during accidents, during disasters, and during life in general.

    Equality requires equality.

    I’d like to see images of Female riders with male passengers.

    I’ll bet I could cherry-pick photos to get the same effect used here.

    This form of ideological manufacturing is both shallow and contemptible.

    • says

      Well, you’re welcome to search and find them.
      I challenge you to produce THREE pictures where she wears a helmet but he doesn’t.
      In the meantime there’s a google-search for “woman riding motorbike” for you: click
      Also, how are the men sacrificing themselves for the women and children if they make sure that they’re the only one wearing halfway adequate protection in case of an accident?
      They would “sacrifice” themselves if they gave their only helmet to the women, but obviously they don’t.

        • says

          Which completely misses the point that those women and children are pretty likely to be the wives and children of the drivers.
          Most people also don’t have baby-seats in their cars, yet you’d expect parents and care-givers to do so.
          And thank you for being the first person who can produce at least ONE picture showing the reverse.

          • Taru Dutt says

            Well said, Gilliel! Yes, there IS patriarchy at work here – including in the women’s preference to risk their safety rather than their ‘do!

    • Frogmistress says

      So, the women in these pictures are cowards because they are too afraid to wear helmets? And the men in these pictures are being tough, strong and endangering themselves by wearing the helmets so the women don’t have to?

    • mynameischeese says

      “most societies, and certainly Western ones, allow women to be cowards and to accept protection during threats; but men are expected to be tough, strong, and to endanger themselves for women, including those responsible or those who are irresponsible”

      Oh. Societies force men to act tough? Or maybe men choose this for themselves. Maybe this is a conscious, active male choice, if not demand. It would damage their reputations, and that’s unacceptable to them.

      Only messing with you. I think patriarchy is responsible for convincing men that they have to act macho.

  6. Gorbachev says

    Okay. I can play this game, and defuse this wholly artificial and invented crisis. It’s almost unfortunate it even has to be said, but there are genuine issues among men and women.

    Manufacturing senseless issues like this is indicative of something else entirely. May I request a smidgen of objectivity?

    I can cherry pick to make an ideological point far more effectively. The difference is, I’m making no grandiose claims: I’m just deflating the absurd notion that patriarchy is deeming women expendable through lack of helmets on motorcycles.

    That’s so absurd, so insulting to both men and women everywhere, it makes a tragic mockery of feminism.

    Again, ideological filter set far too high. There are actual issues. This is by far and away not a component of anything but careless attitudes towards personal and road safety on the part of a very large number of humans of all genders.

    Bear in mind one more thing: Anyone who rides a bike is liekly habituated to wearing a helmet, and therefore putting one on is uninterestingly normal. A passenger may never wear a helmet, or one may not be available – this does not a conspiracy make.

    Perhaps it behooves a commenter to ride a bike or examine the issue with some cursory circumspection before coming to utterly indefensible conclusions by manufacturing outrages where there are none.

  7. Gorbachev says

    “First, put up or shut up. Where are those many pictures of the woman rider with a helmet and the second man going bare? Second, do you understand that a society that teaches women that their looks are more important than their lives says that women unnecessarily dying in traffic accidents is perfectly acceptable?”

    A woman’s choice, though influenced by society: As I said, there are many times I’ve insisted on a helmet and a woman absolutely refused.

    Whose fault: Mine? Society’s? Misogyny? Should women put their safety before their hair?

    No argument from me. I think it’s beyond the real of stupid not to wear a helmet. I once refused a passenger for this same reason. It engendered a massive, vicious argument that went nowhere, in which I was personally attacked as – wait for it – a misogynistic villain. I kid not.

    I was verbally accused of devaluing my partner’s appearance, in an attempt to shame her into wearing a helmet.

    You’ll excuse me if I react somewhat skeptically to manufactured outrage.

    I have immense respect for a woman’s absolute, unfettered right to make all the same decisions about her life a man can make.

    With such decision-making powers comes decision-making responsibility. Your comment implies that, somehow, society is to blame for female passengers (but not male ones or children or helmet-less male riders) making tragically bad decisions.

    If you don’t see the flagrant muck-raking absurdity of that argument, there’s not much anyone can say to you.

    Apply the cold hard vice-grip of comparative analysis to your position. Stop arguing with any ideological intent and take a broader view.

    Real issues for women there are aplenty. Infantilizing women by blaming some ghostly society for forcing them not to wear helmets is not one a particularly good exercise.

    • mynameischeese says

      Dude. It just took you 11 paragraphs to say, “Sorry. I couldn’t actually find those photographs that I suggested would be easy to find.”

      • Flambe says

        I also have an issue with these cherry-picked images — I don’t see it as women and children specifically being forced to go without helmets, more about passengers in general, regardless of gender. I’ve included a few cherrypicked images of my own to illustrate how ridiculous this argument is. As a South-Asian woman, I think there are better (i.e. real) issues of gender discrimination that we could spend time on.

        Here are some women riders wearing helmets: (Holy shit there’s an entire rally of em!)

        Here are some men who don’t care about their own safety either: (AND he’s talking on his cell!) (His religious headdress doesn’t allow him to wear a helmet — the argument can go both ways)

        And men with male passengers that are ok with dying:

          • Flambe says

            Oh, THIS is very interesting! I was not aware that Delhi actually has an exemption for women to wear helmets. While I can see the argument for an exemption for Sikh men, there really is no excuse to basically tell women that its okay to value their ‘comfort’ over safety.

            I have noticed that when women are driving, they are more likely to wear helmets, which is encouraging. Motorcycles usually have space underneath the seat to stash a single helmet, so that’s probably why pillion passengers are less likely to wear one, because there’s nowhere to keep it. It is encouraging seeing more and more women opt to ride their own motorbikes, it really helps them gain an independence that was not possible before. That ownership makes them think more about safety is a nice plus. But scrapping that exemption would go a long way to make them safer.

            However, what I find particularly egregious is that there is absolutely no regard for child safety here! Somebody brought up carseats — yeah, most people don’t have them here. Having children on motorbikes is far far riskier than in a car, and so many times they are the only ones not helmeted, even though they are more likely to be fatally injured.

          • says

            Taslima, you know as well as I do that the majority of vehicles owned in India are “two wheelers” (Scooters, Mopeds, Motorbikes).

            India has a Vespa culture. Two Wheelers are EVERYTHING. They are cheap, efficient (but dangerous) modes of transportation.

            Indians also drive like lunatics. No really. I have seen people drive in ways that can only be described by a series of exasperated hand gestures and expletive laden rants.

            Majority of families utilise two wheelers to travel everywhere and since most are owned by men rather than women, the wife is the most likely person to be injured in case of an accident not because she is a woman but because she is a pillion rider.

            Because children are also more likely to be injured in an accident. Male children and female children EQUALLY. And Taslima will agree with me, male children in rural parts of south asia are treated like tiny gods. Why wouldn’t they get a helmet.

            The problem is clear. India does not and cannot effectively enforce road rules.

            You cannot apply what you know about motorcycle driving in western society to India. To Indians half the stuff you have suggested is impossible due to the cost. A motorcycle in India costs around a 1000 dollars brand new. These are basically the family car. They are treated as such. Health and safety aren’t “important” because the person riding it doesn’t understand health and safety.

            This is a country that thinks “Avicenna wearing seatbelts” is a sign that I am a terrible driver. This isn’t sexism so much as “no health and safety”.

            Remember, in the west it took us decades to adopt seatbelts.

        • says

          I think there are better (i.e. real) issues of gender discrimination that we could spend time on.

          Maybe there are “better” issues of more import, but blogs are perfect for addressing topics that don’t require televised awareness campaigns. It’s one of many things addressed here, in a blog dedicated to a diversity of topics. Also, gender differences in helmet usage on motorcycles is a real issue. Those are real people riding real motorcycles facing real risks. Why? What is lost by discussing it?

