So, Will helped me fix my car last week. He’s been the one with the tools for almost as long as I can remember. He’s my Guy when it comes to almost anything mechanical. We have done all kinds of repairs together on many cars, in the 15 years that we’ve been adults.
A couple weeks ago the thermostat went on the Charger. I called my brother, and he confirmed everything I was thinking, and we defined when we were going to work on it, and what needed to be done. I also just rolled 150,000 miles on Mr Zeus, and the timing belt hadn’t been done (as far as I know), we decided to make a Saturday of it. The final list of things replaced (after three days and ~50 hours of labor): the thermostat, the timing belt, the water pump, and the idler pulley (which was a victim of an unfortunate accident involving a belt wrench and about 90 ft pounds of tork).
As people have heard about me working on my car, there’s been a variety of reactions, but a stunning majority of them have been in the oh-why-didn’t-you-call-me/my son/my brother/my father-to-do-the-work-for-you to holy-crap-you-are-the-most-amazing-person-ever-I-am-so-impressed family. While I’ve taken all of these compliments as they were intended, they’re troubling me. A whole lot.
And I’ll tell you why.
The intention is kind, but I think society’s expectations of women are far too low if me “working on my car” elicits this much compliment. Just because I can follow a set of directions and turn a wrench doesn’t make me a genius, and it shouldn’t make me that unique. It makes it clear that I’m unwilling to say “Oh, I can’t do that because of $ReasonICannotFathom.” Do I *like* working on cars? No. I also don’t like doing laundry, or the dishes. That doesn’t mean I *can’t*, or that it’s any more or less impressive when I do.
Too, there are TONS of mechanics out there that have next to no clue what they’re doing, and cost people all kinds of unnecessary expense due to their incompetence but are trusted more highly because they wear overalls.
To be clear, I am also no *less* impressed by any women (or man) that CHOOSES to NOT work on cars (or do the laundry or dishes). Or who don’t do it because they suck at it. I suck at all kinds of things. If I feel something is worth the investment of effort, I put the time into learning it. (linux, for example) IF you decide that car repair is not something you have any interest in learning, then don’t learn it.
I can do anything I need to. That includes working on cars. You can too, with practice.
Credit: To my Dad for teaching me where sexism spawns from, and to my mom for being a role model for what a strong, independent women should be.