Do Women Take the Backseat to Men?
It was no big surprise to me that men spend more time behind the wheel when a couple rides together. My suspicion was confirmed by independent data (see here). And you, the readers, chipped in: 227 of you reported that the man drives more in your relationship vs. only 67 who said the woman does.
In the last couple of posts, I’ve reported some of your reasons for why this is. They ran from the trivial (it’s hard to work the pedals in heels); to the familial (women are more likely to have to care for kids in the backseat); to the cultural (TV ads show men doing the driving); to the criminal (men hold their liquor better).
Many might have expected to hear a narrative about dominating men imposing their will on the auto and its helpless occupants. Last time, I reported that some of you think this way.
But the big surprise is that this is a distinctly minority opinion. Instead, in relationships where the man drives more, 113 of you said this was due to the woman’s preference, while only 43 said it was the choice of the man.
If we’re out to oppress, guys, we’re doing a really bad job of it.
- My husband drives more because driving is an annoying chore and I’m bright enough to let someone else do it.
- Tossing them the keys is a small investment in their stability on a matter that is rather low priority… This keeps we women solidly at the table in higher prority [sic] matters…? So don’t tell on us.
- There’s no reason to do something yourself when someone else will do it for you at no price… It’s menial labour and thus precisely the sort of thing men should do (or, more precisely, that I should never even have to consider doing). Like dealing with taking out garbage.
- I (a woman) consider myself a feminist… I consider it a luxury not to have to drive and use my fully empowered voice to request the passenger seat whenever possible.
- Dealing with the car is the only task women can delegate to a man without him complaining. Hey, don’t mess this up!
- Only the NY Times could find a way to make the fact women are good at getting men to drive them around a bad thing…
Many women reported that they prefer to relax; work their ipod; navigate; talk on the phone; read; sleep; put on makeup; control the music; play computer games; space out; birdwatch; or just look out the window and silently gloat about the cunning guile they’re employing to win the battle of the sexes.
Where does this leave us men? Stomped down under the stiletto heel of feminine oppression, that’s where. Almost twice as many men reported they drive because their wife wants them to, as opposed to because they want to themselves.
- Why is it the women being oppressed that [sic] someone else handles driving for them? Men have to be pretty wealthy or prominent to have someone do all their driving for them, women get it for free. It is a gender stereotype that works in women’s favor, which is why I presume you don’t hear much about it.
- I’ve raised the issue of feminism and insisting the man drive. It comes down to this, she wants both. Shocker. Who wouldn’t want a chauvinist, er, I mean, chauffeur.
- If the situations were reversed, I believe the headline for the article would read: “Are Men Doing Enough of the Work of Driving?” There’s always an angle that tries to paint women as victims.
- I drive because my wife makes me. Is she really oppressed if she wants to be? Can someone please tell her to be a feminist?
- If you really want to drive, speak up. I’m sure most guys would pass out from hearing that.
–Wine Country Dude
–Oppressed Male Driver
To be fair to the ladies, there does seem to be one powerful element of male insufferableness at play. Lots and lots of women reported that they prefer that the man take the wheel, but only under duress: their men are intolerable backseat drivers.
- I am a good driver (not one accident in 45 years of driving) but after too many instances of micro management (and yes, a little yelling) by my husband who is a very agressive [sic] driver (and has had a few fender benders in his day) I went on strike. I refuse to drive if he is in the car, and he would not dare to ask me to drive. Peace reigns behind the wheel.
- I always let my husband drive when we are together for the simple reason that I can’t tolerate the constant criticism of my driving when I take the wheel… Feminist? I don’t know, but time- and anxiety-sparing, definitely.
- I have had a near perfect driving record for over 30 years and I cannot begin to tell you how often men who are my passengers sit there and nag about my driving. I don’t drive fast enough, aggressively enough, slow enough, use my turn signal too often… And the gasping and handle grabbing when I hit a curve is super annoying. So, I let the bozoes [sic] drive. If it is so important to drive like a hyped up teenager, I let them do it.
- As an adult child, with a Class A commercial driver’s license and experience driving 18-wheelers and 60-foot horse vans across the country, I still get tutorials on how to operate a passenger vehicle from my dad. .. He is more critical of my driving than I am of his; ergo, he gets to drive. He is not a better driver, just a louder one.
On the other hand, although men seem to be the major offenders the phenomenon does cut both ways:
Looking back over these posts, I’d say the most surprising thing is just how complex a seemingly simple phenomenon really is. You gave a very wide variety of causes for this behavior, running the gamut from the social to the cultural to the political to the logistical to the psychological to the physical. In the end I’m not sure there is any one conclusive answer.
One burning question remains: Should we care about any of this? Or have you wasted valuable time reading these posts when you and your significant other could have been spending quality time out on the roadways making each other miserable?
- Someone has entirely too much time on their hands. Isn’t there some more constructive study that could be done than wondering how many women are being chauffered [sic] around by male chauvinist pigs?
I actually maintain that the topic is a very important one. Both the volume and passion of your comments indicates the situation definitely stirs the emotions.
And, perhaps even more importantly, I maintain that the male/female driving divide is actually an issue of life and death. More to come.