Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Yes, girls like cars too. Please stop making it weird.

You might've seen this meme someone made the other day. It went viral on a Facebook page called Car Memes with over 12,000 likes, 1,900 shares and more than 600 comments - impressive. This was however, mainly because of its hilarious spelling mistake, (a smart move on the creator's part, for real!). This isn't the first time someone's used an image of me to make a meme, and it's never really bothered me before. But after reading through some of these six hundred-and-something comments and even leaving a few myself, some of the conversation really got me thinking.

Firstly though, if you don't know me, please know that I do have a thick skin and a fairly dark (although not too dark!) sense of humour as well as a good understanding of how the internet works, so I don't get easily offended by comments like this. I find most of it genuinely funny. Put frankly, you'd have to be a REAL dick to actually offend me. But as I said, there was some discussion in there that really got some cogs turning in my brain. So while these thoughts were still fresh, I thought I'd write them down and share them on here.

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Learning to drift at Ebisu Circuit, under the instruction of Australian drifter Josh Robinson. 

Why is it still such a shocking thing to some people that a woman might take an interest in driving and want to learn more about car control? Get with the times, guys... 
Upon seeing this meme, my original thought was how much it sucks that just because a picture of a woman driving exists, it automatically attracts attention - and usually attention of the negative/unwanted kind. How many pictures are there out there of men drifting, and have any of those been made into memes like this? Can you imagine a meme reading, 'Ladies, if your man can drive like this, you better marry him!' (or should I say, merry him).

For those wanting to argue that it's bound to happen because women are just seeking attention by uploading photos of them driving, I disagree with this. It's a pretty normal thing to see a guy sharing a photo of themselves driving, isn't it? So normal that you probably wouldn't even think anything of it. Why would sharing a photo of yourself enjoying your normal, everyday hobby be a weird thing to do, for a man or a woman? Unless it's a girl getting nude (like those shots with girls' boobs squished behind race harnesses) then I don't think women who share pictures of them driving and having fun with cars should be labelled or automatically thought-of as attention-seekers.

It's something that I do often - sharing photos of me driving, not getting my tits out, obviously - not only because I like cars, but because I want to show other women that cars can be fun. In my opinion, having a hobby is cool. And taking an interest in becoming a better and more confident driver is cool too. Which brings me to my next point...

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First track session (well, it's kind-of a track!) at Fuji Drift Park. 

Drifting is not stupid or silly - it's a driving technique and a very useful skill to learn. 
I've seen comments from people calling drifting silly, or the worst one, 'not being able to take a corner properly'. Umm... don't you think that having the ability to control a car in different situations and having an understanding of oversteer and countersteer is actually an extremely useful life skill to have? Who knows, one day it could even save your life. And it's fun, duh! I'm genuinely not sure why people would have this attitude - perhaps because they're secretly not confident with their own driving abilities? Anyway, I'm not really willing to delve far enough into the strange inner workings of the male mind to figure that out...

But if a woman is driving, she must suck at it or be doing something wrong, right?
There are so many awesome female drivers out there - most of them are a hundred times better than me too. So is it just me, or is this a very old-fashioned assumption? It's not that rare to see a woman behind the wheel of a car doing something cool nowadays, is it?

As for comments like 'girls should stay in the kitchen' - I mean, come on, these people are clearly trolling. And not to mention that this is such an old joke now. The main thing that upsets me about this sort of thing though, is that I don't want other women who are just starting to take an interest in cars to get put off by the toxic nature of some of these internet-based car communities. I often see girls (and guys for that matter!) on Facebook succumbing to internet trolls and falling for their bait, and I've got more to say about that soon, but before I go there:

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Learning to drift at 'Kuru Kuru Land'' at Ebisu Circuit 

Someone should NOT be made fun of or criticised for trying to learn something.
I know it does sound sad, but I've honestly now come to accept that people are always going to express their opinions on the internet - whether their opinion is backed up by reasoning and facts, or not. If you upload a photo of your car and then it gets shared on some big social account, yes, some people are probably going to call it 'lame' and they're most definitely going to tell you exactly what they don't like about it and what they would do to change it to their exact tastes and specifications. But here's the thing: who cares! I'll admit that this used to annoy me, but I'm over it now. Yeah, I do wish this sort of thing would happen less, and it seems silly now, but I actually used to think that I could really make a difference in helping people be less like this and to have more of an open-mind. But it's not my job to try and change people and there are simply too many negative Nancys out there. So as long as I'm being positive and setting an example, that's all that matters to me. But here's what does grind my gears:

'A girl driver? Well, she must be crashing.'
'She obviously can't drive for shit.'
'She's burning out the clutch learning to drive a stick, haha!'

