- Aug 2015

Gals Garage-no more “damsels in distress”.

Women Wednesday: Gals Garage

A group of women all talking about how men want to take advantage of them when a car emergency happens can be a really intimidating site to watch. You see heads nod passionately about the subject, all agreeing about how women are often disrespected in the motor industry. Stories are exchanged regarding bad experiences in dealerships, all based on gender discrimination. Being a fly all of a suddenly turns into being an elephant in the room, since I am the only male present in a workshop entitled “Gals Garage”.

You many wonder why I allowed myself to be in such an awkward position? Well the main reason is that I am always interested to try out new experiences and another reason is that the topics being discussed in this workshop were topics that were very close to home for me. See I have three females in my life that are very dear to me and the thought of them being in a vulnerable position whilst driving makes me worry a great deal. So when Vuyi Mpofu, the founder of Gals Garage invited me to sit in on a session, I agreed and came back feeling even more liberated than the women who attended.

So what is Gals Garage? Before we answer that question, let’s deal with a fact that needs to be discussed with regards to women in the motor industry. Since the bad old days of blatant sexism, cars have been labelled as a “manly” thing to be interested in and cooking and cleaning has been labelled as something “girly”. Times have changed and so have gender roles in many different industries, except for the automotive industry. Are men to blame for this? Yes. Are women to blame for this? Yes. Firstly some men need to get it out of their heads that women don’t need to know about cars. The fact is that there are many females who are very passionate and knowledgeable about cars. Secondly many women need to get it out their heads that they don’t need to know about cars, as long as their boyfriend/husband/brother knows, their fine. Both of these thoughts are nonsense.

Which brings me back to the first question, Gals Garage and what it’s about. Vuyi Mpofu focuses on empowerment, not only for women but for their daughters. She builds the scenario of someones daughter getting a flat tyre on the side of the road. Will that daughter know how to change her own tyre or will she wait for “a knight in shining armour”? It’s a simple yet profound question. If I as a guy get a flat tyre, it’s taboo for me to not know how to change it myself, yet it’s normal for a lady to plead ignorance when this happens. Those are the old school stereotypes that Gals Garage seeks to break down, through simply educating women about things a guy “should” know about cars.

The workshop teaches women how to diagnose potential problems they may encounter in their car, what happens when a dealership services their car and what are their options when they finance a car. This workshop endeavours to empower women by giving them the relevant knowledge so that they aren’t taken advantage of in certain scenarios. Growing up with a mother who could tell you if your wheel bearings needed replacing by listening to them made me realise the importance of women having such knowledge. Time and time again, dealerships, petrol attendants and even panel beaters tried to take advantage of my mother but failed, because she was empowered.

Gals Garage aims to make sure that all the women who attend this workshop come out of it feeling the same way. There is a need for these negative stereotypes to die because whether you’re a man or women, you’re a motorist and as a motorist there are things about your car that you need to know. Workshops like these are great but the work begins at home, if your daughter wants to play with toy cars, don’t tell her that’s not “lady like” because if you do she may just phone you one day and tell you that she has a flat tyre and you may be far far away when this happens. For more information on Gals Garage, contact Vuyi Mpofu on Facebook under her personal name and on twitter under the handle @drivinginheels. Happy Women Wednesday Motorists.

*Image courtesy of www.blog.drive24.co.uk