Parking Spaces

FEMALE TROUBLE: China Gives Women Bigger Spaces For Parking

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Parking Spaces

It’s an old joke that women are terrible drivers, but in China, they’re taking the joke seriously. Latching on to the idea that women can’t drive, China now has extra-large parking spaces reserved for women so they don’t clip other cars while trying to park.

You’ll find these spots in service areas in the city of Hangzhou. They’re outlined in pink, of course, with an icon of a woman wearing a skirt. Insert eye roll here.

This isn’t just a courtesy like parking spaces for pregnant women outside of toy stores. They’re quite up front about trying to help women because we can’t drive.

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Service area manager Pan Tietong told the Qianjiang Evening News, “The bigger parking spaces are for women drivers whose driving skills are not superb. It’s a humane measure.” Well, gee, gosh, golly, isn’t that kind?

Michael L. Berger wrote about the stereotype of women as bad drivers in his 1986 paper, Women Drivers!: The Emergence of Folklore and Stereotypic Opinions Concerning Feminine Automotive Behavior. The stereotype started not because women were crashing into things, but because driving gave women freedoms that were unprecedented and difficult for many to accept at the time.

Berger notes that when cars were too expensive for the average family to afford and only wealthy women drove, the stereotype didn’t exist. It wasn’t until middle-class women started driving, which gave them more independence, that the stereotype developed.

It was less about actual skill and more of a “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” attitude that let the stereotype take hold. This was back in the 1910s when women had an entirely different place in our society.

It’s 2016, so China is only about 100 years off in its ideas about women drivers.

Parking spaces are the least of China’s automotive issues. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 200,000 people die in road accidents every year in China. The problem of parking lot dents and dings pales in comparison.

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These parking spaces might be sexist, but they’re not being universally reviled in China. Women’s rights activists are speaking out against the parking spaces, but a Weibo survey found that 63.7 percent of 1,700 respondents thought it was a good idea.

The reality is that there is no evidence that women are any more dangerous behind the wheel than men. Just in case you park like a girl, though, China has a pretty pink parking space just for you.

Image: Ricky Romero

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin