Fast Cars and Misogyny: How Girls are Prevented from Learning “Masculine” Skills

This is not a paradox.

I recently read Teach Your Children to Succeed by Putting Obstacles in Their Way by Eric Sentell on Role Reboot. The heart of Sentell’s essay is his story about a day from his youth that he looks back on as a “source of pride, self-reliance, and independence.” He was sixteen years old and in need of an inspection from a mechanic to drive his truck legally. He ran into complications in the form of a burnt-out taillight and no one to fix it for him. The story is a short one, allegedly telling of his resourcefulness in dealing with this problem without reliance on his parents. While I agree with the premise that kids ought to be left to their own devices frequently to develop their independent problem-solving skills and confidence, I do want to point out the gendered landscape in which boys and girls develop (or fail to develop) such skills. I do not think that Eric Sentell is an arrogant man; I don’t know him at all, so I couldn’t comment on his person even if I wanted to. I do, however, see a number of references in his story to circumstances that are not available to many boys, and not to any girls at all. In other words, the article is packed with unacknowledged privilege and traces of sexism. Let’s go through this thing piece by piece.

First of all, let’s be clear about the fact that Sentell’s parents did not put obstacles in his way. The obstacles emerged on their own: the taillight broke, the inspection came due. None of these little setbacks can be traced back to his parents’ attempts to teach him responsibility. His parents simply refused to eliminate the obstacles for him. Why is this distinction so important? Because there are lots of parents who do put obstacles before their children, and they don’t do it to teach responsibility. They do it to stop their children from becoming independent. The homeschool parents who teach “character training” instead of algebra so their kids won’t be able to go off to a liberal university and abandon their faith. The resentful parents who won’t allow their kids to take on student loans because they’re committed to being debt-free, thus setting their children’s careers back at least a decade as they try to drum up the funds to gain the skills they need. The controlling parents who use younger siblings as leverage to keep older ones from leaving the nest. When parents deliberately make their children’s lives harder, they do not teach them valuable lessons about responsibility. They just make their children’s lives harder. What happened to Sentell was ordinary life and its ordinary obstacles. It was not a critical situation. His parents’ refusal to step in had zero long-term consequences for his adult life.

Second, the opening of this story reveals that Sentell’s parents actually had smoothed the road for him already. He had his own truck at sixteen. I’m twenty-six and I haven’t even finished paying off my first car (which I bought last year – it’s 13 years old). A car or truck is a crucial asset in America, where public transit is usually hopelessly inadequate. Even if it was the ugliest, least reliable, rustiest truck in the country, if it could roll down the street and get him where he wanted to go, he had something valuable. And because it was a truck, it opened him up to work opportunities that could earn him money: the ability to haul big stuff around. Sentell does not describe the purchasing of this truck as a huge obstacle, so I imagine his parents either helped him buy it or gave it to him. Obstacle circumvented.

Third, he went to a mechanic and a junkyard. In neither place was he threatened or harassed. Do you know what happens to me when I walk into a mechanic’s shop? I get leered at. My breasts wind up in a one-sided conversation as I attempt to steer the proprietor’s eyes northward and get a straight answer about my car. If I actually demonstrate knowledge, they look incredulous and actually mock me. Last year, a mechanic actually looked me in the eye, smirked, and said, “Women know nothing about cars.” He then went on to tell a long story about how a woman he served years ago freaked out when she stopped by halfway through a complicated job and asked if he could put her car back together. I doubt this actually happened, as most people are smart enough to know that cars are made, not born and can be dismantled and reassembled at any time with the right tools. The function of the story was to remind me that this mechanic shop was not my place. My ovaries disqualified me. 

Fourth, the mechanic taught him how to do the repair. I’ll say more about this below. For now, suffice it to say that this is not an example of self-reliance.

I have always loved cars. I’ve thought about going back for an automotive repair certification after I finish my PhD, just because cars are that interesting to me. But my current knowledge is highly theoretical and rudimentary. I’ve educated myself as much as I could (and continue to do so) on the internet, through videos and books and just plain poking around under the hood to identify parts. I make a point of memorizing the details of every job I get done on my car for future reference. I know how long my car should run, when I’ll need to replace the engine, and how to keep the frame intact for another decade at least. I love the bits out of my car. But I can’t perform any work on it myself. Not just because I’m too poor to own a lift or set of jacks and all the relevant tools (although that is a significant obstacle). Mostly, I can’t do the work because everyone I ever asked for help either refused to teach me or treated me like a joke. My male friends pretended they didn’t hear me, or they openly laughed. My father said, “Tomorrow.” My male friend’s father said, “Sure, sometime.” I kept asking, reminding, showing up and watching, offering to help. Not once did anyone ever let me near a wrench. You can bet that I resent this, bitterly. I was willing. I was eager. I was determined. They were amused.

