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Misogyny, Motors and Mechanics

Dear, oh, dear… do I detect a slight note of misogyny in my fellow blogger’s post “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (a title that, incidentally, Ray Bradbury nicked from Shakespeare’s Macbeth)?  The first example is a female P-plater, there’s references to a granny driver and there’s a photo of a woman who doesn’t look that old in this complaint about bad driving.

I have absolutely no complaints about the actual examples of bad driving.  And it may be pure coincidence that the bad driver first mentioned happened to be female.  However, there is a long tradition in motoring of misogyny and general sneering at woman drivers.  Whether it’s the advertising tradition of putting bikini babes on the bonnets of cars for sale, car racing games that assume that the player is a bloke or comments like “driving like a grandmother” or calling a particularly sizzling sports car a “chick magnet”, it’s been going on for a long time and does make things a tad more difficult if you’re female and a driver.  Even those “pink parks for women only” that have appeared in some parts of the world are patronizing and annoying.

You’ve also got the whole “women aren’t good with machinery and don’t know anything” attitude that can be taken by mechanics.  This is best exemplified by what cropped up when I was trying to find an image for an earlier post of mine about women doing car repairs.  The vast majority of images that Google popped up for me either showed a woman staring at an open bonnet looking helpless and hopeless, or else it showed some cheesecake babe bending over the bonnet (or lying on her back showing only a pair of trim bare legs) with sexily smeared grease on her face, skimpy shorts and a crop top.  There are a few that do show women trying to look moderately competent but these are so obviously posed – you’re not going to make me believe that anybody is going to wear a long-sleeved white top to tinker about under the bonnet or wear a swishy skirt, dangly hair or high heels.


Here’s hoping that the only reason why she looks horrified is because she’s got to do roadside repairs while wearing white rather than because she doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Hooray - there are some decent and realistic images out there!

Hooray – there are some decent and realistic images out there!


Yes, I always wear a short skirt and high heels to fix my car, and my skirt’s not going to ride up AT ALL.

Long loose hair, crop top, short shorts... and not a spanner in sight.  The perfect outfit for repairing cars.

Long loose hair, crop top, short shorts… and not a spanner in sight. The perfect outfit for repairing cars.

It gets worse than just popular images, too.  Fortunately, it hasn’t happened to me, but you hear stories about mechanics charging women more than men for work done or giving poorer service.  You also get the impression that women don’t exist if you go into your typical automotive supply shops – a patronizing “well, your husband would probably prefer this for his car” sort of attitude.  Hello?  There are a lot of single, divorced and widowed women out there who have their own cars, thank you very much.  And even the ones who do have a bloke of their own may be doing their own car maintenance.  In some households, it may be the woman’s responsibility (or just her turn) to take the car in for a service.

Anybody can have a rant – and you’re more than welcome to tell your stories about what it’s like to be a woman taking a car into the mechanics’ – but it’s something else to actually do something about the situation.  So, if you’re a woman, here’s some actions you can take:

  • Educate yourself.  You are less likely to be ripped off by a mechanic if you show that you know something about what you’re talking about.  For example, don’t say that “it’s making funny noises” or “this little red light keeps coming on”. Instead, try something specific – “the cam belt needs replacing,” “it’s due for a service,” and “the automatic transmission needs flushing”.  Also learn a bit of the technical lingo so you know what your mechanic is talking about.
  • Learn how to do your own repairs and maintenance.  This doesn’t require Y chromosomes or testosterone.
  • Drive properly (everybody should do this – male and female).
  • Be prepared to walk away from any mechanic who is patronizing, rude or who tries to bamboozle you.
  • Don’t just put up with things.   Ask the mechanic to explain technical lingo and try to look interested.  Complain to the management (or walk away) if there’s visible in-your-face pinups or porn where customers can see it (this includes the customer loo).  If you’ve got the kids, ask for something that they can do while you’re waiting and/or a place to change nappies.  Send back freebie calendars with “bonnet babes”.

Here’s to a world where the difference between good drivers and bad, or between car nuts and those who are ho-hum doesn’t depend on gender!

Happy driving,



  1. Dave Conole says:

    I can assure my fellow writer that no misogyny was intended nor should any inference that women, solely, are crap drivers be taken. Those two examples were used because they both happened within a short space of time. The fact the drivers were female is coincidental. The picture of the elderly woman was used because it was the first one that clearly illustrated the point at hand. If it had been a male driver, it would have been used. If the drivers of the car had been male, the point would have been the same. I’ll leave it at that.

    November 27th, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  2. Bill Buchanan says:

    That women were, and still are, patronised by (not so much mechanics these days but …) Service Centre Managers who are usually very professional and after the service may point out that the vehicle needs a few hundred or a few thousand dollars worth of essential maintenance. Most modern males know little about their cars and the numbers are getting less and less as the means of determining faults becomes more and more technical with serious skills in computer management being useful. What do you say if you are told the auto-gearbox oils is badly aerated and needs replacing? Or, that the movable throttle components are gummed up and need cleaning? Or, that (just think of an aspect of the vehicle that you can’t see and don’t know much about)

    November 27th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

  3. Judi says:

    So, the age-old questions again – who are the best drivers – male of female?Those under or over 30? And who are the worst – Europeans or Asians? Those under or over 30?
    Statistics can be made to support any claim, so the answer may depend on who’s asking.
    That is, it may depends on the intelligence of the claimant.
    So if you think you are smart enough to have a supportable opinion, first make some observations of your own. (But before that, a small knowledge test. What does “misogyny” really mean? and Who are you required to give way to at a roundabout?)
    OK, having passed the test, now observe other drivers.
    As you pass the vehicle of someone really annoying you or doing something stupid on the road, observe the driver.
    Notice anything???

    November 28th, 2014 at 1:25 pm

  4. Terry says:

    Maybe I wasn’t looking for it all those years ago. But when they allowed insurance companies to charge different rates because of gender, it didn’t happen immediately, but I began to notice that some ( and only some) women drivers started becoming worse.
    What made it worse still was the apparent arrogance they displayed with regard to this, an attitude that they are good drivers simply because the insurance company says their 50% of the population has less claims.
    Over the years this sort of thing seems to have diminished, maybe because we don’t see those ads anymore, so now I see bad driving about equal between genders.
    Just for the record, I am against discrimination both the ordinary kind as well as the reverse.

    November 28th, 2014 at 10:53 pm