Cars are Sexist? Dissecting a bias
Treading the political landscape is a hard task and trying to decipher the message politicians is trying to inject on voters can be an even harder task. Today, I'm going to give you a real life case of some data bias and how the politician in question used it to promote her sides ideals, in a devious way.
The politician in question is Karolina Skog, the minister of environment in Sweden. She said something that stumped a lot of people:
“Cars are driven largely by men so by giving a lot of space to cars; we’re giving a lot of space to men — at the expense of women,”
The quote isn't wrong. It just doesn't tell the whole story and the obfuscated part is the most interesting one. But, first we need to establish some facts. There is a slight split between how the driver licenses are divided among the sexes in sweden, with men slightly ahead owning 53% of the driver licenses to womens 47% (Swedish numbers from Ministry of Transportation) - So it cant possibly be this that minister Karolina Skog was talking about, right? That's a bold statement for such a small difference, especially since the trend is historically moving towards a 50/50 equilibrium.
Nope, the number Ms. Skog has been looking at is the amount of time spent driving cars, which is extremely unbalanced in "favor" of men. The word favor being in quotation marks, because of the very nature of why the statistics are the way they are: Men are using vehicles as part of their jobs to a larger degree than women. Taxi driving, goods delivery and most other ways of transportation a male-dominant industry. I am neutral to if this is a good or bad thing, I'm just happy someone is doing the job. I value the action done over the sex of the actor, so to speak.
To Karolina Skog it matters, though, and that is troublesome since she is a minister and policy maker. I can only theorize as to the motive behind it, but my theory is that its a magic trick to gather support for anti-car legislation and restricting use of vehicles in city centers (in Sweden's case: mainly Stockholm). By proclaiming that its "pro-feminism" to oppose vehicles and back it up by weirdly used data like the ones presented above, you gain some momentum - Especially on the political left-wing. As long as you pin some buzzword to a proposal and show some non-idiotic numbers, its very rare to get questioned by peers and any criticism can be brushed off by stating things along the lines of "You don't understand the problem, I showed you the numbers you fact resistant loonie - Cant you see that cars are sexist?".
Government officials like to overvalue their methods in how to create productive outcomes via legislation and force communities to operate under 'great ideas', stay vigilant when they lay out these and always be outspoken when you find one of these weak data-points.
- Alex Utopium
Wordsmith for Utopium.blog - Book Review and Scandinavian politics blog.