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Women drivers no survivors - what are we, 6? - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 23rd, 2013

09:13 am - Women drivers no survivors - what are we, 6?

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So in NZ there's an elderly rich white dude who used to be famous (for being a rich white dude) but now writes an op-ed column for one of our larger papers. His schtick is being curmudgeonly about anyone who isn't an elderly, rich, white libertarian man. Yesterday he wrote a piece about women drivers.

Yes, yes, I know. Tired, old, boring, obvious troll, running out of relevant things to say, scraping the bottom of the barrel. Etc.

However, in this column, he advocates that the police should go to the houses of women who hesitate at roundabouts and beat them, then burn their houses down. He claims that women hesitating at roundabouts lose the country a percentage of its GNP by causing 'massive pile-ups' and making everybody late for work, or something. And of course it's only women.

I am not linking the article because I don't want to give him the hits he's grasping for.


Normally I ignore this guy - he's an old fart who's struggling for relevance in a world that doesn't need him, and it's kind of like the kid at school that pulls your hair to get your attention because everyone shuns him because he's an arsehole.

Now the thing is, there are people who can make being curmudgeonly funny. This guy is not one of them. He comes across like your racist, sexist Grandad ranting impotently about whatever lesser group he feels is undermining his privilege today. Only this guy is not impotent, because he has a column in a national newspaper, and every time he does this the comments show that people are reading, and what he's saying amounts to hate speech.

Yes, hate speech. Suggesting that people are beaten and have their houses burned down for merely driving in a way that he disapproves of? Hate speech. Inciting violence toward a particular group, a group over which he has privilege, because they dare to use the roads that should be for men only.

I'm sure he would claim hyperbole for effect. Tell us to get a sense of humour, see the funny side, claim it's obvious that he doesn't really mean it, and therefore we should get over it. That kind of dismissal is one of the privileges of being rich, old, white and male apparently - the ability to say really horrible things about a marginalised group and when people object, say it was only a joke and that we're too sensitive.

But you see, it's not funny.

Back in the olden days when I was a kid, boys used to taunt girls with "Women drivers, no survivors." We were all too young to understand the implications of this, it was just something they parroted from their fathers, and they got over it by the time we were 8ish. But the seed had been planted.

Roll forward a few years to my first real boyfriend, who insisted that women rode in the back - even in my own car. I'd like to say that he didn't last very long but back then, this wasn't a dealbreaker for me because I'd also been indoctrinated to believe that men did the driving. Even though my mother did most of the driving in our home, even taught me and my brother to drive - the learning from school and wider society trumped what my folks had role modeled.

And so when I was trying to learn to back a trailer, my husband would shout at me that I was doing it wrong and then manhandle me out of the car and do it for me. I learned nothing except that I wasn't allowed to learn because I wasn't good enough. Men do trailer reversing. Note here - after I left him I practiced and practiced until I could reverse a trailer round the tanker loop both ways without fucking it up. Suck on that, arsehole.

When we were in a car together, if I was driving, he would constantly give me instructions. "Go. Go. GO!" at intersections. "Overtake this guy. Now!" That kind of thing. He would shout at me if I didn't do what he said, and then he'd assume that I was flustered because I was a woman and women are just flightly behind the wheel. And it didn't matter how many times I compared my clean, accident-free driving record to his list of drunk driving, speeding and written off vehicles, he still insisted he was the better driver because he was a man and for no other reason.

"But that's one person Tats! Not everyone's like that!" No, they aren't. Right now, I know nobody that's like that. But my social circle is a very select group of people, and I have deliberately excluded anyone with that kind of attitude from my life. They still exist though, and my life up until I was 30 has shown me that that kind of thinking is alive and well in the mainstream.

