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 constantly 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 many 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 co-presenter, 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 to why it always has to be a man and a woman when two people read the news on TV? ‘Breakfast’ occasionally has 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 precisely the same over on ITV. The man sits on the left of the screen while the woman always sits on the right.

Have you noticed that the male presenter 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 a man and woman sat in the front of the vehicle. Would you be surprised if I told you that it was the man who was driving in just about all of the cars?

I’ve seen it when on holiday as well. Most of the time, it’s the man who 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.

The same goes for my niece and her boyfriend. When they come down to visit us, he always 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. Today, I was delighted to hear 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 were 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.

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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147 thoughts on “Why Do Men Sit On The Left And Women Sit On The Right?

  1. Yes I have noticed left and right TV presenters. It’s weird. Driving? In London? Happy to defer to anyone! As for alcohol… I’ve been in some very stereotypical environments in my time – one guy actually offered to “get the drinks in” making reference to wine for the girls and beer for the boys. He almost fell off his chair when I asked for a glass of dry white wine.

    1. I don’t blame you for letting somebody else do the driving in London. If I stuck to the routes I knew, then I was fine. If I was driving to somewhere for the first time then I was happy to sit back and not complain to my other half about his driving. (Not that I ever do of course 🤔)

  2. Brilliant observations you raised here, Hugh. I wish there could be more diversity about it all. Maybe the men sit on the women’s right (our left) to the screen is due to the undetones of the way our society works. Doesn’t mean they are always ‘right’. In my family, they men always get to seat in the car seats up front all the time. No one ever disputes this. One time as a teen I wanted to sit in the front and my dad said no 😦

    1. It’s amazing what other invisible stereotyping I’ve also observed since writing this post, Mabel. However, that’s going to have to be another post for another day.

      Interesting what you say about who sits in the front of the car in your family. I think it’s down to the way we are brought up, as well as culture. It’s certainly been an interesting debate.

  3. Interesting observation, Hugh! I never paid much attention to placement of newscasters but now that you brought my attention to it I notice that on USA news stations the woman is always on the left and the man on the right. Strange, huh? Good post! 😘

    1. Thanks, Janice. I wonder why women newsreaders are always on the left and men on the right in your part of the world? Does beg the question “why not swap them around every now and again?” I guess we’ll never find out. 😖

  4. In reality, the man is sitting to her right in the TV studio, but we’re opposite the screen and seeing him to the left. (OK, I give you permission to let out a loud sigh at that comment, just as my husband would do).
    I usually let my husband do the driving just because I don’t particularly like driving unless it’s absolutely necessary.
    In pubs, I usually ask for water or a cup of tea these days. In the old days, I drank pints of beer rather than wine.

    1. Thanks, Sarah, but why do they never ever change positions? Every day, the man sits on the left of the screen and the woman on the right. It even happens on ITV. And it seems to be the same in many parts of the world. I think somebody is trying to cover this up. The Great Sofa Mystery. I keep waiting for a knock on the door in the dead of night because I feel like I am uncovering something here….😀

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head here. I have to say, in the US the stereotypes are much the same. I see even in instances where the wife has a more powerful and higher paid position than her husband, most often the man drives. Stereotypes are walls that have been built and maintained over time. Walls take time to come down.

  6. Thank you for tackling this topic…seriously! You make some valid points – I don’t drive when my husband is with me because he prefers it this way. I drive only when he is very,very tired, despite the fact I am a good driver! We do NOT put both men in front when driving with another couple, though. Would love to do a survey of which side of the bed men/women prefer!

    1. The bed thing was mentioned in some other comments, but I’m going to leave that for somebody else to do. I’ve got myself into a little trouble with this post, so moving on swiftly… 😀
      Thank you for joining in with the debate, Noelle.

  7. Thanks for the breakfast smiles, Hugh. As to the TV presenter thing, which I have never noticed, I think it’s a continuation of the “woman walks on the man’s left side”. He’s the important one, she’s the sidekick. I wonder, does Robin stand on Batman’s left?…

    As to driving, after years of my husband being a pain about how I drive and playing with all the settings in the care, we have come to a truce. If we take my car, I drive.

