Hello everyone. We had a glitch with Woman of the Week this week (busy, career-focussed women are busy), but instead of just going silent for a week, we thought we'd chat to you about something that affects all of us.
So, picture the scene...you're participating in the tweet-up of a race event, and see that someone's replied you. You click your @reply thread, hoping it's one of your friends. Except it's some jerk who's trolling the hashtags and being a jerk to people whose opinions differ from his. You hit the block button, and go back to doing what you were doing.
Caitlyn Moran quoted, but didn't link to, a study that showed men felt women were drowning them out when they contributed 25-50% of a discussion. I tried looking for the paper she was talking about on Google Scholar. I didn't find it, but instead found a mountain of evidence to suggest she's right.
We've noticed a trend of guys trolling motorsport hashtags and picking fights with fanwomen over a wide range of topics that apparently need mansplaining to us (eg. girl racers, grid girls, any team/driver they support and we don't). Added to that, most series organisers say they have a relatively small percentage of women supporters – 9% was quoted for F1 after their fan survey last year – and yet sports like NFL have up to 40% female viewership.
After spending six years on Twitter, I've noticed a trend. There are some whip smart geek women who love motorsport, and there are also some less geeky women who also love motorsport. Of the two groups, the smart ones tend to be quieter. Perhaps this is because they are too busy with their careers to waste hours online. Perhaps they got caught in Gamer Gate, and went quiet on social media for fear of more rape threats.
This is where you come in. (We're assuming if you're here, rather than on the websites with a buffet of boobs, you're in the smarter/geekier half of the crowd.) What we want to do will probably cause a backlash from the meninists in the fandom, so get ready to liberally employ the report-and-block function on social media sites. Sorry we can't offer you a better solution than that, but there isn't one at present.
We want smart women who love motorsport to talk about it on social media. And on blogs (we'd love to host your articles, and can recommend woman-friendly sites if you want to opine about topics other than women in racing). And in magazines (if you can get Autosport to publish you, we'll give you a voucher for something cool).
The more vocal we are online, the more people will get used to having us around, and should eventually come to respect our opinions. At the very least, you'll be able to sort the cool guys in the fandom – the ones who @reply with something constructive and have fun discussions with us – from the jerks. You might just make some new friends and useful contacts.
The key is to use hashtags and user handles, and post when people are online. (There are apps that analyse when your followers are online, or just join tweet-ups of events.) CC relevant teams (you never know, they might RT you), drivers, and/or series. CC us and other 'women in motorsport' accounts when you're talking about women in the industry. Hashtag appropriately to get your posts seen by more than just your followers. For example, use event tags, or if you have a Formula E question, tag it #FEBuzz, and surf the hashtag the Tuesday evening following the event for your answer. It's really that simple.
Just a word on being nice: it's kinda the golden rule of being one of the cool people online. Yes, there are awards for trolls, but if you don't engage them, they lose street cred. My grandmother says, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing. I would like to edit that to if you have nothing nice to say, compose a witty and insightful opinion piece (preferably with academic references), and find somebody to publish it, rather than ranting on social media. Firstly, it gets okayed by an editor who's worried about lawsuits, so you're less likely to offend people. Secondly, you can express more complex thoughts, because there's only so much you can fit in 140 characters. Thirdly, the pen really is mightier than the sword, and you're taking the classy woman's battle strategy.
There are dramatically more men than women who write opinion articles. We all have degrees (and from our crowd on social media, the ones that don't yet have their certificate are working towards one); we all have the skills to write well, and friends who can proof-read to fact-check and correct sentences. Go forth and make your voices heard!