PHOTOS | IZACC YI
As we ascended into the air, helicopter blades creating a rhythmic murmur above my head, I held my breath and inched slowly to the edge of my seat to look below. I was maybe 7 or 8 visiting my grandfather in Atchinson, Kansas (a town where if you blink, you'll miss the turn). He had called up a buddy of his who owned an old helicopter in request of a favor. My grandfather had made his mission that day to inform me about everything he could of a pioneer and pilot that had graced the little town decades ago.
Earlier that day, we had spent hours touring the house they were birthed in, my eyes wide and head overwhelmed with the facts of a child that had once skipped along the path where my feet were planted. Images of a kid no older than I had swirled to life, folding up pieces of papers into planes and soaring them out the windows of the two-story white house that the grandparents had owned.
The thrill that came soon after entailed us lifting off into the air inside of an old helicopter and being able to look down to see this pilot's face spanning an entire hillside. Suddenly the facts and stories from earlier came to life as I took in the recreation below me. In 1997, artist Stan Herd, had created a portrait of the aviator Amelia Earhart that hugs a massive 42,000 square feet on hillside in her home town of Atchison, Kansas. It is a picture that remains instilled in my mind to this day.
I had grown up idolizing women, like Amelia, that had infiltrated male-dominated fields, all while preserving their femininity. Heck, she was a pilot, a record-breaker, a fashion designer (her work graced the pages of Vogue), an author, and much much more. But little did I know that the concept was groundbreaking in itself in context of our society. I just thought they were rad people doing rad things, and it was even cooler that they looked like me. I grew to aspire to be just like them.
The men and women of my family had encouraged me all my life to rid myself of limits. I understood I was a girl, of course, but I did not see how that could put boundaries on what I could and could not do. I would BMX with my brother, ride motorcycles with my dad, and collect bullet shells from my grandfather's yard. It was just normal to me.
It wasn't until I hit the teenage stage that people started to tell me "you're too pretty to do this", or "don't hurt yourself, let the guys pick it up". How foreign that was to me, to just stand off to the side and watch the boys take on the hard work. My mother put me in modelling classes as a kid and right after I would go home and help her fix the dryer because there was no way she would be able to afford a handyman. I had an independence instilled in me by my family, because they taught me that I could be beautiful, smart, AND tinker with things. The same year that I won a placement on an American Eagle billboard in NY, I traveled 5,000+ miles across the country on my Sportster, graduated second in my class, and was gifted the best grad present I could ask for: a massive toolbox from my father.
Today I have found myself entering a global motorcycle community fuelled by homegrown events and rides, where I've seen more and more women grabbing the metaphorical bull by the horns, both on social media and in real life. These women, who may have different pasts than I, all having come to the same conclusion of a RE-born free attitude. I can scroll through Instagram and see gorgeous Petrolettes offering a glimpse into their lifestyles fuelled by adventure, gasoline, and a grasp upon their femininity that empowers them unbound of any limitation.
These ladies are my modern day Amelia Earharts. Ladies that know no bounds of what they can do, those that push past glass ceilings - creating heavens of their own. They are not afraid to fail, but rather live a full life, embracing who they are - as women and most importantly as beings.
Whether you're introduced into gasoline culture by a father, a boyfriend, or even an inspiring lady like the aforementioned, I hope you gather the courage to unleash yourself from fear and stereotypes. Our ancestors have fought a long hard fight for the rights that we have today, and it is our duty to pursue a path of equality, independence, and freedom.
I'm not saying that you need to go out there and tear apart a motorcycle while intermittently applying lipstick. What I'm saying is that we need to reshape the framework of what being a woman means today. Our abilities and lifestyles should not be defined by our gender. They should be defined by our interests and the innate curiosities of our very beings.
Amelia summed it up best when she said, “Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.”
Kristen is an old soul. Generous and kind, she is forever pushing her own boundaries and encouraging greatness in others. When she isn’t riding bikes, she’s under them (she’s a trained motorcycle mechanic, and could teach you more than a thing or two). Kristen is IVV’s Content Editor and US correspondent, bringing tales of her adventures across the interwebs to inspire and invigorate.