So let’s imagine that somehow sixteen-year-old Sierra has acquired a free truck with a busted taillight and a mechanic on a tight schedule. The inspection is important, so she swallows her pride and deals with the leering proprietor of the junkyard, although she probably stops somewhere and pick up a bottle of mace first, just in case some creep decides to show her that she doesn’t belong there. She doesn’t tell her father, who would never let her go to a junkyard alone in the first place – although he tells her to her face that he would let his son go if he had one. After a lot of nervous shuffling through the mysterious objects in the junkyard storefront, she finds what she needs. Now what? She has the taillight, so she’ll take a chance and ask the mechanic to install it. She burns rubber getting out of that place, still feeling the proprietor’s eyes on her rear end.

Once back at the shop, she jumps down out of the truck and holds out the taillight to the mechanic. He looks up from his paperwork and says he can’t get to it today. She offers to fix it herself. The mechanic takes off his glasses, looks her up and down incredulously, pauses for a long time and says, “Well, if you think you can do it, go ahead and try. But if it’s not done in ten minutes I won’t have time to inspect your truck, either.” She marches out to the shop and asks a male shop assistant, who is her age, to borrow some tools. She grits her teeth as she remembers applying for that job and how proud the mechanic must have been for not laughing her out of his office.

Now, time to face the truck. With absolutely no idea how to remove the broken taillight, Sierra gnaws on her fingernails for the next nine minutes and tries pulling apart different seams, opening and closing the tailgate. Nothing works. She is contemplating smashing the old light out with a mallet when the mechanic walks up. With a long sigh, he takes the tools and taillight out of her hands and whips off the old one with no explanation. “How did you do that?” she asks, hoping to store this information for future reference. He just gestures vaguely at the tailgate and holds out his hand for her keys. She hands them over, and he performs the inspection. When he’s done, she overhears him muttering about women and how needy they are.

She fights back the tears until she’s on the road, gripping the steering wheel like a lifeline. The truck grumbles a little – probably the catalytic converter, the mechanic had said without explanation – but otherwise performs perfectly. At least the truck doesn’t care that she’s a girl. As she waits at a stop light across from her house, a clique of rich girls in a convertible honk and tell her to get back to the farm with that tractor. She thinks about backing up into them, but cares about her truck too much. As she turns off the truck, scales the front steps and slams the door, her father calls out, “Did you pass?” She yells back, “Yeah,” without further comment. It’s just not worth it.

The next day, she tells her mother the story and the whole truth comes out. Her father launches into a screaming fit. “How dare you go to a place like that without telling me?” She’s grounded. Next year, he does the inspection for her. Apparently, the truck needs serious repair. He fixes it himself while she’s at work. She never even knows that it was broken.

Long story short, I would have killed for the opportunities that Sentell calls obstacles. To be able to walk into a mechanic’s shop and be taken seriously? To get honest answers without odes to my breasts or off-color jokes? To go to places like the junkyard without worrying about sexual assault or expecting harassment? To be lent tools, to have someone actually show me how to fix something on my car? To have a mechanic for once acknowledge that automotive knowledge doesn’t flow from the testicles and must be taught? To be able to bother a mechanic on break, as Sentell did, and not to be sternly told to wait in the lobby until he’s finished watching reruns of Frasier, sweetheart? To have a car in the first place? Where are the obstacles here? This all sounds like smooth sailing to me.

This is, of course, to say nothing of Sentell’s conclusion:

Fathers may have to shoulder most of this responsibility. In general, mothers tend to be more relationship-oriented and thus more nurturing. I don’t see most moms parenting as “obstacle courses” anytime soon, and I’m not even sure that they should. Children need support as well as challenges.

