If you take a look at male-targeted ads, greeting cards and posters and suchlike media, what would be the most frequently used symbols? Competitive or extreme sports, luxury accessories (golden or platinum watches, cufflinks and tiepins), high-end gadgets – but first of all, cars. Cars have long become a veritable icon in modern Western culture – and a gender-specific icon at that. What makes the automobile so special for the stronger sex? Let’s find out.
1. The Love Story: How It All Began
The stereotype of male driver goes back to the dawn of the automobile industry. Obviously, there were no highways in late 19th-early 20th century – and driving an extremely heavy and cumbersome vehicle along mud roads (or no roads at all) required quite a bit of physical strength on the part of a driver (imagine changing a tire, or trying to move the car if the wheel got mired).
1950s saw an exponential increase in the number of personal cars – war-oriented industry converted to producing consumer goods, automobiles among them. It was a truly booming period for automotive industry – the USA became the world’s largest car manufacturer, and almost any person with a decent job could afford one (just as per Henry Ford’s precept). Cars turned from a rare commodity to a part of life – and the bond between men and cars grew stronger ever since.
2. Boys’ Love for Toy Cars Goes Deeper than Expected
Little boys love automobiles – toy cars, cartoon movies about cars, and real vehicles, too. An obvious explanation would be that cars are colorful, flashy, fast-moving and give off the vibe of bubbling energy. Yet there’s more: fascinating research evidence shows that young male vervet monkeys prefer ‘masculine toys’ as well, although certainly none of them were exposed to social influence about gender-appropriate toys – nor do they have any notion of vehicles whatsoever. Research suggests that evolutionally, male brain always tended to develop good spatial navigation abilities (which, for one, allowed our prehistoric ancestors to go on remote hunting expeditions) – that probably explains why young male monkeys and little boys alike are fascinated by interacting with moving objects.
3. It’s Chemistry
Again, it’s Mother Nature (represented by hormones) talking – evolution smiled upon the assertive and proactive male. The instinct is anything but faded – men still (or probably, more than ever) feel the need to be in control and to lead the way. Driving a car does wonders in satisfying this urge – maybe you don’t control life on the whole, but you are free to head towards any direction at a chosen speed (minding the Highway Code, of course…).
Aggressive driving (and road behavior in general) is also typical of men – thus manifests their competitive nature. It is a gender-specific phenomenon; dealing with its repercussions is a totally different topic.
4. Cars Are Tribal Status Markers
Mankind’s ancient tribal background raises its voice once more: it’s vital for a male to show that he’s the one who rules the roost hereabouts. Material possessions (the aforementioned gadgets, accessories, and sports prizes) are, pardon the pun, material evidence of his status, and cars take paramount importance. Sociological research repeatedly showed that women subconsciously find men in possession of luxury automobiles more attractive because a ‘sexy car’ spells out affluence: a man needs a hefty sum not only to buy it, but to afford regular maintenance and fine customization as well. So, if a man sports a black Lamborghini polished to a high sheen – he’s automatically perceived as well-heeled and regarded as a preferable marriage partner.
5. Cars Are Precious Collectibles – and a Strategic Investment
Collecting cars raises the status bar up several notches. And what collectables are the most coveted? Without a doubt, classic cars. Not only do they speak of the owner’s refined taste; they can be an immensely lucrative investment as well – there’re not so many left in the world, so each specimen is of great value, which steadily grows with every passing year.
Men’s bond with the automobile has multiple sources, each of them with its own deep roots in domains of neurophysiology, psychology, history, social environment, media culture; and such complexity is what makes it an extremely fascinating and powerful cultural phenomenon.
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