Oversensitive to, ‘Increasing driving speeds, more women drivers, longer driving times and a younger driver’

Let me share this email from Pepper. Have you ever faced such accusations of being oversensitive?


 I was going through this link that talks about how most small Indian cars do not pass the safety tests conducted by international bodies. There was a section that quoted the response from the automobile representatives. Here is what the Volkswagen rep said,


“At Volkswagen, we recognise this need, given increasing driving speeds, more women drivers, longer driving times and a younger driver. Therefore, we have decided to have front dual airbags as standard on the Polo, as our continuing commitment to safer and better driving. We are the first automaker in India to do so, making the Polo the safest premium hatchback in the market today.”

I am sure you can see what bothered me. The separate mention of women drivers while talking about unsafe conditions. This angered me beyond words, especially because it comes from such a big company. What message are people supposed to take home? That women drivers are unsafe?

I scrolled through the comments, and to my dismay, realised not one person has objected to this statement about women. That made me realise how commonly accepted this notion is. To make it worse, a friend of mine accused me of being oversensitive when I discussed this with her. I am writing to you to know what you think of it..

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36 thoughts on “Oversensitive to, ‘Increasing driving speeds, more women drivers, longer driving times and a younger driver’

  1. Oh yes, I hear all the time that I’m not tolerant, or that I’m over-sensitive to issues and can’t accept jokes for being ‘just jokes’. And that I make everything a gender of feminist issue! And sometimes, to maintain my own sanity, I choose to shut up and not respond at all to such jokes or statements because I don’t have the energy to convince the other person why the joke or statement is offensive!


  2. Dear Pepper,
    I’d have to agree with your friend that you are being oversensitive. The statement from VW also mentions ‘younger driver.’ Should that cause younger drivers to object or feel offended?

    Let’s take another example – generally, men pay more for auto insurance than women. Married men pay less than single men. There are some reasons for these rates as explained by this article: http://www.autos.com/auto-insurance/car-insurance-rates-men-vs-women

    Should those with higher rates protest being categorized as higher risk drivers? No. Similarly, if women are considered less safe drivers, there is not much reason to feel offended.

    At the same time, the statement from VW could have been more diplomatically worded.


    • “higher rates protest being categorized as higher risk drivers”

      In fact, they should protest being categorized as such. You’ve exposed one of the issues with car insurance that many people have.

      And anyway–let’s use your example as well. If men pay more for auto insurance, because they’re far less safer drivers–why aren’t they the ones referenced in the ad? Why are women singled out specifically as “at risk” drivers, when this is FACTUALLY incorrect? Shouldn’t women have the right to be angry, because scientifically speaking, that preconception is wrong? Don’t women have a right to be angry, because they’re being misrepresented? When someone says that you are something that they have absolutely no factual basis for, then that’s slander, plain and simple. Sorry.


  3. My eyes POUNCED on the words “more women drivers,” in the first reading itself,
    No you are not oversensitive.
    It is most definitely a tactless statement on the part of the company.
    I am sure if the matter is taken up, mature minds within the company will admit the mistake and rectify it and may also apologise for this blunder.

    I believe the average woman drives more safely than an average man.


    • It is possible, the company will use the following “explanation” as a fig leaf.
      “We meant to show our concern for women drivers”.

      Incidentally, “younger driver” is also controversial.
      I have known careful youngsters who drove with more maturity than middle aged men. I was myself a very careful driver even in my youth.

      Only “longer driving times” and “increasing driving speeds” are valid points.
      Some one at the company’s office clearly did not do his/her homework properly.


      • I agree. I was offended when I read about the ‘young drivers’ bit too. The friend who accused me of being oversensitive said ‘young’ here equals to inexperienced. All I say is that you can be skilled without being very experienced too. And anyway, I don’t see why he would substitute ‘young’ for ‘inexperienced’ if that is what he meant. To me, it just looked like another bias that lay in his eyes.


        • This is just typical desi mentality, Pepper. If you’re young, you’re inexperienced, therefore, incapable. If you’re a woman, you’re too emotional, therefore incapable. As young women, we’re pretty damned.


      • I think if the Volkswagen rep had chosen to say ‘less experienced drivers’ it would have been a more accurate & valid statement instead of singling out ‘young’ & ‘women’.
        I certainly will not be buying a Volkswagen.


  4. I thought they meant more safety for women drivers (as in being more protective of women) which still doesn’t make sense because both men and women are equally susceptible in an unsafe car. Why wouldn’t we want to keep our men safe in their cars? Anyway you look at it, it doesn’t make sense.


  5. No, it’s not being “oversensitive”. It exposes the thought process behind the ad. What makes it worse is that those designing it might fully understand the implication, but merely went ahead with what the market dictates. After all, if you’re buying a car for your wife don’t you want to make extra sure of its safety features? /sarcasm


  6. It is a well known fact that most accidents are caused by men, even when you take ratio of number of drivers to number of accidents.