This is what some of us call “soft sexism.” And here is my response: I might be a mother someday. I might even fit your “relationship-oriented and thus more nurturing” paradigm. But you know what? It’s not just in my genes. It’s not who I am naturally. It’s a result of the fact that every other door has been repeatedly slammed in my face. People keep slamming them, even though as an adult I have more power in these situations. Now I can enroll in automotive classes and nobody can legally deny my registration due to my sex, although I do expect to deal with a lot of sexism in the classroom and beyond. Now I can pick mechanics who don’t insult me, although it takes a lot of time and research to find them and sometimes I’m steered wrong by women with lower expectations. Now I can lift weights (the subject of a future post, I’m sure), but I still get stares, passive aggressive crowding out and unnecessary “help” from guys in the gym.

Men often complain that women just can’t understand their interest in cars. Here’s my answer to them: What have you done lately to make learning about them more appealing to women? How many little girls have you mentored? Do you just fix things for your wives, girlfriends or daughters without involving them in the process? Do you ever take the time to explain to them why you like cars (no, “I’m a dude” doesn’t count)? Do you joke with other men about mechanical ineptitude in women? Have you taken a young man under your wing and showed him how to change his tires, but described it as “male bonding time” and left his sister out? When you talk about going out with your wife or girlfriend in a sports car, do you assume you’ll be driving? Do you assume that women like sitting on the backs of motorcycles better than actually driving them? When a little girl tells you, “cars are boring,” do you try to prove her wrong?

I have loved cars all my life. I even like the ridiculous subculture of cars: the technological competition, the useless features, the unscathed metal and six-speeds that make my palms sweat. I don’t like how the only women at those events are making ass prints on the trunk and scratching the paint with their sequined bikinis. But the cars themselves? To die for. But I’m an outsider because men force me to be one. Not even just the system. Not just the patriarchy. Actual men, who are totally blind to the idea that a girl could have an interest in motors and the skill to take them apart and put them together herself, who keep on keeping me down with their words. In short, we live in a culture in which men refuse to teach girls about cars, then make fun of them as women for not knowing about cars. Guys, I think better of you than this. Quit shutting us out!

Eric Sentell, I don’t believe your story has anything to do with “self-reliance” or “independence.” Your hand was held the entire time. You just didn’t even notice it because it’s never not been there.

  • Michelle

    KEEP UP the writing! Thank you!

    I am sorry I don’t have anything else to add, lately, but your stories (your life, I mean–I’m not meaning to downplay your life or the content by calling what you share story/stories–it’s just the way I talk) are so…they illustrate so well the problems with the “venus and mars” assumptions that are made by people who didn’t live your life. Your personal experiences illuminate the truth in ways that any academic-leaning argument I can make cannot.

  • Janice Dodson

    Okay, basics and background here. I am 62 years old, reared in the South, and never heard of a Phillips screwdriver until I was in my 30′s. When I was a young soon-to-be-single mother, I went to work for an insurance company as an auto claims adjuster in Los Angeles. And yes, there was a lot of sexism and occasional smut and smack talked. I cheerfully recognized it as a penis problem. I also cheerfully used some men’s preconceived notions to my advantage. Perhaps the fact that I was the one writing the check gave me a position of power. But as a consumer, I’m still the one writing the check. I had to learn about cars. And I’ve been in a junkyard as a consumer. And I’ve read books to teach myself about my particular make/model of car, and puh-lease!!! I have absolutely no shame when I flutter my eyelashes (what’s left of ‘em, anyway!) and let a gentleman assist me if I can’t do it myself. But the point is, I am informed! I have, over the years, made it my business to know a little about the mechanics of my car. I have also made it my business to be knowledgeable about my home, how it’s built and how to fix what goes wrong. That doesn’t mean I’m going to roll up my sleeves, grab a wrench or a screwdriver and wade on in there- although I have most of the tools to do just that! What it does mean is that I know when somebody’s trying to screw me to the proverbial wall. It also means that I don’t allow myself to be a victim of harassment or allow any of the local rednecks to put me down, take advantage of me or take me to the cleaners. I choose how I will be treated. I decide what is acceptable and what is not. And I am never afraid to speak up, speak out and make my voice heard.

