It was exciting news for Harley-Davidson Motor Co. featuring famed Supermodel Marisa Miller as their new campaign “spokesmodel”. Her portrayal was specific to the new V-Rod Muscle – a motorcycle for a younger, hipper demographic than Harley’s traditional “baby boomer” types.
My first impression, as an advocate for women in motorcycling, was that I thought it a terrific coupling. But, when I took a closer look at all the hype, the photo shoot and campaign “feel” – I felt this portrayal of a woman rider – was far off the mark.
The Marisa Miller Harley-Davidson combo certainly looks stunning, but that’s all it is. And this sexist coupling of motorcycle and women is so old school. It again objectified women. Marisa Miller doesn’t ride a motorcycle. On top of that her poses are sexually suggestive. Most of the women I consulted with regard to this form of woman rider portrayal, are unanimously, without a doubt, tired of seeing this portrayal. It’s the stereotypical trophy woman atop an exciting motorcycle. I was disappointed – for you see, Harley-Davidson’s recent and astounding positive efforts for the woman rider market has been impressive. But now this? Of course, it’s the fantasy being sold here both targeted at women – and men. I couldn’t help read this yet again, that it is about posing. It’s about the image foremost about women where being proficient rider, is secondary. Or perhaps there’s no need to ride at all, just pose? Yes, I realized it’s all marketing to push forth the VRod and heavens, the number of women I’ve met who own a Harley parked in their garage, without owning a motorcycle license – still astounds me. The V-Rod campaign is geniously called “SuperModel” yet these images, I fear, do nothing to change the perception of women in motorcycling.
The campaign may not say much about today’s woman motorcycle rider, well, unless Harley were targeting men for this campaign. The VRod has so much potential for women riders. Even Harley’s’ grand-daughter Karen Davidson says the VROD is her favourite pick! But I know she is also fed lines.
The VROD MUSCLE is a sporty, sleek bike —it looks totally awesome. It has a long, low profile inspired by drag racing and an engine that was co-developed with Porsche, the German sports car maker.
This campaign may say – “Buy this bike and you’ll look like Marisa”, yet for the modern informed gal, the educated young woman, this concept may just end up being an insult. As much as I admire, support and work with Harley-Davidson I could not help be disappointed.
There is no question that I am a woman who rides, who loves being woman and supporting femininity. It is the objectified factor, in my view, which needs to be retired. There are many attractive women motorcycle riders around the world, across all cultures as shown from the International Female Ride Day campaign which would have completed Harley-Davidson’s story most realistically. And it is these authentic women motorcycle riders whom at the same time avoid portrayal or being pigeonholed to the stereo-typically title of a poser, or trophy female.
The above photo of Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackhoff what I see as a perfect example. Women who love motorcycling (Stars of “Battlestar Galactica”) and ride. And just maybe Harley’s campaign would do women right by replacing their campaign title – “Supermodel” with – American Super Stars?