          • Flambe says

            You are absolutely right. What annoyed me about this post was that there was no discussion — just pictures and a hyperbolic headline. As someone actually living in South Asia (living in Nepal, travel often to India), those pictures were not representative of what I see on the streets, so it made me reflexively call bullshit. People are just really lax about safety here. Also, providing emotional reaction fodder without facts is something that people that can’t back up their argument usually do, it made my skepticism kick in naturally.

            I would have really appreciated Taslima putting up that link she gave me on the OP itself, to put those pictures in context. My assumption was that this issue affected either gender equally, based on my own experience. Seeing the statistics makes me question my assumptions a lot more.

  8. Gorbachev says

    To recap:

    Most people are oblivious to danger and would not wear a helmet without laws.
    Many people break these laws and only obey them to avoid fines.

    Riders taking an occasional passenger: the rider is likely habituated to the wearing of a helmet; also, there is likely one available. The passenger is likely not habituated to wearing a helmet, and there isn’t likely a second helmet available.

    Long-term passengers: It’s likely both have no helmet, especially in non-Western countries.

    Frequently, in such situations, the main rider will often not wear the helmet.

    I can spend another hour cherry-picking pictures of *people* not wearing helmets.

    I actually ride a motorcycle. All the time. I actually engage in these conversations. I’ve ridden in a dozen countries.

    Under *NO* circumstances would I ride without a helmet. It’s suicide. Many people I know do not feel the same way. I don’t need a law to tell me to wear one.

    Many women, and a good number of men, do not want to wear them. It’s Cool, Fun, Powerful not to it’s *risky* behavior.

    Risk is cool.

    If you think there’s a feminist issue here, it’s one that’s absolutely, wholly manufactured from air.

    It’s distracting from real issues. That you fail to see this is yet a greater tragedy.

    And incidentally, a society that allows women to make their own decisions cannot then be blamed for their poor decisions.

    If women who refuse to wear helmets have such poor self-regard, who are you or I to say anything?

    Please give women some agency.

    or perhaps some respect.

      • Gorbachev says

        PS, ordering em to post images when images can’t be displayed due to a spam filter is not indication that I won’t engage.

        And anyway, I’ve got the goods on this rank trivialization. I actually ride, so I have some experience in this field. I’m not just cherry-picking images to manufacture an issue.

        I also know dozens of women who ride. Unlike armchair speculators, I do have some field experience with this issue.

        The issue is not women not wearing helmets.

        The issue is why women are passengers.

        • Mary2 says

          Finally, Gorbachev,

          After all those posts you have finally hit the nail on the head! I agree with your thinking about why the drivers have helmets and not the passengers (although I did think your vehemence was a little over the top!).

          The real issue here is why are the women always the passengers?

  9. Gorbachev says

    PS: I have no comment on India. India is likely a very different place. I’m sure misogyny is deeply entrenched there and among different classes and religions, far more pervasive. India likely has issue that, say, Austria does not.

    That said, in the US, where tens if not hundreds of thousands of women ride, the vast majority always wear helmets. This is also true of passengers. The odds of being caught are massive, and the fines enormous. Riders can lose licenses. I recall being hauled over in California because my mate had the wrong *kind* of helmet – one not certified in California, but fine for Massachusetts.

    I very, very seriously doubt there’s any society-wide conspiracy to devalue women here.

    The links I posted but which disappeared down the WordPress hole showed all kinds of people not wearing helmets.

    Are Cambodians all devalued for no-one wearing helmets?

    How about when a helmeted male has a male and female passenger? Is the female only 50% devalued because only 50% of the males are devalued?

    If you want to play this game and make fun of feminism, please be my guest.

  10. Gorbachev says

    I posted another with one image.

    Also spam filtered.

    Alas. You’ll have to go and hunt.

    In China, not wearing helmets is common. Does this mean there’s a social conspiracy to devalue just some people? What if it’s not gendered?

    Look, you’re serving some pretty damned weak sauce here.

    I’m on board for lots of things. But in this case, you’d have to be about as blinkered as it’s possible to be to manufacture this.

    How about this one. I can give you an issue to chomp town on. its still specious, but has more angle and more bite.

