It’s a stereotype as old as time, this idea that women can’t drive. The idea that we need bigger parking spaces than men, and that if your car is clipped in London, it was probably the fault of some yummy mummy in her 4×4. The idea too that women in sports cars are either fiercely sexy or absolutely ridiculous but that, in both instances, the car would almost certainly have been bought for her by her very generous husband.
This stereotype, or these stereotypes should, theoretically, be long gone by now, not just because statistically women ARE better drivers than men, but actually because the idea that men, in this day and age, believe that they are genuinely superior drives JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVE A DICK, is ludicrous.
But here we are. In a world where you are much more likely to get to your destination in one piece with a woman at the wheel, men are still battling with an inferiority complex of sorts resulting in this albatross around our necks, this need to prove that we can in fact drive well… something that we’ve already done once before, if you remember, at the test centre, just like the rest of the world…
So we proved it on our 17th birthdays, we proved it on the day we passed our tests. The proof that we are ‘better’ drivers is in all of the statistics that I found, the one showing that in all fatal car crashes involving teens, the rate from men to women is 9.2 to 5.3 and that in our twenties it’s 4.0 to 2.0. (Yes, men are TWICE as likely to cause a fatal car crash than women). As far as reckless driving violations are concerned, it’s 3.4 to men and 1 to women. Men are almost twice as likely to get caught speeding and 80% of alcohol related serious young driver accidents include men. Does that make us women ‘better’ at driving? Or does that make us boring? Can we win either way?
I went into a garage the other day with a flat tyre and was being followed by a guy in a Porche who coincidently had one too. We pulled up outside and the mechanic told me to get out of the car so that he could drive it into the garage for me. I thought this was nice of him until I noticed in my rearview mirror that the guy in the Porche was driving himself into a space just like mine, one bay along. So, I patiently told the mechanic that he need not to worry, that could drive my car in myself, he told me that no, I couldn’t, that it was a tricky space. Enraged, I pointed at my new nemesis in the Porche and said that if he could do it then so could I, to which he replied with the infuriating: “I know love, I’m just trying to make your life easier”. I wanted to reply by telling him where to stick it, and that actually, my life would be a hell of a lot easier if I didn’t have to bash down gender stereotypes and deal with sexism all day every day, but I stopped myself. Patronising as he was, I couldn’t be bothered with the fight, got out, gave him my keys and let hm feel like the big man he so obviously needed to be.
Not a week later I was outside my flat chatting with my neighbour when he made not one, but two jibes at both mine and my mum’s (?! He’s never even met her!) parking. He told me that he had ‘a right laugh’ watching my mum ‘trying’ to park her car, and that he had felt so bad that he had wanted to go and help her. “You do realise that my mum does rally driving don’t you?” I asked him, knowing full well that he was lying about mum’s parking – ask anyone, she is EXCELLENT at it. I left him, enraged, but was ready to let it go, when two nights later he started to make the same jokes. What was his problem? This time, thankfully, I did lose it with him: “what is your problem?” I asked “you do realise that if it had been my brother or Alex or my dad ‘struggling’ to park their aston martin you wouldn’t have dared say a word, but my mum, a woman? Well that’s fair game right? Because women can’t drive, RIGHT?”. Although that shut him up, I was pissed off that I’d even had to have this fight.
At this point I thought that surely, surellyyyyyy there couldn’t be anymore of this to come my way, at least not that week. Wrong again. I was talking to a guy friend that weekend, and totally unprovoked he just said: “you’re a shit driver, but I’ll let you off”. I wondered where that had even come from, and was so confused by it that I couldn’t even think of anything to say back to him, but I was pissed off. I racked my brains to see if i could work out why he had said it, and came back with nothing. To my knowledge he’s only been in the car with me one time and not only did I drive superbly, as I always do, but I was giving him a life to an event that I wasn’t even going to… some thank you eh? A thank you similar to the one that was made to his male friend that picked him up i suppose? Not a fucking chance. This comment was made solely because I am a woman.
Are cars ‘men’ things? Are we stealing them? Perhaps we’re intimidating? Or maybe, just maybe, men do this…. just because they can. Because, and bear with me here, because we let them. Are we in fact falling victims to the ‘halo’ effect? Being made to feel that we are in fact bad drivers because we’re told often enough that we start to believe it?
Of course us women didn’t really start driving until the late 60s/early 70s, before that, a woman’s role was to be driven, if she was allowed in a car at all, but let’s be honest, that was a fair while ago now and as far as I can see, it doesn’t seem a very good reason that I, not even thought about in the 70s, should be any worse at driving than my brother, who had been thought about even less.
I think the problem is that we’re used to this, and we expect it. We’re taught to behave like this, subconsciously at least… the endless ‘jokes’ and ‘banter’ mean that even I find myself, from time to time, ‘tutting’ at female drivers, because yes, some of us are shit. Only last night I saw a woman repeatedly swerve into the hard shoulder and before I even saw the driver I thought to myself: ‘bloody woman, letting the side down…’ But as a Londoner I see examples of terrible driving all the time, and most the time this is by Uber drivers (another stereotype for another day) but these are all men.
So why can’t we just accept that there are good drivers and that there are bad drivers, irregardless of sex. I’m tired of the “you’re pretty good… for a girl” comments, of the “let me guide you in love” comments and the classic: “should you really be operating such heavy machinery when you’ve got that much oestrogen floating around?”
Because my answer to that, if we were playing that game would be: “should you really be allowed to drive something when you’re so full of testosterone that you’re at risk of mistaking the handbrake for your erection?” and I can’t be bothered to scream this at every parking attendant that I meet.
In my relationship I do all of the driving because my boyfriend can’t actually do it, and that doesn’t make him less of a man, it makes him a city boy. And my excellent parking skills, contrary to popular belief, weren’t taught to me by my boyfriend, are something that I CAN still do on my period and they’re not just ‘good for a girl’, they’re just pretty fucking good.
The next time that someone tries to make a comment about your driving, don’t let it wash over you, don’t ignore it and don’t you dare laugh along. There is absolutely no reason why women can’t be excellent drivers and even less reason for the world not to know about it.