  • futuralon

    Hi. This resonated with me. In my 20s after I had a liberal arts bachelors degree, I took automotive technology classes. I was the only woman in two of my classes, in engine repair, the third class, there were three women to 20 men. On occasion I got sneered or leered at. Once in the brake class I got shoved out of the way on a group project because I was taking too long to figure it out. I cursed the guy out and stormed away, smarting from both the sexism and my pissy girlie response to criticism. That guy dropped out just a few weeks into the class. I got an A as I did in all of my auto classes.
    I ended up dating a guy who was a mechanic and we got married and have an auto shop together.
    We are feminists and cap each other out on dumb assumptions we make about women and other types of people.
    We have sexist clients who joke about their dumb wives not knowing what’s wrong with the car. These guys never know anything about cars let alone what the problem is with their own vehicle.
    I am a regular fixture at automotive and hardware stores in this town. I see women behind the counter in some places. I see women at the junkyard (and I’m hardly ever there – so they must be there regularly).
    I am coming to terms with what I know and don’t know about the world of building and fixing things. I can’t weld or do electrical wiring but I probably could if I wanted to learn. I dislike heavy labor and working upside down. I don’t mind getting dirty if I’m in work clothes and my hair is in a wrap.
    I’m a homeowner now and do all the painting, most of the gardening, and help with small repairs and construction. I have no experience with plumbing but it seems straightforward.
    At the shop I do diagnostics and troubleshooting, I specialize in rebuilding cylinder heads, and I’m working toward doing more and more of the engine building.
    We have a few employees and have hired our first woman. She is very interested in learning about cars.
    You know what you need to learn about cars? A car, a $100 kit of mechanics tools of the equivalent selection from a pawn shop, the repair guide to your vehicle (available online through libraries) and an automotive textbook. There’s no magical moment when you know you’re ready or know it all.
    I was afraid of the bench grinder/wire wheel, waiting till last when we practiced with it at school. Same with the air ratchet. I got over it and will use anything with training and encouragement. I still worry about my safety with powerful tools but everybody should.
    I still worry about being treated like a moron at parts counters etc. I shouldn’t be. I have a strong grasp of logic and decent 3D visualizing skills. I don’t think I’m wrong any more often than the people around me. But sexism is real and it’s only natural to be wary.
    I try to be confident. If a car comes in with a problem I’ll throw out possible causes and tests with abandon. My partner has years more experience but regularly comes to the same solutions are uses my brainstorming to arrive at the right answer.
    I am not really trained to be a small businessperson, mechanic, householder or any of it, but this is where I am. With my hair in a bandana, grime on my skin, nitirile gloves in a size medium thanks, and menswear shirts because the universe does not deem fat women worthy of actual work clothes. Think like a 40s wartime poster, only I’m not fighting Nazis, I’m fighting stereotypes. WE CAN DO IT

    • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com Sierra

      You are awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. You’ve encouraged me to keep pursuing that knowledge. :)

  • http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com Heidi

    I had a Subaru AWD for twelve years. I loved it. What I hated was that every time I needed new tires, even if I told the mechanic, “I need four tires, this size, this mileage,” they would invariably launch into a lecture about how I needed four tires every time I got new tires because I had AWD. I would even preemptively cut mechanics off at the pass and say, “I have AWD, I need four tires.” They would look up my car for the right size and all that even though I already knew what I wanted, and then I would get the “You need four tires because you have AWD” lecture. I started getting really smart mouthed and would snap, “Yes, that’s why I asked for four tires when I walked in here and I even told you which ones I needed.”

    Oooh, women who know things are just BITCHES I tell you. I mean, how dare I point out his blatant sexism?

    Finally, I ordered tires online and having them delivered to a shop where I would just drop my car off and have them put the tires on. I thought it was a win-win because I wouldn’t get the lecture but I would get my tires.

    Yeah, those jerks did an “inspection” that turned up all sorts of problems on my car including a hole in my drive shaft, and then they started trying to convince me that if I didn’t get it fixed, I would have fluid leaking all over the place. I kept telling them that I would naturally be getting a second opinion about all of that, which was received about as well as you can imagine. “Well, I guess it’s safe for you to drive for a little while….just try to not go too far…” And then guess what? He gave me the four-tire-speech. “It’s good you bought four because you have AWD, and I wouldn’t have been able to give you the other tires at the price you got online.” He was shocked when I took my paperwork and said firmly that I would never be going back to them.

    Shortly after that, I finally found a mechanic who treated me like a person. My biggest regret in trading in that car was that with my new car, I have three years of oil changes and tire rotations, and I won’t need to see my guy until after that.

  • ScottInOH

    Another great post. It drives me nuts when I see people who’ve actually had it pretty good talking about how hard they had to work to learn responsibility and diligence. “Oh, my life has been so hard–I had to learn to change the taillight on a truck my parents gave me when I was sixteen–but I got through it. Now you should learn how to pick yourself up by your bootstraps.”

