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Why Does Dan Neil Sexualize The VW Beetle?

October 30, 2011

Being it is Sunday, and cloudy, cool, and wet weather hangs over Madison I am getting caught up on my reading.  One newspaper article however has not enlightened me as much as ticked me off.  Granted, there are many topics that make for emotional and at times frothy posts on my blog, but this one is also tinged with just plain disgust.

On the front page above the fold of the “Off Duty” section in Saturday’s WSJ was the headline grabbing font of “The Beetle Mans Up”.  First and foremost the term ‘mans up’ is so laden with gender expectations that it should only be used by those people who let the hair from their back curl up around their hairline.   That is not the term I expect used in a national newspaper with serious readers, and I certainly do not appreciate the tone it imparts for a larger audience.

But there it was.

Dan Neil had a long article on the new VW Beetle that has hit auto showrooms around the country.  The classic look and feel of the traditional Beetle that so many have loved over the decades has been shed for the coupe-like shallowness of the new car that is supposed to appeal to men. (GAG.)

The article by Neil is perhaps one of the most sexist pieces of ‘journalism’ that I have spotted in a newspaper in quite some time.  I provide a sampling.

About two-thirds of New Beetle buyers were women, the highest percentage of any  car on the market. That’s a problem because, as any car dealer will tell you,  women will sometimes buy a man’s car but men rarely ever buy a chick car.

I’m not sure giving away Beetles on the last of Oprah’s “Favorite Things”  shows helps advance the stud-bug meme, but let that go.

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In order to qualify as more manly, the Beetle should do what, exactly? Leave the  seat up? Play fantasy football? These were not options. So in addition to a  shape that’s less, well, ovum-like, the Beetle is cut. Note the vertical  surfaces at the wheel arches and the crisp defining light lines around the  cabin’s greenhouse, as well as the chamfered hood line. Note also that the  bumper-breather grille is wider and more aggressive, more like bared teeth.

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With a 0-60 mph pace of about 6.8 seconds and all the visual snarl, the Turbo simply radiates machismo, sort of like Justin Bieber in a muscle T.

And on and on it goes….

Within days of the new Beetle hitting the local market I made a trip to the dealership where I have purchased over time not one, but three new Beetles.  I love the classic look  and drive of the car, and think I fairly understand the reason people own and admire them.

People drive a VW Beetle as it looks different and sets them apart from most other cars on the road.  They are fun and spirited vehicles that zip around, can be parked almost anywhere, and get noticed.  Within the past month a lady asked to take a picture of my car at a local grocery store.  Last weekend a guy gave me thumbs up at the mall.  Just this past week two women at a stop light on East Washington smiled and said hello to James and myself.  Clearly the Beetle has a fan base.

Yes, Dan Neil I have owned three Beetles, and still use the men’s room at the shopping mall.

I can also say that it is easy for me to be lured into car shopping and making deals.  The latest version of my Beetle came to be parked in my driveway earlier this year after browsing during a simple oil change at my favorite dealership.  I saw a new car on the lot, it attracted me, and I traded the one on the oil rack in two hours.  So I am easy.

But when I looked at the new coupe-like plainness of the latest Beetle I had no more desire to test drive it than I did to hurl a stone at, Aeros, the name of our current car.    Yup, Mr Neil each car has a personality and gets a name  at this home, and I still own a jock-strap.

I find it insulting in 2011 that placing gender roles on cars is even considered a topic of conversation.  I find it even more outrageous that a national newspaper would allow for the sexist review of a car to be published.

Now having said that I will try to find some quiche in the kitchen to further confirm the troglodyte notions that Dan Neil seems to hold for men like me who drive a Beetle.

Bite me.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2011 1:19 PM

    Ferrell,

    I had a Dodge Duster that had 120,000 miles on it and the body was perfect. Then one night when I drove it into the garage it puffed white smoke….i joked that I was electing a new pope….and the car engine died. It was a perfect car in that it never let me down and when the time came it got me home and then all the parts failed at once. True story. That is when I turned to Beetles.

  2. October 31, 2011 12:59 PM

    Yes and I would love to own a Big Ass Ford F150 but a family and a strong desire to pay cash for cars leaves me witrh a very ordinary family type Toyota Matrix which just hit 100,000 miles over the weekend.

    Maybe it VW took the puke green color as a choice that might tone down the “sexualization” of the car.

    I personally like them. My male neighbor who plays night hockey and shoots pheasants has a red Beetle.

  3. October 30, 2011 8:41 PM

    It is not the last week of every month…but every 28 days….so it moves.

  4. Solly permalink
    October 30, 2011 8:27 PM

    I notice Deke gets kinda cranky the last week of every month

  5. Patrick permalink
    October 30, 2011 5:36 PM

    If 60% of Beetle owners are women, the car has already been sexualized. Mr. Neil is just commenting on what everyone already knows. The modern Beetle should be contrasted with the older beetle which was more cool and counter culture. Since even the manufacturers think the car needs to “man-up” it seems there is little debate left on the subject. This has nothing to do with your manhood and you give a rather trivial column too much attention. This is the kind of thing that offends you? Are you upset over the sexualization of breast cancer and the resources it drains away from more masculine cancers?

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