    As to who gets to sit in the front passenger seat, it’s all about height and who has the longest legs. Also, age is a factor. When my mother was in her 80s, she got the front seat. It was pretty funny watching my son try to squeeze into the back seat of my convertible so his grandmother could have the front 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, Aimer. Thank you for joining in with the debate. Most of the questions seem to now have been answered, but the mystery of male/female positions on the sofa is still a mystery. And it doesn’t look as if the BBC are going to give me the answer. 😖

  8. Interesting analysis Hugh. But maybe these observances are British related, lol. Ironically, on our newscasts, typically the woman sits on the left and the man on the right. Possibly the couples in the car thing goes back to chivalry, the man drives, the woman relaxes (providing she’s not backseat driving to her man like I do, lol). But typically, if 2 heterosexual couples are driving in car, the one man drives, his gal sits up front and the other couple are in the back. Of course there are exceptions, the guys need more room sometimes so they boot the chicks to the back lol. Now, have I just confused your theory? LOL 🙂 ❤

    1. No, not at all, Debby 😀 It’s good to hear that it’s different in your part of the world (even if you have just blown a few of the theories, left in the comments, out of the water) 😀 However, do you ever have two men reading the news together, or is it always one man and one woman?

  9. Perhaps it’s a symmetry thing? I watch Good Morning America and George is on (my) right and Robin on the left. When four sit together, both men and women change spots leaving George and Robin there. Hmmm. I do most of the driving, but then again, my hubby drives like grampa, LOL. And, yes, I’ve been known to toss back a shot of good whiskey. I like that Piehole, apple-pie flavored moonshine 🙂 And after you made me recall where media stars sit, I’m heading to the liquor cabinet now. 😉

    1. Do you think so, Terri? I never thought about it from a symmetry point of view. So, it sounds as if on ‘Good Morning America’ they do it the other way around and the man sits on the right-hand of the screen? That knocks a few of the other theories, left in the comments, out of the water. Maybe it’s just a British thing? So, when there are two men and two women it’s a man – woman – man – woman line up? What about only two men presenting the news? Does that ever happen? This morning, on the BBC’s ‘Breakfast’ programme, it was two women presenting the show, but I’ve yet to see just two men ever present the show.
      Phew! Now I need a drink…and it’s only 9.30am!

        1. Ah, so there are some signs of invisible stereotyping in your part of the world then. I’ll have to get Miss Maple to investigate all of this. She did a very good job in one of my early short stories.
          Thanks for joining the debate, Terri.

  10. I hadn’t noticed the newsreader positions before you brought it to my attention but I will now. Maybe we should ask the television people if there is a reason?
    Driving – if we’re out together he usually drives (while I snipe about dodgy lane-changing from the passenger seat) but the upside is I am the one who can drink – which follows nicely on to yes, I drink whisky. I’m Scottish, born on Islay, don’t think I had a choice.

    1. I don’t think the BBC will give their reasons away, Mary. I was hoping they would have been in touch with me by now, but it seems the sofa position mystery is one that may never be solved.
      Good to hear about the whisky. I’ll pass that message on to my sister-in-law.

  11. Hi Hugh,
    Why did I think you were taking a break from blogging? Is the break over?
    I never noticed that men sit on one side and women on the other. In orthodox religions, they are separated, but that is all I know. I will try to be more cognizant of this going forward!

    1. Not quite yet, Janice. I’m waiting for my book to come back from my Editor, then I’ll be disappearing again. 😀
      I only wrote this post as I had to get it off my chest. I just hope we can solve the sofa position mystery because it’s driving me crazy. I don’t think the BBC will ever tell me why they do it, though.

  12. I got up today and didn’t know what I was going to worry about next. Thank you for the subject of invisible stereotyping. (I don’t want a pint of beer, thank you. I would like a nice Viognier.) Now I know why that guy is looking at me funny. LOL

  13. My parents used to watch the Huntley-Brinkley report before it was considered politically incorrect to have 2 white guys telling you the news. Walter Cronkite was THE name in news, trusted by my parents more so than H-B. The only time you saw a woman giving any kind of news report was feel-good, mindless stuff, but as far as delivering the hard news? The other side of never. .

