Encouraging female empowerment

All-female biker group largest in Northwestern Michigan

MANISTEE — When it comes to women’s empowerment, the nation-wide “Stilettos on Steel” group has a different approach. The all-female motorcycle riding group has become the largest, and quite possibly the only one of its kind in Northwestern Michigan.

With 11 Stilettos on Steel chapters spread throughout Michigan, the group aims to unite female motorcyclists at any skill level for the means of support, friendship and to promote peer or professional learning for safety purposes.

Bringing the group to Manistee, Tina LaHaye, regional coordinator, started a chapter in the fall last year, after she previously joined the Traverse City chapter in 2016.

“It was kind of a long distance, and there were a couple of other girls from Manistee,” said LaHaye. “I thought, ‘We need something in Manistee.’ At the time, it was Traverse City, Big Rapids and Muskegon in this area. We are now in the center of all three.”

Currently, the Manistee chapter has seven members.

While the group encourages female riders to travel together, it also promotes an image that “feminine” women are more than capable of using their skills to ride and own a motorcycle.

Anyone can join the group, 18 years and older, but members must work toward getting their license within the first year.

“We empower women to ride in sisterhood and friendship,” said LaHaye. “We come from all different areas, from stay at home moms or nurses, even bus drivers, and more.”

The group initiative is growing across Michigan, while the northwestern region has three chapters including Manistee, Traverse City and Big Rapids, collectively forming the largest all-female motorcycle riding group in the area.

Muskegon, in the southwestern region, also has a chapter.

Laurie Anderson, regional coordinator for the Traverse City chapter, said her journey started with the group when she was a part of the Indian River chapter in 2014, but the commute was too much on a frequent basis.

She started her own chapter in Traverse City later on, and it now has up to 18 members.

“It was the only one even in the area at that time, when I joined,” Anderson said. “So, I went off and started my own.”

Anderson said the group brings a different image of a female biker into the mix, challenging those stereotypes.

“We are supposed to the be the feminine image of the hard-core biker chick,” said Anderson. “That’s a part of our mission.”

The group is nation-wide, encompassing 11 states that have Stilettos on Steel chapters starting with Wisconsin, where it originated, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, Missouri, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and Florida.

“Michigan was kind of the model state,” said Anderson. “It grew rapidly here compared to some other states.”

The members of Stilettos on Steel ride frequently with each other, hold events to meet with other chapters and organize weekends rides, but another tradition involves the “traveling stiletto,” which chapters in Michigan can steal from each other with three other members.

“It’s really about women in your area that you can ride with, rather than going by yourself,” said LaHaye. “The stiletto can only be transported by bike, chapter by chapter we steal it. We encourage women to intermix and ride together.”

For more information about Stilettos on Steel, visit www.stilettosonsteel.com.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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