Shredding stereotypes in the middle east and beyond

Speed SistersIf there’s a fire in your belly fuelled by octane, and the thrill of the race is in your veins, you’ll find a way to realize your ambitions on the racetrack. Even if you’re a woman in the strife-torn middle east. And there’s no better proof of that than the Speed Sisters, an all-woman race car team from Palestine.

Yes, Palestine. It’s unlikely to find anyone racing cars in Palestine, and it’s downright mind-bending to find a group of young women screeching around a track, drifting through cones – and did we say, winning? Their latest accomplishment is a documentary film, simply entitled “Speed Sisters,” offering us a glimpse into their backstory and current lives. It almost looks like they’re like the rest of us, alternately embracing and scrapping, shopping, and getting their nails done.

But Noor, Marah, Betty, Mona and manager Maysoon, are defying cultural and class expectations to follow their hearts and race cars. Even in a military occupied zone, when you swoop into the driver’s seat, bear down on the clutch and shimmy around a track, you’re free as a bird. No doubt it’s part of the magic formula for these women.

Practicing their skills where they can – fruit markets, abandoned roads – the Speed Sisters show off their winning style, even though they come from diverse backgrounds. Marah’s family have sacrificed their dream of a new home to buy her a new Suzuki, while Betty strikes a sponsorship deal with a local Peugot dealer.

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But on the track, it’s a level playing field. With steely precision, they carve up the dusty makeshift track, elegantly spinning around cones, finishing up with a dramatic burnout. The hearty cheers come from their supporters, male and female, for whom the Speed Sisters represent not just a winning race team, but also, the vitality of their community in the face of occupation. It is a triumph of the spirit – which knows no gender.

Closer to home, collision repair tech Hilary Noack is shredding stereotypes with her all-woman bodyshop named “Ink & Iron.” At a recent open house for her new shop in Mississauga, friends, family and curious strangers celebrated Noack’s achievement. She’s barely been open for a month, and already has more than enough business to keep her all-woman team hopping. Just outside the door, a bevy of classic and not-so-classic vehicles in various states of disrepair awaited their turn in the bay. Inside, there were hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches, finger foods and desserts for the crowd, as Noack wound her way through the well-wishers.

Ink & Iron

The team at Ink & Iron.

Noack is a role model for any young woman, and not just in the automotive sector. Although she raised some funds for her enterprise through Indie-Gogo, her business is a tribute to her hard work, focus and determination. Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, couldn’t be more excited for her daughter’s success, and her father was simply beaming with pride.

Another testament to Noack’s accomplishment was the presence of Victoria Ellis, the mastermind behind the International Women’s Automotive Society. Ellis had made the trek from Michigan, where she works in a corporate technical service capacity for Chrysler (FCA). Her not-for-profit organization aims to connect and encourage women in the automotive sector. Barely 26 years old, Ellis is a diesel tech who has climbed the corporate ladder at FCA, but wants to do more.

Her father, who was documenting the event with his camera, said Ellis had told him she wanted to work with cars when she was only six years old. Her mother, who was manning the registration and raffle, smiled and nodded. Ellis clearly has her eyes on the prize – she wants to connect internationally with women who have a passion for all things automotive.

In all cases, these are young women who are not afraid to reach beyond their grasp.

It gives me great hope for the future of automotive – and well beyond.

 

 

28 Comments on "Shredding stereotypes in the middle east and beyond"

  1. Jacqueline Gum May 5, 2015 at 10:39 am · Reply

    This is too cool for words! I love it that these women have stepped in a world where they have been excluded for so many years! Victoria Ellis, in particular, is my new hero:)

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:33 am · Reply

      You’re right, Jacqui, cool is totally the word for all these women. And awesome, and heroic, and gutsy, to name a few!

  2. Susan Cooper May 5, 2015 at 7:07 pm · Reply

    WOW, I agree with Jacquie. It’s pretty cool that these women have found a way to be a part of this world. I know it wasn’t easy and I applaud them for it. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:31 am · Reply

      You’re not the only one applauding them, Susan! At the film debut, the audience stood up and cheered the Speed Sisters for several minutes. I have a feeling there will be repeat episodes wherever that film is screened.

  3. SafariOnTheBlog May 6, 2015 at 10:53 am · Reply

    Oh wow! This is so cool. Girl Power I say 🙂
    I love it!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:29 am · Reply

      Oh, yes, I think if you look up Girl Power in the dictionary, there’s a big picture of the Speed Sisters …

  4. William Rusho May 6, 2015 at 4:52 pm · Reply

    Great post. I had a boos at my job who just retired, she used to enter races which were held on the lake on ICE. This reminded me of her.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:29 am · Reply

      Ooh, ice-racing is pretty hairy. There’s a video of Marah in upstate New York, taking a Mazda RX-8 around the snowy track at Limestone. It’s her first time driving on snow, and wouldn’t you know, she kicks butt!