    My blood boils when I head this trope of ‘women are such bad drivers hahah’ , especially when it comes from women themselves.

    When you see bad driving, so many people, the moment they notice if it is a woman, will say ‘woman driver, hah!.’ If it is a man- it is just a bad driver. You will never hear ‘ man driver, hah’. Bad auto-drivers and taxi drivers, 100% of whom are males, are never categorised as ‘ male drivers’ even as they are given gaalis.

    So yes, this dumb stereotype exists but for an auto company to put this dumb stereotype in one’s policy statement is plain sexist and in fact, discriminatory. Let us know how can we take this issue up with Volkswagen.


  7. I always get it – ‘its just a joke’, ‘you are over sensitive’ .. blah blah.. .. what I do is basically shut up.. it takes so much energy to convince such morons.. I do not have extra system in my body to produce such energy … You are not oversensitive pepper.. and as I go through life , I realize how biases have steeped into every nook and aspect of our life… I am plain fed up and tired…


    • Phrases like, “It’s just a joke!”, or “It’s just a movie!” or “It’s just a song, get over it!” are incredibly foolish statements to make. Jokes, movies, songs, words, whatever they may be, they exist as a result of human thought and preconceptions. Nothing is every “just” a harmless statement or a word. Everything has a meaning behind it, and everyone has an obligation to think a little deeper about what those meanings are and where they come from, and how they affect other people. Things just don’t exist in a vacuum, devoid of all meaning. They’re shaped by something.


    • No, this is not a joke.
      This is a statement advertising /promoting a costly product.
      We know when something is a joke.
      The company’s official has made a mistake, no doubt about it (in my mind at least.)
      If he had mentioned some community’s name or nationality’s name instead of women drivers or young drivers, there would have been an uproar!
      He is lucky the company is VW Inida. In Germany or Europe or USA, he would have most definitely been pulled up.


  8. I call BS!
    Being a “young” & a “women” driver myself, I hear these comments all the time… I can attest that most women drivers I know drive much better, safer & faster than men drivers…
    In fact I know many couples where the man is afraid/never learnt to drive & thus depends on his wife to drive them around!
    I think instead on focusing on “young” & “women” drivers, they should take the safety of all drivers into consideration.


  9. This. Im so sick of this attitude. Too tired to argue or fight back.

    I am not a good (not comf with the wheels :D) driver. I drive only when I have to chaufer my drunk friends or in such emergency situations. But I have been riding a scooty since age 16 and a bike since 1 year.

    Harassment (comment, hooting, trying to make you fall- jokingly of course etc) while riding is almost a daily thing. But only when I ride the scooty. I have never faced any such thing while riding the pulsar because my baggy jacket, full face helmet and boots hide my gender.

    Once a hooligan on bike while riding turned back to make a pass at me. He hit the wall (becs he wasn’t looking straight and fell down. I walked towards him and cackled at the top of my voice. He looked soooo furious. I know it was immature and cruel of me to laugh at someone in pain. But I just couldn’t help it.


    • Too good that you cackled at him…I do not think he deserved anything better, to understand how insensitive he had been. May be ‘like cures like’ and it is not tit for tat. Only thing is that I am still wondering how that super-duper male ego, take this!! When men (am talking about those who do not enter the kitchen at all, except for eating of course) who have just now started cooking, make sloppy work, their expectation is that the women should appreciate them because it is not their area, and they are just doing some favour to the women. When they try a new skill they expect appreciation, but when the women try a new skill and even after she has mastered it, they stand in the way and try all ways and means to make them look like a failure. Wow…what maturity?!


  10. I don’t think the article meant that more women drivers = roads are more unsafe. More like, more women drivers = more women who need protection. It doesn’t matter what the implication though, because it’s downright insulting either way. Making cars safer shouldn’t be a priority because more women are driving, but because you should never have to fear being chucked out of your car through the windshield. That applies to both men and women. The way the article phrases it makes it seem as though women are some kind of “delicate, frail flowers”, who need special protection. Incidentally, it’s also the same phrasing that MRAs pounce upon whenever they want to discuss the “privileges” that women have in society, without realizing for a second that it’s this assumption about women being frail that cuts them off from participating in society to start with.


    • Well, I did consider the possibility of more women drivers being equal to more women who need protection. But like you said, that just doesn’t make sense. Why does gender have to even enter the picture? We just have more people buying and driving cars now than we did earlier. Why couldn’t he have said ‘an added number of drivers’ in his statement if he meant that?


  11. I agree with Volkswagen. I mean they surely must have come to the conclusion based on facts and statistics . IHM doesn’t seem to want to question Volkswagen when they mention younger drivers, longer driving times etc , so why is it that she finds the mentioning of women drivers ridiculous? Moreover, I think we all need to ask IHM to discuss serious problems like the ones that poor, rural women (90%+ women :-)) face , because a reputed blog should not cater to a tiny little minority who drive cars….