    Give that by and large passengers are the ones without helmets, …

    Why can’t a Sikh woman be the rider, and her husband the passenger? Perhaps you should ask the woman. See what she says. Before you come to conclusions, incidentally, a poll of Sikh women who don’t ride but get on as passengers might be salient. Try not to speak for them but ask them first.

    The helmet issue for passengers is meaningless from a feminist perspective except for those who wish to make up cute stories to justify preconceptions.

    The feminist issue here is:

    Why are more women not riding motorcycles, and why are so many passengers?

    Why is the proportion of riders – passengers not 50-50%?

    There’s your issue. I’ll leave you with that.

    Try seeing the forest, not the leaves, on occasion.

  11. Gorbachev says


    I wholeheartedly agree: Men should not sacrifice themselves for women because women are women.

    Alas, a solid majority of women I know do not share this opinion.

    Personally, I think chivalry is misogynistic – and men should treat women exactly as they treat other men: At work, as competitors; at home, as partners, and not in any way special or different from themselves; as a parent, as an exact equal – women have no special prerogatives when it comes to family, and men should be expected to shoulder exactly as much work and care as women.

    And when women and men are endangered, absolutely no special consideration should be given to anyone on account of gender.

    Chivalry, “motherhood” and “fatherhood” as opposed to “parenthood”, and workplace division of labor is all misogynistic, and needs to be fought tooth and nail in all circumstances.

    Gender is a social construct – and needs to be abolished. Men are women without breasts, and women are men with breasts.

    It disgusts me when men treat women with disrespect.

    It disgusts me just as much when men who pile into lifeboats are shamed publicly for not letting all of the women on first, as in the case of the Greek ferry that sank last year, where, incidentally, the gender ratio of those saved was still in favor of women, and yet the men were shamed.

    Feminism is a massive boon to men: it frees us from having to consider women as women, but instead allows us to consider them as individual humans in every way the equivalent of men.

    But the upshot of this is that they need to be accorded the precise same agency, and men need to be considered in the same terms.

    We are a society with two sexes. Equality is a two-way street.

    Only when motherhood and fatherhood is eliminated in favor of parenthood will humans truly be free.

    The same is true for chivalry, for a woman’s lack of shame when choosing not to work overtime, for men’s obliging women to stay at home and not giving them choice.

    A man who decides to stay at home should have the precise same respect as a woman who makes such a decision.

    In the context of this post, it means determining why the women in these images aren’t the riders and are instead the passengers.

    That passengers are not wearing helmets is a non-issue for feminism.

    • Mary2 says

      Nice post. Agree. People forget that sexism demeans both women and men and holds all of us back from our full potential.

  12. MikeMa says

    I have been to India several times on business and find that most riders are helmetless regardless of gender. Of the 500 bikes I pass on my way to and from work each day, less than 10 are driven by women and they are almost all singles.

    There appears to be a balancing act:
    Bikes are primary transport for a family and used to carry mom, dad, and kids. Older child in front of dad standing on the gas tank with infant in mom’s lap in the back.
    Handles for sitting side saddle are common in India making it easier to balance and hold a baby (I guess).
    Bikes are VERY underpowered. And overloaded.
    Top speed in town is probably 25 mph.
    Traffic is horrible and includes cars, trucks, bikes, bicycles, cattle, and auto-rickshaws.
    Lane markers are completely ignored and a waste of paint.
    Traffic signals are nearly non-existent.
    All road traffic moves at vastly differing speeds from little boys on bicycles carrying rebar to sedans moving at 40mph with everything in between.

    Crazy conditions to which helmets add or subtract very little.

  13. Gorbachev says


    I have attempted to do so several times. I cannot upload an image or link.

    I’m tired of having WordPress attempt to censor. At least when it’s done by humans, there’s the grace of having been given attention In this case, it’s a machine.

    And on appearance dictating helmet wearing:

    I’ll put money on it being “no helmet available for any passenger”.

    This is extremely weak sauce. Surely, someone must see this.

  14. F says

    Gorby, you have a very small kernel of a valid objection, but you have stretched much farther than any statistical complaint against the images would allow. Way farther than any possible error of bias (or agenda) that the author of the OP could have committed.

