A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Driving and women

Posted by Pepper on February 2, 2014

I started driving at 18, so I can safely say I’ve been driving for a decade now. Okay, fine, 9 years, if you want to nitpick. I do believe I am a good driver. I have good control over the car, my reflexes are sharp and I can maneuver skillfully. All my life, though, I’ve heard this one statement – Women are not good drivers. 

It is sad, the way we pass on this idea, from one generation to the next. It irks me a lot, because I spend about 2-3 hours at the wheel, every single day. And in all my driving time, I come across a million idiotic male drivers. Male drivers that drive slowly, with zero confidence – in the right most lane, thereby obstructing the flow of traffic. Male drivers that brake dangerously, without any warning. Male drivers that stop the car in the middle of a busy road and step aside for a smoke, exhibiting such baffling levels of stupidity and inconsideration. Male drivers that consider themselves to be speed demons, and carelessly whiz by your side without much regard for the dent they created in your car. And when I realise that the world would still consider me to be a worse driver than most of these idiots I spoke about, simply because I am a woman, I feel enraged. 

Where do we get our ideas from? Some people say they go by statistics. I tell you most statistics cannot be relied upon. The chosen sample set, the environment, the attitude of the researcher, the already existing bias, all play a role in influencing the end result. And ofcourse, we as a society, love to feed on this idea. Women are not reliable drivers. Which is why when I do driver skillfully, when I overtake other cars, when I confidently squeeze my car out of tight spots, I see other drivers around me looking at me admiringly. Why? Such driving is not expected from me because I am a woman? Why don’t they feel impressed by other men who do the same?

Ofcourse, female drivers make some mistakes, just like male drivers. The other day, I was driving in search of a petrol pump, (or gas station, depending upon your location). I really needed to fuel up, but I just couldn’t spot one. And then I saw it suddenly. It came on my left, the petrol pump. I was in the middle lane, and I swerved to the left, without much warning. It was a move I shouldn’t have made. I realised my mistake. Because of me, a bus in the left lane had to brake suddenly. I saw the driver get out angrily. I was just about to step out to apologize. But before I could, the driver who was about to reach my car, saw me. He let out a small laugh and told the conductor who was following him, “Samjha karo, ladki hai.” (We need to understand, it is a girl). He didn’t even wait for my apology, and climbed back into the bus.

Me? I was left feeling very insulted, and very angry, for further having maligned women drivers. I would rather face the bus driver’s rage, like any man would have to. I would rather apologise for the mistake I made. Instead of allowing this bias to seep deeper. I mean, how many times in a day do I see men driving stupidly? Men changing lanes erratically, without any warning, all along relying on my reflexes to brake suddenly? But the one time I do it, it gets written off as ‘typical female driving’? 

I do keep coming across women drivers who are not confident about their driving skills. This, despite them being good drivers. They just don’t have faith in their abilities. I think we as a society love to feed this idea to women. They are conditioned into believing they can’t drive well. And this lack of confidence can seriously hamper your ability to drive. It is sad.

Two days ago, I came across this article. It spoke about how a lot of fast selling small cars in India are not safe enough. In response, the Volkswagen representative said they understand the need for more safety features because of factors like increasing driving speeds, more women drivers, longer driving time and a younger driver. The separate mention of women drivers and younger drivers left a bitter taste in my mouth. What are they telling us really? That we need more safety features because more women drive? What does that imply? And this bias in an official statement? Also, why mention a ‘younger’ driver? Young drivers do not necessarily mean reckless drivers. Young might mean less experienced, but I can tell you, skill and experience do not always go hand. 

As usual, when I discussed this with a friend, I was accused of being oversensitive. I shared the link with IHM. She is somebody I have always looked up to. And she shared it on her blog. Calling me insensitive is a classic case of victim blaming. The statement by the VW rep was a very poorly worded one, with only one implication. I wonder why people believe I don’t have a reason to feel offended. If I choose to not raise my voice and remain silent, am I not doing my bit in strengthening this bias?

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15 Responses to “Driving and women”

  1. Smitha said

    Pepper, Totally with you on this. It annoys me so much when I see such generalizations. And sadly I find that for some reason men assume they are great drivers, just because of the societal expectations and vice versa for women. I’ve seen both great men and women drivers as well as horrible ones on both sides. And that VW statement just takes the cake! I am bristling reading it. I’m am surprised that they allowed such a sexist statement to be released.

  2. pepper you were absolutely right about raising your voice. I do not drive but I see around how people behave with women drivers.. such bull crap …do you have any idea? can this complaint be forwarded anyway to the car company through mail or something ??

  3. Personally, I believe that the statement about women drivers being bad, is just as stereotypical and nonsensical as saying that all men are flirts, or unfaithful. Yes, as ridiculous as that. And hence, I choose to react to both statement with the same sentiment, one of “I dont give a damn’. Unless it is to do with some humor though, stereotypes make the best jokes 🙂
    I wouldn’t call you oversensitive. But I wouldn’t care really myself, because the world is full of judgements like this .

    • Pepper said

      I love how you calmly you say you wouldn’t care about such judgments, I really do. I wish I could be like that, because like you say, this world is full of judgments like this. But no, each time I see some thing unfair or wrong happening, I start feeling extremely angry and have this burning urge in me to do something about it. If I let it stay without doing anything, I feel uneasy and even more angry with myself. So if I hear a statement like ‘All men are flirts’ I will argue with the idiots who say it till they tear their hair apart. My attitude is such not just for judgments, but every little action too. For example, I can’t turn a blind eye to somebody who spits on the road. Most people just roll their eyes or glare at the offender. I have actually stopped driving on witnessing such sights, stepped out of my car and walked up to the person to tell him I think he is doing wrong. I even explain why it is wrong. Heck, even if the ‘wrong’ doesn’t concern me, and If I see some random stranger being unfairly accused, I butt in and make sure I support the side that is right. All of it takes a toll on me and I find myself angry a lot. All because of the idiots around me. I think your comment has prompted another post from me on this issue..

