Why Do Men Sit On The Left And Women Sit On The Right?

This is no joke. Sorry if you thought I was going to double you up with laughter. No, today I’m talking stereotyping! I thought it a thing of the past, but it seems it’s as evident today as it has always been.

Take, for example, television. Have you ever noticed that during a pub scene on a TV show, the men seem to be always drinking pints or bottles of beer while women are drinking glasses of wine or a gin/vodka tonic? How often have you seen a man in a pub scene drinking a glass of wine and a woman drinking a beer? Some may say it’s down to taste, but surely not all the men in Coronation Street only drink beer while the women always order a glass of wine? I’ll give it to Emmerdale (another UK soap-opera), as I have seen at least one female character (the vicar!) drinking a pint of beer. It’s refreshing to see but I’ve yet to see any of the men walk in and ask for a gin and tonic! It’s always “pint please, Chas.”

Let’s turn our attention to the news. I know a lot of people don’t watch the news on TV because it’s always depressing, but take ‘Breakfast’, the BBC early morning news programme. Why does the man always sit on the left of the screen and his copresenter, a woman, always sit on the right? Is it some kind of power struggle? Why can’t they occasionally swap positions?

Charlie State and Naga Munchetty
Charlie State and Naga Munchetty, Presenters of BBC’s Breakfast – He always sits on the left while she always sits on the right.

Which leads me on to why does it always have to be a man and a woman when two people read the news on TV? ‘Breakfast’ does occasionally have two women presenting the show, but I’ve never seen them have two men present the show. Why? Is it not acceptable to have two men present the news together?

It’s exactly the same over on ITV. The man sits on the left of the screen while the woman always sits on the right of the screen. Have you noticed that on many news programmes the male presenter always seems to be a lot older (not you Charlie) than the woman presenter? Very rarely is it the other way around. Is there a reason for that?

Let’s move on to driving. Yesterday, while waiting to cross the road, I counted the number of cars that drove past where there was a man and woman sat in the front of the vehicle. Would you be surprised if I told you that in just about all of the cars, it was the man who was driving? I’ve seen it when on holiday as well. The majority of the time, it’s the man that drives a hire vehicle while the woman sits in the front passenger seat.

It happens in our family all of the time. We go and collect my sister-in-law and her husband and I can guarantee that my sister-in-law will sit in the back of the car while her husband will sit in the front passenger seat. Same goes for my niece and her boyfriend. When they come down to visit us, it’s always him that does the driving regardless of whose car they are using.

Take two couples going off on a car journey together. Why do the men always sit together in the front, while the two women sit in the back of the car?

London 2012 Olympic Games
Celebrating at the London 2012 Olympic Games

Sport also suffers from stereotyping. I was delighted to hear, today, that Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow won an Olympic bronze medal in the synchronised 10m platform diving.

On TV, ‘Breakfast’ mentioned it all morning and the interview with Daley and Goodfellow was aired far too many times. They even interviewed a friend of Daley and Goodfellow who talked the audience through the last dive more times than I care to remember. However, where was Clare Balding and Co when Ed Ling won an Olympic bronze medal in the men’s trap shooting for Great Britain? Was he not worthy of an interview Ms Balding? And why, unlike Daley and Goodfellow, did he only get a few seconds of a mention on ‘Breakfast’? Ed, if you’re reading this then, unlike the BBC, I’d be delighted to interview you and celebrate the fact that you won an Olympic bronze medal.

British Flag - The Union Jack
Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Finally, let’s turn back to drink. How many of you ladies enjoy drinking whisky? Does anybody out there consider whisky is only a man’s drink? Why am I asking these questions? It’s something that recently came up in conversation.

It seems I’m as guilty as most others at stereotyping. Reading through this post, why did I put an exclamation mark after the word vicar? Do vicars not drink alcohol?

Do you have any examples of stereotyping in today’s world? Does it bother you or is it something we just take for granted?

