Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Women are 'better' drivers than men

By Luo Huilan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-15 07:53

Women are 'better' drivers than men

A female Chinese taxi driver dusts off her electric taxi at a charging station in Tongzhou District, Beijing, China, 29 September 2013. [Photo/IC]

Of late, woman drivers have been drawing increasing public attention, and given their gender bias, some people even consider woman drivers "killers behind wheels". Such people believe women are not good at driving because of their weak maneuvering ability, and their poor sense of direction is more likely to cause accidents. Little wonder, jokes ridiculing woman drivers are abundant on social networks.

According to Chinese tradition, men should work outside home and women within the confines of home. This gender bias has made some people suppose men are good at driving cars while women are not. Before cars became the preferred mode of transport for middle-class families in China, women drivers were rare on the road. Men drove not only cars, but also trains; they were also at the helm of ships and planes. Once women broke into this group, especially as car drivers, biased men took that as umbrage.

Research shows that gender differences do exist, mainly in terms of sense of space and language ability. If men in general have a better sense of space, women normally are better with languages. But that doesn't necessarily mean all women have a poor sense of space or all women are good with languages. Therefore, it is ridiculous to say that no woman is suited to driving cars.

Gender differences may have something to do with the different role expectations from boys and girls during their formative years. Action and force is regarded as masculine traits, and since driving requires maneuvering ability and presence of mind to cope with uncertainties on the road, it is seen as a man's job. In contrast, passiveness, dependence and an introvert nature are seen as feminine qualities. It is this stereotype that has deprived many women of the necessary physical ability and confidence to drive cars.

Motivation and the determination to reach a goal are essential to success. Women can become excellent drivers as long as they have the courage to challenge traditional gender roles and believe in themselves to achieve success.

In fact, given their cautious nature, women are more careful drivers than men. Statistics also show that most of the "killers behind wheels" are men.

Ironically, the media more often than not sensationalize traffic accidents involving woman drivers to grab more public attention. They usually exaggerate woman drivers' incompetence and the dangerous situations they create, while ignoring the obvious fact that a majority of the serious traffic accidents are caused by incompetent and/or reckless male drivers. The media's biased attitude has lent credence to the stereotype that "women are not good at driving", which in turn has worsened gender discrimination.

From the perspective of feminism, stigmatization of woman drivers is a reflection of the deep-rooted male-dominated culture, which has made men feel superior to women in almost all walks of life. Such prejudice not only kills women's enthusiasm to drive cars, but also belittles their social stature, which is not conducive to harmonious development of society.

But the rising number of "woman drivers" is helping break gender stereotypes and creating more opportunities for women to explore their potential in new fields, which should be seen as social progress. Therefore, it is high time that society, especially the media, eliminated gender discrimination and objectively evaluated "woman drivers".

The author is a professor of women's studies at China Women's University.

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