Move over lady and let him rev the engine

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

Many thanks to Google images

Many thanks to Google images


3 thoughts on “Move over lady and let him rev the engine

  1. On a pseudo-related note, I always found it interesting that women have lower car insurance rates because we're less likely to crash. What's up with that?

    I can't tell you how many women-can't-drive jokes I've heard over the years, especially when I've been that woman driving. Ridiculous.

    Nice post, Lily.

  2. When you say, “gender norms are instilled early,” does that mean that your dad usually drove?

    Growing up, I always assumed dad did most of the driving becuase mom used to hit things (usually stationary things). Dad got lots of speeding tickets, and as such had MUCH higher insurance rates, but mom would break tail lights, crack bumpers, scuff paint and ding fenders.

    I would be awesome to see the insurance rate data controlled for the fact that men drive more. I wonder how much higher the rates are per mile driven.

  3. I simply hate driving my car. I idiotically purchased a standard, thinking it would be fun to control all aspects of the vehicle. Maybe it was me, hanging around guys who were into cars too much, and wanting to be on the same plane. Or maybe it was that I was tired of owning automatics. What I can say for sure is that after living in Austin, where what should be a five-minute drive is extended to 45 minutes because half of UT's 50,000 students are all tired of being on campus at the same time, my next car will be an automatic. I'm sick of sore calves and brain drain.
    If a man wants to drive my car, and he's competent, he can take the keys…as long as he doesn't make a switchblade joke when he gets them.

Leave a Reply