Belfast Telegraph

Men are all torque when they wheel out women driver myths

By Gail Walker

By now you've probably watched the latest viral YouTube hit of the woman trying to parallel park in Fitzroy Avenue in Belfast. First things first, the lads responsible for it were incredibly winning. Their commentary (complete with charming north Antrim accents) was rather droll – "Get in ye girl ye!" indeed. They were chivalrous, too, even going so far as to offer to help the woman to park. We will forgive the odd sexist remark.

And true, the woman is never going to win any driver of the year awards – no wonder she hasn't come forward despite appeals to reveal herself ... anyone would be mortified. But there has been a certain amount of smuggery over the internet sensation, as if it were proof positive of the old chauvinist claim that women aren't good drivers. Worse, they can't be.

How often have we been told that our brains simply aren't wired for the complexities of parallel parking and such like? Or that our "hormones" make us a wee bit demented behind the wheel? How often have we been reminded that "wing mirrors aren't for applying a wee bit of lipstick".

The myths about women not being great drivers abound. Only last month we had Sterling Moss opining that women didn't have the "mental aptitude" for F1. (Moss frankly admitted that while women have the physical toughness, they would just go gooey at having to concentrate for a couple of hours.)

I don't know why women get such bad Press when it comes to motoring prowess. Actually, I think I do. It's because women don't treat their cars like toys. They get us from A to B and ... erm ... have no Freudian associations for us.

Some women may like cars. They may even like driving. But they don't love cars. Not like men do anyway. Women don't tend to obsess about their cars' bodywork or go to the bother of 'pimping' their ride. No woman wastes her leisure time waxing and buffing her car – she prefers to pay a man a fiver to do that for her.

And no woman would ever talk about "taking her out for a spin". Or would ever dream of spending an evening with a boxset of The Fast & The Furious movies. I know for a fact that I have the worst space in my company car park (because I'm a woman?) but I calmly negotiate my way in and out of it every day without complaint.

Men, however, love their skill to be noticed. I once sat beside a man who reversed a car into a tight-ish space outside the Belfast Telegraph. When we walked into the building, a security man, who'd watched the manoeuvre on camera, heralded him with the words: "You can park a motor, boy." To this day, he swells with pride at the memory.

There is something primeval about the relationship between men and their metal la-hay-hay-dies. Why else the fetish clothing? All those strange gloves with holes to get a better 'grip'. All those baseball caps with 'Porsche' on them. The specialist videos.

Of course, it could be the key reason why men tend to be more wreckless. Love & Death. How profound. All that's missing are the strains of Mahler's Fifth whenever a man climbs into his car.

Quick quiz: in all the Hollywood car chase films, name one with a woman behind the wheel? Think of all the famous TV cars: Kitt in, er, Knight Rider (solo bloke behind tinted windows), the General Lee in the Dukes of Hazzard (two handsome young men sliding in the windows, ditto Starsky and Hutch), the Batmobile (need I say more?).

The myth-makers know there is just something flat out wrong with the idea of a woman locked into that kind of relationship with a motor. Because women are interlopers, spoiling the (b?)romance between a man and his car, wittering on about safety, fuel consumption and what colour they come in.

That's why some women aren't great drivers. It has nothing to do with parking, going too slow on motorways or not knowing what 'horsepower' is. It has nothing even to do with safety. As any actuary will tell you, women are safer drivers. If it now wasn't against the law, women's premiums would be cheaper. No, it's because we simply don't understand the myth of the car. We don't want to polish, stroke and gawp at it for hours. We don't get 'it'. (Phnar, phnar).

So while we can all laugh at the parallel parker of Fitzroy Avenue , let's be candid, some of the guffaws are those of fear.

And also, let us not forget, she got there in the end, under her own steam.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph