No Fixed Abode: Where My Girls At? And By Girls, I Mean Qualified Womyn, Of Course

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

If you follow the auto-journo cool kids on Twitter… get a life! Seriously! Go out and learn to fly an airplane! Take your children camping! Volunteer at your local soup kitchen this November and help the homeless make it through Thanksgiving with dignity!

Anyway, there were a few dramatic Tweetstorms and whatnot lately. The first one is partially recapitulated above. Occasional Motor Trend contributor and brand advocate for Castrol and Meguiar’s, Jessi Lang, decided to dig up some old tweet by The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah. I suspect she did this because Matt’s star is rising while her own personal profile in the business spiked a long time ago. You have to take your opportunities at self-promotion where you can get them.

For instance, two years ago, David Spade complained that I was singing “East Of The Sun” from my corner table at the Tower Bar in Los Angeles. I didn’t post about it because, you know, it was David Spade. But if it had been Hugh Jackman or ScarJo, I’d have broken my Twitter fingers complaining that they were trying to stifle my musical brilliance. So good for Jessi. If you’re interested in some wax, and you’re interested in Meguiar’s, you should definitely check out her Twitter profile, I guess.

The second drama du jour concerned my boss, Mark Stevenson, and his attempts to reach out to female writers for an open position here at TTAC. He was taken to task by a couple of people for… well, I’m not sure for what, exactly. He said that he hadn’t received any pitches from female writers lately, and he was told in return that he needed to seek out the female writers. Like they are Pokemon or something. “Jesus! Over there, beneath the grease trap! It’s a GirlJourno! We need to reach out to her and ask for content! Squirtle, I CHOOSE YOU!”

The fact of the matter is that we don’t need to seek out female autowriters. There are dozens of them, all around us. It’s just that nobody notices those women, because we are blinded by our own sexism and stereotypical preconceptions. I’ll explain, of course.

Some of our readers will find this difficult to believe, but I have considerable experience, both academic and personal, with feminism in the pre-intersectional era. While I was at university, I was an active participant in a variety of diversity-oriented programs and I worked closely with feminist intellectuals in my graduate classes. In those years, I shared my feminist friends’ opinion that the road towards gender equality would mostly consist of placing women in jobs, positions, and situations that were traditionally held by men. And I shared their naive and blind beliefs that women, once they had those jobs, positions, and situations, would behave just like men.

In other words, the perfect woman would be just like a man. Men, in turn, would become less like men. We’d all be alike, faithful citizens in Oceania’s crew-cut, grey-overall sexless future. I was very severe and earnest in those days; I did a lot of very serious writing about the future of humanity and that kind of drivel. I believed in EQUALITY, which I equated to SAMENESS.

Most of the discussion being done about women in automotive journalism comes from that same kind of belief: that female autojournos would be exactly the same as a man, except they would, you know, not be men. Think of it like going to McDonald’s: you expect the same service, and the same behavior, from the fry cook regardless of sex. As a former fast-food employee of long standing, I can tell you that such is actually not the case: women and men in McJobs tend to drift into predictable job patterns. Typically you put women up front where the customer can see them and you have men doing anything that is behind a partition or that involves a mop. But that’s besides the point.

There are a few women working in automotive journalism who meet the above standard. They produce work that is essentially identical to that of their male counterparts. Some of them are very good, some of them are not very good, but none of it has anything to do with the fact that they are women. Note, however, that very few women voluntarily enter the autojourno business on those terms. Very few women apply to be “road warriors” at print mags, very few women pitch stories to the major online venues, very few women are willing to work for free or for poverty wages.

Don’t get me wrong; there are thousands of women who are willing to write on those terms. But they don’t want to write about cars. They want to work for Jezebel, for Marie Claire, for Salon, for Slate, for the Huffington Post. There is an overwhelming flood of women who are on ThoughtCatalog trying to make their big break into writing — but virtually none of them give a damn about cars, and you can’t make them give a damn about cars.