    Stereotypes don’t want to die and will do anything to remain alive. Take, for example, in the 1950’s where the jokes about ditzy women drivers were rampant. One journalist went to car insurance companies for statistics, finding that women were the better drivers and their insurance rates were much lower. How did the men of the time react to this? By saying that it was women’s bad driving caused them to have accidents. 🙂

    1. Many years ago we had much the same issue with women presenting the weather on TV, but I’m very pleased to say that it is now most certainly a thing of the past. Just as is a woman presenting sport. However, there are still areas in sport where women are still excluded. In this day and age, that is a very sad thing.

      1. I think exclusion is a problem, but an even deeper problem is the abysmal lack of respect for a woman who chooses to take care of a house, be there for her children, and give her husband the support he needs to keep going to work everyday. It is still looked down upon.

        My mom was the CEO of our home. She sewed our clothes, did everything related to the house and lawn, and paid the bills. My father would never have survived without her, and he would’ve been the first one to tell you that. 🙂

        After staying home with children for 3 1/2 years, it was clear that I wasn’t strong enough to be a housewife.

        1. I’ve not come across any women who have suffered from lack of respect for choosing to be a stay at home mum. However, I have come across quite a few men who find it beneath themselves to help with the household chores. That flabbergasps me, but even more are those who admitt to not knowning how to iron a shirt and expecting their partner to do it even though she may also have a fulltime job. I do admire those men who choose to become househusbands so that their wife can progress in their career. That seems to be newish concept that has now been around for the last ten or so years. Fifty years ago I think it would have almost been a crime for a man to want to be a househusband. I don’t think the word ‘househusband’ even existed back then. Thank goodess the humanrace is still progreesing in the right direction, although there’s still lots more work to be done.

        2. I’m happy to hear that you know of househusbands. I’ve never personally met one, but I’ve heard of them.

          I’ve lived in various parts of the USA and most women have full time jobs, yet when they go home they do all the housework and cooking while their husband sits in front of the TV to “wind down.” Then there are the hubbys who don’t care if the house is clean. It means that she ends up cleaning because someone has to do it. The feminist movement was for a woman to have the choice to work or stay home. We ended up being saddled with both.

  14. Well I can’t speak for tv as I don’t watch much of that. But I’ll keep my eyes open for French and German news broadcasts in the weeks to come.
    For driving, I don’t even have a license. I remember as a kid that the men would be in the front mostly due to their size, sometimes they would be relegated to the backseat if there was a women far older than them in the car, even if she was half their size. I always cede my right to the front seat to anyone who is older than I am, and the taller ones too…
    Oh and for the alcohol, my fiancé and I don’t drink at all…

    1. A few people have mentioned ‘size’ when it comes to why a man usually sits in the front of a car when not driving, but it’s lovely to hear that many will usually give up the front seat when an older lady is also a passenger. Manners are so important in this day and age and I, for one, will always offer my seat on public transport to any woman if she has to stand. However, I’ve seen many men pretend she’s invisible.

  15. Why did you begin to notice stereotyping when you moved to Wales?!! Why on Gogglebox do we only see pet dogs with the viewers and not cats? I think you are completely right though.

  16. I agree with you wholeheartedly here Hugh! I watch BBC Breakfast and notice that mostly, the male sits on the left, I only watched it this morning for about an hour before work but I was sick of hearing about Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow despite being thrilled that they won the bronze (I watched it last night so saw it live anyway)!
    When Mr Grump and i were in the Army, one of us was in catering, the other in artillery. I bet I can guess which way most people would think as to who did which job! 🙂

    1. Yes, I think many would automatically think that you worked in catering and Mr Grump in Artillery, Judy. However, from the memory of reading your blog, I’m sure he’s the one that does a lot of the cooking in your household? When this subject came up in our house over the weekend, I mentioned that back in the 70s & 80s it was mainly only women you saw on the TV introducing a cookery programme. Now we have a good mixture. My observations of today’s world really struck a cord with me and I had to write it all down. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the bottom of the sofa position mystery.