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154 comments

  1. Hmmm you really got me thinking Hugh. I know there are countless views on this. Well, in my book, I’m pretty cool with the sitting positions my hubby and I take …..so long as I’m the only one seated on the throne of his heart. 🙂

    1. I’m sure you are, and always will be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting on this post from 2016. After three years, I’m amazed it’s still getting read, and readers continue to leave comments on it. No wonder it’s become my most successful post.

      1. You present such interesting dishes for us to digest. Your blog is pretty much like life…. a dash of various ingredients that make eating and reading, for that matter, a scrumptious delight! ❤️

  2. That’s why I don’t believe the statistics about women being “better” or “safer” drivers. Women drive less, so they crash their cars less. Those are the real statistics. It may be considered “sexist” nowadays, but the sexes did indeed evolve to have certain biological differences, including the superior motor skills and increased fondness for fast-paced physical activity often seen in men. Driving is one of those activities; driving, sledding, skating, running, climbing, etc all have similar effects on the brain. Women aren’t necessarily worse drivers, but they often enjoy it less or fear it more. Thus they either avoid driving OR they (try to) drive cautiously.

    I’m a woman, and I don’t drive. Never wanted to, never have, and hopefully I never will. I refuse to even try. If I ever learn to drive, it would have to be out in the country, and my husband will have to teach me. He drives me everywhere, which isn’t much. Everyone else makes me nervous. Especially my parents; throughout my teenage years, they constantly harassed me about learning how to drive. No thanks. My husband enjoys driving, and I’ve met few women who do.

    1. I remember my partner, at the time, hounding me to learn to drive when I reached 18. By the time I was 21, I was still not driving, because it wasn’t something that interested me. Then he gave me six driving lessons for my 21st birthday. Of course, I took the lessons but didn’t pass my driving test until the third attempt. Even to this day, I don’t enjoy driving and always much prefer to be in the passenger seat. However, strangely enough, my last job was as the Car Fleet Manager for a large company. It was only meant to last six months, but 23 years later I left the position before taking early retirement.

      1. And that’s why I say men enjoy driving more ON AVERAGE. 🙂 I’ve met more men who don’t like driving than women who do. My guess? It’s an incredibly stressful and dangerous task, so both genders have good reason to be wary. But men are just a little better (on average) at working through their fight-or-flight response. The roads are wet and icy in these parts, and my husband claims to enjoy driving in such weather BECAUSE it scares him. Weirdo…

  3. There is the world of the blatant misogynist and the more subtle world of institutional bias; the kind of bias that seems almost invisible; I still catch myself holding doors for women or pausing before shaking hands with a woman. As a child, I was taught that holding a door open for a woman or not shaking her hand was good manners. These behaviors become automatic.

    1. I agree, Rob, although I do offer my seat to an elderly person regardless of whether they are male or female. Like you say, it was something I was taught to do when growing up. However, I still don’t get why men always seem to sit to the left of a woman. I can’t see what would be wrong if he sat to the right of her. I’m guessing it’s just something from the subconscious that makes this happen?

    2. As a woman, I appreciate those “misogynistic” niceties. Gender equality is one thing, but in my not-so-humble opinion, the world is becoming blatantly misandrist. I see more sexism against my husband than I’ve ever personally experienced. His mother taught him to hold doors for women, yet even she expresses misandry toward her own son and brother. She’s on the phone right now talking bad about “all” men.

  4. I watched BBC Breakfast too, Hugh and it is really weird that I was thinking the same thing about why they never have two male presenters yet, two female ones are acceptable. I have also noticed that the males always sit on the left and females on the right (as we see them) but goodness knows why that is.I agree also with the fact that men mostly do the driving, for me, this is more about my husband loves to drive while I am not so keen!
    I was chatting to someone the other day (a male) about me and my husband having been in the Army, he could not get his head around the fact that I referred to myself as a soldier, although of course, he had no problem accepting that my husband was one! 🙄🙄