    It’s all irrelevant because it should be the passenger, not the operator, who wears a helmet when there is only one available.

  15. Ms. Crazy Pants says

    As a female motorcyclist, I agree there should be more women riders. The thing I see is most women put their riding secondary to the man’s riding.

    I know when I was married my ex was furious when I expected to be able to buy a new bike (or new-used) after he wrecked mine, and he wanted me to buy and old piece of cheap junk. It infuriated me that he wanted to spend lots of money on his gear to keep him safe and make me go with less. That was the nature of our relationship though, and it was never going to work that way. Now that I’m older/wiser I would never end up in that situation again. I just felt powerless and like I had no choice.

    In other relationships I’ve observed, if there are multiple motorcycles and money is needed, the woman’s bike(s) are going first. I don’t know if in those cases the women aren’t concerned that much about riding, or if they feel like they have to give in to keep the peace. Either way, I’ve seen other cases of the woman’s riding being secondary to the man’s riding.

    What gives a woman more power over her own world is education, income, and self esteem. Why I think I gave in so much before is that since I was used to being poor, I felt I could live on very little. I was used to just surviving, and that made my marriage be the only important thing I had, so I’d give up most anything to keep it intact. Now I have a much better job and am finishing a masters degree. I can do what I want, when I want. I don’t HAVE to compromise, and that seems to have helped my next relationship attempt a lot.

    How this ties into the topic is:
    1) Do women feel they have to look good more than be safe? Would a guy not want a woman riding with him if when she pulled off the helmet she had flat, sweaty hair? (typically what I looked like after riding…I look pretty scarey)

    2) If a women refuses to get on the motorcycle with her significant other without a helmet, does she have consequences? If there’s some form of punishment to not wearing protective gear (being left behind, yelled or laughed at, etc), then she’s being coerced into riding in an unsafe manner.

    3) Do women feel they can’t handle a motorcycle? I’ve heard this from other women. They don’t think they can take control of a bike themselves. This is mostly a matter of ignorance about motorcycles. I know my mom always told me that motorcycles were for guys, and she occassionally chastises me for having 2 motorcycles and riding solo (because my money is “supposed” to be going into babies and marriage).

    I can’t talk for all other women. All I can talk on is what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen with other women I know. The ability to be truly independent (education, income, and self-esteem) makes it possible for a person to have complete control over their decisions instead of having to compromise to make up for what’s missing. I don’t think this is strictly limited to women, but I think society as a whole has more women set up to do the compromising. I don’t know how one proves or disproves that though.

    On that note, if any women are reading this and want to talk motorcycles more, how to learn, need help finding a motorcycle, and so on, feel free to shoot me an email. I’d love to help more women discover how wonderful motorcycling is as a rider instead of as a passenger.


  16. Ms. Crazy Pants says

    I thought I had posted earlier, but either I messed up my post, or it was just too long….so, here’s a shortened response.

    1) Can’t compare women in the US to women in non-western countries. Safety concerns vary country to country. In some places, piling 20 people on a motorcycle isn’t deemed unsafe.

    2) I’m a female rider. I meet a lot of women who don’t really believe they can ride, and I think that’s due to being told that they have less capabilities all their life. I know I was always taught that. (This is in response to the above comment on why there aren’t more female riders.)

    3) Women who have stable education, income, safety, and self-esteem on their own, rather than relying on someone else, will not only make better decisions, but will not find themselves coerced into things they might not want to do. Increase these three things and the rest should mostly fix itself. I don’t know if the women in the pictures are coerced, but I’ve certainly felt pressure to conform to the “cool” kids.

    4) Even in the US I don’t meet that many people who ride with a helmet unless they are in a state that requires it. In states that don’t require it, even if the rider has one, I often see it strapped to the back. People in general don’t like helmets. (I always ride with my helmet, but I am not a “cool” motorcyclist either.)

    I think the pictures need more context in order to make a solid conclusion, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to wonder why the women have no protection.

