Delighted to report that my book, Women at the Wheel, was excerpted today on the blog at Hemmings.com. In the first day, 55 people commented on the excerpt and offered personal stories about women drivers in their lives, insights into how they saw women as drivers and their relationship with cars, and reflections on the article. So pleased to have inspired such an animated conversation and appreciative of the opportunity to hear so many people reflecting on women and cars.
Hope you’d enjoy the excerpt and their comments, too!
A couple in Texas had a sticker made and mounted it on their truck. It stated,
“F‑‑K TRUMP AND F‑‑K YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” (The profanity is spelled out on the sticker.)”
Sheriff Troy Nehls sought to charge the owners of the truck and when he was thwarted on rights of free speech, he targeted the owners by digging up an outstanding warrant against the woman, and arrested her.
She, in turn, made a second sticker, to place alongside the first:
“F-CK TROY NEHLS AND F-CK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.”
In researching the history of women and cars, I found some controversies around sexualized decals/stickers, like this one that sparked debates about First Amendment rights in Great Falls, Montana:
Closer to home in the parking lot of my local PetSmart the car of an employee is adorned with this sticker:
A recent article in the Washington Post alleges that Uber prioritized profits over passenger safety, “giving perpetrators of sexual assault, sexual harassment and physical violence access to thousands of “vulnerable victims” nationwide since it launched 2010.”
The biggest crime, according to a recent lawsuit is “lax driver screening — that endangers thousands of women who use the service on a daily basis. The suit cites numerous cases of rape, violence and sexual assault– along with screening lapses in Maryland and Massachusetts — as evidence of its claim that Uber has prioritized profits over the safety of its passengers.”
To give you a sense of what they’re alleging: “In Massachusetts, more than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers failed state screening despite passing Uber and rival Lyft’s background checks, according to the suit. Among them, 1,599 had histories of violent crime and 51 were registered sex offenders, the lawsuit says.”
Advocates and international human rights groups criticized Saudi Arabia for their policy forbidding women to drive because it violated women’s basic rights. Their efforts to change the law were met with intense resistance starting in 1990. One Saudi woman recounted that “‘the mutawa (military fundamentalists) demanded that the women be beheaded,’” and their own relatives threatened them with death for the shame they brought upon their families. Stripped of their jobs and their travel papers, the government effectively detained the women, tapped their phones, and threatened their families. Over twenty years later, trying to lay claim to the freedoms promised by the “Arab Spring” that emerged in 2010 and building on the hope created in 2005 when the King of Saudi Arabia surmised that it would only be “a matter of time” before women drove, women in Saudi Arabia planned a 17 June 2011 protest. Their efforts, however, revealed no momentum for the movement, as only about 50 women reported driving with only minimal attention from the authorities. The international attention, however, continued to expose the Kingdom’s denial of human rights and they remain the only country in the world that did not allow women to drive.
Until today, as the King of Saudi Arabia has now decreed women can be at the wheel.
On William Faulkner’s birthday, thought you’d enjoy this passage from Intruder in the Dust. #williamfaulkner #birthday#womenatthewheel
“The American really loves nothing but his automobile: not his wife his child nor his country nor even his bank-account first … Because the automobile has become our national sex symbol….”
“the American woman has become cold and and undersexed; she has projected her libido on to the automobile not only because its glitter and gadgets and mobility pander to her vanity and incapacity … but because it will not maul her and tousle her, get her all sweaty and disarranged….”
“… the American man has got to make that car his own. …. spending all Sunday morning washing and polishing and waxing it because in doing that he is caressing the body of the woman who has long since now denied him her bed.”
For the full reading, check out: https://www.goodreads.com/…/146533-the-american-really-love…
Bruce Springsteen frequently refers to women as “girls” in his music and while he found freedom and mobility behind the wheel, he generally imagined women in the passenger seat (or the back seat).
“The key to the universe : Springsteen, masculinity, and the car” / by Katherine Parkin. Found in Bruce Springsteen and the American soul : essays on the songs and influence of a cultural icon, edited by David Izzo
Happy Birthday Bruce!
Delighted to announce that Women at the Wheel is now available at the University of Pennsylvania Press site (use PH89 for 20% discount) and Amazon — here I am with the first copy off the presses!
Car advertisers have appealed to women who were expected to take their children to/from school. As many Americans head back to school (or have in recent weeks), here’s a look at two Chevrolet ads featuring women, cars, and schools. This first is from National Geographic in 1923.
The second is from Look magazine in 1962.
From the preface of my book, Women at the Wheel:
Living in the suburbs in the late 1950s, author Betty Friedan preserved her writing time by having a taxi transport her children to school. Friedan realized that driving did not free her from the yoke of domesticity she so famously exposed in her classic, The Feminine Mystique. Instead, she recognized that for most women the car was principally a tool in service of the type of never-ending domestic work expected of them. Not only did women not find liberation on the road, but they also found themselves targeted by spurious stereotypes of “women drivers.” These myths, including a belief that women were excessively cautious, spatially inept, and fundamentally incompetent drivers, persisted with little change over the course of automobile history.
Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” takes on infidelity. In classic American fashion, one of the most popular ideas is that women who are cheated on attack cars, with baseball bats in this case, to express their “crazy” and send a clear message to cheating men. Attacking the car is a stand in for attacking the other woman/or in this case, women, and hitting men where it hurts. In this video she takes aim at a crazy number of cars!
Happy Birthday Beyoncé!