    And the follow-up comments show this is yet another area where the game is rigged even worse than what your original post showed. You pointed out that girls aren’t allowed/encouraged to learn and then are made fun of for not knowing. futuralon and Heidi added that when girls or women DO know something about cars they get ridiculed for THAT.

  • supreme.goat@gmail.com

    This is a really good post. Argh. Auto mechanics terrify me. I’m lucky to have found one not given to cheating single women, but the experiences I have had before including having to have an engine replaced in a new car (fortunately under warranty) because the mechanics insisted I was doing something wrong instead of listening to what I said. Of course, the electronics store is another story altogether.

    I should mention that the skills I have as a middle-aged adult that were considered masculine when I was younger (like being the home a/v geek and boxing) were skills I deliberately learned as an adult.

  • Angie unduplicated

    At age 21, I purchased an $800 car. I was aware that I could either make (yes) the payments, or have it repaired, but could not afford both. My local high school sponsored a so-help-me powderpuff mechanics course, and it was wonderful. My dad had a world-class tantrum. When I asked him what was so feminine about getting ripped off by mechanics, he shut up, knowing that he’d been there. Check with local schools of all sorts. If no classes are available, advertise in the “wanted” section of Craigslist and other shopper publications.
    Buy a Haynes manual for your make and model. Study it. Get a Harbor Freight catalog and look up definitions and uses for all of the tools. Buy elsewhere, though: most of these are import junk. Negotiate an unpaid apprenticeship/learning curve to Larry the Cable Guy or someone like him. Our redneck boys fix their cars and are surprisingly respectful and informative to fetchers of tools and cold beer.

  • Jenn Dyer

    Your post hit on something with me. I’ve noticed it all my life, but I never really attributed to gender bias. I have several men in my life that are exceedingly capable. I think of myself as capable. But, when I ask for advice on some issue or questions about how to do something, if it’s something I’ve never done before, whatever I’m working on gets taken from me and fixed and then handed back to me when it’s done. Now, when I ask what they did they explain it to me, which is great. The problem is, I don’t want it taken away. I want to do whatever needs to be done myself. Actually, I want to figure it out myself, I just want advice or ideas. I know, I know. FEMINAZI!

    I know it’s a delicate balance. And I’ve always attributed it to me being picky about learning. It’s so much easier to learn something if I actually do it and I feel much more confident the next time I work on something similar. But really, I’ve never seen anyone take something away from another man to fix it, so it does seem odd that they always want to take it out of my hands. Perhaps it’s a bit of laziness, it’s easier to do something yourself rather than walk someone through it, or maybe it’s because it’s because the status quo says that women can’t do these sorts of things.

    If it’s mechanical I find roadblocks. I work in a technical field (computer science) and I find those roadblocks when I deal with hardware. When I’m working with electronics I want to take things slowly because I don’t want to damage anything. But someone is inevitably standing behind me trying to make me go faster, and eventually just takes it over from me. It pisses me off, but I never thought it might be due to gender bias. I just figured my lack of self confidence was due to me, which I acknowledge it is partially, but it’s also due to being told in these types of ways that I can’t do it.

  • http://twitter.com/MrPSentiment MrPopularSentiment (@MrPSentiment)

    Awesome article! I just wanted to add that my husband *hates* cars. It’s not that he doesn’t like the mechanical aspect, he just doesn’t see the appeal in the particular configuration of parts that is a car, and was never interested in learning about them or how to maintain them. He got a lot of flak from adult males in his life who assumed that he would grow up to own a car and that knowing how to maintain it is very important. He’s actually felt jealousy that his sister never got any of the car-related nagging that he got.

    Now, obviously, I do think that it would have been a good idea for him to take an interest. Even though we still have never owned a car, they are a huge part of the modern world and I do think that it’s important to know at least the basics of their maintenance – even if only because our children might someday own cars and they won’t have that in-house mentor. I just find it interesting that even as a child, my husband noticed that what he was expected to learn as “fundamental skills for adulthood” was very different from what his sister was expected to learn. Even more interesting is that his family is not religious and, in most ways, very liberal minded.

    • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com Sierra

      My partner is also not very interested in learning about cars. I actually detailed his car about a week ago while he made me dinner. We had a giggle afterwards about our role reversal.

