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Couples and Cars

Why do men do most of the driving? Recently I’ve posted articles showing that when men and women ride together the man is much more likely to be behind the wheel (see this link and this link). What do you, the readers, think about this?
Reader Sandy opined that:

I have observed that when couples or families are in a car men drive almost 100% of the time. In response and as a feminist, I decided to drive 50% of the time when my husband and I travel together in our car. We have received numerous comments from friends, always a variety of “what’s the matter with John-is he sick, a little drunk, etc?” I also have to deal with the perception that I am too domineering-really, I get sideways glances from male friends that show they think I’m some kind of weird feminist or even B…

One hundred eighty-three of you reported the man drives more in your relationship and only 51 reported the female partner does. Reader Andrew worried…

I would hate for some feminist group to use such a statistic as proof of their suffering.

If you’re out there, Andrew, you might want to hit the back button and take a look at what David Brooks had to say this week instead of reading further.

Women for too long have stood silent while men have acted inappropriately, using their size and strength as dominating force… And to those who think that this isn’t a feminist issue, you obviously haven’t experienced a lifetime of being held back because you have ovaries. I don’t plan to live my life in the passenger seat.

Even a few people who don’t have the benefit of ovaries agreed:

Men don’t want to hear it but we live in a Misogynistic [sic] society, do something about it and stop denying it.

If indeed men are indeed doing some oppressing here, why are they doing it? Plenty of you dug deep into the crevices of the male psyche and came up with subtle answers like:

Driving has become the modern day male’s equivalent to chest-beating.


I think the car is the last bastion of male dominance, When [sic] a man gets in a car with a woman, the “inner caveman” takes over.

Men are said to have a greater need for control and independence:

My two cents as a quasi-feminist: The driver is controlling the vehicle and thus is controlling the passengers as well. From a larger perspective, it is symbolic of male dominance.


Part of being a guy is just being more control-oriented-it’s the same with the TV channel-changer. They just need to flick through the channels, and they just need to drive.

f e
A male perspective:

I’d always simply assumed that the ladies allow us to drive so we can feel like we’re in charge of something vaguely important.

Mojo Bone
How do these roles develop? Some felt they are passed down from generation to generation:

I had relatively progressive parents-they told me I could do whatever I wanted as a girl-but there was still a huge difference in the kind of encouragement I received around learning to drive compared to by brother. (In fact, I’m pretty sure they actually winced when I passed by road test.) At early age [sic], boys are encouraged to play with cars and trucks and do activities that simulate driving. As parents, we’ve taken deliberate steps to shake up gender stereotypes in this area and others. Our four year old daughter is mastering a remote control helicopter and car (when I’m not trying to play with them myself), and she loves her new glow in the dark race track. Hopefully we’ll break the cycle.

On the other hand, one of my guinea pigs who read a draft of this post thought:

I found myself wondering why it is that boys like to play with cars and trucks more than girls. Any parent will tell you that this is definitely an innate preference and not socially conditioned. Little boys’ love of vehicles can’t be explained by evolutionary psychology, at least in a straightforward way. It’s obvious why young boys might be more violent/aggressive than girls, given the nature of primate social structure, but we didn’t evolve in an environment with dump trucks and sports cars. I guess they must somehow represent, in a fairly primal form, an embodiment of power and speed; hence the ability to dominate the external environment. Little girls’ mental energies by contrast are expended in mastering the social domain.

Some thought the culprit was the other institution-besides parents-that raises our children: television.

I have long been giving attention to… car commercials… It is almost always the man who is portrayed as doing the driving. Indeed, I have observed only two examples of the woman driving and the man riding-both, interestingly, from Volkswagon [sic].


Car commercials tend to target the genders differently: “boy” commercials show “men being men”-off-roading or racing along the countryside; “girl” commercials show “women being mothers”-getting groceries or ferrying kids around. That is, men tend to be having fun while driving and women tend to be doing work.

The next posts will look at some more comments, including some which really surprised me-and stood the opinion in these posts on its head. And I’ll try to answer the truly burning question here: should we care about any of this, or am I just wasting your precious time? More soon.