China has since been wracked with various controversies including territorial disputes, discrimination and sexism. It is at conflict with Japan, the Philippines and other Asian nations because of territorial boundaries and has lately been flooded by anti-discrimination groups for a discriminatory TV commercial. Now, it has once again caused a stir in the online community after a debate over another issue on sexism that sparked recently.
The debate started after news of a women’s-only parking spot spread like wildfire. Apparently, a highway service area in the eastern metropolis of Hangzhou is offering extra-large parking spaces specifically only for women drivers. There are eight out of the 370 spots at the said service area that are reserved for women only. Around 1.5 times wider than the normal parking spot, these women’s-only spots are each framed in pink and marked with a pink skirt-wearing icon representing a woman.
According to its service area manager Pan Tietong, the parking spaces are bigger to accommodate women drivers who do not have superb driving skills. He said that there have been a couple of incidents where security guards assist “unskilled” female drivers with backing up into spots and sometimes park the car themselves. Tietong believes that this is a “humane measure” as it helps boost women’s confidence in parking their vehicles and a bigger area would make them feel a lot more comfortable with parking.
In a survey done that covers 1,700 respondents from Sina Weibo (China’s version of twitter), around 63.7% find the women-only parking spots a good idea. There are some who think that this is very helpful and admitted that some of their female friends have a hard time with parking normally.
However, there are also netizens who are enraged by this news, many of whom have shown their distaste of the said special parking spots on Weibo. Most are accusations of sexism saying that this act perpetuates the stereotypical view that “women are worse drivers than men”. One user even says that parking and driving skills do not depend on one’s gender and that this act is not a sincere concern for women but merely sugar-coated sexism.
Another user even suggests that instead of calling these “women’s-only spots”, it would be better to call it “newbie driver’s spaces” instead. Women’s rights advocates in China are also divided over the said parking scheme. According to Li Sipan, director of the Women Awakening Network, an NGO based in Guangzhou, the stereotype that women are “less skilful” drivers than men has not been proven yet.
This isn’t the first time for special parking spots to be created for women. The Seoul Metropolitan Government in South Korea allotted $95 million dollars for the “Women Friendly Seoul” urban planning which aims to make women feel safer and more comfortable in the busy metropolis. One part of the plan is the “lady-friendly parking” which, similar to the women’s-only parking in China, has been met with less enthusiasm. These parking spaces are better lit and are closer to entrances and elevators. This is a good thing because women could feel much safer but the thing that enrages women is the fact that these spaces are based on stereotypes. The spaces are painted pink with pink women icons and are a lot longer and wider than the normal parking spaces.
While these parking spaces have good intentions, it cannot be avoided that there are some who would take this as an insult on their sexual orientation. Sexism has been and will still be at a moot point especially when people nowadays can blast their opinions thanks to social media.