  17. Siverly says

    Taslima, perhaps you needed to actually write a bit about what you thought these selected photographs meant. A headline just wasn’t enough. A better header might have been: ‘Why are these passengers allowed to ride without helmets?’ Can bloggers from these countries depicted explain the seeming safety double-standard? A little bit more info needed, please.

  18. says


    As F said, you had a valid point, but in your responses you came across as downplaying sexism. You also made several odd MRA-style comments about women.

    I agree that on their own, these pictures don’t prove anything. Furthermore, they are not statistical data about use of helmets by gender and age. I believe Ms Nasreen was raising an interesting point. Are women and children less likely to wear motorbike helmets? And if so, why? In which countries?

    As you pointed out, people who don’t wear helmets are at a much greater risk of injury. So if women and children are being disproportionately affected, we should try to identify the causes and find solutions.

    I briefly scanned a few abstracts on Web of Knowledge. Firstly, consider developing countries.

    E.g. In Iran:

    * “Only 10% of motorcyclists wear a standard helmet while riding.”

    * “With respect to passengers’ use of helmet, of the 264 child passengers, only two were wearing a helmet. Of the 673 female passengers, only one used a helmet, and of the 1278 male passengers, twenty-one wore helmets.” [Note the stats for women and children compared to men.]

    * “We identified the following helmet-related factors as barriers to its use: (a) heat-trapping and lack of ventilation; (b) heavy structure; (c) limiting the rider’s visual and hearing communication; (d) messing up the rider’s appearance; (e) Lack of a storage compartment on the motorcycle; and (f) higher cost of standard helmets vs. non-standard ones.”

    * “Younger motorcyclists in our study feared these negative labels and the subsequent critical reactions they receive from their peers. One 16 year old motorcyclist explained, “My friends say it does not look cool to wear a helmet. When they first saw me wearing one, they teased me, telling me that I am scared of getting hurt or cited by an officer. Then why wear one?””

    * “Although the majority of pillion-riding woman in our study believed that it is important to wear a safety helmet at all times, they still felt “funny” and “embarrassed” to do so because they thought it is not yet a social norm. One female pillion passenger stated, “I wore a helmet once, but I felt that everyone was watching me.” Another female pillion passenger said, “No, I don’t ever wear a helmet because I feel embarrassed. I don’t mind seeing other women wearing it, but not me. I fear being laughed at. I don’t want people to call me ‘the lady with the helmet’.””

    * “Based on our results, motorcyclists may benefit from motivational and public education programs, provisions of comfortable, affordable standard helmets, legislative measures and policies to reduce risk behaviors in adolescents who use motorcycles, enforcement of rigorous laws for banning manufacturing/using of unsafe partial or dummy helmets, as well as a system for consistently enforcing compliance.”

    – Zamani-Alavijeha, F., Bazarganb, M., Shafieic A. & Bazargan-Hejazid, S. The frequency and predictors of helmet use among Iranian motorcyclists: A quantitative and qualitative study. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43, 4.

    I found studies from Nigeria, Argentina, Thailand and the US as as well. I’ll try to look them over when I have more time.

    You seemed to be upset that this article was stirring up resentment towards men. You assumed that the feminist explanation would be that the men riding these bicycles hate women and children, so they ignore their health. I don’t think Ms Nasreen or any of the commenters here believe that discrimination usually works in such overt ways.

    Let’s consider developing countries. What possible reasons could there be for women and children not wearing helmets?

    * Men are the primary owners of vehicles.

    Why don’t women own vehicles? Why don’t they have the money or autonomy to purchase them? Why are women expected to rely on men to provide for them?

    * Helmets are expensive/uncomfortable/unfashionable.

    * Women don’t want to be seen as odd for wearing helmets.

    Why does the society teach women to value their appearance/reputation over their personal safety?

    * Most households can only afford one helmet.

    Why is it assumed that the man should have the protection? Does the society value a man’s life more than a woman’s or child’s? Is it because men are the primary breadwinners, providing for the entire family? If so, why don’t women have the opportunity to work and support themselves? If more women did professional work, would that raise their value in the eyes of their society?

    These are all possible questions/explanations that humanists and/or feminists might be interested in. None of them are as simple as “Evil men hate women!!! Kill them all!!” No one was saying anything remotely like that.

