Women in the Auto World: How ‘New Girl’ Proves the Industry Needs to Change
I love New Girl. It’s a television show that manages to hit on some big social issues, all while making us laugh. Does it get much better than that? No, it doesn’t. And in one of its most recent episodes, Jess and the gang gave me the opportunity to write about one of my favorite television shows for work.
Here’s a quick summary: Jess needs a new car. Jess goes to buy a new car. Jess gets treated like idiotic crap by the dealership salesman. Jess emails said salesman as a man. Hijinks ensue.
Now, during this episode, New Girl did what it typically does. It put a hilarious, delightful spin on a bad situation. But this episode brought up a very, very important fact—a fact that I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to write about.
Women are often mistreated/manipulated/patronized when we walk into dealerships. And we really have to stop ignoring it.
Case in point, here’s a quote from the show straight from Jess’s mouth after she went in to purchase a car:
“Billy from Car County started playing misogynist bingo with me as soon as I walked in the door. He called me “doll face,” started pointing out all the room in the trunk for my shopping bags. Then, he explained four-wheel drive to me. I don’t need four-wheel drive explained to me, it’s very well named.”
What Jess is describing is a pretty common thing in the automotive world. Women are seen as being inconsequential—and this is no more apparent than in dealership show rooms. One might even say that car dealerships are massive time machines capable of transporting everyone back to the 1950s.
Yeah. I went there.
It’s a well-known fact that, because we have vaginas and boobs, women are treated in a different manner than men the moment we step into the dealership showroom. But it’s also a well-known fact that, when it comes to buying cars, women play a leading role in 85% of car purchases. 85%.
And yet we still get treated as if we don’t have a brain. So much so that, per the usual New Girl fashion, Jess has to create an elaborate plan that involves emailing the dealership as a man just to get a car.
Granted, this whole scenario ends up backfiring terribly (it’s a TV sitcom. What do you expect?) and eventually leads to Jess angrily hijacking a test drive, but the fact that she even has to consider it—and that other women consider doing the same—is ridiculous.
This discrimination even happens over the phone. When my mom wanted to purchase a car last year, she asked me to call around dealerships to get prices so we could compare. On the phone, when I mentioned the dealership’s competitors had offered me a price that was $2,000 below what the dealer on the phone was offering, he called me a liar and an idiot. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
Really, what makes dealers think it’s okay to speak to women—and other human beings in general—in this way?
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t dealerships out there that treat women car buyers as they do men. If I was an optimistic person, I would even say that the majority of dealerships probably treat female consumers just as well as they do male consumers.
But I am not an optimist. I am a woman who works in the automotive industry. And I know that, no matter how much we attempt to change things, women are not seen as equal here.
In my day-to-day life, the disparity between men and women in the automotive industry is obvious. If I had a dime for every time I told a man that I wrote about cars for a living, only to be asked to prove that I write about cars for a living, well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t have to write about cars for a living. Because I’d be a freakin’ billionaire.
And that’s not all. Searching for press releases and topics to write about for the glorious The News Wheel leads to a myriad of articles written mostly by men, for men. A few of our competitors also have a decent amount of women on the staff, yes, but these women don’t show up on the homepage nearly as much as the men do.
Yes, we are starting to see changes in this. Yes, Mary Barra—the first female CEO of a US automaker—is proof of that. Yes, there are speakers around the automotive industry like Lisa Copeland—a well-known motivational speaker—who can be hired to encourage male dealers to treat their women customers with respect. There’s even a wonderful website my coworker wrote about last month called ChickDriven that helps women learn how to navigate the automotive world. How great is that?
But the fact that we even need to see Mary Barra’s position as an accomplishment—that we need speakers to encourage male salesmen to treat women buyers properly and websites to help women feel more comfortable in the auto industry—is utterly ludicrous.
It’s the 21st century people. Let’s get our crap together.
Stop speaking to women car buyers as if they are idiots and start respecting them as the intelligent beings they are.
A born-and-raised Jersey girl, Caitlin Moran has somehow found herself settled in Edinburgh, Scotland. When she’s not spending her days trying to remember which side of the road to drive on, Caitlin enjoys getting down and nerdy with English. She continues to combine her love of writing with her love of cars for The News Wheel, while also learning more about the European car market—including the fact that the Seat brand is pronounced “se-at” not “seat” as you might think. See more articles by Caitlin.