    1. I wonder if that person you were speaking to would have had the same problem had he been talking to you in Isreal where even Women have to go through national Service, Judy? It’s a bit like a friend of my niece who was worried after he found out that it was a female mechanic who had carried out the M.O.T on his car. He was convinced that the car was unsafe and that if he got stopped by the police he’d get into trouble (even though he had a valid M.O.T certificate and was able to tax the car). Had he never known about the mechanic being female I don’t think it would have ever crossed his mind. I put him in his place when I mentioned that during the war our very own Queen had trained to be a mechanic. It soon shut him up.
      I might just write to the B.B.C and ask why they never have two presenters reading the news. I wonder if I will get a reply? 🤔

      1. I can’t believe that friend of your niece worrying that his car was unsafe after being worked on by a female mechanic. It seems that some people are still very much behind the times, Hugh! I reckon you will get a reply from the BBC, and it will be interesting to see what they have to say about not having two male presenters on together. 🙂

  5. When I drank, I drank whisky (pref with ginger wine in it, don’t judge! 😉 ) but neat if it was a really good one.
    Haven’t noticed where men and women sit in TV shows, probably ‘cos I don’t watch TV much anymore (am often glued to the iPlayer but mostly documentaries, I’m boring like that.) And here, in the bit of Wales I live in, there are more women drivers than men, so maybe it’s a regional thing?

    1. Maybe you’re right and it is a regional thing, Val. I’ve still never found out the answer as to why men sit to the left of women. Somebody mentioned it had something to do with it making it easier for the man to draw his sword. Maybe many hundreds of years ago, but it’s strange that even in today’s world, you often see men sitting (or walking) to the left of a woman.

      1. Well in symbolic terms, the left side is female the right side is male – so maybe in older societies sitting to the left of women was intended to be chivalric? Or maybe it’s something else entirely. I’d think something like… what’s it called, Debrett’s? Something like that would give some info. 🙂

  6. Well, I don’t how..But I did..Miss this post so it is my first time of reading it…Thanx Hugh! I would be better off in complete ignorance now I am looking at everything… Haha..I don’t Drink beer but love brandy…Always pay the bills and order the wine though…Hubby doesn’t carry cash, doesn’t use an ATM…never ever wrote a cheque, doesn’t………. This could be a post……He does, however, drink beer, eat, read and cleans my windows… Look what you have started….haha. Happy New Year 🙂

    1. It does get you thinking, doesn’t it Carol? Are we creatures of habit, or is it something we just do without thinking about? I think the only reason why this was my most viewed post in 2017 is that lots of people were searching for the answer on Google and were ending up on this post. Shame I couldn’t really give them any answers…just more questions. 😀

  7. That’s defo a bit odd about the position of men and woman. Its made me think of couples in general. We are always known as Greg and Steve as opposed to Steve and Greg – now why is that? Also whenever we walk anywhere I always find myself on the left with greg to the right of me. You’ve made me begin to question EVERYTHING Mr Hugh!

    1. Could it be because alphabetically Greg’s name comes first? Then again, we’re known as John and Hugh, so maybe it’s to do with age? 🤔 I always like to walk on the outside of John so I can protect him if a cyclist mounts the pavement. Or maybe it’s because I can get away from him quickly when I tell him I’ve been spending in the Apple store again? 😂 Who knows, but the answers are probably endless.

  8. I have read about this before. The left hand position is considered the dominant position because that is the way our brain works and we read left to right. Be interesting to watch the news in say, Saudi Arabia, but my guess is that it is two men?

  9. I always thought my (women’s) positioning was due to convenience. I sleep to the left of my husband only because it is closer to the door and easier to tend to children in the night without waking him. Who drives comes down to who’s car we are taking. No one wants to fiddle with seat positions. Although, I would always prefer he drive because of the considerable nagging about speed and how fast corners are turned; too fast! Also if he is driving I’m free to again, tend to the children. I have been shifted away from the roadside on busy streets in his attempt to keep me safe though. The media is more mixed in the US, but not f/m equal, mind you. I have seen two men doing news shows. Also our sitcoms regularly have women ordering beers. Any woman would go broke ordering those froo froo drinks. 9$ for one drink when a beer is 3$; BEER PLEASE!

