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So women are the parking-challenged gender. Really?

In the ever-shrinking world that is "stuff at which men excel" the art of parking is surely at the top of the list. Men hate asking for directions and women can't park. These are the twin pillars on which many a hack stand-up comedy act has been constructed. So far as stereotypes go, it's one to which males steadfastly cling, and now femme bashers can take heart. A crack team of Teutonic researchers at Ruhr University have just released the results of a study that seems to back up this assertion.

Das scientists studied the motoring skills of 17 newbie drivers and 48 experienced drivers (both male and female) and discovered that men were able to steer themselves into a space 42 seconds faster with 3 per cent better precision. Drivers were required to execute all sorts of parking manoeuvres, including nose-in and angled, as well as the infamous parallel park. But can we consider a study of 65 German drivers enough to condemn half the world's population?

Logic says no but, unmoved by such details, to most men the answer will be a resounding yes.

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"The study findings appear to confirm that males have better hand-eye co-ordination and spatial reckoning skills," according to Dr. Onur Gunturkun, who led the study. "He says poor self-confidence and social conditioning may be a factor. "While male drivers view a difficult parking space as a chance to exhibit their parking prowess," he says. "Female drivers approach the same difficult parking space with fear and loathing. They view it as something they would prefer to avoid."

In essence, Dr. G is saying that men are better at parking because they enjoy putting things into snug spaces. Oh, you naughty man!

Of course, members of the he-man woman haters club will say that no studies are needed to establish that women are the parking-challenged gender. The Internet is full of videos showing female drivers smashing, scraping and crushing their way through other cars and parking gates. Explanations abound. Last year, after a similar study was released, British feminist thinker Germaine Greer told the Daily Mail that "I can believe that men were proven to have a very insignificant advantage in spatial awareness when it comes to parking. Adding, "You must remember that women also have bosoms which makes it very difficult to turn around."

Wow. I've heard bosoms blamed for a lot of mishaps but bad parking is not among them.

Still, if we set aside the "breast obstruction" theory, there are a few factors which might explain why many believe the female sex, who now dominates our universities, law schools and medical labs, couldn't park a Mini Cooper in a deserted wheat field, even if the parking lot attendants were offering a Clinique gift-with-purchase set with every successful parallel park.

Jeer Pressure

When a woman parks the stakes are high. Why? Because whenever a woman tries to park a car there is a male, or group of males, staring at her, giving unsolicited advice, waiting for her to screw up. If she's part of a couple then her husband or boyfriend is invariably sitting in the passenger seat yelling directions, "This way! No, go that way! You're going to hit it! No!" Or he may adopt a passive aggressive stance, exiting the car and standing, arms crossed, silently tapping his foot as he waits for her to crash. A woman who is driving solo is not impervious to male assistance; that's because if a man sees a woman he doesn't know parking a car he will feel compelled to play Prince Charming and come to her rescue by yammering cryptic instructions to her as she tries to back into a parking space.

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Walk of Shame

Now that she has been "helped" it's the female driver's turn to leave her car and face the fact that she has parked poorly. Maybe she parked across three spaces or maybe she left one inch on the passenger side. Maybe she drove her car through a shop window? Maybe she parked perfectly? Whatever the result, she now has to face her husband's scorn or the silent derision of whatever posse of men has been scrutinizing her efforts. I am sure that the amount of dread that is experienced when anticipating such a stroll causes bad parking.

Too Busy Thinking

I don't have the statistics handy but I am sure there are many studies out there that show women like to think. They're always thinking or talking and, more often than not, they're thinking of more than one thing at a time. If you've ever travelled with one you'll know this is true. This 'thinking" may be bad for parking which requires a Zen-like blankness of the mind. If you think when you park you're doomed. You're supposed to just put it in reverse and let fate and body memory do the rest.


A wise man once said, "We need stereotypes to help us categorize people." Perhaps, instead of fighting we should embrace them? So men never ask for directions? Why should anyone else know where they're going? Who cares if a study of 65 German drivers proves that women may not always sometimes park perfectly? Statistics seem to show that when it comes to major accidents, men are more often involved. Nobody's perfect. The sooner we can all accept our shortcomings the sooner we can focus on the shortcomings of others.

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There's a special place in hell for the nice Reliant automobile, writes Peter Cheney

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About the Author
Road Sage columnist

Andrew Clark, an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and author, is Director of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto. More

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