Large Pink ‘Women-Only’ Parking Spaces in China Spark Controversy

Critics call them sexist while others call them a safety measure.

byEric Brandt|
Culture photo

What appears to be a well-intentioned gesture to make parking lots safer for women has backfired. Two service stations in the Zhejiang province of China have created oversized women-only parking spaces labeled with pink paint and a high-heel image. What’s so bad about parking spaces designated for women, you might ask? They’re 3.2 meters wide, which is 50 percent wider than a standard Chinese parking space.

The extra generous width of these female designated parking spaces has sparked controversy, particularly on social media, slamming the idea as sexist. Critics say it carries the stereotype that women are less-skilled drivers than men and need the extra room to park their vehicles between the lines.

However, there’s more to these special new parking spaces than just the extra room. "The women's parking spaces are closer to the exits and monitoring systems, which is more convenient for female drivers to take a break or go shopping in the main building, and much safer, especially at night," said Fang Hongying, the female manager of the Jiande highway service area in a statement to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua.

In fact, in a survey on Chinese social media site Weibo, 63.7 percent of 1,700 respondents thought that designating female-only parking spots was a good idea. Apparently, the majority of Chinese social media users either believe there’s a real safety benefit or they question the parking skills of women.

This isn’t the first time women-only parking spaces have been established in Asia according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Women-only parking spots have been in widespread use in South Korea since 2009. There are multiple Chinese airports that have women-only security lines staffed exclusively by women in an effort to boost efficiency and protect the privacy of female passengers. Groping on trains in Japan became such a big problem that certain train cars at certain times of the day have been established as only accommodating women.

Can segregation be a tool used to protect women or is this simply an insult to the skills of female drivers?