These comments don't personally offend me, but it's more about the principle here. In this photo, I was learning to drift in figure eights in first gear. So I wasn't actually doing anything technical and I definitely wasn't going fast. But... so what? I don't know what planet these people are from, but in my world, learning new stuff is cool. And learning to drive is most definitely cool, and fun, and useful, and exhilarating, and rewarding... the list goes on. This knocking-people-down-for-simply-trying attitude is so wrong on so many levels.

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With 'Project X' in front of the gates of Fuji International Speedway. 

Ignore people who don't know you and don't know what they're talking about, and just have fun!
To the people out there - female or male - who want to learn more about cars, driving or even anything for that matter - seriously, never take any of that shit seriously. Come on... you're smarter than that! I guarantee you that only something like 99.9% of the people who write ignorant or derogatory remarks on the internet would never, ever say that to you in real life. They're called keyboard warriors for a reason. They're weak and most of the time they're just saying these mean things because they don't like themselves, which is actually pretty sad. Then again, some people are really just dickheads. But still...

In all honesty, I'm still a very sensitive person. I'm one of those people who cries when animals die in movies - especially in animated movies. But on a more serious level, I have really high expectations of myself when it comes to achieving my goals, I'm scared of failure and I do beat myself up inside my head when I think I'm not good enough at something. But this is all from my own internal pressure that I put on myself, none of it's from other people. Over the years that I've been into cars and using the internet and hanging out with gross boys, I guess I've just developed an internal filter which keeps out all of the dumb, negative shit and absorbs only the positive stuff. It's the only way to live, and once you develop one of these filters I guarantee the quality of your life will improve.

Still, it upsets me to read comments from women who clearly like cars, but don't really like sharing anything about their hobby online, or don't like participating in online car communities because 'guys are rude and perverted'. Not all of them are, but yeah, it's true that a lot of them are. Just ignore them and don't take them seriously. I'm not saying that you have to be tough and have an attitude - I'm most definitely not that sort of person. But you do have to take in everything with a sense of humour, and you probably will have to cop being the butt of a few jokes now and then. The trick is to make sure you have a come-back waiting and ready for when that does happen. But please, remember this:

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Project X - my JZZ30 Toyota Soarer project car. 

You shouldn't want to take an interest in cars to please or impress anyone else. 
When I wrote this story last year, based around the topic of female role models and the reasons why girls might not be taking as much of an interest in cars as guys do, some reactions to this were, 'why is this a problem?' and 'just let people be interested in what they're interested in'. To those people, I don't think you realise that this is my life mission. This is my purpose. This is what I LOVE. If my automotive-loving hobby can make me this happy, I think it can make other people really happy too. They might not know it yet, but maybe they just need someone else to show them. It's not about impressing people or showing off. It's about opening your mind and your heart to new experiences, to new cultures and a new exciting world. It's something that can give you confidence and purpose. It's not about trying to push people into doing something they don't want to do. It's about showing them that this exists, and that it's there if they want in on it.

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I'm a car girl person. Deal with it. 
Am I happy about being objectified as a 'woman driver' on the internet? The twist is that I guess I kind of am. Because aside from all those idiots commenting on how women can't drive and kitchens and blah blah blah, amongst all that crap I saw so many girls commenting to their boyfriends or friends asking them to help teach them and taking interest in what was actually happening in the image.

For now, the world of cars might remain dominated by males. But maybe one day, maybe girls won't stand out in the car world. I really hope so, and if I can help by putting myself out there and showing others that yes, girls are doing this stuff and you better get used to it, then I don't really mind. And I guess I don't really care either. I know that most of the people that actually follow me and read my blog are well aware of just how many women are involved with cars as their hobby and in motorsports, but it's obvious that some people aren't quite used to this - or aware of it yet. So to those people: yep, girls do car stuff now. Please don't be surprised, please don't make a scene and above all, please don't treat women any different. We're all one community now.

- Taryn