Another example, this time a bit more meta. My car. It's a medium sized car (in the US it'd be considered small). It's a Mitsubishi Galant 2L. Not huge, not tiny. I have a friend who is shorter than me, although not ridiculously small - she's over 5 foot and therefore well within the range of normal sized for a human being. However, in my car she has to put the seat right forward in order to be able to effectively operate the vehicle. That's fine, she can do that. But if she does, it makes it impossible to operate the boot lever. It won't pull up far enough to pop the boot because the seat's in the way.

To me, that's a sign that my car was designed with the idea that women do not drive. Cars are designed for the average sized.. man. Just like public seating. But that's another rant.

So what? Well, imagine yourself in that position. You're operating the boot lever and nothing's happening. The other person is waiting for the boot to pop and it's not popping. Do you assume that it's a design fault with the car, or do you assume that the person operating the lever is doing something wrong? I know which one is most likely if the person in the car is a woman. Even though operating a boot lever is not rocket science, there's a tacit assumption that she must be doing it wrong because Women. And Cars. Or something. And most folks wouldn't believe that there was a design problem until they'd checked for themself. Because the word of a woman, about cars? *ahem*

These are small examples, but they are based on the pervasive and persistent myth that women shouldn't be driving because they are somehow less competent at cars by virtue of having a vagina.

It's bullshit. Insurance companies know this. Mechanics are starting to learn it. My people, thankfully, do not have to be told it.

And yet, folks like our columnist get to spout this bullshit aggressively to the very people who will take it and use it to reinforce their backwards and oppressive views of women. I read the comments and was happy to see that the majority were people telling him what a dinosaur he is and suggesting he shut up. But there was a significant percentage who either a) had a rant about their favourite minority and blamed them instead, or b) agreed with him and told their own story of that one time a woman did something silly on the road and how that proves all women are bad drivers, no exceptions.

So there's that. And then there's New Zealand's abysmal domestic violence statistics, which demonstrate that the idea of beating women* is not outside the realms of possibility for many people. And let's not forget that bit about burning people's houses down. Not so long ago, in a small town in Missouri, a group of people burned down the house of a 14 year old girl who had been raped after she pressed charges against her attacker. It happens. People think it's ok to do this sort of thing to women who don't 'know their place'.

So don't try to tell me it's fucking joke. It's only a joke to those who are not affected by the attitudes of those who believe there's a grain of truth in it. Which in my experience is a large chunk of mainstream NZ.

And as alphamatrix pointed out, even though opinion pieces are exempt from the hate speech clause in the Human Rights Act, at what point does this sort of thing make you complicit in discrimination?

* I would like to acknowledge here that domestic violence against men is also a very big problem in NZ. 6 men a year are killed by their partner here, and 14 women. It's not an insignificant problem, but it's outside the scope of this post which is about the problem of incitements to violence against women being ok to publish in the media.


So yeah, I complained to the paper. Apart from what I've said above, which I touched on briefly, I pointed out that such a cheap shot is an obvious troll and asked if a paper which prides itself on its journalistic reputation really wanted to be associated with such unimaginative and desperate grubbing for website hits.

And the 12-year-old in me wants to ring up that old fart and challenge him to a burnout, donut or parallel parking constest. Because I'd kick his rich white arse at it.

Comments:

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From:zoefruitcake
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
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Hopefully you won't be the only person to complain to the newspaper.
I worked for 10 years in a technical library for an automotive company, so I know a fair amount about cars. I used to enjoy dropping opinions about regenerative braking or fuel cells into conversation, but in the end there was no real fun in it. I just stay silent and smile when they are wrong
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:45 pm (UTC)
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I know of at least 2 other people who complained, so hopefully something will come of it.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I might have contacted the Honours Unit too.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
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Oh, right. You linked me to the rape apology one, but I've found the challenge now.

Here it is, for the interested: http://dianerevoluta.tumblr.com/post/64739327241/bob-jones-i-challenge-you-to-a-park-off

I feel like challenging her, now. But I'd have to be able to use her car, or her mine.
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From:riath
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Gah, there is nothing worse than having the phrase "just get over it" flung at you when you're rightly pissed off over something. It's just an attempt at dismissing and derailing what you're trying to say and it's obnoxious.

