It's sexist, but I kind of don't hate it.
When I read that Cosmopolitan Magazine had teamed up with automaker Seat to create a car "designed for women", my eyes rolled so far back into my head that I saw what my brain looks like and folks, it ain't pretty.
I think it was a normal (if knee-jerk) reaction. The cosmetic and fashion industry have a nasty habit of making something pink, giving it curves, marking it up three or four dollars and saying that it's for women. It's not fair. It's diminishing. It's sexist in the extreme.
Then I actually saw the car in question, and my mind began to change.
The language being used to describe the new car — The Seat Mii by Cosmopolitan — is cringe-worthy, to say the least. The headlights have a unique "eyeliner" shape. It only comes in white or purple. It's got bejewled wheels.
Did I mention that it's designed to make parking easier. Because, you know, women can't drive and parking is a huge issue for us as well? Because it is.
Once my rage dissipated and my blood pressure went back to normal I gave the car another look. Because here's the thing, I'm a feminist and I can recognize sexist behavior, and I know when ad companies are trying to use my gender against me to sell a product.
I also really like the color purple. And I think the headlights are cute. And, I'll be real, I do panic when I'm parking sometimes.
I think the car is adorable, and if I had the money to buy a car and I lived in a place where I needed one, I just might buy it. I know, I know. I'm as mortified as you are by this revelation, but go with me on this, I beg of you. I feel terrible for craving this sexist little engine.
I don't mind being drawn to a car that's designed to appeal to women (even if the automotive makers and advertisers still have a dinosaur's understanding about what women are really like) because the automotive industry has always been hyper-male and hyper-masculine, like the revving of engines, the car as the visual metaphor for a penis.
You see a guy driving a flashy sports car and you know he's compensating for something. Cars and engines are stereotypically made only the provenance of men. It's as ridiculous as assuming only women care about laundry, soap or shampoo, but it's a part of our culture all the same.
I didn't get my driver's license until I was thirty, and even then I only did it shut up my friends. Part of why I didn't get my license for so long was because I never needed it. I went to a very small college in an even smaller town, and when I graduated I was lucky to live in cities where the public transportation provided made owning a car unnecessary.
But another part of why I waited was because of the aggressively masculine attitude I found when I took driver's ed in high school. Most of the guys in the class had been driving on the sly for years. When I didn't know something I was made to feel stupid. When I didn't get something right my first time out on the road, I was ridiculed.
For years I felt like I wasn't supposed to be behind the wheel of a car. That wasn't a place for me. It's still a feeling I fight when I'm on road trips and we stop at gas stations. I'm aware that I'm being assessed, and I'm still nervous I won't pass muster.
Car culture is ridiculous. If you doubt me I have only to point to things like mud flap girls and truck balls. Up until now it's been ridiculousness that's exclusively for men. If creating a cute, kicky little car for women is the first step in making car culture more accessible to us, I have no beef with that.
After all, it's a process. Who knows, maybe next we'll get driver's seats with built in sanitary napkins. Tres chic!