Sisterhood in speed

Written by on February 3, 2013 in Cars and Chicks, Trends - 22 Comments

From Middle East with speed

There are about as many women driving race-cars as there are in the Vatican. The two have a reputation for being classic boys’ clubs.

So when a whole team of women racers emerges from the Middle East, it’s crazy awesome. We’re talking about the Speed Sisters, the Middle East’s all-women racing team, who formed their estrogen-fuelled alliance in 2009. These Arab women call the West Bank home, and are piloting wheels of change through the macho racing scene and the male-dominated culture. They often go fender to fender with men from Saudi Arabia – where women are not even allowed to drive.

The West Bank isn’t the first place you think of for racing cars, unless they’re speeding away from gunfire or bombs. Yet, racing is a way to maintain a type of normalcy and even flout the military occupation. When stopping at checkpoints is a way of life, the thrill of screaming through a rally track is especially delicious.

Noor Daoud

One of the team’s stars is spitfire Noor Daoud from Jerusalem, who was born in Texas. She speaks three languages and has competed internationally in swimming, tennis and soccer, and loves boxing and motocross. Her ride is a 1998 BMW, and she specializes in drifting.

Another team-mate, Sahar Jawabrah, is the first one to wear the traditional Islamic head scarf, a hijab. But when she’s racing, she covers it with a helmet for safety. By day, Jawabrah is a librarian and mother to four children, but says she’s always fantasized about racing.

Mexican-born Betty Saadeh, 31, is a former beauty queen now living in Bethlehem, who started racing in 2010. Both her father and her brother are race-car drivers, and she was the fastest woman on the Palestinian circuit in 2011.Betty Saadeh

Then there’s 36 year old Maysoon Jayyusi, who got into racing after a friend, who just happened to be a rep on the Palestinian Motorsport Federation, saw her drive home. She’s now officially retired from racing, and is the team manager. When Jayyusi started to race in 2005, she was afraid to tell her parents – they only found out when her victories made headlines in the local papers. Jayyusi says that the Speed Sisters are proudly challenging the notion of women as kitchen drudges – and the idea that Palestinians can’t live normal lives.

They’ve found both a sugar daddy and mentor with the British Consulate, who has funded a race-car as well as coaching. Karen McLuski, British political consul, discovered the Speed Sisters in 2010, and arranged for them to get driving lessons. Their grit and determination won the respect of Sue Sanders, a senior figure in British motorsports, who saw them as soul sisters and has mentored them.

Not surprisingly, male racers initially viewed the Speed Sisters with disdain and discomfort. However, now that the women have shown their dedication to the sport, their colleagues are more accepting and have even helped out with mechanical issues.

And the women have become media darlings, getting coverage from the BBC to CNN and even Rolling Stone (as well as drivelikeagirl.ca) There’s a movie in the works, by Canadian-Lebanese film-maker Amber Fares. She met the team when she was hired to make a series of shorts by the British Consulate in Jerusalem. Fares recently scored a Sundance Institute development grant, and an Indiegogo campaign of  just over $46,000.  There’s also (natch) a Facebook page

The film is set to release later this year. We predict the Speed Sisters will take yet another victory lap.

Speed Sisters

22 Comments on "Sisterhood in speed"

  1. Jon Jefferson February 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm · Reply

    This is a huge victory indeed. Not only are they gaining recognition in something that has been a male dominated endeavor but from a place where women were not allowed to even think of doing it.

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 4, 2013 at 11:51 pm · Reply

      Can’t wait for the movie to come out – already these women are being celebrated all over the world for their achievements and nerve! Anyone who hears about them is captivated by what they are doing.

  2. Kelly Wade February 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm · Reply

    Very cool! I think its awesome when women are good at sports in general let alone sports that are dominated (greatly) by men. It’s even better when there’s drivers in places like Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia where they’re brave enough to not only compete in the sport, but take on all of the politics and criticism that go along with taking part. I bet this movie is going to be really interesting and exciting!

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 4, 2013 at 11:52 pm · Reply

      You have to be really tough and dedicated to be a woman racer, but in the Middle East? We can’t imagine half of what they’ve gone through. I’ll bet it’s very liberating for them in many ways to tearing around a track and skunking the menfolk!