  17. Here in the States, the only time I’ve seen women on the left of the screen on news broadcasts is when there are two women. Otherwise, the man sits on the left. The poor meteorologist is always to the right, male or female, or not even with the “news stars.” You’ve made some interesting observations!!

    1. Thank you. This thing seems to be worldwide! Is there something going on that we’re not aware of? I hope I’m safe and that what I have uncovered doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly disappear…. 😀

  18. Most people read left to right. So your eye naturally starts by looking at the man on the screen but ends up looking at the woman, which is where the producers want you to be looking.

  19. Oooh, I definitely like to drink whisky – single malt, like Porter girl – and although I’m not a fan of beer I’ll generally have a pint of cider (or two) in the pub. When visiting my family in Scotland I’ll usually drive rather my husband (although neither of us drive here in London). On the sofa at home I tend to sit on the right and my husband on the left, purely because I’m right-handed and he’s left-handed and it means we don’t bump elbows that way. In bed I sleep on the left because it’s nearer the door and I always get up to the loo in the night, so it’s easier for me when I’m stumbling about in the dark. Oh, and isn’t there some weird rule about why men’s shirts button one way and women’s another, because men dressed themselves and women were dressed by someone else, or something? Hmmm… now you’ve got me thinking… 🙂

    1. Good to hear, Ruth. That’s three names I can now pass on to my sister-in-law. She’s very friendly…honest 😀

      I can understand the right-handed/left-handed arguments, but surely not all the male news presenters are left-handed and all the female news presenters right-handed? There has to be a very good reason why male newsreaders always sit on the left and female newsreaders always on the right. And why, do we never see two men present the news at the same time?

      The buttons question is also another good one. Hopefully, somebody will give us the answer.

  20. Well that was a good rant full of valid questions. As to drinks in the pubs on TV , I do like Corrie ( Coronation Street ) and Emmerdale your right wmostly pints for the men a wine or shorts for the women, though I have seen Ken in Corrie drink wine, and Norris too , and Rodney in Emmerdale loves wine!
    News readers the guys are always older than the women because as the women get older the disappear! Feamale news readers have to be young and beautiful!
    I don’t know abouy sitting men on left women on right that foxes me!
    The Olympics yes I agree that strangely some are deemed glamorous and some not.
    What I want to know is why are so many weather women pregnant????

    1. Hello, Willow. I’m glad you enjoyed my rant today.

      I’ve never seen Ken drink wine in The Rovers, although I have seen him drink half pints of beer. On the other hand, Deirdre (God rest her soul) was one that always went for a glass of red wine. I’m sure there are male characters who do drink wine and female characters who drink beer, but we seldom seem to see it these days. And it’s not only the soaps who have us believe that that is the way it’s supposed to be. I could have named a few movies and TV dramas, but I think this post would have become far too long. There was a lot more I could have added.

      Wasn’t the BBC in trouble some years ago for moving Moria Stewart from reading the TV news for the reasons you give? It’s very sad given that it seldom happens to male newscasters. Maybe making them sit on the right-hand side of our screen was their punishment? And whatever happened to Anna Ford and Jan Lemming? Did they go the same way?

      I didn’t notice about the female weather presenters being pregnant. We seem to have a good mixture of both male and female weather presenters here in Wales. Maybe I just haven’t noticed if any of the female ones have been away?

      1. Here in the South of England we have had an epidemic of pregnant weather ladies! Maybe it is catching!! Your right about the drink rules on TV and in movies we are being indoctrinated! As for women if we can’t stay young and beautiful we are banished , men on the other hand just become distinguished! Lol!? 🙃

  21. Why did it start raining whilst I was reading this post, a good two hours earlier than predicted on said same news program, saturating my laundry in the process. That’s what I want to know, Hugh?

