China’s ‘sexist’ women-only parking spots prompt calls to rename them ‘novice driver’ spaces

Academics warn concept of extra large spaces for female motorists reinforces stereotype that men are better drivers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 7:58pm

A Chinese sociology expert has called for the country’s female-only parking spaces to be renamed as “novice driver” spaces after a series of complaints about sexism.

The suggestion came after a new “female-only” parking space in Kunming, capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, sparked a debate about discrimination against women, local website reported on Friday.

The spot is larger than others in the car park, stands alone and is conveniently located near the exit, the report said.

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Kunming is the latest city to introduce designated parking spots for women, following rows about similar spaces in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province and Zhengzhou in Henan.

Similar controversies over whether the concept is discriminatory have also erupted following their introduction in South Korea and Germany.

While the designs have been welcomed by many users of the Chinese microblogging service Weibo, some experts said they reinforce the stereotype that women are worse drivers than men.

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Chen Jianguo, an associate professor of sociology at North China Electric Power University, was quoted as saying that the car park’s owners should consider renaming the larger space.

“If it could be called a ‘parking space for new drivers’, the label of discrimination could be shrugged off,” he said.

Xia Xuemin, a researcher from the Public Policy Research Institute of Zhejiang University, said bad drivers could be either men or women, so he was opposed to the concept.

“They should be building more female toilets instead of female parking spaces,” he said.

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According to the website report, the new parking space came into use in July, and the car park is operated by a private enterprise.

Unlike many of the women-only spots that have angered equality campaigners by being painted pink, the one in Kunming is marked with more gender-neutral yellow lines.

The design has been largely welcomed by Weibo users.

“Why is a debate on gender stereotypes necessary? As long as our fellow female comrades can benefit, and there is no downside for the car park management, then it’s a good thing!” one person wrote.

“This is a very considerate design for female drivers,” another supporter wrote.