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An Oil Change and Some Gender Bias

June 7, 2015

I woke up this afternoon (yeah, it was a bit of a late night, darn insomnia) and immediately went outside to help my room-mate change the oil of my car. He was having difficulty with the oil filter, and I managed to unscrew it for him. This, of course, led me to asking all the steps of doing an oil change, so I’m feeling a bit more knowledgeable now, which is awesome. I don’t have the opportunity to learn much car stuff in the kinesthetic sense, so getting my hands a little dirty definitely helped me so I’ll remember how to do it myself in the future.

“Whatever shall I do?!”

So, there’s the plus side. On the minus column to balance it out was what went down right after that. I took my newly oil-changed car to the store to grab some new windshield wipers. It was sprinkling rain, and my parking spot was relatively wet. When I stepped out of my car, there was a rather large puddle of oil on the water. I immediately tried to examine my car to see if the oil was coming from my car. (Maybe the bolt at the bottom of the pan wasn’t screwed back on tightly enough, y’know?)

There was a guy who had just finished his shopping getting into his car next to mine, and he politely asked if anything was wrong. I said that no, I was just checking to make sure the oil wasn’t coming from my car. He mentioned that I could always take it back to wherever I’d gotten the oil changed, and I waved him off and said, “I just finished changing the oil myself.”

His response? His eyes went all wide, and he laughed, “Holy shit! Even I don’t know how to do that!”

Not a bad response in itself. He was attempting to tip the hat and give me credit for having just learned how to do something car related on my own, but the unspoken, “And I’m a guy!” was still there, the surprise that I could change the oil of my car (as a presumed female) when he as a male didn’t know how to do that.

Real life is not a vintage pin-up moment.

I’m all for giving credit where it’s due and praising people for having skills you might not have, but the implied gender bias there made me inwardly sigh.

Now, if I appeared more male, I guarantee you that implication wouldn’t have been there in his phrasing. Not saying that he was mean in any sense. He was nice and polite in trying to help if he could, but I thought it was interesting how little things like that are just ingrained.

Women are just as capable of fixing up their cars. Guys are just as capable of making mistakes on said repairs. Offering help is always appreciated if it comes from a good place — I’m all for that! — but when it’s only offered because you’re sensing a damsel in distress, that’s problematic.

In the end, I thanked the guy, told him I’d keep an eye on the car and make sure it wasn’t a problem, and went in the store to get my wipers as planned. It turns out the oil wasn’t from me, since I’ve checked under my car again and there’s no leak. Just something I was thinking about after the fact.

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