Foreigners may be surprised to learn that there is a very common idea in Kuwait that certain cars are ‘for men’ and that women are discouraged and, in some families, even forbidden from owning or driving cars labeled ‘for guys’. Typically these cars are sports cars, pick ups and certain types of SUVs.
Some parents, even in the West, would not buy their children a sports car, especially when they are very young, due to the fear that these fast vehicles are more likely to invite accidents, as all young people love to speed and show off, in addition to not having enough driving experience. This belief is somehow logical and acceptable.
But this does not apply to the warped notion mentioned above. The defenders of this concept claim that if a girl drives one of these so-called ‘guy cars’, people will see her as “loose”, but none of them have yet shown me exactly how a car translates into moral integrity.
According to this mindset (as explained to me by several men) women can drive sports car such as Porsches or BMWs, but can’t drive a Mustang, Camaro, Corvette or any other American muscle car. A woman can drive an SUV such as a Range Rover, Lexus, Kia, Prado, Pajero and those of other brands, but she shouldn’t drive pickups or a Jeep Wrangler.
Now to be fair, cars and especially sports cars and SUVs are often marketed at a certain demographic and in the West as well as the rest of the world, some cars tend to be considered more ‘macho’ than others. Most of us would agree that an American muscle car is proto-typically ‘male’ and that often men drive such vehicles. That does not, however, mean that women can’t or shouldn’t drive such cars. Nor would driving or owning such a car in any way, shape or form equal a lack of virtue or morality.
After four years of friendship and declaration of love, Ahmad told his beloved Bashayer that he couldn’t marry her because she drives a sports car and his family will never allow this marriage. He offered her a solution – to sell her car and he will buy her a car of his choice, and she is only allowed to choose the color. She simply told him to forget about the marriage.
The spread of this bizarre notion is dangerous and has even reached some conservative families of neighboring countries like Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Reem, an Iranian expat, studied hard to get good grades and got accepted at a university. Her dad bought her a car of his choice, which she didn’t like much but had to accept it. When she got employed, she started saving to buy the car of her dreams – a Wrangler – but her father refused to let her buy it, although it was from her savings. He told her this car is not suitable for you – it’s a car for men.
The idea of a pink for girls and blue for boys has taken hold across the world (though this notion did not exist before the 20th century and in fact was the outcome of marketing campaigns.) Likewise, cars for boys and different ones for girls seems to have become internalized into a societal norm. The problem is not only the genderfication of cars. Like toys and clothing, it can be limited in impact unless parents add real meaning to the idea and in yet another way, limit the ambitions of women across the globe.
By Nawara Fattahova