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Can a Real Man Drive a Minivan?

by James Joyner on 24 August 2009


Well he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.

Those classic words, penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard months before I was born, are at least as true today. Despite what the advertisements may tell you, manhood has little to do with what kind of cigarettes you smoke, what car you drive, or how white your shirts could be.

The post’s title started as a placeholder; a prototype of the sort of posts we would write at MANzine.  But there seems to be serious question on this issue.

I happen to drive a Nissan 350Z Roadster, a two-seater, convertible sports car.  It’s easily the coolest, most fun car I’ve ever owned. Unless it’s raining, under 30 degrees, or above 100 degrees, I’ve got the top down.

A few weeks back, we learned that the practicalities of road trips with our infant daughter made it worthwhile to trade my wife’s small SUV for a minivan much like the one pictured atop this page.   I occasionally drive it.  While it’s neither as cool nor as much fun as the Z, my manhood doesn’t mysteriously vanish when I’m behind the wheel.

Sadly, manhood can’t be purchased for a few thousand dollars.

I get why men fear the minivan.  It is a pretty tangible symbol of giving up our youthful ideal in exchange for domestic life.   If we drive a sports car or motorcycle or pickup truck — or even an SUV — we can at least pretend the we haven’t changed.  But get a minivan, and it’s over.  You’re a daddy now.

This classic Peyton Manning commercial on the subject is pretty funny:

Because I married and became a dad later in life and I’m thus more financially secure than I would have been if I’d done those things in my 20s — and because our child care situation allows for it — I’ve managed to keep my sports car and drive the minivan only occasionally.  We’ll probably get a third car before I give it up entirely.

But who knows?  We’ve just got one child now, a 7-month-old.   The time may well come where I’ll be picking up a car pool and shuttling my kid off to soccer practice, making a two-seater silly rather than merely a luxury.  If so, I’ll do what tens of thousands of men before me have done and get a mini-van.

It could be worse.  Once upon a time, men had to make much bigger sacrifices.  Whether it was a long cattle drive or fighting off Indians, men often put their lives in danger to take care of their families.   Now, we’re called upon to set aside our egos and drive a less cool vehicle.


  • Vanessa reminds us that women hate the idea of driving minivans, too.
  • Chaz Hill contends that, “A Real Man drives whatever he goddamn well pleases, be it an old Jaguar or a New Beetle.”
  • Matthew @ Billy Ockham argues “[M]asculinity has nothing to do with possessions. Manliness has to do with responsibility first and foremost.”

About James Joyner

James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway and the managing editor of a DC think tank. He's a former Army officer, Desert Storm vet, and college professor. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama.

{ 2 trackbacks }

dustbury.com » Unmoved by people movers
25 August 2009 at 07:59
Manly Thoughts
29 August 2009 at 09:23


1 Trumwill 24 August 2009 at 13:27

It rarely makes sense to have a 2-door when you have a family, though everyone’s situation is different (and additionally, sometimes people want things that don’t make sense). It’s also rarely the case, though, that a family needs two minivans. If you determine that you need to upsize your car, I would first consider light SUVs (Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, etc). If you want something with a little more oomph (if you think you’ll miss the power of the sports car), you can often get these models at the higher end or you can go with a sportswagon like a 5-door Subaru WRX (though I’m sure other makers have similar offerings). Big enough for four to comfortably sit and have some room for other stuff, though you’d want to leave long trips to the minivan.

2 James Joyner 24 August 2009 at 14:20

@Trumwill: Yeah, my instinct would probably be a decent sedan — maybe the G37 convertible — and then an SUV. We traded in my wife’s RDX because it’s too crowded for roadtrips with all the baby gear but it was perfectly fine for day-to-day use. And she never really liked the RDX, anyway.

3 bacchus 24 August 2009 at 18:01

It continually amazes me that one of the first things families do after having a child is to purchase a minivan. Growing up in the 70′s with 2 kids (my sister and I) we seemed to do just fine with the Buick Wildcat. After the divorce, my mother bought a Toyota Corolla and our new stepfather had a 1978 BMW 320i. We moved from Ohio to Pittsburgh, then to Quebec, then Ontario and back to Ohio over the next 5 years. Frequently traveling back to Ohio for family visits, we had no problems in the small coupes with the four of us. A few of the trips, we had an Irish Setter, as well. When my father would come up to get us, it was in a 1976 Dodge Charger…again…no issues. How much space do you really need and how much stuff do you have to take on a trip to be happy? My sister has a Chrysler Town and Country and my best friend has a Kia Sedona. The back seats are rarely used and both vehicles just seem to gather junk.

4 James Joyner 24 August 2009 at 18:51

@bacchus – That’s a fair point. I grew up around the same time and we didn’t need a minivan, either.

But I didn’t have a car seat, either, and bet you didn’t, either. They take up a lot of room. With an infant, you need a Pack-n-Play or some other portable crib. Diaper bags and lots of changes of clothes. It doesn’t take much to fill up the trunk.

5 bacchus 24 August 2009 at 19:06

@James Joyner I actually had on of the bakelite booster seat with the steel frames, when I was that small. But it propped me up high enough for the seatbelt.

6 PJ Mullen 24 August 2009 at 19:26

Absolutely, real men drive minivans. As a matter of fact, that is what I named my blog. Do I revel in the fact I find a minivan in my driveway, no. Do I wish I had a Shelby GT500 instead, yes I do.

To Bacchus’ point, taking a trip with even one child, their belongings, car seat, stroller, light weight stroller, pack and play, toys to keep them occupied for 15 hours on the road and all other stuff my parents didn’t need or need when I was first born in the early 70′s have made owning a minivan a near necessity. Now, I realize it isn’t essential. Lots of people do just fine without one.

For us our two Hondas just weren’t cutting it. So, I figured if we were going to make the move we might as well go straight to the nuclear option and get the minivan. I’ve owned one for just over a year and it is incredibly convenient. However, the trade off is that I don’t enjoy driving it.

7 bacchus 24 August 2009 at 20:50

The minivan, if used for a family of 5 or less, is as underutilized for the majority of the populace as the SUV. Two or three times a year, it is needed, but the majority of the time, a Honda Civic or VW Golf could provide just as much functionality with greater gas mileage. $1738.64 vs $1092.86 based up $2.55/gal and 22 vs. 35 mpg and 15000 miles per year. Get the subcompact and rent the larger vehicle for your trips, people.

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