Why can't women parallel park? Fear of failure drives so many to distraction

New research says female drivers are more likely to fail their tests first time. It's fodder for sexists, but maybe there's also something to it


I am a woman who cannot parallel park.

Mind you, I am also a woman who can’t drive, so maybe that’s irrelevant. But I’m not surprised at all that a new – and entirely pointless – study has found that 25 per cent of women lack the confidence to parallel park, and that many of them change their routes to avoid being backed into a corner, both literally and metaphorically. The fellas, on the other hand, love it: only 11 per cent are anxious about straightening up and fitting in. What a leitmotif for life, eh?

Out of the 1.5 million people every year who take their driving test, 50 per cent of men pass and 44 per cent of women do. Women need 52 hours of tuition, on average, while men are content to put their foot down after 36 hours. I can’t decide if this means women are inferior drivers or better learners.

I had a driving lesson once: it lasted five minutes and ended with the male instructor shouting at me, despite having promised that he wouldn’t. I have refused to sit in the wrong side of a car ever since. I’m convinced driving is not something I’d be any good at (I can’t even catch) and I don’t like trying out things I’m no good at, such as tennis or maths. To those who still argue about which gender makes the better driver driver (anyone? Or is it just Roy “Chubby” Brown these days?), these stats will no doubt serve as conclusive evidence. “The daft bints, more interested in checking their lippie in the rear-view mirror than learning the logistics of the road,” the Alan Partridges among us will say, nodding sagely and sucking their teeth in smug, self-righteous satisfaction. But it’s a bit of a thing, isn’t it, that men will bustle in, take charge and tackle their fears head on, while women will do their research and seek out the more placatory and peaceful solution to a problem. Perhaps that’s why men are three times more likely to die on the road than women.

But by avoiding directly confronting their fears, by shying away from challenges, perhaps women do themselves down. Who’s to say the quarter of them who refuse to parallel park definitely couldn’t, were they pressed to have a go? They could probably do it without even having to switch off Sade’s Greatest Hits.

It’s the same story with careers, job interviews and even university exams: the male candidates content to simply have faith in themselves and their abilities score more highly and progress more quickly than their female counterparts, by being that much more blasé about it all. A lot of it is bluster and the ability to put oneself forward. That isn’t to say women should be cut some slack: if anything, perhaps we should cut ourselves some of it and stop assuming there are quite so many things we’re bad at.

Poor Pippa Middleton

She only wanted to help. She’s fairly worn herself out in the past week, promoting her new book ‘Celebrate’ and force-feeding kids Hallowe’en-themed doughnuts, all in the name of making our parties go with a bang.

As Middleton must now know, the life of a professional writer is hard, scratching out your existence on parchment in a drafty garrett. And now all these plebs maligning your prose!

But the bit that really sticks in the craw - the straw that may yet break that shapely back - is the fact that Middleton’s literary efforts have turned even her fanbase against her. That’s right: even commenters on the Daily Mail website are sick of her. Party your way out of that one, Pippa.

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