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The great women-only parking space debate

Parking spaces designated to women spark anger and criticism ─ but are they really that sexist?

Women-only parking spaces have existed for a fair few years, but it seems the debate is still very much alive and well. South Korea has come under fire for having introduced “she-spots” that only women can use in the capital city of Seoul.

Pretty in pink
Pretty in pink

The parking spaces are reportedly “larger” than a standard space and are differentiated by pink markings and a lady in a miniskirt. They are there, according to most reports, to help women park because they are apparently challenged in the spatial awareness department. Pretty sexist, right? Yes and no.

Although the reports of the lady-friendly parking spaces have caused an uproar, they have, in fact, been a part of Seoul since 2009 as part of a ‘Woman Friendly City Project’. To quote the project, it is “a policy aimed to encourage social participation, establish a woman-friendly sociocultural environment, and ultimately pursue happiness”.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government installed the spaces, which are no longer or wider than any other space, to make life easier for women and children.

“They are located near the entrances for to offer easy access for women and children. However, the size of the parking space is not typically large or expanded; it’s the same size as regular parking spaces,” a spokesperson for the Seoul Metropolitan Government explained to the website Mashable.

There are cases of women-only parking spaces that are not doing the idea any favours, mind you. In a Tianjin shopping centre in China, there is a female-only car park that has pink walls painted with peacocks, flowers and hearts. The parking bays are wider, the lighting is brighter and there are hazards on the obstacles.

These spaces exist closer to home. A town in Germany, for instance, introduced them because Mayor Gallus Strobel said men were better at parking than women. “In the new car park we found that two place were not rectangular, at an angle to the road and placed between walls and pillars; that makes parking difficult so we decided to allocate them to men,” the mayor said in an interview with German magazine Spiegel.

Critics of the gender-based parking space say they are “patronising” and unfairly single out the fairer sex. Kathy Higgins of Insight 2 Drive driving school told insurance comparison website “It’s a form of oppression that’s been internalised. I have seen many men who are rubbish at parking.”

It helps little that various studies have found men to be better at parking and vice-versa, adding more fuel to the fire of an argument that is probably nearly as old as the car itself.

Female-specific or not, it’s fair to say parking space sizes could do with an overhaul. Wheels for Women writer Geraldine Herbert commented: “Instead of sexist parking spaces it would be far more useful to increase the parking space allocated to all cars as many are simply too small for modern cars.”

Is it patronising to give women and children preference when it comes to parking, or should all able drivers be treated equal? Spill the beans below.


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