Earlier this week I happened to give a friend and working colleague a lift to work, after his car had broken down. While we were plodding our our way through the usual early morning traffic, he commented that I was a very patient driver because I had given way to another driver who seemed in a huge hurry. He admitted that he was not as patient and typically drove quite fast. The conversation then expanded into general driving behaviours of South African motorists and how we all are such bad drivers, breaking the rules with reckless abandon.
The reason I’m only writing about this now, is because I’ve been wondering how to approach what happened next without being or sounding sexist. You see, during our conversation, my friend enquired if I had noticed anything lately, about women drivers. Admittedly, I responded immediately that I had noticed how aggressive women drivers had become on our roads. It seems that over the last few years more (younger) women are on the road, driving their own cars. And, to my chagrin are behaving as badly and aggressively as their testosterone infused, male counterparts. Just the other day, another car driven by a young woman, almost crashed into the side of my car while attempting to change lanes, and then she gave me a terrifying stare suggesting that I was wrong to be in her driving space.
Just as I had analysed and sought to understand the behaviour of mini-bus taxi drivers, I realised that I had to do the same for women drivers. Why have women drivers suddenly become a new force to be reckoned with on our roads? Has this behaviour always been there and we have just not noticed it before? Is there a justification for this behaviour?
Well, the (many) conclusions I have come to, are in fact not surprising:
- Increasingly, women are required to work to supplement the family income in these trying times. This accounts for the increase in women drivers on the roads.
- In the modern era, women are far more independent than in previous times, and subsequently have their own careers and generate their own income. Naturally, the need arises to commute independently like men do.
- Consequently women are exposed to the same pressures as men in the workplace, and in order to compete and survive need to adjust their (normally perceived) timid behaviour accordingly. However women compete on an historically unequal footing with men which requires them to work harder. Further, women have to balance family life with work; take care of the kids, cook, clean, shop etc. This can’t be easy and probably accounts for the built-up aggression.
Personally, I don’t condone bad or aggressive behaviour on our roads, whether from men or women. We just need to understand why it exists, how it affects others, and make adjustments to correct and eradicate it. Wouldn’t the chore of having to commute daily become so much more pleasurable when all users of the road have changed their behaviours and attitudes.
Dedicated to Bernedette Muthien and all at Engender who are working towards gender equality, amongst other noble initiatives…