  • smrnda

    I never get the idea that fathers encourage independence and mothers are more ‘nurturing’ – my mom was an absentee parent even when she was at home so I ended up having to learn to do everything for myself. I remember making a pizza when I was about 7. It got done way faster than it was supposed to since I mistakenly put it in the broiler rack in the oven instead of the ‘bottom rack’ since hey, it was all the way on the bottom. I didn’t ever learn to drive but I lived in a big city and went all around on mass transit.

    My father was often gone on business but he was horrified by what my Mom let me and my brother do. He felt like she should have been cooking our meals, doing our laundry and other things because to him, we were still kids. I realize now that he might have had a point – kids younger than 10 probably should have more supervision and sometimes it’s not safe to do some things on your own when you’re that young, but at the time I just thought he was neurotic.

    As for mechanical skills, I learned most of those online :-) These days at least that’s a venue that a lot of people have that didn’t exist in the past. When anything breaks I’m looking online because I realize that most people who fix things are probably not any more talented than the average person.

    You are right though – men decide NOT to teach women and girls some things and then have the nerve to hold that against them later – which is absurd and ridiculous but it may go unnoticed by the people doing it.

    One thing though – I worked with kids who were up to age 6, and little girls play with tools way more than they play with dolls (it might have something to do with the fact that kids like anything that can bang on things or be destructive.) But I feel like adults quickly steer their kids in certain directions that are limiting.

    I guess I got into a field without very many women (computer science and engineering) but I never found it to be too bad, though you get the same arrogance against people who don’t know technology as you get from a mechanic at times. I think I’ve been treated better than average just because I’m by nature contentious and grouchy most of the time.

  • Erick

    Things are starting to change, though. I was recently towed home by a female tow truck operator. She actually owned the tow company with five trucks, a junk yard, a used car lot with a shop, and a few other things. That this was notable, and that she joked about doing so many “non-girly” things shows that it’s still the exception, but it isn’t so far out there any more. And as a male automotive engineer who should know better (the vehicle fault was either a sticky gas gauge or stupid driver), I wasn’t at all embarassed or upset by being towed home by a woman.

    My daughters know a phillips from a robertson screwdriver (yes, we’re Canadian), critique Mythbusters, and learn to build stuff. I’ve made a point of telling them “figure it out” when something doesn’t work, and I only step in to help them when it’s too dangerous or requires more muscle than they have (age issue, not gender, the oldest is 13), or requires background they don’t yet have.

    It is a changing approach though. My wife is less confident with tools than my daughters because she was never given the opporunity, although her brothers were.

    I still wonder how they’ll do going to a junkyard.

  • http://earwormopera.wordpress.com earwormopera

    I really enjoyed reading this – I’ve had similar experiences as a woman asking questions about mechanical and technical stuff.

  • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Lindsay

    This is a really wonderful post — I wish everyone who read Eric Sendell’s original piece would come and read yours, too!

    I really liked it, even though it is rather alien from my own experiences: I am autistic, and thus cannot and probably will never drive. (Not all autistic people lack the reaction time, motor-planning skill, motor control and multitasking ability that I do, but enough do that inability to drive is common among us.) I also was blessed to have a father who would draft any of us, son or daughter, to help him with whatever home repair or maintenance tasks needed to be done, specifically with an eye to teaching us to be able to do it ourselves on day. He’s not the best teacher, and obviously there are gearhead skills that I lack — see, just about everything to do with cars since I’ve never owned or even been the sole occupant of one — but I’ve never been laughed off like you have. That must’ve sucked … I’d have been furious!

    (I have changed a tire, though! One blew out while my boyfriend was taking us somewhere, and he jacked up the car and had me remove all the bolts and put the new tire on! Yay!)

  • Christine

    I think you need guy friends who aren’t jerks. Yes, I’m not the only girl in my class who would get her bike fixed by going to the bike-crazy guys and saying “hey, I’m having problem X, can you help?”, but the trick there isn’t figuring out how to get them to tell you what they did, it’s figuring out how to not get too much detail on what they did.

    If I ever end up in a situation where I have to own a car (which is unfortunately likely, given the lack of transportation infrastructure), I may get my husband to take it in (I’ve had male friends accompany me to the bike store for similar reasons). Not just because he might be better treatment, but because he has better conflict resolution skills, and can more politely and effectively call someone out for BS. Alternatively I’ll have to hunt down my iron ring and make sure I wear it. I know that guys often get better treatment when the mechanic knows that they’re engineers, I wonder if it applies to women too.


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