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.