The Vagenda

Top Leer

Excuse me, can I park my penis here?
I drive a Porsche Boxster, a banker-mobile, a shining sleek hunk of ostentatiousness. I’m a middle class cliché on wheels. If I were a character in that exemplar of middle England, Midsomer Murders, I’d be the flash tit that speeds through quaint villages, music blaring, before being bumped off in a suitably bourgeois way. What can I say? I like the way the car corners. 
What I don’t like is the reaction my car gets from some men. They do a double take when they see that I, a woman, am driving a sports car. Then they cut me up, rev their engines, race me off lights and scream abuse. (I’ve driven my Mum’s more modest Zafira along the same roads and never experienced aggressive behaviour, so I’m confident the misogynist tirade is not linked to my grasp of the Highway Code). Men don’t see me driving a Porsche, they see me driving a giant penis. And my penis is faster and more expensive than theirs. 
Even away from the road rage, at all the suburban supper parties and organic gastropubs I hang out at, the number of inane comments my car choice generates is staggering. “Is it your husbands?” “Aren’t you scared you’ll crash a fast car like that?” “Where do you put all your suitcases when you go away?” (Clearly based on the assumption women can only travel with a 6 piece matching Louis Vuitton set of luggage, whereas a man just takes a pair of boxers and a toothbrush). And my personal favourite, from a ski instructor; “Women are frightened of speed. I bet you drive a Fiat.” 
I smell primeval boy racer bullshit. A cursory glance at car adverts sum up the gender platitudes. Men are interested in speed, freedom, and driving empty mountain ranges in moody Steve McQueen style fantasies. Women are interested in small, cute colourful cars that fit their friends, their shopping and, most importantly, their children in. Women drive kiddie-wagons. Men command machines. I can just hear the patronising voices of the Jeremy Clarkson-licking petrolheads; “You need a car to take the kids to school, Luv. And plenty of boot space for all those shoes you can’t help buying. Something small, safe, and no larger than a 1.3 engine shouldn’t flummox your limited hand-eye-coordination skills.” 
Michael Winner’s infamous Esure ‘calm down dear’ adverts show how jokes about female drivers are accepted as truth. Simultaneously confirming the standardised image of panicked irrational women drivers and providing Cameron with a condescending catch phrase to beat female MPs with. Hateful.
Brace yourself for a real shocking fact. Having a cervix is no barrier to parallel parking. Having ovaries doesn’t mean you’re only interested in the colour of a car. You can have a vagina and drive fast. 
Entrenched social stereotypes probably go some way to explaining the lack of women in professional motorsports, but things are changing. The British Women Racing Drivers Club has been promoting and supporting women in motor sports since 1962. Earlier this year Susie Wollf was appointed development driver for Williams F1 team. She has predicted that there will be a female F1 driver “within a decade”. When a woman joins the grid at the start of a race in a car and not as a bikini wearing ‘pit babe’, then finally we may be able to put the macho car hogwash to bed. Until then, for all the men shocked that a women like me owns and drives a Porsche: eat my dust. 
- AC

4 thoughts on “Top Leer

  1. In 1965 my gran started up a car parts business called ‘Speedy Spares’, she is now 80 and still owns and runs it!
    She was the first of her friends to get a driving license in the 1940s and her first car was a Lotus Elise. She told me once “All women should own a sports car at least once in their life”!
    She is pretty awesome.

  2. As a woman who has completed both a skid pan course and a stunt driver course but still had people scared to go in the car with me because I was ‘unsafe’ due to the fact that I had breasts AND a vagina and, I quote: “well, women are more dangerous drivers than men as they have slower reaction times”; I really loved and related to this article.
    Please can Liz’s gran write a piece for the Vagenda too?

  3. As a man and avid car enthusiast, I have to say I am surprised at what you’ve written. I respect women who drive well and so do most of my male friends (the remainder couldn’t care less).

    I’ve never heard anyone refer to Sabine Schmitz or Vicki Butler-Henderson with anything less than the utmost respect, Jodie Kidd is a favourite supermodel mainly because she drives fast cars well and Motorsport is one of the few sports on earth where women compete with men as equals, if they wish to do so. Even the current Star in a Reasonably Priced car leaderboard has a woman in 5th place – and I don’t remember Jeremy Clarkson ever suggesting women on his show will be slower or worse than the men in any way.

    In 2012, the stereotype of women who can’t park, have slow reactions and drive small, cute, colourful cars is actually perpetuated by women, not men. I don’t know if it’s because of indifference, convenience or something else, but as far as I am concerned, the sooner that changes, the better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>