Women Drivers - An Amazing lot!
It was October 2009 when I landed for the first time in Dubai and stepped out for a cab. Safety being my first concern, I looked around for my choices. I saw a pink board which said - taxi service for women driven by women. I was pleasantly surprised. For a place like the Middle East, this is a rare sight. The woman driver was in uniform with her head covered in a headgear and drove confidently through the streets. It was just another day at work for her. But it was a first for me.
Fast forward to March 2016 and there’s another lady driver to pick me up at the New York airport. This one turned out to be the fullblown version of American hospitality! She not only offered me fruits at the back seat but drove chattily all the way to my destination which was an hour away. The conversation did not take away from her ability to drive well.
These are one-off situations that I come back dazzled from. I have always looked upon women who can drive with great awe and respect. To be able to control an automobile and glide through crowded streets is a pretty powerful thing. I have tried multiple times and finally gave up on acquiring that power enough to actually drive!
Women drivers is a special term even in the 21st century since it’s still not common place, at least professionally. I think that is because driving has been considered the male bastion for ages. There’s something macho about being a good driver and hence women who drive become masculine. In fact, Yoann Demoli, a specialist in sociology of automotives, points out the gender politics in cars where lighter and environment friendly cars are considered feminine. Most cars for women are generally marketed as family cars, enabling them to run errands or pick up kids from school. And women with driving licenses is only a (fairly) recent phenomenon.
Despite all the manly associations with cars, the good news is that women drivers are fast catching up. I asked women on Twitter on how they feel about being able to or not being able to drive. The ones who do, feel liberated and independent. To some, it comes as second nature since they have been driving for decades. One of them who doesn’t described the feeling as ‘lousy’. It is quite evident that driving for women is a confidence boosting exercise.
But it’s no longer just about driving one’s own car. Professional women drivers are also on the rise. What lends credence to these happy tidings is initiatives like Azad Foundation who have pioneered the Women on Wheels program. They train women to become professional drivers and impart not just driving skills but also provide practical knowledge on maintenance like changing flat tires. Another noteworthy project that not many of us know of is Shetaxi - a 24/7 taxi service in Kerala. I think with these initiatives in place, the term women drivers will soon change to just drivers.
I feel that is a very positive change not just for women but also for the society as a whole. More women drivers straight away hacks at the stereotype that women are bad drivers and men, by default, can be professional drivers. More the women who drive, the more it paves way for the conservative mindset to change. Training women to take up driving as a profession not just empowers them but also makes them economically independent. With more women behind the wheels, traveling at night will be safer for women. Since women are better drivers, it is going to be better for everyone on the roads to have them as co-travelers.
With so many positives to more women taking to driving - professionally and otherwise, I think this trend should be encouraged. It’s time to put an end to barbs about women being bad drivers and laud them for taking up driving.