I want that women and cars sexist BS to die. My husband I like old cars and we like to do as much as we can ourselves. One of our old car (now sold on) had textured bumpers and obviously we can't do the paint work on that, so when they needed doing we took them off and took them to a professional paint place, who quoted us £60 for the work and swore up and down that he could do the texturing. Get them back two weeks later, paint is smooth as smooth can be instead of the texturing he said he'd do and he tried to charge us £100. I argued over that and made a remark that if he wasn't going to do the texturing, I may as well have done it myself at home for half the price. He got shirty over that, turned to my husband and nastily told him "I don't think your young lady understands what goes into cars and paintwork." Well F U too mate! I found out later he went bankrupt twice, so karma bit him in the arse.

That bloke who wrote the article is a sad old git who is pissed over his perceived loss of privilege. Trouble is, as you rightly pointed out, is that he has an enormous amount of privilege and he's wielding it like a sledgehammer. The thing with patriarchy is that it's not always obvious, it's subtle, insidious and it creeps into speech and thought and many people think nothing of it. And then when women kick up a fuss, you end up with snotty comments about 'making a big deal out of nothing', 'get over it', 'it's only a joke, get a sense of humour'.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that guy sounds like a piece of work. "Your young lady?" I hope your husband set him straight.

It kind of annoys me that women can say "X" over and over again and nobody believes us, and then a man comes along and says "Well actually, X" and it's like people are hearing it for the first time. But at the same time it's kind of satisfying to be validates.
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From:riath
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh yeah, he was a piece of work. We found out from the local classic car mechanic that he was pretty shitty to a lot of his customers. No wonder he went out of business. It was actually me that set him straight though, I got on his case about speaking over me like I was an idiot. My husband backed me every bit of the way though!

I know right? I'm glad more and more men are sticking up for women and getting on board with equality but why does it always seem to have to come from them before other people finally get the idea? And women are standing off the side, saying "I've been saying that for years, what the hell?"
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From:malchienne
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
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brava on writing the editor. I guess I shouldn't be amazed at how your ex treated you, but I confess I am. Just today I almost wrote a post about how on the very same shopping trip I had 3 separate semi-incidents at stop signs, in each case the driver blew off the stop in different ways. one was a classic non-yield, non-stop right turn when I was already coming thru the intersection. another where the guy was actually apologetic, he followed the previous car thru the intersection not realizing I was even there and in the middle of my turn.

If I'd been blamed for an accident, had one happened, because I'm a woman - even though I had done full stops, had signals on etc. I'd be furious. a culture that ignores rules for pat answers about minorities is messed up.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 08:43 pm (UTC)
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My ex was a special sort of dropkick. It took me a long time to get over berating myself for my poor taste. The short version is he was abusive. The long version comes out in the occasional post that usually contains trigger warnings.

My partner pulled up some statistics yesterday that show that more men are involved in accidents, and more men cause accidents in cars. So the women driving thing is pure, unadulterated bullshit.

I'd be able to shrug it off as such if so many idiots didn't believe it.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 22nd, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
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My understanding is you have to wait 10 days, but yeah. I have every intention of escalating it too. I'm done with his shit.
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From:changeofthemoon
Date:October 23rd, 2013 12:38 am (UTC)
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Ugh it's really depressing that they printed the piece, not to mention all the other cultural and design issues you mentioned. I just learned how to drive this year at 29 and I swear it almost ended my relationship because it caused so much drama to try to get my husband to teach me. He's not generally bossy, but driving just brought out the worst in both of us I think.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 23rd, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
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Congrats to you both on getting through it. I think the teaching/learning dynamic can be really fraught when people know each other and are close. Moreso than with strangers IMO.

And yeah, whatever editor let that through should be ashamed of themself.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:October 23rd, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
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*sigh*

If you look at the actual statistics the women driver thing is complete bullshit.

