Many women who drive manual cars have dealt with the harmful assumption that the practice is motivated by a desire to attract men. Such a woman may counter that this assumption is sexist and heteronormative, and that hers is an individual choice, undergirded by a personal love of driving. Well, none of that is the case for me.
That’s right, I’m a woman who drives stick, and I don’t do it to impress men, I do it to impress everyone.
Some people will tell you that learning to drive stick shift will transform your relationship to cars and make you fall in love with the open road, but I can’t relate to those people at all. For me, it is mostly about the fact that I look very cool while I am doing it, and sometimes other people see how cool I look, for instance, if they are in the car or pulled up next to me at a light and both our windows are down.
The notion that I only went through the process of learning this difficult and unnecessary way of driving a car just to win the admiration of men is absolutely ridiculous. Men are less than half the population; why would I aim so low?
I’m a human being; I want to be externally validated by everyone. Adults of all genders, local teens, the cardboard cutout in the Verizon store that I nodded at while downshifting because I thought it was a person: They’re all game.
You think I want to receive somewhat patronizing compliments from men like, “It’s pretty cool that you drive stick,” and “You don’t see that a lot, especially these days”? Well, you’re right. But I would also like to hear that kind of thing from my dentist, the woman at the bank, and perhaps especially my roommate’s non-binary partner who always has great pants.
Not everything is about men. It’s also about the admiring look on my niece’s face when she says, “Maybe you can teach me how to drive stick when I’m older,” and I say, “Fat fucking chance, kid. I’m the only one who gets affirmed for driving a manual in this family.”
So maybe the next time you find yourself thinking a woman only learned to drive stick in order to impress guys, stop yourself, go over to her, and tell her that she’s really fucking cool.