Women-Only Parking Bays: Sexism, Safety & So On…

Sexist parking bays in China have netizens all up in arms, and Automologist LING rolling her eyes. But what does women-only parking areas say about how society views the female-kind? LING tries to make some sense of it all. 

Recently, these women-only parking bays at service stations in China made headlines because of its sexist design; one and a half times wider, and marked in pink with a stiletto icon, they speak volumes about how women are still perceived—bad drivers who totter on narrow heels as they try to stumble their way in the world.

Image source: WEIBO/DONGFANG IC/SINA IMAGE via straitstimes.com

The Chinese social media site Sina Weibo exploded with angry commentators, but the manager of the highway service area said that driving skills were only part of the reason for the women-only parking bays; they are closer to the building and monitoring systems, so they are much safer. In a survey on Weibo, 63.7% of respondents said that women-only parking spaces are a good idea. Still, are the wider spaces really necessary?

This is not the first time that parking bays that assume females are unskilled drivers, who must love pink, has made the news. Remember these ones in a parking lot of a mall in Shaanxi Province?

Believe it or not, the ladies who used them were very happy with the bigger spaces and in perfect agreement that their sex were unskilled drivers.

Read also: Are These The Most Sexist Car Park Spaces Ever?

Of course, I, and many of my female peers, are able to manoeuvre our cars into the normal-sized (and even narrow) parking bays, in a single swoop, in reverse no less. I don’t even have the help of cameras or sensors; my old jalopy does not have the technology and I never got around to getting the reverse sensor fixed. I rely on good ol’ fashioned side- and rear-view mirrors, and the ‘feel’ of where my car ends and the wall begins.

Yet, I have also happily made use of the women-only parking areas designated in shopping malls across Kuala Lumpur. They are located near entrances and I feel safer (falsely?) when returning to my car alone. So, I enjoy preferential treatment in one instance, but want to be perceived as an equal in another. Even I am confused.

I had the opportunity to interview a security consultant many, many moons ago, and he gave me a few tips on staying safe when in a parking area: never withdraw money from the ATM just before going to your car; look—not just be—alert; and keep a long-range pepper spray handy (long-range because you do not want the perpetrator to come near enough to overpower you). And he also said this to me: “It’s unfortunate, but women are perceived as the weaker sex; that’s why they are preyed on.”

Perception. That’s the root of all parking problems (and then some) experienced by women.

The security guru taught me that if ever I find myself in a situation in which I have to defend myself (“Always flee, if you can”), don’t go for the balls—go for the eyes. Stick the car key or fingers into the bastard’s soft, fragile eyeballs. You see, I don’t have to be strong, tall…nor male…to be able to do that.

So, until the day that women are no longer perceived as weak and incapable, I’m afraid we’ll just have to insist on our cake, kick up a fuss when it is not the way we like it, and then eat it too.

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