About a quarter of the way around the “Life” board game, the solo driver must pause at a mandatory red light to marry. As a kid, I distinctly remember putting my little blue lemming groom in the driver’s seat while plugging my pink one in shotgun. Why? My miniature alter ego wanted to look out the window, of course! Besides, the guy always drives.
I didn’t think anything of the social brainwashing at the heart of my innocuous driver switch-a-roo. But, as it turns out, the heroic male driver is somewhat of a phenomena. The New York Times today reports that the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey showed that, “women do indeed spend a disproportionate share of their in-car time as passengers — 29 percent. This is more than twice the share of men, who only spend 14 percent as passengers. This certainly suggests that when men and women ride together, men are behind the wheel.”
Is this a remnant from the cult of domesticity, or maybe a residual chivalrous custom? Probably so, those buggers are hard to shake. But according to sociologist Pepper Schwartz, even in self-declared feminist households, men are far more likely to drive when the couple hops in the car together. As it turns out, upper class folks spend relatively less time as passengers while immigrants, especially Hispanics, carpool more. Is driving a rich, white guy thing? No, it can’t be this easy.
Our transportation scholar and NYT reporter Eric A. Morris brilliantly points out that the gap between men and women is explained by the fact that men tend to work more hours, which in turn causes them to spend more of their in-car time driving. Morris’ post hits a PING! when he asks the question we’ve all been wondering: “is this state of affairs due to men’s preferences, women’s, or both?”
That a little feminist in training (that would be 9 year-old me) put the blue pin in the driving seat, even though the pink one was doing the job just fine, indicates that these gender norms are instilled early and instilled compulsively. I’m not gonna go to that dark place and say men’s insecure egos need coaxing only a joy stick can provide because we all know that’s not fair. And is it really that productive? Let’s just put this little driving factoid on our collective radars and think a bit more about what compels us to do the things we think we’re supposed to do