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Women Biker Gangs - A Pop Culture View

A look at how popular culture has portrayed female members of motorcycle gangs. It also draws on the article, "Women in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs", by Columbus B. Hopper and Johnny Moore for insight from a qualitative study preformed by the authors.

kevin volo

on 29 August 2011

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Transcript of Women Biker Gangs - A Pop Culture View

Women In Motorcycle Gangs
A Pop Culture View
“a pair of soft arms
around their bellies.”
Here, women in biker gangs are a secondary focus, after the violent men and their bikes. The women are seen simply riding along, acting for the Hell’s Angels as “a pair of soft arms around their bellies.” In sociological articles, as in many biker films, “Everything written on outlaw motorcycle gangs has focused on the men in the groups (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 103)."

The only moment in the trailer when a woman is the primary focus is at the 47 second mark, where a blond woman is pinned down and slapped twice across the face—presumably as a prelude to forced sex. “Mamas” are women in biker clubs who must be ready for sex with any male member of the club whenever it’s demanded (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 108)."
Naked Angels
The Hellcats
The cycle-mad mamas' dress is masculine and their behavior violent. They’re brutal and vicious leather-clad sex objects. This wasn’t so far from the truth according to the authors, “In the groups we observed in the 1960s, the female participants were more spontaneous in their sexual encounters and they interacted more completely in club activities of all kinds,” than biker women in the ’80s would (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 114)."

The trailer shows a proving ritual, and despite the prominent feature of women here, only a man is shown being tested. Women aren’t allowed full membership, but in earlier clubs were granted some measure of authority by their old man, and Sheila’s position as the women’s leader was derived from her old man being the club leader (Hellcats, 1967).
Angels’ Wild Women
These biker women with men’s lust are “too tough for any man!” Though women were freer in the early years of this study “female associates of outlaw motorcycle gangs have never been on par with the men (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 114)". The clubs studied by the authors were all controlled by men, and an outlaw splinter club like the biker women formed in this trailer is unheard of.

While these women dominate their male sexual targets with a noose, whip and physical restraint, women in the real world clubs studied were strictly controlled with physical abuse and sexual punishment which could include running a train where many men take turns engaging in intercourse with a single woman. It is interesting that movies like this were made since they have no basis in actual gang practices and are in fact, quite the opposite (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 108).
Hopper, C.B., & Moore, J. (1990). Women in outlaw motorcycle gangs. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 18(4), 383-387.

Wikipedia, Initials. (2009, December 22). The Hellcats. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hellcats

Bailey, C. A., (2007). “Prelude to Qualitative Fieldwork”. In a Guide to Qualitative Field Research. 2nd ed., 33-49. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Angels’ Wild Women. Dir. Al Adamson. Perf. Ross Hagen, Kent Taylor, Preston Pierce,
Regina Carrol and William Bonner. Troma Entertainment, 1972.

The Hellcats. Dir. Robert F. Slatzer. Perf. Ross Hagen, Dee Duffy, Sharyn Kinizie, Del
West, Robert F. Slatzer, Tony Lorea, Eric Lidber and Shannon Summers. Crown
International Pictures, 1967.

Naked Angels. Dir. Bruce D. Clark. Perf. Michael Greene, Jennifer Gan and Richard
Rust. Favorite Films, 1969.
"In the opinions of the women we talked to, a strong man kept a woman in line. Most old ladies had the lowly task of cleaning and polishìng a motorcycle every day. They did so without thanks and they did not expect or want any praise (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 112)"

Here we see an example of the expected subservience of women within a motorcycle gang. Hopper and Moore offer several examples of harsh punishments for women who do not submit to male authority within the motorcycle gangs that they studied.
"An old lady belonged to an individual man; the jacket she wore indicated whose woman she was". . . In general terms, old ladies were regarded as wives. some were in fact married to the members whose patches they wore. "

This clip shows an example of a woman coming to the realization that she is a biker's old lady. Hopper and Moore describe this as a position of status above "sweet butt" or "mama". The woman is bound to one biker, and that biker has the authority to pass on her to other men for sexual favors.
Son's of Anarchy
It is apparent that Hopper has done extensive research in these areas and is an essential point of reference in how to conduct successful qualitative research. There is little information as to his choice for researching this area of phenomenon.
"The sex rituals were important in many biker groups because they served at least one function other than status striving among members. The acts ensured that it was difficult for law enforcement officials, male or female, to infiltrate a gang."

