I was blessed to have been raised surrounded by strong men. I am grateful to be treated as brutally and equally as I have in my friendships and in the automotive community. But most of all, I’m thankful that my attitude and grit have allowed me to see the pink in every backhanded and patronizing comment and slather it with my own paintbrush into a blood red response until the only pink left is the faded edges of my wake.
Attitude is Half the Battle
Let me start this off with a disclaimer that my experience is probably pretty different than most girls. I got into racing and automotives at a young age and I grew up surrounded by superfluous amounts of testosterone, so my responses and perspectives are rather skewed. Having said that, there are things that I think most all females in automotives will experience, and how she responds will determine how difficult her automotive career is. Attitude will either get you a long way or cut you down where you stand.
Look, the honest truth is that most people who are condescending or patronizing aren’t doing it to be assholes, and the more time you spend pissed off is less time you’ll spend changing minds and meeting cool people. More often than not, they’re either trying to impress you or they genuinely think they know better, which in itself can be frustrating, but cooler heads will always prevail. Often, responding honestly and politely will usually do the trick. Even when you get a persistent [Samuel L. Jackson expletive] telling you you’re wrong or trying to spew their advice on you and your build, humor goes a long way.
What it ultimately boils down to is having the evidence to prove you’re up to par. Your skill will speak volumes over whatever rebuttal or come-back you can think of, and being a jerk is only going to hurt fragile egos. If you’re getting into automotives, the ugly truth is that you will constantly be evaluated and tested. People will always be swinging at you, and I’ve found the most effective form of navigating the punches is to grab their hands and turn it into a dance party. There will be plenty of things to be mad about, but being treated like a female isn’t one of them.
The Issue of Horn Dogs
It’s unavoidable. People will often take the fact that you are/present as a woman as an indication that you are desperate for the sexin’. To the gentlemen who may be reading this, let me assure you, we are most definitely not. Are there women who thrive off of sexual attention? Absolutely. Will some women use their bodies to get ahead? Sure. Are these women hurting the chances of women in automotives? No, but it is debatable as to whether or not companies are indirectly forcing women into these rolls for better “opportunities”.
Let me give you an example: when I first started looking for sponsors, being a girl definitely helped, I’m not going to lie. However, some companies made it very obvious what they wanted from their sponsored women. One company I won’t name offered me a parts sponsorship but only after I submitted a photo to them of me in their women’s merchandise… they only made underwear and crop-tops for women. Another company suggested I keep my relationship status as “single” so as to encourage people to follow and comment and thus up the algorithm on my posts. Sex sells, it’s nothing new, so how do you keep your integrity and not have people constantly try to pat your head in pity?
Who you are is more important than what you are
There are going to be attractive men and women in every career, and beginners and experts in every field, but the people who make it into something successful are the people who aren’t assholes. Especially in automotives, you’re going to need a lot of help – either informationally, financially, or otherwise – and no matter how pretty you are or how much you do or don’t know, people don’t like to work with dicks. This doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to make everyone love you, because believe me, it’ll be easy to tell pretty quickly if you’re a dick.
I could go on and on about the finer details or specific situations that women in male-dominated sports may encounter, but it’s really not that hard. Be open to questions, be honest about what you know or don’t know, and stay true to what you want out of your ventures. Guy or girl eventually won’t matter because it’s so superficial. When people don’t know you, they can only react to what they see, and they’ll see a girl. No matter how they react to that, give them a chance to see that you have more to say, more to offer, and more to challenge them with than something you cannot control. Ultimately, being defensive or overly aggressive with your interactions will only turn people away, and ignorance needs a gentle hand. So be humble, be firm, be confident. If you’re in this for the right reasons and keep a good head about you, just maybe you’ll be seen as a driver first and a girl second.