Here's a comment among the thousands in our Project XX Survey that really hit us:
"Cars have been coupled with sexual language for so long, it's hard to get men to change the way they talk about cars and women."
It's intriguing to think about how language intersects with behavior and the impact it has on women who work in the industry or simply love cars.
So we reached out to Maggie Stiefvater, a New York Times best-selling author who is so in love with things that go fast, she once bought herself a race car, and asked her to give this idea some thought:
What impact does sexualized language have on women who interact with the auto industry?
The guy approached me at a gas station.
It was the witching hour. Half the station was tucked away under construction-site plastic. It was the sort of place your parents would tell you to skip, to go on to the next exit, but my souped-up Mitsubishi Evolution was not gifted with patience. Already graced with a small gas tank, the Evo's mods had transformed it into a hummingbird. It spent all of its time darting or feeding. If it stopped without getting gas, it died.
We both looked upon the car sulking and feeding between us. It had a taste-the-rainbow paint job. The spoiler was large. The rims were spendy. The engine note thrummed not-stock-not-stock-not-stock. I prepared myself for the conversation; I have had many of them.
"This your car?" he asked eventually.
"Not your man's?"
My man likes his cars steady and reliable, with good trunk space. I like them stupid-fast and neurotic, with twitchy handling. "No."
"Pretty damn," I replied.
"You just don't see women in cars like this." His voice carried a tinge of wistfulness.
"You're seeing one right now," I pointed out, but he shook his head. The fact of my presence had proved nothing to him about the rest of the world. Death and confirmation bias, the two things you can count on.
A knowing smile slid across his face. "But can you drive it?"
Some questions are best answered through derisive laughter. I have cultivated a fine laugh for this purpose, although I do not often have call to apply it.
The man explained himself: "A lot of women have cars like this but can't drive them, you know? Women drivers, women drivers."
Death and confirmation bias, man, they always get you in the end.