Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
March 21, 2024 ·  4 min read

Female Driver Says Gas Pumps Are Sexist Because They’re Designed For Men And Hurt Her Small Hands

Melanie Morgan claims gas pumps are “casually sexist”. Being a short woman with small hands, she explains that the pump handles “designed for men” are painful to use. The 31-year-old mother of two now has her partner, Jared Griffiths, fill up their Ford Tourneo Independence. She had sent him photos of her hand struggling with the pump before posting them to social media.

Are Gas Pumps Sexist?

“I have fairly small hands,” she explained in an interview with the Daily Mail. “I’m short, I’m 5ft 3, so I’m fairly small generally but I imagine there aren’t many men who have the same size hands as me. When I was younger I remember thinking ‘ooh this is difficult’ but then it’s also something you’re new to doing. But as an adult now who does it regularly it suddenly occurred to me one day that I don’t think most people find filling up the car painful, most people don’t have to think ‘this doesn’t work’. [1]

I’d assume there’s some kind of reason that it needs to be the broadness it is around that point and you have to pull it in tight, of course, but I think it’s a classic overlooked issue. No one’s going to complain about it and those who tend to design things like that I assume are typically male engineers. My partner fills the van up now and started doing it in October, so I don’t have to deal with it.

“…It’s enough of a problem that I just don’t want to deal with it. I’ve never timed filling up the van but I know when I’m filling it up I’m waiting for it to end.”

When Melanie initially told her partner Jared, 35, about potentially sexist gas pumps, he didn’t take it seriously. “I’d come back to the van having got out and filled up and when I got back in I was flexing my hand, like when you’ve been writing a lot, and I was like ‘ooh actually that quite hurts’. ‘I said this to my partner and he kind of laughed it off and I said ‘no really it hurts, you have to grip it really hard when you’ve got smaller hands’.”

This is actually a problem

“It’s ridiculous that that’s something I have to think about,” Melanie continued. “I took the pictures to prove to my partner that I had a point. It’s annoying it doesn’t prove exactly what I wanted it to — they’re not perfectly lit and they don’t quite show it — but it got the sense to him that actually, I’m having to grip that really tight just to get the handle. When I said this he was like ‘oh gosh you’re not joking, this is actually a problem’.”

Melanie added that she’s not sure if this discomfort is a common issue many people relate to. Either way, she plans to buy an electric car in the future to avoid petrol tanks entirely. “For me, it’s not a huge issue, it’s not something I can’t do, but I should imagine for some people it is something they cannot do — if you are weaker or smaller than me.

No-one particularly likes going to fill the car up, I think that’s the future of electric vehicles… We live in London, so the more we can do to reduce emissions the better.[2]

However, not everyone responded warmly to Melanie’s concerns. Some comments dismissed her case, while others recommended she use both hands for the hand or a grip strengthener, although it’s unclear if that will solve her problem.  

Improving Petrol Stations For Women

But gas pumps may still be involved in something casually sexist. When @emrazz (“Feminist Next Door”) asked women on Twitter what they’d do if “for 24 hours there were no men,” self-service gas stations were mixed into the replies. One woman wrote that she’d “Gas up my car without needing a passenger/witness”. Another wrote, “Not having to look for a gas station with more than 0 or 1 car at the pumps after dark.”

A man added that his wife’s had “too many bad experiences pumping gas, and it makes her anxious. Gas pumps are weird because even though they’re public, you’re somewhat alone and vulnerable … Nearly every time she stops for gas by herself, she is approached by a man. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s creepy, sometimes it’s just awkward and uncomfortable.” [3]

These are just a few experiences, and some women at the gas pumps don’t endure any kind of creepy or sexist behavior. However, for the sake of those who feel unsafe, stations could do well making a more comfortable environment for women — perhaps the size of the pumps aren’t the priority.

Keep Reading: Horribly Sexist Things That Show How Messed Up Our Society Is To Women


  1. “Female motorist, 31, says petrol pumps are SEXIST because their ‘male designed’ handles hurt her small hands.Daily Mail. Amelia Wynne. January 21, 2020
  2. Petrol pumps are ‘sexist’, says female driver.” Yahoo News. Ethan Jupp. January 23, 2020
  3. Why some women fear the self-serve gas station.The Globe and Mail. Andrew Clark. January 8, 2019