Gendered Driving

Gender stereotypes affect all parts of our lives. This includes unconscious biases at work, and the Hidden Curriculum at school. It even affects how we drive and where we park.

This article from the online TIME magazine reports that a Chinese mall has separate, larger parking spaces for women. These parking spaces are pink, 30 cm bigger than normal spaces, and are “respectfully reserved for women” because of a local belief that women are bad at driving. The mall managers said that they wanted to “make it easier for their female customers” by giving them extra room.

Is this sexist? Some might argue that it is sexist towards men because it gives women privilege just because of their gender. Julia Wood (2013) might argue that it is sexist towards women, because it stereotypes and treats them like children, who are “less mature, less competent, less capable, than [male] adults (p. 236)”. These large, pink parking spaces reinforce the stereotype that women are bad drivers, and that women depend on male mall managers to “protect” them.

Is it oppressive? According to Frye (2000), we would have to look at the whole social system, culture and history of China to see if this situation is a part of system of oppressing women (p 12 – 13).

What do you think?

Gender and Environmentalism

This Psychology Today blog talks about gendered attitudes about the environment. According to polls, women care more about protecting the environment than men, who are “more likely to support increased use of nuclear power and offshore oil and gas drilling (Burn, 2013).” The author says that this has to do with gender socialization, where females are “more likely to be socialized to be communal and other-centered (Burn, 2013)”. This is not saying that men don’t care about the environment, but that women are more likely to care because of the way they are socialized.

This blog is an example of gender socialization of the ego boundary. An ego boundary is how much a person separates their self and their identity from others and the rest of the world (Wood, 2013, p. 167). Females are socialized to have a more “permeable,” “thin,” or “open” identity, where their needs and interests are “interrelated” to others’ needs and interests. (Johnson, 2014; Wood, 2013, p. 167). Wood notes that this causes “women to feel responsible for others and for situations that are not of their own doing.”

In this case, Wood was talking about relationships, but ego boundaries affect a person’s worldview, too. Even though people with feminine socialization are not “responsible for” or “cause” environmental destruction or animal harm, they still feel like they need to do something. Their ego boundaries are “thin” so there is no “clear distinction” between their health and nature’s health (Wood, 2013, p. 167). Feminine people feel that all humans “are a part of nature (Burns, 2013).”


What is normal, and what is normal?


In our book, Wood (2013) discusses how some intersexed people are protesting “normalization” surgery, which makes genitals that do not conform to physical norms to be “more consistently male or female” (p. 21). “But,” Wood asks, “is it possible that intersexed people do not need to be ‘fixed’?” In other words, just because society constructs them as “abnormal”, are they in reality abnormal (Ibid, p. 21)?

Transgender people also face this controversy. There used to be a disorder called “Gender Identity Disorder.” Born females that felt like males, and born males that felt like females were diagnosed as mentally ill. Society felt that, because their physical sex did not match up with their psychological sex, then there was something wrong with their psychology. Now, as more gender identities become more accepted, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has redefined Gender Identity disorder as Gender Dysphoria Disorder, where some transgender people are mentally ill. They aren’t all  mentally ill because of their gender identity, but because of the “distress,” feeling of inappropriateness, and depression that comes from society trying to force them into their ‘Act-Like-Your-Sex’ box.

What do you think? What is normal, and what is normal (according to the culture)?