TrueCar Tries to Undo Gender Stereotypes, Ends Up Reinforcing Them

Source: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

If you hadn't heard the name before, you've probably heard it now. I'm talking about TrueCar. The automotive pricing and information website has risen from the dredges of obscurity in light of the controversy surrounding its latest ad. 

Originally released in March of this year, the commercial features women sharing their experiences with car-buying. One woman admits she found holding her own at the car dealership kind of tough, and another says she felt a lot of "anxiety" during the car-buying process. Thankfully, according to the commercial, TrueCar.com "makes it a lot easier to go in by yourself" by helping women find a fair deal without "bring[ing] a dude." 

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On the surface, the commercial seems to overturn the stereotype that women need men to accompany them to the dealership. This should be empowering, right? 

Except it's not. The only reason that women don't have to turn to the men in their lives for help is because they have a male substitute: a streamlined, male-dominated process to help protect them from the big bad car salesman. 

The commercial peddles the stereotype that women are poor negotiators, struggle to assert themselves in conversation, and lack the inherent "male" trait that is auto knowledge. Because only men know cars, right? Only men, in their auto omniscience, can determine what's a fair deal.  

In response to allegations of sexism, TrueCar Founder and CEO Scott Painter released this statement to the Huffington Post

Regardless of race or gender, being a more informed car buyer benefits consumers. This particular ad is pro-consumer and pro-women. It was developed by our creative director, who is a woman, and it addresses a real consumer issue in the marketplace.

Hmm. Something in Painter's pseudo-apology reads like the classic "I have black friends so I'm not racist" argument. This fallacious thinking clings to the one single point of data, the one "friend", to absolve the offending party from any faux pas. For Painter, I'm sure this female figurehead is nothing more than a scapegoat, meant to buffer the backlash from angry little women.  

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