In automobile advertisements, women appear more often as passengers than as drivers. This prescribed role restricts women's agency. In these images, women do not have the same mobility as men. Instead, they are usually tied to a man who makes the driving decisions. These advertisements thus construct a world where women are passive and men are active. Though there is nothing inherently gendered about a driver or a passenger position, advertisements tend to grant men the power of driving while rendering women as acquiescent subjects along for the ride.
In the advertisements that depict women as passengers, patriarchal and heteronormative rhetoric is common. It is rare, for example, to see a female passenger being driven by a female driver. Similarly, it is rare to see several female passengers together, such as a group of young friends on their way to the beach. Women, when they are shown as passengers, tend to exist in relation to a man. Most commonly, women as passengers fall into the classic tropes of The Wife and The Mother.
The trope of The Wife relies on the presence of a husband who is driving the car. In these advertisements, we usually see young and fashionable couples on romantic getaways or stylish nights out. These women appear carefree, enjoying the time that they are spending with their husbands, perfectly happy to be driven rather than to drive.
The Mother, on the other hand, is still a passive passenger, but she is always depicted with her child or children. These advertisements are often more serious. Rather than attempt to appeal to a sense of youth and romance, this trope relies upon the sensibility and practicality of the modern housewife. 'The harried mother,' these advertisements suggest, 'would benefit from our new vehicle, which will fit into her suburban lifestyle.' Though the husband is still present as the driver, these women seem to have slightly more agency because of their caretaker role.