In Russia, where the number of women who drive cars is increasing, the general attitude to women drivers is still negative and sarcastic. A woman driver is a trite but still topical issue of men’s conversations.
French researcher Jean Baudrillard wrote that an auto was something more than a technique made to make our everyday life easier. We often attach too much importance to an auto’s additional functions and neglect the fact that a car is first of all a transport. These days, Russians interpret a car as the indication of a driver’s prestige. The French researcher added that an auto also implies some erotic function and is taken as a phallic symbol having some phallic function (the speed in this case). And this fact probably explains why many Russians are still negative towards female drivers.
In many cases the attitude to female drivers is governed with some objective circumstances. The Center for Social Policy and Gender Researches conducted an opinion poll among female drivers to find out why even good female drivers are still taken negatively.
The archaic notion of a woman's role as a housewife and mother only coming from traditional culture is still rather popular among Russians. In previous epochs, women riding horses were seen as mythical heroes who caused aggression and destruction. The notion echoes in the negative attitude to women drivers today.
Women who took part in the opinion poll say that men are often biased against their driving skills for no reason at all. Svetlana, 32, explains that men say women are encroaching upon their masculine realm when begin driving a car. The respondents say that women are often interpreted as having no idea of the responsibility when driving, as hesitating drivers and as ignorant of an auto’s inner mechanisms.
It is important that all female respondents of the poll agreed that a female auto must be miniature and maneuverable. Young female drivers say that big cars are not for nice blondes but rather for big and respectable men. So, what women think about a female car absolutely agrees with the image of an auto meant for women popularized by the mass media.
The Russian society usually thinks that a woman is well-off when drives a good foreign car that is probably a present of her rich husband, as they believe. Female drivers of foreign cars in Russia say that other drivers are rather decent in their attitude toward them. On the contrary, women who drive Russian cars complain about rude attitude of men drivers and traffic police toward them. And what is strange, men drivers and traffic police are aggressive toward women drivers of Russian cars as well as toward Russian cars in general.
Women take a car’s passenger compartment as their personal space and they attach much importance to the inner arrangement of their autos. According to the opinion poll, autos that are used by women purely (not by their families) contain the minimum of accessories. At that, extra mirrors are very important for female drivers (also for makeup correction). The female respondents say they need the following things in their autos: neon backlight, big-size wheels, automatic transmission, xenon headlights and conditioner.
It is quite natural that a female driver will not try to repair her car and will need services of a motor mechanic. And motor mechanics are in most cases ironic as concerning female drivers. Women say that motor mechanics can exclaim ‘Hey, it’s you again!’ each time they come to service centers which would hardly be possible in case of a male driver.
At the same time, service center mechanics classify their clients by their age, gender and make of a car. They are absolutely sure that drivers who cannot repair their autos come to service centers; people who understand what is inside of their cars never come to service centers and repair machines themselves, they state.
Men also involved into the opinion poll say that behavior of female drivers differs from that of men. Women usually want to keep a longer than necessary distance when driving, they allow other drivers leave them behind or overtake. Men admit that female drivers are unpredictable. Men are inclined to interpret female drivers as aliens on their sovereign territory.
Translated by Maria Gousseva