She was dressed in the kind of hipster attire that's found in conference rooms of boutique ad agencies and her angry screams told me she was ready to ram her Mini Cooper into my Dodge Grand Caravan.
Due to construction, drivers were being routed through a grocery store parking lot that opened on a main road. There was a merge lane but it was sheer ice and half plowed, so I elected to wait until traffic cleared before making my turn. My Mini Cooper Medea was upset because, in her estimation, I should have turned right recklessly into traffic.
Perhaps upset is not a strong enough word. She was losing it. Her Mini Cooper appeared suddenly on my left; she was trying to jump the curb, cut me off and then turn into traffic from the shoulder. Hoping to avoid a fender-bender, I tapped my horn. This was answered with a profanity-laced, YouTube-worthy tirade.
Here was the face of female road rage. I felt like I was witnessing an exorcism. All the bile and fury that been bottling up was unleashed. Would most right-minded women start hurling obscenities at a stranger in line at the grocery store? Would my Mini Cooper monster? No, but here she was enjoying the feeling of power and isolation driving a car creates.
We tend to consider road rage a male failing. The web is rife with He-Man road rage videos. You can see everything from paunchy middle-aged losers duking it out in two-punch fights to severe beatings administered with lethal consequences. I'm a man, so I can say it: men are stupid.
Yet personal experience shows that women can hold their own in the roadside stupidity department. Stereotypes paint them as passive and polite but most folks know that, given the right conditions, women are capable of jaw-dropping fury. Case in point: My Mini Cooper monster. At least she restricted her assault to the verbal. An angry woman in the United Kingdom recently jumped out of her Audi and onto the roof of a BMW and clung to it as it drove off (a la T.J. Hooker). In other recent incidents, shots were fired and a screwdriver was wielded by a bikini-clad road rager.
Last September, Insurance.com released the results of a study of gender and road rage. It found that while men were more likely to lose it, women were more likely to swear, give other drivers the finger, and curse in front of their kids. In fact, a 2011 survey found that children cause female road rage in two ways: they irritate her from the backseat and when a road incident occurs, the female driver intuitively tries to protect them. One psychologist credited the "lioness instinct."
And so, each morning, "lioness" commuter moms – the same people who run bake sales and corporations – square off in school parking lots. When a woman screams at a male driver, odds are (we hope) less likely that he's going to get out of the vehicle to put up his fists. So, female/male road rage is an opportunity for a woman to scream at a man (who is not their spouse, relative or child) with relative impunity. Woman on woman? All bets are off. On Jan. 10, a 22-year-old Atlanta woman was charged with murder after she allegedly shot and killed another woman in a road rage incident.
So what did I do when confronted by my Mini Cooper Medea? I shrugged. I didn't want to be that guy – the bully who screams at a female driver (often in front of her kids). There are few sights more disgusting. Just once when this happens, I wish that the woman who is being berating turns out to be a female MMA fighter and she puts him in a submissive hold.
My encounter with the Mini Cooper Medea ended as quickly as it began. Even as I listened to her explain explicitly how various parts of my anatomy could fit into other parts of my anatomy, I could sense her ire diminishing. Seconds later, the traffic cleared. I made my right turn and then she made hers. That was the last I saw of her. I felt like I had done a public service. She'd had her road rage moment. Now she'd go to work and ask people how their weekends were.
Women drivers, by the numbers
61 per cent of women admit to having experienced road rage compared to 56 per cent of men.
Source: a poll of nearly 4,000 motorists conducted by the market research firm Harris Interactive
Canadian women are more likely to experience road rage when they are running late.
Source: a 2013 poll by Leger Marketing
3 per cent of women admit to keying someone's car
Source: insurance.com 2013
More than 22 per cent of Canadian female motorists consider themselves to be "perfect drivers."Source: 2012 Kanetix.ca study conducted by Leger Marketing
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