The action of the man, pushing the dancer off himself also shows how the men in the gang think of women, they are like objects, that can be just pushed aside.
"Biker women seemed to represent another version of what Romenesko and Miler (1989) have referred to as 'double jeopardy' among female street hustlers. Like the street prostitutes, most biker women came from backgrounds in which they had limited opportunities in the licit or conventional world, and they faced even more exploitation and subjugation in the illicit or deviant settings they had entered in search of freedom (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 116)."

Further studies can be done to compare how women are treated in other male-dominated subcultures such as pimps and prostitutes, street gangs, organized crime/mafia. In this clip, the character is receiving instructions from fellow pimps on the protocol for dealings with prostitutes. The material seems loosely based on several books written by former pimp Iceberg Slim.
South Park

Butter's Bottom Bitch
"A biker club considered the offspring of members as belonging to the entire group, and each person felt a duty to protect them. Both male and female bikers also gave special treatment to pregnant women. A veteran biker woman related her experience to us as follows:

“Kids are sacred in a motorcycle club, when I was pregnant, I was treated great. Biker kids are tough but they are obedient and get lots of love. I've never seen a biker's kid who was abused (Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 113)."

While there are similarities mentioned in Hopper and Moore's article between women in street gangs and motorcycle clubs, there are differences in how children are cared for in each. They note that children are cared for by their parents as well as the club. This clip shows a grandmother taking a child for a hospital visit with a woman who is a girlfriend of a biker and also a physician.
“Women in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” by Columbus B. Hopper and Johnny Moore is an in-depth qualitative participant research project that was conducted over a 17-year period. Johnny Moore was a participant/researcher who had first hand experience with this society and in fact held a high rank within the organization with which he was associated.
About the Author
Columbus B. Hopper was born in 1931. He received his B.A. from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina; his M.A. in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina: and his Ph.D. in Sociology and Corrections at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He has spent his academic and professional life studying many different areas that pertain to gang life and biker organizations, such as women’s involvement in gangs, the life of gang members within the prison system and the effects of children, in relation to those cultures.
Some of his previous writings involve studies on the terminology used by gang members (appropriately dubbed “Gang Slang”), as well as “The Evolution of Conjugal Visiting in Mississippi: The Prison Journal”. In the latter, he discussed the history of how conjugal visits began, and how they have evolved to the present day. Both Hopper and Moore also wrote “Prelude to Qualitative Fieldwork”. This is an extremely informative guide to selecting research topics and why field work is the best way to understand social processes and structures and also gives the personal aspects of the subject(s) one chooses to study. It is also important to note that Hopper and Moore feel the best possible place to do a field study is within ones own community. Many would argue that most communities are inherently cohesive in nature, and that gives the researcher answers that are rich with information. This made Moore an indispensable resource for the reasearchers' piece on women participating in gang culture, since he was a member of that community for many years, and gangs are in fact a community within themselves. The authors also discussed other issues such as confidentiality, personal safety and avoiding illegal situations. The latter is obviously more relevant to them, considering their choices in fields of study (Bailey, 2007, pg. 33-49).
Son's of Anarchy
Son's of Anarchy

Son's of Anarchy

"It is ironic that biker women
considered themselves free while
they were under the domination
of biker men"

(Hopper, & Moore, 1990, pg. 102)
A look at how popular culture has portrayed female members of motorcycle gangs. It also draws on the article, "Women in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs", by Columbus B. Hopper and Johnny Moore for insight from a qualitative study preformed by the authors.

Please be aware due to the nature of the article and presentation there is some language that is not appropriate for minors.

The contributors to this presentation were: Dorothy Gotte, Darlene Force, Jonathan Grybos, Todd Eklund and Kevin Volo.
Thank You
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