  3. Jeri February 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm · Reply

    That is beyond cool and very inspiring. The more women can be shown in the media as breaking down gender barriers, the fewer gender barriers there will be 😉

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 4, 2013 at 11:54 pm · Reply

      That glass ceiling has been popping all over the world. I think one of the big contributing factors here is that these women are a team. They have each other for support and that’s what makes the difference. And that’s what has been happening in many different places where the gender barriers have come tumbling down.

  4. Susan Cooper February 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm · Reply

    I recently saw a television program about these empowered women. These women are definate role models to women everywhere. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm · Reply

      They are role models, inspirational and making news everywhere because of it. I think it’s especially important for young girls to know about these women, to know what they’re capable of achieving!

  5. Gerald Smith February 6, 2013 at 11:05 am · Reply

    Great story.

    Another example that women can not only do everything men can, but in some cases they can do it better. An example I give to my female clients is the woman’s boxing in the Olympics. The best boxer was a female by far!
    Thanks for sharing

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm · Reply

      Wow, I didn’t know about the Olympic women’s boxing. For sure, like Annie Oakley “anything you can do, I can do better!” Good on you for encouraging your female clients.

  6. Susan Oakes February 7, 2013 at 6:27 am · Reply

    What great role models for others and the film looks very cool. What I like with this article and the one about female cabbies is these women are showing the way especially in countries that does not make it easy.

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm · Reply

      You’re absolutely right, Susan! Sometimes I think women are hard-wired to resist oppression and the more you throw at them, the harder they work to overcome obstacles.

  7. Becc February 11, 2013 at 1:31 am · Reply

    These women are absolutely awesome! Need I say more?

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 12, 2013 at 11:49 pm · Reply

      Thank you Becc! It’s incredible what they’re accomplishing, and I can’t wait for the movie to come out.

  8. Laura Sherman February 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm · Reply

    I’ve often found myself in male dominated industries and always appreciate other women who tackle the boy’s clubs out there. Love your article and love the Speed Sisters!

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm · Reply

      There are certainly a lot of boys’ clubs out there but women are infiltrating many of them. From driving race cars to politics, women are made of stern stuff and we’re definitely going places.

  9. Richard J. Zavodsky February 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm · Reply

    I am always dumbfounded when I see an article like this. Is it good to have this type of publicity for women? But of course. However, we must remember that Audrey Zavodsky is a professional race car driver that has been knocking down barriers for several years. She just recently won championships in the very competitive American Iron division of NASA. She took home the trophies in the Mid-West and the Great Lakes Divisions. This adds to her many podium finishes throughout the United States and Canada. She competes in all male venues with success. Dr. Audrey has the academic, the business success, and the racing success as part of her extensive vitae. This begs the question, “Doesn’t the measure of success ride on the back of the horse of measurement?” Indeed ladies we have our own champion to be proud of and to add to the above group.

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm · Reply

      Well, thank you for stopping by! It’s always thrilling to hear about women like Dr. Audrey, who sounds like a highly accomplished woman in many fields. All the best to you and more success in the future.

  10. Rynessa Cutting February 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm · Reply

    From any perspective it’s a success, but especially so because of their geographic location and background. I am really proud of them and what they stand for, and I hope they continue to break barriers.

  11. Kurt February 16, 2013 at 10:44 pm · Reply

    A very eclectic and inspiring group of ladies. It seems they each have achieved a level of fame and have multiple talents, some in the international community. It would be interesting to see how the movie turns out.

    • Krystyna Lagowski March 5, 2013 at 2:47 am · Reply

      Aren’t they tho?! It’s cool how they all come from different backgrounds, some more traditional than others, some more conservative, etc. But because they have a common goal, they make it work. Love it!

  12. Richard J. Zavodsky November 11, 2013 at 3:51 am · Reply

    Dr. Audrey raced in 8 races this year with 8 podium finishes. She had 6 first place finishes along with 1 second place finish and a third place place finish. She was the only female driver in each of the races. In many of the races it was the first time that a female had won on that track.

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