My Dad taught me how to check a tire tread and how to change a tire. He taught me how to check the oil and how to change that, too. As a kid growing up in the seventies, he taught me all that stuff because he thought I shouldn’t go out into the world ill-equipped to take care of the car I would one day be driving. I was a little girl and I knew basic car maintenance well before I could legally drive a car. Apparently, I was in the minority according to a gem of a vintage book called What Every Woman Should Know…About Her Car.
Published in 1974 and written by Dorothy Jackson, this is just about the most condescending thing I’ve ever read about women and cars. I get that it was written in 1974 and times were different and everyone was trying to be Carol Brady. Whatever. This book is still ridiculous.
Let’s start with the lovely illustrations. There’s one with a woman driving the wrong way down a one-way street while some supportive women on the sidewalk point her in the right direction. One happens to be carrying a sign that reads “Down with Woman Drivers,” because how does that even make sense?
[Ed. Note: That appears to be a 1974 Chevrolet Camaro. Convertible. Because they had those.]
The opposite page shows a school teacher pointing to an automobile on a chalkboard with the word spelled out phonetically because, uh, women can’t read? What is even happening here?
Take a look at the text and the author does her best to uphold the worst stereotypes about women and men. “In my opinion, woman drivers are more cautious for the simple reason that men are more often in a hurry and high-tempered. They take more chances than women and, of course, are supposed to be quite brave.”
My editor here at BestRide is a man. Egads, I should probably be sure to tell him this story is ready with a delicately worded email so as not to ignite his high temper.
[Ed. Note: I’m also quite brave.]
The several scanned pages found on Awful Library Books feel less like a book on how to maintain a car and more like a book on how to not be a complete idiot.
It contains tips like don’t drive if you’re angry after a fight with your boyfriend, park in a well-lighted area, and make sure you can distinguish between the right side and left side of your car.
[Ed. Note: Wait, that’s not really in there, is it?]
[Ed. Note: Oh for crying out loud.]
It also includes information on how to deal with a mechanic. That last one sounds promising, right?
“When dealing with mechanics and repair garages, it must be established right away that you are not a sucker yet it must be done in such a way that you don’t immediately challenge the worst in a man: to prove his superiority over women.”
[Ed. Note: Our egos are quite fragile. Let us mansplain the difference between the right and left side of your car.]
Clearly, I’ve been handling this whole auto repair thing wrong my whole life.
This thing is horrid. Ladies, be glad you were never given this book as your guide to car ownership. Now, get back in the kitchen and make your brave, high-tempered man a sammich.
[Ed. Note: And cut the crust off.]