My name says ‘outsider’ but that is debatable. Though I am not fully engaged in this discourse community, I am in fact learning the language, the values, the beliefs and lifestyle of it. I not only have access to my boyfriend’s knowledge – but I myself have gone to car meets and Subaru city takeovers.
So in my eyes, I’m not really an outsider. I’m kind of like an ‘in-betweener.’
But the research gathered and referenced to by Karen Lumsden in her article “Gendered Performances in a Male-Dominated Subculture: ‘Girl Racers’, Car Modification and the Quest for Masculinity” shows I would be denied that title within the car culture. There is no in between. And I think thats because of the lack of available roles for women within this type of community.
I was introduced to this community by my boyfriend – an owner of a 2016 Subaru STI – and attended meetings in the passenger seat. He talked me through enough for me to gain beginner’s knowledge. I felt like I could belong to the community until…..
We pulled up to a spot waiting to take off for the city take over and he told me “I can’t wait to finish all the mods I want, make my car look real pretty and nice, and have you pose by my car so that can be my screensaver.”
So this is what I was there for? Just like most of the pictures on social media that you’ll see of girls next to cars – posing in a raunchy manner to satisfy male fantasies and fetishes. How typical! I noticed though, how he still recognized an “actual” female participant in the car culture. He pointed out a girl, who was driving her own Subaru that night who apparently “bangs gears.”
His view is eerily similar to the view expressed in Lumsden’s article. Lumsden states that “real participation is understood in terms of females’ active involvement in the subculture via their position in the ‘driver’s seat’ in contrast to the role of passenger, girlfriend, or spectator” (sec. 5.3). I guess to the both of them, I am out.
My refusal to mention my discomfort with becoming a figure next to a car is a way of showing “emphasized femininity” which is defined as “compliance with the subordination of women…[and] structured to accommodate the interests and desires of men” (Lumsden sec. 2.7). My only way in was to let this go, and completely devote myself to the “masculine doctrines of the culture” (Lumsden sec. 4.20).
In Russel W Belk’s article “Men and Their Machines“, Belk gathers and references research that touches base on class in relationship to the car culture, which automatically brings up division.
Men “see their cars as…extensions of themselves” and the car “is an advertisement of male wealth” (Belk 272-73). Because of this reason, men will want the most expensive or most modified car. Having a heavily modified car with the best exhaust, turbo, and a lowered suspension, is your way of saying hey: “I spent x amount on this, so that shows Im truly dedicated.” It’s actually so important that Lumsden was concerned that she would not be accepted in the car culture because her car was not modified (sec. 3.2).
I think what is interesting in Belk’s article is one of his interviewees, Bill – a Porsche owner – made a comment on Porsche vs. Corvette, and then on members within the Porsche community that he shames. In his Porsche vs. Corvette comment, he states how naturally Porsche owners are more tasteful and aren’t as conceited as Corvette owners (Belk 275). This can mirror the relationship between Subaru vs Evo.
Bill carries this same attitude of division when asked about members of his ‘own kind’ He states that “people that buy 944’s or 928’s… know nothing about Porsche” (Belk 275). Maybe this mirrors the way Subaru STI owners look at Subaru WRX owners who try to put the STI wing on their car. Maybe WRX owners know nothing about what it means to be a race car – so they shouldn’t even try.
**It’s interesting to note though how members in the car culture who have gone so far as to segregate or distinguish themselves from one another will still unite when going against a common enemy – the Evo for example.
Belk, Russel W. (2004) ,”Men and Their Machines”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 31, eds. Barbara E. Kahn and Mary Frances Luce, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 273-278.
Lumsden, Karen (2010). ‘Gendered Performances in a Male-Dominated Subculture: ‘Girl Racers’, Car Modification and the Quest for Masculinity’.Sociological Research Online.