    Let’s consider developed countries. I haven’t looked at the data yet, so we can’t discuss the statistics. But let’s look at pictures 1, 3 and 16 Ms Nasreen posted.

    They clearly show men all padded up and protected while their female companions are dressed to look decorative. These images don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of a broader media culture in which men are posed as protagonists who do things and women are posed as decorative objects who exist to be looked at. In this case, a woman’s need to be attractive at all times supersedes her need for physical safety! “I’d rather be seriously injured than look frumpy!” is what these images say. And that’s something we should talk about.

    I’ve noticed in the fantasy and sci fi games I play that male knights or wizards tend to be dressed in more practical, functional armour/robes that fulfil the job of protecting them. Female knights/wizards on the other hand, are dressed in “armour” that consists of skimpy chainmail lingerie and high heel boots (very impractical for fighting). Obviously fantasy games have to strike a balance between realism and playability/aesthetics, but this is part of a broader culture in which women are under pressure to conform to beauty standards all the time, torturing their bodies with impractical high heel boots, inappropriate clothing and so on, which interferes with their ability to protect themselves or do their jobs.

    If women are so afraid of having helmet hair or looking awkward that they’ll gamble with their physical safety, we need to ask ourselves why. Does our culture send women the message that their only value is in how attractive they look? If so, this is a damaging attitude that we need to change.

    Anyway, these are all interesting questions that I hope you’ll consider before simply dismissing as feminazis wanting any excuse to hate men.

  19. jimmy60 says

    I ride. Out of all those pictures there is only one rider properly protected. The first one (which looks like a posed shot to me). Sixteen of the other operators have no gloves on. How will they support their families when their hands get turned into hamburger? About five have no eye protection. Looks like a bunch of the men might die too.

    In my opinion it is always the responsibility of the operator of a vehicle to ensure passenger safety. If you want me to give you a ride you will need a helmet, gloves and decent footwear or the ride won’t happen. My car won’t move until you put your seat belt on. This is particularly important with children as they don’t make good decisions at times. However, the adult women could have chosen not to get on the bike without gear. For them I have less sympathy but I still blame the operator.

    Oh yeah, I don’t have a problem with breast feeding in public but not on a bike! WOW!

  20. Gorbachev says



    There’s a lack of consideration and thought going on. There are plenty of issues to be worried about —

    This is manufactured anger.

  21. says

    The photos seem cherry-picked to me and even if they are representative, I doubt there is any pressure on women not to wear helmets, except perhaps from themselves.

    I first thought that this post would address headlines such as “5000 people were killed in the earthquake, including many women and children”. Whenever there is some catastrophe, the news tries to make it sound worse by mentioning that women and children were killed too.

  22. MikeMa says

    I have just arrived back in India for a 2 week business trip. First drives this trip covering roughly 30km I saw hundreds of motorcycles & scooters. No more than a handful had any helmets. No passengers ever wore a helmet. While a few women were driving cycles, none wore helmets at all.

    Is this a gender value thing, a cultural need for fashionable hair, or something else? I will ask some of my cycling colleagues (all male) who work here about this.

  23. thebookofdave says

    If men are willing to protect only their most valued parts, why are they all wearing a helmet instead of the cup?

  24. Sids says

    Judging from the elaborate flowing clothes, head scarves or skimpy outfits on the women, I’m guessing that they probably didn’t want to wear helmets (I was going to write ‘chose not’ but I’m not sure how much choice was involved). Obviously this just shines the spotlight on the question of why their cultures demand that they wear such things that ultimately lead to them risking their lives in the first place.

  25. jajjj says

    I’m sorry but this is so unbelievably wrong.

    Tell me, if a building is burning down, who does the firefighter always save first? The woman or the man? Always the woman.

    When a ship is sinking, who is the first to be seated on the life boats? The woman.

    In times of war who is always conscripted into war? The man.

    You can’t possibly be this stupid to actually believe a few photos of people motorcycles overrides CENTURIES of where the safety of WOMEN & children was put ahead of a man’s.

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