Our Girl Gang: The Woman & Machine Spring Kick-Off San Antonio, Texas
Words: Karen Sullivan Photos: Karen Sullivan
“Fem-i-nist Fight Club / n. Your crew, your posse, your girl gang; your unconditionally helpful professional support system; your ride-or-die homies.”
Feminism and feminists have been getting a bad rap in younger generations over the years from what I have seen. A lot of women do not want to be identified as being feminists due to the connotations that have been developed about the movement. You are usually seen as a bra burning, man-hating, bitch who thinks women should rule the world. Let’s take a step back and really evaluate feminism and feminists. Feminism by definition according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary is:
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
We are honestly not trying to ‘take over the world’ but instead have equality and not be seen as different or inferior especially when it comes to working in male dominated industries. This is particularly true within the automotive industry. Ask almost any women who works in it and is more on the male side of things being in the garage as a technician, welder/fabricator, autobody tech, or any number of other jobs that revolve around that.
When I stepped off the plane in Texas for the Woman & Machine Spring Kick-Off event, I had no idea the impact that weekend would have on my perspective of women in the automotive industry. I was patiently waiting with anxious anticipation to meet both Faye Hadley, of Pistons & PixieDust and Alexis Dabilis, of The Drift Kitchen.
Pistons & PixieDust is a mobile mechanic “by women for women” service, based out of San Antonio, Texas and Faye also hosts women only automotive classes in the area. The Drift Kitchen is a new initiative to foster a supportive community focused on educating women on all things related to drifting as well as providing them a safe environment to practice their technique.
I had never really spent any time with either but their social media accounts proclaimed how much both advocate for women who have a love for things with two or fours wheels and an engine. I had met Faye at SEMA last year for a few minutes at Gear Up Girl and I instantly wanted to get to know her better. Her energy, her drive, and conviction were contagious.
Alexis I had met after SEMA at a GIG Motorsports drift event and we had begun talking about a women’s drift day. This had been discussed by other parties for a few years but a few weeks after that event she contacted me and let me know that she was moving forward with creating this event and The Drift Kitchen was born. Trust me when I say I was stoked!
Both of these women are so inspiring and badass that I just can’t get over it. I knew this weekend was bound to be more than I anticipated, I just never predicted how spectacular it would be.
When Faye, quite literally, leapt out of the drivers seat of her truck and gave me the warmest hug for someone she barely knew, I just felt like we had an instant bond. Between the three of us women, we laughed, cried, and vented about how life had brought us into loving cars and how we needed a group of other like-minded women to foster a support system for all women in automotive. It solidified as the three of us sat out on Faye’s back porch enjoying the setting sun, when Faye received a call from a fellow female mechanic. She had reached out for support after being harassed and accosted by her coworkers earlier that day. Faye put the phone on speaker, so we could all listen to her heart wrenching story over the phone and provide her with support, validation, and suggestions. We as women in male-dominated industries have so much weight on us to do the right thing, to be perfect, to be always happy and polite. We live under this microscope and every slipup is similar to the world ending. It should not be that way. We are all human, we make mistakes, we are emotional, and we certainly are not perfect and when you have a group that you can turn to for help and support, none of that matters.
The Woman & Machine Spring Kick-Off really brought that to light. This event garnered so much interest which Faye had not been anticipating. “I was expecting maybe 50 people to show up,” she stated. She got more than she bargained for when 500 women signed up and a waitlist started to accumulate. Over 1,300 women took an interest in coming to the Spring Kick-Off. “I had to limit it to 250 people due to there only being one bathroom on the property,” she told me. I could only laugh as I imagined having almost 500 women attend this event to help educate and empower them and there only being on bathroom…no I am not about to say any bathroom jokes.
The day of the event dawned with nerves and excitement. It was only a four-hour long event but so much was riding on it. Would the women show up? Did everyone have everything they needed for their classes and demonstrations? Were all the instructors and vendors there? Was there something we missed?
All the nerves and second guessing were for not. The women who came learned about the basics of their vehicle under the hood, how to safely jack up a vehicle and change a tire, how their cooling system works, and more. Aside from those technical classes there were some less technical things but still necessary lessons for instance how to get a discount on parts with couponing and price matches, how auto body estimating works, and knowing what you are worth as a women in automotive.
It went so well that the final class ran over time and no one noticed. The women were too intrigued by what used to be such an intimidating machine for many, that I believe someone had to say it was time to start cleaning up.
For many of the professionals that came the network that was developed, the conversations that were had over dinner that night prior, really distinguished this group of women to them. These women were their girl gang, their sisterhood of auto gals. Women they could turn to if they needed an ear to listen to, a shoulder to cry on, or to hear cheers of encouragement.
The Woman and Machine Event has begun a process, of empowering both women who are new to cars, and those who already have a love for them to continue learning and finding the motivation to stay in this male dominated industry. Before the San Antonio event had even begun there were conversations of more events coming to other states.
Sitting down after the event was over, having an ice cold adult beverage with the other women and hearing them all chattering, laughing, and smiling I felt like I had found a sisterhood of gearheads and one that would continue to grow as the event travels and grows.