Class Year

2020

Access Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Science, Technology, and Society Program

First Advisor

Jill Schneiderman

Second Advisor

James Challey

Abstract

There are very few technologies that have so profoundly shaped society as the automobile has. However, what has been a liberating force for some has been an obstacle for others. Since its inception, the automobile has been imbued with masculine creation myths of mechanical strength and technological prowess that have restricted women from utilizing it to its full capacity. The gendered imbalances of the automobile become amplified when studying them not in their practical use but in sport. Auto racing has valued historically masculine characteristics that largely rely on the car as the source of their power. Having been frequently associated with nature, emotionality, and fragility, womanhood has been constructed as incompatible with a sport that relies so heavily on technology. This thesis aims to illustrate that the simultaneous sensationalization and systematic exclusion of women from the racing industry is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that is neither new nor close to ending. Old stereotypes of women as incompetent drivers have permeated the racing world and have strong ties to the early development of automotive technology. Everything from the electric starter and the automatic transmission has been construed as a “feminine” amendment to the automobile, thus serving to minimize utility and preserve the male identity as the holders of automotive expertise. Through interviews with past and present female racers at all levels I explore how the development of a technology is inseparable from its cultural context, and examine how social values regarding the use of technology manifest themselves in racing.

Share

COinS