Riding in Cars and Boys

I made a quiet observation today. It’s probably not earth-shattering, but it was interesting to me because I hadn’t ever exactly acknowledged it before. In all my years of being a Self-proclaimed Strident Feminist, I had somehow glossed over this particular angle. And it’s this: Men in cars are aggressive to women in cars. 

Sounds simple, even obvious. Doesn’t it? But after an aggressive move by a Man In A Car (I’ll call it a MIAC just for simplicity’s sake) yesterday and then another today, I was sort of primed to note them. And then I thought about it, the aggressiveness of MIACs. And I wondered–is their aggression unequally directed at women, rather than other men? Or at least, at assumed women (both of the situations I’m thinking of involved men in a Typical Manly Vehicle–a jeep and a truck–and me in the minivan).

So here’s what happened. Yesterday, I was driving home by way of a road near my home. It’s a two-way street, one that has cars parked on both sides. It’s a slow-moving sort of street because of the parked cars and because there’s not too much room between stop signs. So yesterday, when I got to the stretch of road where cars are usually parked, a jeep (wrangler) was coming the other way. No biggie–there’s plenty of room for his jeep and my minivan between the parked cars. Except as we passed each other, he hung his hand out the window and flicked me off. 

Usually that kind of thing would piss me off. But yesterday, I somehow didn’t let it. I even watched him in my rearview mirror as he pulled into his driveway (ostensibly, on the same street!) and didn’t give in to the gentle temptation to follow and confront him. Who cares? It was a stupid thing to get angry over.

But I thought about it a bit more as I turned down my road, how this unwarranted aggression is part of driving around. And I wondered if women get more of it than men do. I mean, in this particular case we were fairly equidistant from the “middle” of the parked car area–it’s not like he was halfway through and then I gunned it to meet him in the middle. But for some reason, his assumption is that I should pull over and demure to him, Mister Manly Driver Guy in his Frat Boy Vehicle. (Nevermind that there’s room for both of us in any case.) Would he have flicked off another man, driving in a big SUV? Or a sports car? Or a crappy old lowrider Acura?

Cut to today. As I was leaving the dermatologist’s office, I was navigating the winding, low-ceilinged parking garage when I accidentally drove behind a guy in a truck who was just staring to back up. Now, this was my bad. Totally. But it wasn’t intentional or even that I wasn’t paying enough attention–it was just a matter of the angle of the drive and the tightness of the parking garage. But he flapped his arm at me in an aggressive “WHAT THE FUCK?!” move. 

Not a big deal out of context, I guess. I mean, I’m not exactly going to be shitting my pants over it and feeling scarred. But his attitude, to me, speaks volumes about gender and control. His assumption that I was either a stupid woman driver or a selfish bitch is part of that. And neither was true–and I even shrugged in the apologetic way you utilize in these situations. “Sorry! Totally my bad!”

But it still happens. And now that I’m seeing it, I’ll probably always see it. Men and their “get out of my way, small stupid woman! I want something!!” attitudes are everywhere, including in cars.

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