For some reason I woke up this morning recalling how, when I was a child, it was always taken for granted that men would be the ones to ride shotgun in a car journey.
There’d be the driver, and then if there was an adult man and woman present, the man would have first dibs on the front passenger seat.
So, for example, if my father was driving, and the passengers were my mother and her brother, her brother would naturally get the front seat. If my uncle were driving, my father would get the front seat.
If my aunt were driving and the passengers were my mother and her brother, my mother would, I think, automatically sit at the back, unless maybe it was her youngest brother (she had five).
Back then, in my experience, women were always expected to take the literal back seat and it was done automatically. Discussing it with Malaysian friends, it seems it remains the case in some families. However, one friend (A) said that, in her community (Malaysian-Sri Lankan), people of the same gender are expected to sit together, unless they are married. So, if B and her dad are being driven by her aunt, B will ride shotgun and her dad will sit at the back. Another friend, B, a Malaysian-Chinese, agreed with me when I said I believed a Chinese man would rather die than sit in the back behind two women. It’s like Chinese men don’t even like the idea of being driven by a woman.
B also said that, if there are men present, her mother never thinks of her as the one who will drive. A man is always the default choice.
I wonder if this is an Asian-only thing.