So I know how you all love when I rant about things like how traveling is a privilege and how it’s messed up to volunteer at orphanages abroad. In the spirit of continuing my perpetual rants let’s get into something else that makes me grind my teeth: Gender segregated public transport.
Basically what happened is a group of dumb-ass politicians in several countries like Colombia and Mexico have decided that the best way to deal with sexual harassment on public transport is to make a whole separate wagon for women. That way they’re protected from the completely animalistic and impossible-to-restrain sexual desires of men, and the problem is solved! yayyy!!
Remind me why we put people with complete lack of common sense in power again…
Let’s think about why this is a stupid idea for a second:
1. This is a band-aid solution. Making women get into a separate car does NOT end sexual harassment! Basically, what they’re trying to do is separate the public spaces so that women and men don’t interact, thus lowering the instances in which harassment can happen. It sounds great and all, but guess what? Men and women interact everywhere else so this doesn’t do shit!
2. It perpetuates the idea that men are the norm and women are the deviance. What do I mean? When you have “transportation” and “transportation for women” you are creating the idea that normal transportation is for men. Public spaces are for men, and women only have certain designated public spaces which are theirs. Women shouldn’t ride normal people transport but instead get into their special transport that is very often pink. Barbie would be so proud.
3. It could actually aggravate the problem because people are assholes and I bet anyone that when a woman riding the “normal people transportation” gets harassed there will not be a lack of douchebags victim-blaming her because she wasn’t riding in the transportation “for women.” Why would this happen? Well because…
4. The initiative places responsibility on the victim. Instead of working towards creating a culture where harassment isn’t accepted, it “let’s harassers be harassers” and tells women to change their route. So basically it’s the responsibility of victims to make sure they’re not harassed instead of cracking down on the assholes who think they have the right to any woman’s body just because she’s out in public. If you wanna come and say there will always be assholes bla bla bla, let me tell you culture is a big deal in this issue. Since moving back to Colombia I have become so much more convinced of this. Why? Because in Paris (a.k.a street harassment nightmare city) someone can grab your crotch or feel you up or kiss you against your will (all true stories) in completely crowded places and no one will do absolutely anything. Seriously, I had a guy follow me in broad daylight, grab me, and kiss me in the middle of the street, and none of the people around me thought that my screaming and pushing meant that they should do something. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear many stories about the opposite happening in Colombia. Every once in a while a story will come up in the news of how people in the Transmilenio catch a harasser and turn him into the authorities. The fact that people show solidarity so that these assholes are turned in, and the fact that it shows up in the news demonstrates that creating a culture of intolerance towards this problem can be a solution (not that sexual harassment isn’t a HUGE problem in Colombia, but I think this shows the beginning of a shift)
5. Also, let’s think about how condescending this mentality is. So you’re telling me men are so stupid that they can’t “control” themselves when they see a woman? What are they beasts? What the hell does that even mean, and why do people insist on justifying these actions with stupid reasons? UGH!
6. It’s heteronormative and reinforces the binary. Gender queer people already have to face enough crap, discrimination, and harassment, and creating spaces based on the gender binary just makes this worse. Let’s say a trans woman wants to ride the “female transport” to avoid harassment but is then harassed by bigots who don’t think she belongs there. Instead of creating a safe space for these women, it can make an already hostile public space worse for them. All-around fucked up.
7. Separate but equal? of course not! There are way more women that take public transport than the pathetic-excuse-for-a-solution transportation can offer, so it makes no sense! Also, not all routes are offered with this transportation so women who want to use it would have to change their routes and accommodate to it. Separate and inferior transportation is offered to women as a shitty solution and we’re supposed to applaud it? Am I crazy for being so angry about this?!
The gender-segregated transportation defenders often claim that they want women to feel safe in public space. Yes, exactly. Public space, not a little bubble designated to women who dare invade public space. This is NOT a solution people and it is NOT acceptable! If Politicians want cookie points for caring about “women’s issues” then they better start making a real effort and doing a real job. Seriously, let’s stop coming up with 3rd grade solutions to real problems that affect the lives of people in very real and violent ways.
Actually, I take that back…third-graders could probably come up with a better solution than this crap.