I’ve been in just about every corner of the car scene over the last 25 years. I’ve been mudding, dirt racing and rode in trucks that could have been in Monster Jam. I’ve stood by the side of the Morland Ave and watched the street races until we saw blue lights and it was time to run for it. I’ve worked in detail and lube shops and have changed oil in cars that cost 10x what I made in a year. I’ve stood in the middle of the freeway and watched as the cars from 2 Fast 2 Furious flew by during filming of a chase scene and even got to select a scene that made it into the film. I’ve co-owned a performance parts business. I have advised car enthusiasts on what aftermarket and performance parts might be the best choice for their specific builds or set ups and scoured the end of the earth helping people find parts for their classics. I have sanded, taped, and prepped cars for paint jobs when I managed a body shop. I have worked in performance shops, mechanic shops and at dealerships. I also helped put together one of the south’s biggest and longest running sportsman drag races. That necessitated finding partners, sponsors, marketing the event, learning race set ups well enough to help write rules and do tech inspections for competition classes, help in the staging lanes with line ups and generally kept the event running smoothly. I worked on my own car, picked out every detail and worked in the garage to learn how to do everything I hadn’t done before. I’ve even run a car club!
I took on all those responsibilities and seized all the opportunities because I wanted to learn and experience everything I could and I’m so grateful for all I got to do and be a part of. Still, I walked away from the car scene for a long while. I had to. To be honest, it was exhausting. No matter what I did, there was always going to be someone that had something to say. I couldn’t know what I was talking about because I’m just a girl. It was frustrating to try to be a part of a scene that didn’t need me or even really want me to be a part of it. As a woman in the car scene it felt like your choices were: #1 be hot (that’s it, that’s your value), #2: be invisible so people forget you’re a girl or #3 get labeled as a poser looking for attention that surely can not be taken seriously. Now naturally, that’s a broad generalization and not indicative of how every person treated me- merely a description of how it felt.
I wish I was alone in feeling this way, but I’m not. So many women have tried to build a hobby in the car scene and found it so inhospitable. Many of us constantly have to take the high road to ignore ignorant comments, snide remarks, rude memes and general (intended or unintended) disrespect. Throw in the side stepping some have to do around the occasional but always annoying flirtation and lots of women start to believe they’re foolish for wanting to be a part of it all. It takes tenacity to stick around in that kind of environment. For years, I brushed off comments, explained myself, corrected people and asserted myself as I needed to, but it gets tiresome. When I decided to stop, the relief was palpable.
My step away from the car scene helped me a lot. After a while, I realized that the car hobby was too important to me to let go just because 20% of the scene are killjoys. I wound up angry that I was missing out, but only at myself for feeling like I owed anyone an explanation or response.
In order to be part part of the solution, I started a group called ShiftWomen. My goal with this group is to turn over a new leaf. It’s time to leave the frustration behind and create a safe, supportive environment where everyone is free to come as they are, regardless of knowledge and skill level to make new friends, try new things and experience things in the way that works best for us.
When we say that we want a safe environment, we mean one that is free of judgement, ridicule, and disrespect. We recognize on a fundamental level that there are multiple ways to be car enthusiasts. Among us we have builders, modders, classic car aficionados, wrenchers, pro and semi pro racers and show car builders. If any of us wants to learn about something, we know we can reach out to the group and someone will be more than happy to share insight to help us learn.
We are also rallied around by a group of supportive men. These guys are so crucial to our success as they set the tone of behavior and respect. They participate, answer questions, and cheer us on as we find our place. They also are best poised to tell the haters to stand down.
My hope is that we all can find an outlet that gives us the freedom to explore, learn and try some new things. I’d love to see more women out on the track, competitive or just for fun. We know conclusively that women have the capabilities to be far more precise in their driving on the track than men. Why? They are easier to instruct. As one racing instructor once put it, “women actually listen”.
We want women to know that they do not need to be the best driver, most knowledgeable, have the fastest car, or look the hottest in their race suit. This is a hobby; it’s supposed to be fun. As a community, we can rally around our group members and ensure that we’re supporting each other the best we can.
Atlanta’s own Depreciation Nation came to hang out with us to see what we were all about. Check out the video below to meet some of the Shift Women and hear some more personal stories.