Lady Driver

Story: Nathalia Harris

Photography by Nathalia Harris

Nikki Jacobs @Nikky_jacobs

When I entered the car community, I was nervous. My first car meet was on a warm Friday night at 10pm in front of the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Schaumburg, IL. I’d been talking to my best friend Sabrina all school year about how excited I was to go back home over the summer and finally do what I loved. I didn’t own a luxury or modified car then, and I still don’t today, so when I parked a block away in my Camry I was embarrassed to walk through the meet alone. When I scanned the crowd, it was people gathered in their friend groups or car clubs that were familiar with each other. I went through the various “what if” scenarios and my stomach churned at the thought of the men there laughing at me due to the fact I still didn’t know a whole lot about what I was looking at. I wondered if I would look stupid walking the parking lot of cars alone or if I would get sneered at for taking photos of the cars I liked. I thought this was the broad experience women had when they first began their journey into the scene, but boy was I wrong.

A “car girl” can be a derogative term used by men and other women to describe a girl who hangs around the car community for the attention she receives from men. She has no real interest in cars. Although this has been the definition for some years now, some female car enthusiasts are taking back the term and empowering themselves with it and their authentic builds.

When I began to receive the so-called attention from showing my face more often at events I began to interact with more people around the community. It became a regular occurrence to have men direct message me asking why I liked cars so much, what got me into them, and if I was a “car girl.” At the time, I didn’t understand the question, I would say, “no, I don’t know much about cars, but I’m trying to learn.” It wasn’t until later I realized what they were really asking me was do I like cars because of the men that drive them.

Issy @kenty_77

A “car enthusiast” is described as someone who is passionate about the culture and community surrounding motor vehicles and the industry around them. It is the more appropriate and inclusive term that the car community shares among its members.

After years of sitting in the background and observing the way some of the car community interacts online, I’ve realized how hard it can really be for a woman to have fun within a male dominated hobby. Steve Reyes (22) the owner of a slammed 2010 Infiniti G37 coupe spoke briefly on the male language surrounding women and lady drivers in the scene.

He says, “You hear a lot of things like: women tend to be followers, non-creative, and they get accusations about them driving around their boyfriend’s car.”

I’ve been told repeatedly that to coexist in the car community, especially as a woman, you need to have thick skin and it has been normalized to be ridiculed in such a fashion.

Nikki Silva (22) the owner of a 2017 Lexus IS300 F Sport and a 2000 Honda Civic EK says, “Being a female car enthusiast is one of the most defeating yet rewarding lifestyles ever . . . I feel like I’ve had to prove myself a lot to others in the car community . . . men tend to underestimate our knowledge and dedication to building cars as dope as theirs. I’ve learned to ignore the hate and opinions of others and just enjoy my passion with likeminded individuals who want to support me and vice versa . . .The car community has brought me so many amazing friends and opportunities as well as opened a door for knowledge and growth as an individual and as a woman who wants to build a car in her own vision. It takes thick skin and determination to be in this lifestyle. It’s not cheap and it’s not easy… but with dedication and the right people around you, it is truly the most amazing community ever.”

Nikki Silva @jdmnikki

It’s challenging to see that women go through such a rough time in the car scene and are constantly being pressured to affirm the knowledge and passion they have had on their builds. While most women in the car scene face these obstacles, most of them, like Nikki, find ways to overcome the negativity and find the inclusive majority of the community that welcomes and encourages women to participate and compete in shows and competitions.

Although I do not currently have a build of my own I find ways to bring positivity to the scene by uplifting fellow women, encouraging everyone’s builds and giving sweet reminders of the times they spend at shows. One of my current favorite ways to give back to our drivers is taking and leaving some polaroid pictures of my favorite local builds. I hope to continue this tradition as I travel out of state more often to bigger meets and shows in the surrounding states. I also encourage women everywhere who have curiosity surrounding the automotive industry to dive in, find what they love, and be passionate about what that is.

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