Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Dear Auto Mechanic

In Canada, women first exercised their right to vote in a federal election in 1921. That is in 1921 if they were white women; Canadians of Asian and east Asian decent could not vote until after WW2, and First Nations women could not vote until the 60s …. The 1960s. Tangled in this journey are a mishmash of Provincial rulings (as late as the 1940s in Quebec) and a confounding journey for women to actually run for office instead of merely vote for which man would hold it. And the journey continues from the fight to be legally recognized as persons, own property, run for and hold office, through the ongoing struggles to gain the right to have control over her own body, obtain and keep any job in any field and be treated with respect and as credible. We struggle with the ever elusive wage parity issue and we struggle to find and define the feminist approach to motherhood in all it’s ways of being. Women struggle on.

And so it seems in this modern time when we’ve come so far and yet have so far to go that we should not ever give our power away; never stumble and fail to rise ………. Yet every fucking time I go into a service bay it happens. Pfffft.

Taking my car into a service bay has become a ‘thing’ for me. A place where I feel an overwhelming sense of female inferiority being projected upon me, even if it is only imagined. I KNOW most men who work in the car service industry aren’t misogynists, I am well aware that there are many women who share their profession and rock it, and I am perfectly conscious of the fact that I could go out and learn about the modern combustion engine so I could confidently discuss the maintenance and repair needs of my vehicle. But I don’t want to have to become a mechanic to be able to talk to a mechanic. What I want is to go into a service bay and NOT feel like they think I’m stupid. Just once I want to drive in and not see a thought bubble above the technician’s head reading “how do you operate the pedals without your vagina getting in the way?” Just once I want to ask a question about my car’s treatment plan without the service adviser's eyes saying “if you weren’t so female, you’d understand.” Just once I want to go into a car care experience without feeling like, one way or another, I’m going to get screwed.

Everybody holds expert knowledge about something. Some of us can explain the space time continuum or how to make a Yorkshire pudding that stays leavened, or how to cure a sheep of foot rot. Some of us have traveled the globe and know the best way to open-jaw your way around Europe. Some of us can perform an Aortic transplant. Some of us can identify which Jane Austen novel is which by the first line. Some of us can dance. Some of us can fold 3 loads of laundry while doing Kegels. Some of us can drive a bus. Some of us can execute a Party for 18 preschoolers and keep smiling. Some of us can make Zelda a legend. Some of us can land a 747. Some of us can grow zucchini. And some of us can fix cars. But it only seems to be the ones who fix cars who make me want to tie down my boobies and don a fake mustache in order to feel like they aren’t upselling me service and holding my vehicle for ransom. When I go to the Gynecologist I may not know many of the words they are using to describe my physical parts, but I still feel like the expert in the room when it comes to my own mammaries and genitals. When I go to the mechanic I just feel like a tit as he has his head up under my skirt. Pfffffffffft.

In truth I struggle to think of an industry I have less trust in than auto mechanics. It’s ingrained into the culture of it. There are just too many stories out there of rip offs, coercion, unnecessary work, shoddy work, misdiagnosis, etc. I know there are MANY good and honourable auto mechanics; I myself have experienced them, but we ALL have an experience or two that festers deep. Combine that with the entire auto industries’ lighted mirror in the passenger seat approach to their female consumers and we have a recipe for a relationship built on wariness and animosity …… at least for this girl sitting in the driver’s seat pulling into the service bay.  So Auto Repair industry please be aware that I know that you don’t WANT me to feel like this, and know that I acknowledge that a lot of this is my demon to wrestle with so to speak. But I carry a huge amount of angst when it comes to feeling respected, valued, and trusting while you are under the hood of my beloved minivan. I carry a huge debt of gratitude to the woman warriors who have fought and won so much for me to be where I am and I feel like I am letting them down as I am gripped by terror in your shop. Be aware that our relationship could use some mending. Be aware that there are a lot of us drivers-with-vaginas who feel the same way.

Fun facts:
A woman named Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper in 1902.
In 1916 the Girl Scouts introduced the 'Automobiling' badge ...  BEFORE women won the National vote.

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