This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

In The Driver's Seat

March 2008

Back in the days when I was a kid, there were hardly any women drivers around.
I remember once when I must have been eight or nine years old, seeing a woman behind the wheel, smiling and looking a bit embarrassed as the men stared. Of course, there were many times fewer cars on the streets in those days.
Now before I go on, I’m going to make a couple of things clear:
No, I do not think unrestricted private car ownership is a good thing – those of you who are regulars on this blog have heard me expounding on this often enough, so I don’t need to repeat the reasons.
Also, I do not share in the belief (or pretended belief) that women drivers are inferior to men. On the other hand, I think women, with their lower testosterone levels and in general greater respect for authority, are liable – once they have an equivalent amount of experience behind the wheel or handlebars – to be safer and less aggressive drivers than men, any old day of the week.
So let’s get on with what I was saying.
Nowadays, close to half the non-commercial vehicles, at least in this city, are driven by women. And not just young women either – I’ve seen sixty year olds with white hair and bifocals taking driving lessons; and, really, why not?
Today, when I saw a woman driving a carload of kids back from school (and they were in the uniform of my old school, and all of a size; they were certainly not all her kids, either) I realised again, just how empowering driving is to a woman, and on how many levels.
First, of course, it frees her directly by liberating her from the constrains of being dependent on her man for transport (assuming that no dependable and affordable public transport exists). It gives her freedom to work, freedom from being housebound, freedom to be something more than a fixture.
(And, of course, it frees men too – when their wives can drive, they don’t have to take time off from work to take them to their jobs or shopping, or to bring the kids back from school. Got that, MCPs?)  
But it frees her on another, totally different level. Back in my youth, when women never drove, the average child thought of its mother as a homebound caregiver, no more. Watching those kids sitting staring out of the window as the woman negotiated bumper-to-bumper traffic, it struck me that whatever they thought of her now, homebound caregiver isn’t the term for it.
Roll on Michaela Schumacher.

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