  22. I very much like drinking whiskey, although I prefer a single malt to a blend. Wine is generally my tipple of choice and I rarely drink pints as they are very big for my small self. I am partial to half a lager on a sunny afternoon, however. The news reading thing is a bit weird when you think about it, isn’t it? As for the driving – I know a couple where the lady ALWAYS does the driving, but generally it does seem to be a male-orientated activity. Personally, if I can get a bloke to drive me I will as I am pretty bad at parking 🙂

    1. Thanks for the thumbs up on Whisky, Lucy. I’ll pass that information on.

      I agree about drinking pints of beer/lager. They do rather make you want to visit the toilet a little too often. It’s one of the reasons I stay clear of pints, but I do enjoy a bottle of lager every now and again. I suppose the other advantage of letting a man do all the driving is that it means the passenger can then have a drink? I don’t mind driving and only drinking soft drinks if we’re going out for a meal with a group of people. However, the pub TV scenes and men with beer and woman with wine still bugs me.

      I hope we get to the bottom of the sofa positions. It’s a question that is begging to be answered.

      1. I think you have the right idea about the driving thing! I should also point out that Lisa Dingle drinks pints in Emmerdale, but apart from her and the vicar there is quite the sexist beverage distribution in that place! The sofa thing is a mystery. I feel obliged to mount some sort of epic quest to discover the truth, but I’m a bit busy at the moment.

        1. Thank you for reminding me that Lisa Dingle does drink pints of beer. My partner also informs me that Rhonda Goskirk also drinks points. Just goes to show that what I said about Emmerdale was right. 😀

          No worries about the sofa question. Maybe it’s something Head Porter can investigate in the future?

        2. Actually, that lawyer chap who is about to lose all his money sometimes drinks small glasses of wine, I think. Perhaps Emmerdale is a bit more forward thinking than most 😉
          Good plan, that – dear old Head Porter hasn’t got anything sensible to do, I shall put him on it!

  23. This was posted in Prime Magazine;

    Why do we escort women on our left arm?

    When a man escorts his partner, tradition has it that he offers his left arm. This tradition originates from medieval times when men escorted women around town and through the fields. Should a threat arise or the woman’s honor require defending, the man’s sword hand (his right hand) would be free, giving him quick and easy access to his sword, worn on his left side.

    In todays world women do sit or walk on the left more often. :o)

    1. That’s a very interesting theory. But what if the man was left-handed? Would he have then escorted her on his right arm? Would that have been frowned upon in those days?

      It got me thinking of which arm I offer when I escort somebody. For me, I’d automatically offer my right arm, because I am right handed. However, I don’t have any need of a sword, but if my phone rings then I will still answer it with my right arm and let my escort loose.

  24. I have a theory… the man is sitting to the right of the woman in the news… ‘right hand man’ has more power.. and in a world privileging right-handedness, being on the right allows him the freedom to gesture and make large arm movements (perceived as authoritative body language) while she is hampered. And yes, it is ‘tradition’ and we may need to question it, don’t we? ☺

  25. I love an occasional glass of whisky and ginger, but hate the taste of beer. When either myself or my husband makes a cup of tea for both of us, my cup is always on the right and his is always on the left. Men, as far as I can tell, don’t mind driving hire cars, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather sit in the passenger seat and be driven in a strange country or place where I haven’t been to before. Men sit on the left maybe because they’re ‘sinister’ and women are ‘dextrous’!

    1. Good to hear about the whisky, Stevie. I’ll pass that on to my niece and her mother.

      I’d never thought about tea making, but you are so right! We do exactly the same. And do you see how your cups line up with the same positions of those news presenters on the sofa?

      I can understand your concerns about driving in unfamiliar surroundings, but surely all those lady passengers I saw yesterday were not local people?

      Thank you for joining the debate.

  26. I think it is a conditioning thing. We have all been taught to believe these things so even if we don’t believe them, they are there in our subconscious!

    1. Something to ponder about, Ritu, but who taught us this is how it should be? For me, it’s something I grew up with, but I honestly thought that things had changed. It seems it hasn’t. I’d love to know why the news presenters never seem to swap positions.

  27. Well, I’ve not taken much notice before, Hugh. That’s another thing I have to obsess about now! Er… I also sleep on the left…., well. it depends, if I stand at the end of the bed I’m on the right… but I’m left of hubby. Now see what you’ve done!! jx

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