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Women can’t drive stereotype: is a cartoon to blame?

29.08.2017

The main priority in a woman’s life is to get married and have children. We don’t like watching sport, but only watch it for the hot athletes. We don’t care much for cars and motoring - that’s what a man does.

We definitely don’t enjoy video games and prefer to spend all our time at the mall, and we only eat salads for lunch as we’re always on a diet. Seriously? These are the stereotypes that are still roaming our passages on a daily basis.

But believe it or not, the stereotype that frustrates me the most is that women can’t drive. Even when we’re living in an era where women have participated in the biggest motorsport showcases in the world, like Formula 1, Formula E, NASCAR and currently even Moto3. Women work as professional drivers, stunt drivers, motoring journalists and even driving school instructors, yet we still can’t drive?

I’ve been doing some research on just where exactly this stereotype of women being terrible drivers originated from. My initial thought was it must have been a female driver having a bad day on the road and years later the rest of us are paying for her driving sins, or some male driver just decided women can’t drive because she wasn’t driving the way he would? This, of course, was just me speculating, nothing prepared me for the actual origins.

In September 1962, The Jetsons, an American cartoon, aired for the very first time. I need to admit that when this show debuted on local screens, my 10-year-old self would belt out the very catchy theme song. I mean, who could forget, “Meet George Jetsons, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife...” back then cartoons actually had cool theme songs.

A year after launching, the 18th episode, titled, “Jane’s Driving Lesson” aired. According to an online source, this is where the stereotype began. In the episode, Jane decides to go to driving school, which her husband advises her against. George is seen driving behind a woman who has stopped, and shouts, “Woman drivers, that’s the problem!”, and then says, “I’m so glad Jane doesn’t drive, that’s why I always find her at home where she belongs, getting my dinner”.

The instructor is terrified that a woman will be behind the wheel and wants to end the lesson after five minutes. The episode depicts women as distracted on the road, (well in this case in the air in the year 2063).

Fast forward to the end of the episode, a despondent Jane decides not to pursue driving, to her husband’s content. George then responds by saying, “Well, it’s probably better, if you don’t (drive). Driving requires a man’s skill, judgement and a man’s technical know-how.”

Watching The Jetsons as a kid, you rarely pick up on these things, although you think it's funny. But as I got older, I realised that this is reality; people are indeed saying that women can’t drive. Kids are exposed to these ideas and grow up thinking it’s the truth, and so it is passed on through the generations.

These jokes and slurs are mentioned on a daily basis, not to mention the endless memes being shared on social media of women who can’t park. No guessing who couldn’t park between two lines - “must be a woman”. Someone is driving slow on the highway, “must be a lady”. It is the Asian female who has it the worst; the Urban Dictionary even describes an Asian driver as “the reason airbags were invented” and “the stereotypical slow driver”.

Research has shown that these negative stereotypes about terrible drivers are not true. Women are safer drivers between the two sexes, why do you think women pay less for insurance? These companies have done their research and taken note. We’re the better drivers, we make less mistakes on the road, stick to the speed limit and are less likely to get involved in accidents, and for that we need some praise,  especially during Women’s Month.

Article written by Laykin Rudolph
29.08.2017
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