    • I guess car-insurance companies are woefully unaware of the facts and statistics which Volkswagen used to come to the ‘conclusion’–last time I checked, they did not charge female drivers any more than male ones. In fact a single male is likely to have to pay them more than a single female, because insurance companies believe that married men drive more safely than unmarried ones, while marital status apparently does not affect the driving style of women to the same degree.

      //Moreover, I think we all need to ask…//

      We all!!! Please speak only for yourself here– do not presume to speak on anybody else’s behalf, thank you! And why do some people bring up rural women every time an urban issue is being discussed–such a strawman thing, meant to deflect attention from the real issue!


    • 1. It’s not up to you or I to tell others what they should or should not blog about. If the blog owner wants, they can blog on anything from the social life of earthworms to an in depth analysis of Jackass : The Movie
      2. Volkswagen was the one who started stereotyping a “tiny little minority who drive cars”. So if you did not want to discuss about a “tiny little minority”, your ire should have actually been directed at Volkswagen
      3. If there is a systemic bias against a marginalized group, it is a cause for concern regardless of whether it is a tiny minority or huge majority
      4. http://www.statisticbrain.com/male-and-female-driving-statistics/


    • Why are “privileged” women not worthy of mention here? What makes you think that our problems are not problems at all? Or are you of the opinion that some problems are “smaller” than others and hence not worth mentioning? Do you not realize how by tackling these “Smaller” problems and tackling the prevalent mindset, you’re actually making life a lot better in the long run for poor, rural women?


  12. Some thing similar to this, is the jokes cracked against the women. Have attached the article which came in another blog. Reading both the articles and the comments under that would highlight, how there are many who say some thing against women and say that it is humour, and all should laugh at it. Similar to this we hear, stereotyped jokes of sardarji jokes and blonde jokes I sincerely feel that we can crack humour about a situation and laugh at it. But no humour should be made at the expense of another person. That shows that we are not sensitive. So when women respond to it, the men think that women are very touchy. If women start cracking such men jokes, would they still laugh at it and remain complacent?
    Pl read this article to get a better perspective of what has been told above.


  13. Pingback: Driving and women « A dash of Pepper…

  14. IHM, I don’t think you are being over-sensitive. I don’t think women drivers are any more terrible than their male counterparts. (Going to write a post on my blog on this issue)
    But I think the issue is very different from what you think it is.
    I observe while reporting the number of casualties in an accident, the number of women are listed separately as if their lives are more precious or as if a woman dying is more awful than a man dying. I think the rationale behind VW’s ad is very similar: Since more women are driving now and women’ lives are more important we incorporated Air-bags. Companies don’t care about right or wrong. They just want to sell more and that involves catering to the sensibilities of the masses.
    It is just a different kind of discrimination. And yes it’s sad.
    P.S.: The same rationale doesn’t apply to the younger driver as he/she is assumed to be inherently rash, it is actually about greater risk. Faster driving speeds, longer driving speeds are justified contributors I guess.
    P.P.S.: A lot of people may misconstrue this comment as misogynist. I am not. All women need is equality, nothing less nothing more.Deification of women essentially dehumanizes them.


  15. I think the VW fools meant more women drivers, women smaller and weaker. Like young??? I suppose hence airbags to protect them. Macho male drivers won’t get seriously injured like women??? Don’t know. Oh we’ll they make idiots in all types I guess


  16. I feel that (among the female drivers that I know) women drive slightly worse than men on average. But I feel this is because they are all rather new to driving. Men are encouraged by their families to take up driving, sometimes even mandated to drive the family scooter when they’re as young as 13 or 14. Girls aren’t exactly encouraged to do the same. Most of them started driving after they got their own vehicle, which was around the ages of 24-25.

    Another thing to consider is the definition of ‘worse’. Because these girls started driving pretty late, and after having taken the appropriate classes for it, etc, they drive according to the traffic rules. In India, however, the traffic is kinda fluid and make up their own rules as they go along – Like a swarm of bees. People who stick to the road-rules tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

    As a guy-driver who learned to drive on the streets of India, I have been annoyed many times by these women/old-men/other-sensible-men who drive conscientiously, below the speed limit, follow lane discipline, etc. However, having been forced to follow the rules, while driving in a foreign country and having begun to enjoy driving (who thought following the rules would be so fun?), driving in India suddenly seems all the more terrifying. There is more cognitive load to your brain because you have to constantly keep thinking about what the other people’s antics are going to be, instead of implicitly trusting them to follow the rules of the road.


  17. I read the line without being biased. What I inferred from that line was, in times of an accident, keeping in mind younger drivers and women drivers, they have made the cars more secure. I see the statement as just being more concerned of women’s safety. Just like in times of distress , women & children are given preference (,though I don’t know why it has been that way). I don’t see the statement tell anywhere or even mean this way that women drivers are not good…I don’t see anything negative about women drivers in that statement… But men’s lives, and whoever drives- younger or older, all lives are important and the car must be safe for all sort of drivers. Not more safe for women, less safe for men, moderate safe for someone else. Nope, in that regard, it wasn’t an appropriately crafted statement.


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