“This car is not for a girl.”
“Why are you even into that? It’s a guy thing.”
“Umm..Girls shouldn’t even be driving that.”
“You have short hair..you like cars..you’re a tomboy aren’t you?”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d be a millionaire by now. Being a Female Car enthusiast is tough, especially since it’s a male dominant field. But you know when it becomes even more tougher? Being a Female Car Enthusiast, in Kuwait.
I, by occupation, am a mechanic (for clarification: I work in the oil sector, not in an automotive shop). I studied it for two years, I studied the theory. I’ve done the practical. I ran a full restoration project on my 1965 Chevrolet Impala. I’ve taken apart and put together engines. That doesn’t make me an expert, I still learn new stuff every single day. that doesn’t make better than the guys, but that doesn’t make the guys any better than me.
My passion for cars started from a young age. Being heavily influenced by my late Uncle, who was heavily involved with cars and motorcycles, the first car that I wanted to own when I was a kid, was either a 1967 Chevrolet Impala SS or a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. So when I graduated highschool, it wasn’t shocking that I picked Mechanical Engineering. It would be the next natural step for me . And I always knew, from the moment that I entered college, being in the mechanical Field/Car Enthusiast field would be a challenge.
In 2011, I got my licence. The first car I owned was the Hummer H3. I didn’t really want the car, but since I had no other option and no job, my hands were tied. I am a firm believer that your car is a reflection of who you are. And the H3? Wasn’t even close to defining me. So it wasn’t until I got my first job, and my first salary, that I began being interested into changing the car to make it look more like “me”. The rush of the sudden financial freedom, meant that I could pretty much do what I wanted. So the first thing I spent my salary on was new Mud Terrain Tires. It was here at this moment, that began my mark as a car enthusiast. I realized that by modding the car, be it just by appearance, kind of makes you develop a relationship with a car. To quote Jeremy Clarkson:
“It’s what non-car people don’t get. They see two-tons of wires, glass, metal, and rubber. That’s all they see. People like you and I, have an unshakeable belief that cars are living entities. You can develop a relationship with a car. And that’s what non-car people don’t get.”
Fortunately for me the H3 didn’t stay with me for too long. The Inline 5 just wasn’t cutting it out for me. So the next thing I laid my hands on was a 2006 Nissan Titan. And my god, it is a beauty. The car itself just screams “THIS IS SARAH!” . Running on a 5.6 L V8 and a 6-inch lift of awesomeness. This car was an offroad goddess.
It was also during this time, that I started my move into the classic car field. The field I always wanted to be in. I purchased a 1965 Chevrolet Impala. The car required alot of work. It was here that I laid down a full restoration project. With the advice of friends, the help of the automotive shop. We worked 6-7 months to restore the car, to what I wanted it to be.
Besides all of this, barely anyone takes you seriously here. In fact, the majority of feedback I have gotten here is quiet negative. Ranging from dirty looks, to sexist comments, people believing that I have no idea what I’m talking about (Just because I happen to be a female), and that I’m into this just because I crave attention. The back talk, hypocrisy, and the amount of times people tried to rip me off (in shops and what not) is something I’ve dealt with, quiet a lot. This is just goddamn sexist nonsense.
In Kuwait, “mechanic” and “girl” are not mutually exclusive states of existence. In fact, the number of girls I personally know who are interested in cars and mechanics, is next to zero. It’s not to say that they don’t exist, because they do, and some of them are getting up there. Girl Street Racers, Drifters, Dragsters, Motorcyclists, and a couple of others who also work in this line of work/own autoshops. However, they are, we are, the minority. Being a female in Kuwait is hard enough. But being a Car Enthusiast and a female. Is even more harder.
There is a concept called gender essentialism. If you guys have no idea what that is, I’ll just explain it in a few words. It’s the basic idea that men are men because they are men and there are a certain set of characteristics that are manly. The opposite is the same. Women are women because they follow a certain set of characteristics. And guess what? This is all just determined by your genetics. This just basically means that all women don’t like to work on cars, aren’t supposed to buy “serious” cars (performance/offroading/classics etc). Because we, as woman, aren’t really biologically capable of it.
Where automotives are involved, the gearhead sexism is also here.
Going to Shuwaikh (The Industrial area, where most automotive shops are located) is a nightmare. Ripoffs, Dirty looks. Like, an alien creature that has just arrived at Earth. I do remember when I was looking to buy an engine for my Chevy, a guy tried to sell me a 350 that was in awful condition for 350 K.D (That’s about 1300 dollars). Why? Because he assumed that I, a female, did not know what a clean engine is supposed to look like.
I’ll give you that a woman who knows about car is not something common. But ripping us off? With this amount of money? That’s just damn pathetic.
And let me tell you something else, it’s not just with the guys here. I have to deal with women as well. I’ve had a couple of times women who come up to me and tell me that I shouldn’t be driving this car, or being involved in cars because it’s not womanly. “How are you supposed to get married when you are into this manly things!” This question isn’t worth wasting my time to answer. Trust me, if I ever choose to marry, I won’t be marrying someone who has a mentality of an idiot. Seriously ladies. How are we supposed to move forward when we can’t even get support from our own? We get enough of it from the guys, now we have to deal with you too? Yes, I’m a girl, yes I love working on my cars and getting my hand dirty. That doesn’t make me any less different than you. You shouldn’t be making this even more difficult for us.
I am a grown adult. You are a grown adult. So get your brain in gear and start thinking. Just because you were born with XY chromosomes does not give you the right to undermine my capabilities/knowledge, to judge or to talk about me. The Automotive industry is not mutually exclusive for men. Not in Kuwait, Not in the Middle East, Not in the rest of the world.
I will continue to do what I do, despite what anyone thinks. If you think I’m a tomboy? Well, I really don’t care. You don’t like what I drive? Guess what? I don’t care either. What I do hope for though is for this society to grow up, and start respecting each other. Start supporting each other. How is any progress supposed to be made when all people are hating and trying to destroy one another? Be supportive. Be respectful. As a gearhead, I am no different than anyone. We are all joined by our passion for cars, the smell of burning petrol and rubber, the sound and power your engine makes, so we should not let any differences, especially ones that we have no control over, like our gender, come between that. We aren’t living in جاهلية anymore.
What I do have to say is thanks to all my female and male friends/family who have been supportive through my ongoing journey in this field. You are awesome and I hope this society learns from good hearted people like you.
“She believed she could. So she did.”
And to all you who still think that females can’t do it? Well. Here you go: