The Feminist Life: Free the Auto Show Model

Women now work in all facets of the automotive industry, not just as models rolling around on the hood of a car.

“Are you a product specialist?” I asked the woman standing next to me as she wriggled out of her fishnet lace-up boots, groaned, and rubbed her toes.

“Huh?” she asked.

That was the politically correct term for auto show model, I knew, but I tried another tack.

“Are you an auto show model?”

We stood there at the technology charging station, at the end of the first day of the Los Angeles Auto Show, waiting for our phones to juice up before leaving the convention center. It was the inaugural day of the two-day media preview before the show opens to the public. I was there because my day job entails writing about vehicles.

“Oh,” she said. “Yeah.”

“So…what do you do? As an auto show model?” I felt sorry for her for two reasons: first, she was an auto show model, and two, she was about to become enmeshed in my conversational style, which is commonly described as interrogational.

“I work at the booth for the tire company, Pirelli.”

I glanced in the direction of the now-deserted Pirelli display. “So you stand next to tires all day?”

“Yeah, I just stand there and talk to people.”

“What do you talk about?”

“Anything but tires.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, just guys hitting on me all day.”

I knew what she meant, because as one of the few women on the floor—model or otherwise—guys had hit on me all day, as well. She said it as though it was just another day on the job. And it was, for her. But I’m not a “product specialist;” I’m a journalist. For me, it was an unwelcome intrusion on my work, a sad reminder that women still need to crawl through a minefield of double standards and objectification for doing the same jobs as their male counterparts. This reminder was shoved in my face all day long, with models staffed at nearly every auto show display I visited.

I had watched male colleagues (a term I use loosely, none of them were, thankfully, people I worked with day-to-day) line up at Pirelli, eagerly lobbing anecdotes meant to amuse vacant-eyed models who couldn’t care less. Frankly, it didn’t speak well of either gender. But more alarming was that the behavior the men showed—condescending flirtation, I’d call it—seemed to trickle onto the rest of the showroom floor.

Call me asexual, but we’re here to work, not to flirt. This is 2014. Almost 2015. Women are now employed in all facets of the automotive industry, not just as models rolling around on the hood of a car. So how did I end up at a professional conference standing next to a woman in fishnet boots (yes, fishnet boots are a thing) trading on little more than her physical appearance? Especially during the show’s industry-wide days not open to the general public? Is it to distract the many male journalists from analyzing the actual product? To elevate the mood and inject more levity? I don’t know how the auto-show model charging her Android phone next to me felt about it, but I felt degraded enough by her job for the both of us.

People always ask me what it’s like to be a woman in the auto industry. I say it’s fine because I want to believe it’s fine, but my conversation with the model made it apparent that it’s not. It’s clear why there are so few female automotive journalists, not to mention so few women in any industry that hosts conferences featuring pretty women as entertainment, as “booth bait.” It doesn’t matter whether they’re half-naked or in a sheath dress and pearls. The message is the same: This is still a man’s world. I should walk into an auto show believing I’m seen as an equal, but how can that truly be the case when my gender is objectified right in front of me, all day long? Does equality mean that Pirelli should also hire a gaggle of male models to flex in front of their tires?

We all have the right to go to our jobs without feeling uncomfortable.

Free the auto show models. There’s not enough room at these conventions for all of us.

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet