Of women and cars

Women in the EU enjoy cheaper car insurance than men. Apparently because they take less risks. So what are we supposed to make of clichés about how women drive? Café Babel trawls expressions ranging from the Urals all the way to Spain.

Published on 26 June 2009 at 17:33

German women make better drivers (Frauen fahren besser). Is there any other country, after all, which has special Frauenparkplätze (parking places for women)? For security reasons they are close to underground car park exits, which has become a sort of national in-joke. In Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland, women supposedly drive slower than men - there is less traffic on the day that God made Sunday drivers (*Söndagsbilist, Søndagsbilist, Sonntagsfahrer, niedzielny kierowca*).

Sunday is an opportunity to "drive like a granny" (jeździć jak baba) in Poland. Whilst for Germans a woman at the wheel is an ogre (Frau am Steuer - ungeheuer!), Spain and Italy see danger : Mujer al volante, peligro constant and donne al volante, pericolo costante (Woman driving, peril thriving). For the French it's fatal - femmes aux volants, morts au tournant (women steering, death appearing).

For Italians women are like cars, bringing joy and pain (Donne e motori son gioie e dolori). So much pain, that Arsenal FC footballer Andrey Arshavin, 27, has argued in one of his three bestsellers back home that women drivers should be banned. The topic came up again in a UK tabloid daily in February: "If you see a car behaving bizarrely, swerving and doing weird stuff, you know before you see the driver that it's a woman. Always," he opines. In March, Russian student Anna Klevets, 22, took action against Putin’s 2000 national law banning women from 456 jobs, including train-driving. The Russian and Latvian sayings женщина за рулем (zenchina za ruliom) and sievietes pie stures (Woman at the wheel) echo the British exclamation ‘Woman driver!’ In 2004, it was the UK that stood up against EU anti-sexism laws, which would have changed the fact that women pay up to 30% less insurance than men. EU countries including Sweden, Poland and the Netherlands already ban insurers from differentiating between the sexes.

Milagros González Mejías

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