Tactical Ninja - Women drivers no survivors - what are we, 6?
Oct. 23rd, 2013
09:13 am - Women drivers no survivors - what are we, 6?
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.