Nothing but male privilege feeling threatened,

New day, same old sexist bullshit,
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From:tatjna
Date:October 23rd, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
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Yep. It gets old, but I feel like if we don't stop fighting it, it'll take over again.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:October 23rd, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
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Oh don't get me wrong, so pleased you made a complaint. Arsehole needs telling.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:October 23rd, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
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Something to cheer you up.

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From:helianthas
Date:October 23rd, 2013 05:23 am (UTC)
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That guy's Column is totally uncalled for, glad you wrote. </p>

I'm 5' even which is ALSO perfectly normal (if small) for a human and there are many cars I can't even reach the pedals on. When I drove ford broncos for work, I had to carry cushions or reams of paper with me to sit on. Talk about a vehicle without the full demographic in mind...

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From:meathiel
Date:October 23rd, 2013 07:10 am (UTC)
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My Dad does the telling me how to drive thing as well - he does it worse with my Mum, though, as he knows I'd throw him out of the car sooner or later.

That guy who wrote the column sounds like a complete a***hole - excuse my language!

We had some discussion on the radio yesterday if everybody over 80 should have to give back their license ... *head desk* ... because there's been a few accidents with elderly drivers lately.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:October 23rd, 2013 07:29 am (UTC)
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Send him the article about the white rich old man who just ran over a mother and her two children on a parking lot in Germany. That should compensate for a few women holding up traffic but not killing anyone in the process.

Also: jerk!

Also... when I had my first car, it had a sign on the passenger side: "Seat belt, fag out, shut up". Up to today if J tries to give me orders, he gets The Eyeball and occasionally the question if he'd prefer to be let out at the next parking lot. I should add that J is normally a good passenger and not criticizing very much. He occasionally shouts a warning when he thinks I haven't seen the other car, but I'm ok with that.

Good job backing up a trailer. Woah. I always admire people driving large lorries and backing them up around corners and some such. It'd scare me to death.

Edited at 2013-10-23 07:36 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 23rd, 2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
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I am in awe of the people who drive those double-articulated road trains in outback Australia. I wouldn't even know where to start getting my head around reversing those!
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From:crsg
Date:October 23rd, 2013 07:29 am (UTC)
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I often feel like I'm 'letting the team down' because I know I'm really not good at driving (I've never enjoyed it, even though I've never caused or even been in an accident), and I'm also not good at the things that are supposedly 'typical' for women like reading maps and DIY work. So despite the fact that I get angry when I'm told that I'm a 'typical woman' by guys when they learn these things about me - because I know so many women are in fact brilliant at all of the above - I feel like I have no solid defense, and am probably perceived as just being touchy rather than correct whenever I argue the point.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 23rd, 2013 08:31 am (UTC)
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You have every right to be touchy when someone calls you a 'typical woman' in a derogatory fashion. It's intended as an insult not only to you but to all women - as if being a woman is somehow a bad thing. And people who do that are arseholes regardless of how good you are (or not) at driving.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 23rd, 2013 10:14 am (UTC)
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having a g/f who was followed to her home, onto her property, by a guy who was screaming at her because she was hesitating too much at the intersection back down the road, I fully endorse calling this shit out as hate speech and incitement to violence.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 23rd, 2013 10:20 am (UTC)
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i would similarly be against it had this not been the case, but it has a more visceral feel to it, i can just see it is real.

bob jones is and always has been a nasty prick who enjoys inflicting torment on people.

trolling just shows somebody up for enjoying causing distress. this is beyond that: it is incitement, it is perhaps masquerading as humour but that's an old worn-out excuse. like bob jones.



Edited at 2013-10-23 10:21 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 23rd, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Wow. That takes entitlement to a whole new level. Folks should be arrested for that kind of behaviour.
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 24th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC)
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And this showed up on Stuff today....

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/9320811/Husband-runs-over-wife-in-4WD-accident
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