A skill that favours no gender

August 15, 2021

The assumption that women are bad drivers is rooted in misogyny

A skill that favours no gender

I am sitting in a room in a little town in Gujrat. The lingering coolness of the air conditioner is retained in this room that is occupied by men alone. The women sit outside, in the veranda.

I do not care for gendered segregation any longer; certainly, not at family gatherings. I know these men, they are family. I refuse to give up my comfort for theirs. I sit in a room that is still cool on an August afternoon.

The conversation is light. They share anecdotes about their adolescence, reminisce over days long gone by. Then, one of them cracks a joke about women being bad drivers. Then another one follows. If a man turns the right indicator on, he will turn right, but if a woman turns the right indicator on, she could still go left or right. Laughter ensues.

I leave the room.

The assumption that women are bad drivers is rooted in misogyny. It is another way of oppressing women. If a man has an accident, it is because of the circumstances. But if a woman has an accident, it is because she is a woman. Women are inherently bad drivers or, is it the gendered road that favours men over women?

A woman’s mobility is restricted in a way a man’s is not. It is common for parents to let their teenage sons take cars out on their own before they have even earned their licenses. Women often learn to drive much later than men — often only when it becomes a necessity. They familiarise themselves with the road much later than men.

The act of driving on the road is more than mere driving for a lot of women. While it is a necessity for most, for others it’s a way to claim mobility that they were denied all their lives. While they do this, they are also subjected to the male gaze, the onlookers and the impatient honkers who get offended at the very sight of a woman driving. If you see a nervous, cautious woman driving on the road, there is more to her experience that is often overlooked.

A friend told me that when she was learning to drive her father would instruct her once; the second time he would scold her. It made her nervous to continue to ask him questions.

Is it really the women that are bad drivers? How often do you see women get violent and aggressive on the road? Another friend of mine was followed by a stranger all the way from Johar Town to Gulberg. She told me she did not use the indicators for weeks after that incident. Surely, that qualifies as dangerous, bad driving?

Women are not inherently bad drivers. Likewise, men are not inherently good drivers. Driving is a skill that favours no gender above the other. It is the patriarchal society that propagates misogynistic ideas against women, women who have probably put up fights to claim their space on the road. So, the next time you see a woman driving, do not expect her to make way for you.

I walk out of the room because this man fails to recognise the irony of his joke. He does not know how to drive. I leave the room knowing that I will be the one driving all the way back to Lahore. I have consciously taught myself to steer away from the stereotypes propagated against female drivers. I know the road. I am not a bad driver.

The writer is a liberal arts student at BNU

A skill that favours no gender