      • With all due respect, I disagree with the comparison. A person spitting on the road, is not the same as someone making mornic stereotypical statements. The former is basically screwing up the environment I live in, my child lives in. And turning a blind eye to that is not right. I have been mad enough to do something as filmy as return a bottle chucked out by a car like in an ad! 🙂
        Anyway, you might say, comments and judgments like this are also screwing up the world we live in in terms of the thinking etc. But there is a need to prioritise where you want to focus your energy on. I would rather do it where there is material change. And material impact. The statement by thw VW guy. What did it do? Prove him to be someone who stereotypes? Give a few laughs to men who believe the same about women drivers? And rile up someone who took it personally. What else? Will it change the attitude of someone who doesn’t believe in the point? No. if it does, trust me, the person in question’s opinion is not worth it.
        The men will be men ad by seagram’s. Basically says all men are happy when left alone w/o their wives. Or all men forget anniversaries. It is a joke. It is a stereotype being exagerated. It’s fun. Will it sell more seagram’s? Er, I dont think so. Will it make all women believe their husbands like it when they go away? NO!
        It is good to support right against wrong. It is serving a purpose. To frustrate yourself by statements like this? Waste of energy that can be used otherwise!

        • Pepper said

          Oye.. you missed the point of my comment. I started of by saying I like how calm you are and how I wished I could be like you. I hope you realise I genuinely meant that. Because stupid people are not worth your energy or time. My comment was NOT a justification of my actions, it was merely a confession of how stupid I find my own behavior. I think once you realise that, you won’t feel the need to provide those explanations that you did 🙂

          And perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my comment, which is why you don’t find the examples comparable. I told you how much I argue with people who talk nonsense and stick to stereotypes, and you said that is not the same as standing up for a cause like spitting in public places. Hmm, I may or may not agree here, but that is irrelevant. In both the cases, if I were to just argue with the idiot who stereotypes or reprimand the idiot who spits, it would be okay. But I don’t let it go there. I continue feeling furious because of the offender. I feel my heartbeat racing. I feel my blood pressure escalate. I feel my temple throbbing, and all this long after the incident is over. There is undying fire in me and so the amount of blood I burn every single day is dangerous. I was talking about the after effects of judgments and other wrongdoings and how it wrecks havoc on me. I used two different examples to state the same point – the aftereffects on me. I hope I am clearer this time and you understand what I meant now. 🙂

  4. Snow said

    I totally agree with every word you said.. Personally, I know a lot of good women drivers.. And I believe I am one of them too.. I have been driving from last 13 years. This bias that you mentioned exists so much in the society that we really need to do something about it.. The other day one girl from my group told me that despite having a licence she fears driving because people curse women drivers.. That’s so sad! 😦 I felt so helpless that day, but after reading your post I know what to do.. Thanks 🙂

  5. Arch said

    I totally agree with you on this Pepper. I hate the fact that most people pick at female drivers. There are many times my husband and brother in law have done it too. I have argued with my husband on this and eventually he had to agree to my points. I don’t understand how they talk like this when there are scores of men who drive like idiots!

  6. R's Mom said

    Okay, so I dont drive. I dont like driving. I was the one who taught my husband to drive, but I dont like driving. But I dont think this whole idea of women are bad drivers and men are good drivers really makes sense. I think when I travel I have seen equal number of male and female drivers make mistakes. Infact, if you were to take some kind of a survey, the males would score really bad, because lets face it, in India, there are more male drivers than female drivers.

    I think what VW wrote is extremely insensitive, because women drivers are not a separate species. Drivers are drivers irrespective of the fact whether they are male or female and ALL need safety. Does he mean to imply that male drivers dont need safety?? Gee, thats so biased as well no?

    You go drive, girl, so proud you drive for 2-3 hours in Bombay, I could NEVER EVER EVER do that!

    • Pepper said

      I don’t have much of a choice, RM 😦 And I am sure despite all your ‘never ever ever’s you would do it too, if you didn’t have a choice. My workplace is far from where I live. So even though I don’t drive in traffic everyday, even in a fast moving vehicle, my drive is 1 hour atleast. I’ve tried taking the bus, but it stops way too many times and goes a lot slower than my car, so I end up taking longer. The train in total also takes me 1 hour +,, door to door. I reach faster by car in non peak hours and find myself less tired than what I am after climbing on to platforms on railways stations and standing for an hour in a crowded train. So given all my options, driving is the best alternative.

  7. Reblogged this on officeofficeohlord and commented:
    Really really true…

  8. i am one contributor to the stereotype and driver without license for 8 years 😦 – the only thing to my defense is i haven’t caused an accident …yet.

    • Pepper said

      But how does driving without a license make you a contributor? You did say you’ve never caused an accident yet, right?

      • I meant the ‘yet’ as it is only a matter of time kind of yet…but i think you must be a optimist to see it as no harm done yet kind of ‘yet’

        • Pepper said

          That’s right. All of those who haven’t caused an accident can attach a ‘yet’ to our statement. It applies to everybody. 🙂
          Also, driving without a license makes you an offender. Not a contributor to the stereotype, no?

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