Gender no obstacle

Girl Racers Club (GRC) officers (left to right) directress and co-founder Rowir Abracero, president Ava Puti-An, and vice president Mona Alejandrino.

Girl Racers Club (GRC) officers (left to right) directress and co-founder Rowir Abracero, president Ava Puti-An, and vice president Mona Alejandrino.

Fast Times features all-female car club in the country

Over the course of human history, motoring has long been considered as a male space.

Cultural studies of motoring, such as the work of University of East Anglia science and technology professor Catharina Landström, said women don’t get the same respect as men in motoring because most females don’t understand concepts surrounding automobiles as deeply as males do (as if knowing the valve clearances in a Honda B16 engine by heart were some badge of superiority). As such, the idea that women can be car enthusiasts is alien to many people, especially in cultures with more traditional gender roles like the Philippines.

In fact, just being a woman behind the wheel in this country is sufficient basis for insults. Just consider the harmful implication of the remark “Babae kasi” every time it’s blurted out to an erring or overly careful female driver.

But the Girl Racers Club has made it its mission to show everybody that ladies can make waves in motoring beyond just being booth babes at car shows. In other words, they are spearheading what gender studies call a “subversion” of sex and gender norms.

“The discrimination we face in motoring is a result of a mindset that wasn’t corrected,” said GRC Vice President Mona Alejandrino. “But the modern woman can do so much more, sometimes as well as or better than men do them. So it’s unfair that people continue to put us down.”

Whoever said customizing cars was only for boys and men?

Whoever said customizing cars was only for boys and men?

Roots in racing
As the group’s name implies, the Girl Racers Club was originally formed in March 2005 as an all-female car club that also did racing activities. GRC Directress and co-founder Rowie Abracero said this was because the club’s founder, Rusmine Herrera, was a drag racer.

“Many of us also raced,” she said. “But as we got older, we had new priorities like raising our families, so some of our racers are no longer active. In fact, our newest members aren’t really into racing, but since we were already known as Girl Racers Club, we didn’t change our name anymore.”

Car shows, school-outreach work
Nowadays, GRC president Ava Puti-An said the group mostly holds car shows, called GTs (or get-togethers), along with crossover GTs with other car clubs like TeamFD, Honda Club of the Philippines and the Montero Sport Club of the Philippines. Puti-An said despite having been with the club for over a decade, she and her co-members have had very good relationships with the other, mostly male car clubs.

m1220160322“They’re actually gentlemen,” Alejandrino said. “Most of our bashers are online, where they often criticize how we set-up our cars or question whether or not we’re really racers because they don’t know our club’s history. I think many of them, deep inside, are frustrated that a girl’s car looks better than their cars, assuming they even have one.”

Puti-An said GRC engages in charity work through a back-to-school program that provides school supplies to elementary-public-school children in need. Abracero added the club also assists in distributing relief goods to communities affected by typhoons.

Joining the club
To become a member, the three said you must be female, at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and own a car. They said the group entertains inquiries on the club’s Facebook fan page, as well as people that approach them at car shows. They also said once you make it through the screening process, you become part of the Viber group for new members.

Puti-An said the club currently has 43 bonafide members and 20 “aspirants.” Alejandrino said to become a bonafide member, aspirants must attend at least six consecutive GTs or get-togethers.

“You get a lot of benefits as a bonafide member,” Alejandrino said. “You enjoy a lot of contacts in the car industry, along with getting suppliers’ information, which is helpful when you want to customize your car. You also get discounts from establishments that sponsor us.”

Celebrating 11 years of sisterhood
This year, Puti-An said the group will celebrate its 11th anniversary with a grand celebration on April 9. Alejandrino said she’s confident the event will attract a lot of attention because of GRC’s unique all-female composition.

“Being part of GRC is a benefit,” Alejandrino said. “Because we’re the only all-girl car club in the Philippines, people we meet are surprised and ask, ‘Oh really, you’re from GRC? What do you do there?’ That’s why for our April 9 event, we’re so confident that we will get a lot of sponsors because they would also be excited. It’s not a typical all-male show.”

In addition, they said the club will continue crossover GTs this year, aiming for at least one a month. Also, they said the back-to-school charity program will start on the first week of May, just before the start of the new school year.

“As we’ve been saying to people, we define GRC as a sisterhood,” Alejandrino said. “We are women who can do things that men can do, may it be in our careers, at home or wherever else.”


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