Mr. Stevenson was pilloried on the Twitter for not working harder to find women who want to write about cars. But I should note that nobody ever tried to “seek me out” to write for Salon or Vogue or even xoJane. I’ve been a published professional writer with a nontrivial audience since 1992. I’ve written enough about bicycles for publication to fill a Moby Dick-sized book, three times over. Yet not once in my life have I been actively “recruited” for any writing position in a female-dominated industry. I can say with confidence that the same is true for virtually every other man writing in this business. Nobody is trying to convince us that we should be writing about fashion or makeup. So why should we be forcing women to write about cars?

“Sexist pig!” you’ll reply. “Women make more than half of automotive purchasing decisions! They should be writing about cars!” And you know what? They are writing about cars. Most new-car media introductions have one or more waves devoted almost exclusively to female writers. It’s just that they aren’t writing for TTAC or Jalopnik or Muscle Mustangs. They are social-media influencers. We call them “mommybloggers”, or we call them “sex bloggers”, or we just call them “people who get a free weekend at the Ritz-Carlton because they have 10,001 followers on Twitter.” The overwhelming majority of women who have chosen to write about cars — indeed, the overwhelming majority of women who fight tooth and nail to get invited to press events, to get loaner cars, and to receive free travel and/or gifts from the OEMS — are on the social/influencer/mommyblogger side of things.

I’m reminded of what happened when I went to get my son from his after-school care last week. When you enter the building, there’s a big room to the left with a projector. Invariably, there are thirty girls in there, playing some sort of dancing video game where you can be a panda or a princess and you can see your dance moves reflected on the screen. They’re huddled up, gossiping or playing games, watching the screen, chatting. Such was the case that day. Then I walked all the way out to the playground, where my son was engaged in some sort of scuffle with three other boys, all of them punching each other as hard as they could. It looked relatively serious. At one point my son was kind of knocking another kid’s head against the pavement. But then that kid saw me.

“John, your dad’s here!”

“Okay,” my son said, jumping up. “I have to go. See you tomorrow, Aidan!”

“See you tomorrow, John!” Aidan said, jumping up and waving goodbye with a forlorn face.

“That kid is so cool,” John said to me. “He can make a level in Minecraft where you can sit out on a ledge and shoot Endermen with a bow and arrow. He says he’ll help me make that level tomorrow.”

I had to laugh. I never see a little boy in the dancing-panda room, and I never see a little girl out on the playground punching people. Maybe that’s because our racist, sexist, patriarchy of a society warps the minds of children through Saturday-morning television. But I doubt it. I think that most people know what they like in this world. Most women don’t want to write about cars, or experience them, the same way that men do. That’s not universal. During my time as Editor-In-Chief at this site, I hired female writers, gay writers, and a transgender writer. All of them wanted to do the same thing that I do, or that Bark does, or that Mr. Stevenson does. They were all good fits here. But I didn’t go looking for them. They came looking for work, the same way that I did.

So my response to “Where are all the female writers?” is simple: They are already here. Some of them are running major divisions of Consumer Reports. Some of them are club racers. And some of them are mommybloggers, sex bloggers, and influencers. If you think that all of the women in the latter categories should be forced to act like the women in the former categories, then aren’t you the one who is forcing stereotypes on women? Who are you, to tell them what to do? I sentence you all to sensitivity training, and may Darwin have mercy on your souls!

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Whynotaztec Whynotaztec on Oct 05, 2016

    Well here is a topic that has generated more comments than a story about compact pickups!

  • Whittaker Whittaker on Oct 05, 2016

    If different perspectives is what TTAC desires, it should seek out people with different perspectives. Sounds simple, right? But instead it is seeking people with particular chromosomes or skin pigment. The logic escapes me, as it escaped MLK...which is weird because I look nothing like him.

    • See 1 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Oct 05, 2016

      everybodyhatesscott - REALLY? HELLCAT......H...E...L...L...C...A...T MY OWN BLOG. GO TRUMP GO. Yes, he did have a different perspective.

  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.
  • Probert When I hear the word "patriot", I think of entitled hateful whining ignorant traitors to democracy. But hey , meant to say "Pass the salt."
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