  5. Jeri May 6, 2015 at 10:35 pm · Reply

    How to to see you featuring a documentary related to women in car racing, and women from the Middle East at that 🙂 I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one on NetFlix and add it to my queue.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:27 am · Reply

      Thanks, Jeri! There aren’t that many women racers who have gotten this kind of attention, and let’s hope it just keeps getting better for them. Hopefully the film will land on Netflix soon!

  6. Donna Janke May 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm · Reply

    Great story. It’s nice to see these women following and realizing their dreams in the male-dominated automotive world. And the Speed Sisters are dealing with additional obstacles given their location. All I can say is “Way to go, ladies!”

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:26 am · Reply

      Thanks for the positive energy, Donna – I’m sending it to all the women, where it will no doubt add momentum to their amazing journeys!

  7. Patricia Weber May 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm · Reply

    how FABULOUS! You know I’m rooting for these women to show up in F1 races. Love this: “Practicing their skills where they can – fruit markets, abandoned roads” Having traveled a good deal in Europe, I have a vivid pic of this in my mind!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:24 am · Reply

      Patricia, I know that Marah is shooting for F1, and she’s certainly skilled enough to make it. Once this movie gets wider distribution, she should be able to have her pick of sponsors. As you know, that’s always the stickiest part of racing. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

  8. Beth Niebuhr May 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm · Reply

    Those women, and their supportive families are awesome and I usually don’t use that word. I love the idea of being elegant on a makeshift track. The name Speed Sisters is perfect. Good for the women mechanics too!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:23 am · Reply

      What’s lovely about all these women is that their families are extremely supportive of their choices, whether in the Middle East, Michigan or Mississauga. Very uplifting!

  9. A.K.Andrew May 7, 2015 at 4:54 pm · Reply

    This is fantastic! So great to see women breaking barriers in both areas and regions we don’t expect.I hope the documentary gets shown here – Netflix maybe.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:21 am · Reply

      You can look for it on Netflix soon, hopefully. I believe it’s going into wider distribution – it’s having a European premiere soon, so keep an eye out!

  10. Ken Dowell May 7, 2015 at 8:56 pm · Reply

    Palestine is one of the last places where I would expect to hear about a female racing team. What a great story.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:20 am · Reply

      Isn’t it, though? I guess that’s why the Speed Sisters are having such an impact around the world.

  11. Marquita Herald May 7, 2015 at 9:45 pm · Reply

    I just love stories like this! There are so many amazing women around the world and we so seldom learn about their accomplishments let alone the enormous odds they have – and continue to – overcome. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:19 am · Reply

      Absolutely, Marquita, it’s a very feel-good story. The Speed Sisters got a hearty round of applause and a standing ovation, and the audience just wouldn’t let them go. We need more people like them!

  12. Tim May 8, 2015 at 3:30 am · Reply

    That is a great story and inspirational for other youngsters in that part of the world and god knows they can do with all the inspiration they can get. I am having a hard time envisioning them racing around Palestine but good for them…to be clear I have a hard time imagining anyone racing around Palestine.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:18 am · Reply

      Yes, Tim, racing is quite the sport, and I don’t know how they do it in the Middle East. Where do they get the tires, the car parts, let alone the track?! A real tribute to their indomitable spirit, for sure.

  13. Lenie May 8, 2015 at 11:15 am · Reply

    Hi Krystyna, FANTASTIC – I loved all of it. Good for all those young women. I admire the spirit of the Speed Sisters. We only hear about the suppression of women in Palestine and in the Middle East – so nice to hear another side and I enjoyed picturing them racing around. As for the women mechanics and Victoria Ellis, good for them – barriers can be torn down. When I was young we had a choice of secretary, nurse, teacher or getting married – what a long way we’ve come.

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:16 am · Reply

      Goodness, Lenie, you’re so right! Young women today are so confident and fearless, and have so many more choices than we ever did. The Speed Sisters really do give us a very unique perspective on the Middle East, especially from a woman’s point of view.

  14. Meredith @ The Palette Muse May 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm · Reply

    What an uplifting article! I want to know more about each and every one of these ladies. They all sound fascinating in their own right. And I would venture to say that nothing is beyond their grasp, given what they’ve already accomplished. Thanks for introducing us to them!

    • Krystyna Lagowski May 10, 2015 at 2:14 am · Reply

      Glad you liked it, Meredith! It’s never easy being a woman in a man’s world, and these women are a source of inspiration to all of us!

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