When you touch on or even mention any gender related subject, such as running a motoring club for women as I do, I accept I won’t please everyone.
Maybe it’s the competitive or tribal nature of our society or inadequacies in our education system but we seem to be increasingly ruled by a politically correct agenda. One that makes judgements for us, regardless of our freedom of choice, based on often emotional and limiting views to do with equality and feminism.
I am not sure why this lobby should trump our freedom of choice as genders but anecdotal research tells me that many think equality means treating boys and girls/men and women the same.
It also seems that the word feminism has a very bad (and unfair) reputation in some male and female minds.
I now detect a new undercurrent, thought by men and women alike it seems, that women should ‘man’ up and stop (being portrayed in the media perhaps) whining and be exposed to the same criticism as men. My context here is motoring of course, where the irony of this is profound after women drivers have been the source of criticism for years…
But fair or not, it’s simply wrong to lump an entire gender into one for convenience, as age, marital status and many other factors affect our lives. To label us all as bad drivers when patently some are and most aren’t is clearly wrong. And, needless to say, despite the PC wish to treat us us all the same, women are not the same as men so this will NEVER work.
Women, families and careers
Just over 20 years ago I was a Director in a corporate world who knew she needed to be better than most men to get on in her career. So she did what it took to get to the Board and it cost her a marriage. Then came the family years, when she tried to balance a full time job, a new relationship, studying for an Executive MBA whilst looking after a step-teenager and toddler. Unsurprisingly she couldn’t do it all, her health finally suffered and one way or another this led her ie me to working for myself.
The story is much more complicated than that of course but my abiding memory is of a man who I wanted to impress at work in the early days. When he finally complimented me on some work I’d done he concluded by saying I could consider myself ‘an honorary male’. That’s when loud warning bells started to ring. Was this what I really wanted to hear? It wasn’t of course but many females seem to think they need to outbloke the guys to scale the corporate ladder.
Equal rights, equality and feminism
I never wanted to be a Queen Bee in any boardroom, I just wanted to demonstrate and flex my ability to good effect and have this recognised. But it isn’t easy being female in a male world where men set the agenda and we’re expected to follow it. This is more evident than ever in the masculine motor industry and if you don’t work in it or have experience of this, trust me, it’s different from any other environment I have known. Question the male status quo and you can be seen as tricky…
One thing my ‘honorary male’ experience instilled in me from that day onwards was a love of equal rights, equality and feminism – each of them relevant and supportive in different situations.
Let’s start with the easiest one of these. I imagine that most reasonable individuals, regardless of gender, believe in equal rights when it comes to pay, jobs, education, training, opportunities and parenting responsibilities. Now, reread this previous sentence using the word ‘feminism’ instead of ‘equal rights.’ and you have my definition of feminism. And if you think about this, it benefits men as much as women, particularly in the area of parental responsibilities. So why is feminism so maligned?
And whilst it is tempting to venture down the route that suggests equality is good for all this ignores the fact that boys and girls are as different as men and women remain in later life. Thank goodness for that! And because girls, boys, men and women aren’t the same as each other either we mustn’t try to pigeon-hole each other into ‘pink and frilly’ or ‘distinguished and mechanical’ stereotypes either.
Let us be who we are, not what others think we should be…
The PC lobby
I was reminded about all this when I posted some Government stats about women being the safer motoring gender (ratio of young men:women drivers causing death or serious accidents 2:1 in 2013) in this comments section. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11317822/Government-drink-driving-ads-must-show-women-behind-the-wheel.html
It appears to some that if you stick up for your gender, you are to be dismissed as suffering from misandry or misogyny. And that if you don’t stick up for your gender, this is being called balanced? What utter nonsense.
What a shame it is that some men and women earnestly believe that we should all be treated the same regardless of our differences. Especially knowing the educational outcomes of teaching boys and girls separately – where the boys blossom as a result. Or where girls might choose to play with dolls not fire engines? Or boys with cars not dolls?
In short, why not let girls be girls and boys be boys or vice versa if that’s what THEY want? I don’t see the fuss here.
Gender and motoring
I was interested to read an article about this that Erin Baker wrote this weekend in The Telegraph’s Cars supplement. She acknowledges having taken an overly harsh view of ‘weak’ women drivers in a previous Womens Hour interview but now admits to having some off days herself in this respect.
Welcome to the female motoring world Erin where honesty is what women usually do best. I’m not saying that women have weaknesses thrust upon them that men don’t but it’s my experience that being a new mum, bereaved, divorced, or involved in an accident or road rage incident undoubtedly affects confidence levels when driving. And if this isn’t a gender issue, then women seem more likely to admit to this than men.
Wasn’t it just recently that a women was killed in a car park in this country because a male motorist literally fought her for a car park space?
I’d much prefer us to take the heat out of gender-based debates to do with motoring and have a truce based on facts and some degree of mutual compassion even.
Let’s start by admitting that some women are better drivers than men and vice versa… That’s fair and balanced isn’t it?
Then let’s get this in proportion. Yes an increasing number of women are committing offences, causing accidents and drinking and driving but there are still more men than women doing this (and the numbers/mileage covered is getting ever closer…).
Why not name and shame the bad motorists in future? Our local police told our local newspaper about a lady that was prosecuted for drink driving, for example?
But let’s remember that the motor industry is one of the last male bastions in many female minds, deterring women from being the regular customers and employees our garages and car dealers need.
It’s simply wrong that so many females still feel the need to take a man with them to haggle a deal for a new car. Or that so many of us still feel the need to ask a man to test drive a car for us or take it to the garage instead of us?
Yes you could tell women to ‘man’ up but the industry as as much to blame for not being more female friendly here..
And with the number of women drivers about to exceed the number of men on UK roads (in 2-3 years they say), this is surely a wake up call for this industry to respond to the female business case?
After all, we’re increasingly wealthy, independent and demanding ie it isn’t just me that expects higher standards in terms of quality, value, cleanliness and customer services (than many garages and car dealers offer).
Making a female motoring choice
“By walking the female [business] path you end up making things better for women AND men.” Paco Underhill, author of ‘What Women Want’ 2010
If some women want to save money, be better informed about their motoring choices and enjoy access to cheaper car insurance and cars as well as friendly support services (which FOXY Lady Drivers Club offer in terms of driver training, ongoing practical advice and women’s garage evenings) surely they should be able to enjoy this without being made to feel weak or inferior in any way?
But if this approach doesn’t appeal to you (maybe you think that better rates and a helping hand for women drivers are patronising gestures in some way) rest assured you don’t have to join FOXY Lady Drivers Club! Although if you did, you could help me do a better job for other females by sharing/contributing your know how to mutual female benefit*.
In short, please have a heart when it comes to women drivers in the year ahead. We’re doing our best to make things better in motoring circles for females – as I see it, male motorists will then benefit from our raising the quality and services bar for all!
*Providing you NEVER take a stance that rubbishes women drivers un-specifically (yes some deserve reprimanding as do some men but let’s be specific not emotional) or unfairly. That is my unspoken rule – to encourage women towards being better drivers by using the carrot not the stick approach.