    1. I’m so pleased to hear that there are places in the world who do have two men presenting the news together. I’ve never ever seen it (although I have often seen two women present the news), so it’s great to hear from you and for you to confirm that it is happening.
      Beer at $3? Wow! You got a bargain there. A beer in London, these days, is way over £5, but you’re right about it being less expensive than a glass of wine.
      Thanks so much for joining in this debate with your thoughts.

  10. I’m a southern comfort/ American Honey Girl myself. I wish I could drink wine, looks far more refined, but alas wine only leaves me sober with a terrible migraine.

    As a shop girl I have lots of stereotypes, the top on being “ignorant” or “uneducated”. I hold a bachelors while I take enrichment courses at Stanford for fun in my spare time. I’m also thought of as young, selfish, and rebellious: I’ve been accused of all sorts of things even stealing a woman’s wallet right from behind the register. Many people assume I hate retail, but indeed I do I have a degree, if I wanted I could be somewhere else. So many stereotypes out there, I believe everyone suffers from them. I don’t judge them for it (well except the lady who accused me of stealing her wallet), aside from that I know I’m very terrible about classifying people and how I assume their beliefs and habits will play out.

    1. I worked in retail for many years and totally understand what you are saying about how people judge shop assistants. I dealt with many a rude customer but always remembered a saying my Grandmother told me – “treat others how you would like them to treat you.” It was sometimes very tough but seemed to work.

      I agree with us all being stereotypes and that we all judge others. That’s why I referred to much of this being invisible stereotyping. Sometimes, we don’t realise we are doing it.

      Thank you very much for your comments about this subject. I’ve had such a diverse response to this post. It’s something I may write about again.

  11. I think you pretty much covered it. You could add paying bills in the restaurant or ordering wine with a meal… Usually it is the guy who is in charge (put in charge)…

    People are an interesting bunch…

    1. You’ve touched on something where this happens that nobody else mentioned, Sandra. Ordering the wine! Very true. And you’re right about paying the bill (although I have seen a few women pay the bill when it’s the man’s birthday).

      1. Hahaha… I think the paying the bill is turning into a 50/50 thing but the ordering the wine is one of those things. I often observe women knowing exactly what they want but it’s still the man who orders…

        1. I suppose it’s very much like going to the bar to order a drink? It always seems to be the man who will order. I once went to a restaurant where there were no prices on some of the menus. Can you guess who those menus were given to?

  12. I’m not sure who sits where on our news shows but the younger woman and older man holds up with Sunrise a popular breakfast show here in Australia.
    My husband sits in the couch to the left at home in the corner while I have the couch closest to the corridoor but that’s from an access point of view and I do get up and down a lot more than him.
    One trend you haven’t mentioned is which side of the bed couples sleep on. We have an ensuite so I sleep nearest the bathroom while my husband sleeps near the door. I have mobility issues too which account for this but I have heard it’s a gender thing.
    My husband drives everywhere and mostly puts petrol in the car as well. I have no sense of direction and gender stereotype again, can’t read maps but refuse to use GPS in case it gets any worse.
    I barely drink and my husband drinks wine instead of beer.
    xx Rowena

    1. Which side of the bed we sleep of was mentioned in some on the comments, Rowena, but I didn’t really want to go there. To be honest, it never crossed my mind, but it seems there could be a trend there as well.

      I think you’ve given very good reasons why you sit on the right, sleep near the bathroom, etc, but I’m still wondering why those newsreaders sit in the same place on every show. A couple of other items has also been brought up such as it’s always the man who leads, while the woman will announce the time, etc. Something I need to watch out for and see if true here in the UK.

      Thank you very much for reblogging this post. It’s certainly resulted in some very interesting comments about what I highlighted.

      Best wishes,
      Hugh 😀

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