They are in my city. They are in my neighborhood. They are women in SUVs, and they are trying to kill me.
I drive a Nissan Altima, a relatively small car that gets good gas mileage and is a pleasure to drive. But the pleasure of driving is fading each day as I find myself darting and dodging sport utility vehicles whose drivers have no apparent concern for the fact that the adjacent highway lane is occupied by another car. My car.
This is true even on two-lane thoroughfares. I drive down a street in my rural/suburban neighborhood, and when I get to an intersection, I am almost smashed by an SUV driver who is turning a corner. I try to drive home, and I have to hug the shoulder of the right lane because one of these metal monsters is occupying a lane and a half. I go to the grocery store, and when I am ready to leave, I am afraid to back out because I am surrounded on both sides by vehicles that prevent vision for the next quarter mile.
With few exceptions, the drivers of these vehicles are women. And, as someone pointed out to me recently, they are not carrying a load of children; they are almost always by themselves.
For many decades, we have accepted the car as a sexual metaphor for all things masculine. A man driving a Corvette or a Porsche is delivering a message not only about sleekness and speed, but about virility. And a man who isn't driving a motorized phallus, a man in a Lincoln--or today, a Lexus--is at least telling us something about his money. Money means power. Power is sexy, or so I am told.
But perhaps it is time to look at the suburban utility vehicle as a metaphor for the superficially powerful feminine. How much more powerful can you get than taking up more space than you could ever need, running other motorists off the road, and endangering the lives of those who dare to get near you?I am genuinely afraid of these women, and to say I drive defensively around them is to understate like mad.
The fuel-gobbling of these vehicles is proof that their owners have little interest in protecting Mother Earth, let alone someone like me--a small woman in a small car who is just hoping to make it to the next light so she can get on the Interstate. The women who are navigating these vehicles appear to be, on the average, in their thirties, some perhaps older. They are the daughters of the women of the second wave of feminism, run amok in the suburbs. Most of them have husbands and children; many of them also have demanding jobs.
Women my age, veterans of the Second Wave, were not fighting for the right to appropriate male aggression, nor were we fighting for the privilege of living in the suburbs and acting out the dreams of our Stepford mothers. We were struggling to achieve true social, political and economic equality for women. We didn't achieve it, though we certainly made a decent start. Then there was a terrible backlash, supported by a news media that had never accurately reported the movement, but who fell all over themselves to report the backlash.
The result was a nauseating quantity of magazine articles about "achieving balance," and a rush by up-and-coming women to distance them from a social movement no one had ever explained to them. These women went to college, got jobs, married, had children, and got on with their lives. Yet anyone who is female will tell you in private that being a woman is still a very difficult job, even in this, the most enlightened of cultures. That is because there is still an absence of social, political and economic equality.
Women on the so-called fast track are knocking themselves out. Women on a slower track are still hidden from view while they, too, go about the business of doing what women do: taking care of other people. Individual women have personal power, but very few women have the kind of power that is respected by society.
Enter the concept of physical authority. As a group, we do not control the wealth, we do not rule over political dynasties, and we do not command respect just because we exist. We do not have a lot of physical strength. Machines have traditionally been the property of men, but in driving SUVs, American women have finally put the sometimes-frightening cavern of their gender literally on the street, ready to swallow up anyone who comes too close. The specter of Freudian castration fear looms in my mind when I see these manifestations of the new heavy metal matriarchy speeding toward me.
I have all of the personal power I need, but I continue to work so that women will gain power as a group. I write, I boycott, I send letters to the editor, I sign petitions. I do it all the old-fashioned way, always keeping my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel, for the terrifying wombs on wheels are coming for me, and they are no respecters of gender.