Men In Parking
Melissa Bean Sterzick
Today I feel lucky to be female. Because if I were male, this column would be turned over to some guy I don’t know, and I’d be looking for other freelance work to fill the gap.
Honestly, I always feel lucky to be female, and not for any specific reasons other than I value myself for who I am, and my gender is a huge part of that. But this column – and this particular issue of Parking Today – isn’t about how much I like myself, but about how parking looks when seen through a woman’s eyes.
I can’t guess what men in parking think about PT’s publisher dedicating the entire magazine to women’s voices. I’m going to give them all the benefit of the doubt and assume their opinions are constructive.
But I’m going to write this column for the one or two who are skeptical and asking, “Why do women need an organization called Women In Parking? Isn’t that sexist? Doesn’t that imply that women are different and need special treatment? Shouldn’t there be an organization called Men In Parking?
It’s so easy to revert to stereotype when we talk about the differences between men and women: Men are tough, women are princesses; men are rational, women are illogical; assertive men are leaders, assertive women are man-haters; and so on.
Of course, these are all stereotypes that skew against women, chosen intentionally, for effect. Because the thing that creates major challenges for women in any arena is the perception that they are emotional creatures and that emotions, in general, are not valuable.
Facts and feelings are part of every woman’s approach to the world. I don’t want to offend other women, so I will clarify. Women in any industry are not driven by emotion. They’re not always thinking about romance, babies, shopping and chick-flicks. They are capable, intelligent and rational people.
Still, “feelings” can be applied to practical matters, in which case, we should avoid the “f” word completely and call them impressions, intuitions and instincts.
I don’t want to offend men, either, so I invite all of the men who regularly have feelings to raise their hands. Anyone?
The act of parking is different for women than it is for men. Women make the news of parking most often for being assaulted. It’s true, at least for me; my worst nightmares about being attacked are set in parking lots and garages. I don’t spend a lot of time in dark alleys or empty warehouses, yet I often find myself in dim parking garages and giant unsecured parking lots.
I and millions of other women follow Oprah’s advice about protecting ourselves in public spaces: (1) If you’re out alone after dark, never wear your hair in a ponytail, because the more advanced criminal knows he can grab your ponytail and use it to steer you farther and farther from safety; and (2) Never, never, ever let an assailant take you to a second location, because that’s where he’s going to kill you.
The odds are in my favor, but I still get scared and try to be careful.
Men, on the other hand, do not attach any sort of fear for their personal safety in a parking lot. No one’s going to grab their purse or pull their hair or worse. It’s just a place where they put their car – and spit.
For women, a career in the parking industry might have a few parallels to the dangers of actual parking (but not to the dangers of parallel parking). They will often fear their ideas are threatened and discounted just because they are female. They have different strengths and weaknesses from men and can find themselves vulnerable to the inherent maleness of the industry.
To answer those questions above: (a) Women In Parking is not sexist because it does not exclude men. (b) It does not diminish its members’ authority or enforce unjustified entitlement, but provides them with a forum where their points of view are valid and given support. (c) The industry is already an organization that could feasibly be called Men in Parking.
I am a firm believer in the benefits of meritocracy. I know that’s not entirely possible, because there will always be people who inherit power or earn it by dishonest means. But I do support the idea of a system where talent and intellect are rewarded. I absolutely do not support a system where gender decides competence or success – for men or women.
A man and woman in the same position will approach their responsibilities differently. Their experience, education and instincts guide them, and they should be judged on the outcome of their efforts.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.