Segregating Women to “Save” Them

Jessica Valenti, The Nation blog:

Last week Mexico City unveiled women-only buses as a way to battle the increasing sexual harassment on public transportation.

Some men treat women so badly that the subway system has long had ladies-only cars during rush hour, with police segregating the sexes on the platforms.

But that hasn’t helped women forced to rely on packed buses, by far the city’s most-used form of public transportation — until this week.

Acting on complaints from women’s groups, the city rolled out “ladies only” buses, complete with pink signs in the windshields to wave off the men.

Pink signs, huh? I’m all for safe spaces for women, but is segregation really an answer to sexism? I’ve written about this trend of women-only spaces before, most recently for The Guardian, and I still fail to see how this is anything but a temporary solution to a systemic problem.

There’s no doubt the harassment women face in public spaces needs to be addressed – whether it is on the street, the train, or even the internet. We’ve been subjected to regular catcalls and groping for far too long. But while the idea of a safe space is compelling, this international trend – which often comes couched in paternalistic rhetoric about “protecting” women – raises questions of just how equal the sexes are if women’s safety relies on us being separated. After all, shouldn’t we be targeting the gropers and harassers? The onus should be on men to stop harassing women, not on women to escape them.

What an interesting idea — require men to curb their own behavior, rather than creating man-free zones for women.  “Boys will be boys” only goes so far.  When you can’t even ride the bus home after a long day at work without being assaulted, it’s gone way too far.

If we’re going to make women safe, let’s make them safe everywhere – not just in designated areas.

Read the whole article here.

8 thoughts on “Segregating Women to “Save” Them

  1. As I kid I agreed to be the school mascot for winter sports only because I found out it allowed you to ride on the cheerleader bus to the away games.

  2. I don’t doubt that one bit True. This problem is not new. There were a string of “random” abductions/rapes/murders that plagued Ciudad Juarez at the dawn of the millenium.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/onassignment/juarez/

    This is a sordid tale of corruption and the untold dangers of the “free-market” gone horribly awry.

    I lived for 5 years in El Paso, TX (right across the border from Juarez.) Those five years changed my thoughts about immigration *forever*.

  3. I agree that the male population should fall into line; but, it is a cultural issue as well. In the states, it can become a basis for criminal charges – in Japan, it is frowned upon, but too often tolerated – in nations like Italy, France and Mexico, there are regions where it has become part of the culture. When I was on International Assignment, an assignee was arrested for assault when he decked a Frenchman who had groped his wife on the Paris Metro. Corporate Legal had to step in to get him out of jail. 😦

  4. Walt, I agree completely that the “macho” culture did play a very large role in the Juarez slayings. But there are so many factors at play in that case, and I am nowhere near an expert on Mexican culture.

    The French culture is another story. I am not surprised in the least that the groper groped, nor that your co-worker and *not* the groper were arrested.

  5. I might also mention that the assignee was 6’8″ and weighed 300 pounds. The Frenchee had to be carried out at the next station as he was still not conscious.

  6. In all my working life I was in stickie situation’s, much of it was in cabinet shop’s, wood working and men’s field’s….Also worked in photo finishing, casino’s, restraunt , grocery cashier and meat wrapping..Every time it was a case of men being men and me demanding distance and respect…I won every time and am not considered a big person…No matter their size or position I won because I was right and demanded it..Plane and simple…Don’t need a special bus, an equal ride suite’s this old broad as long as they keep their hand’s to themselve’s…LOL….Blessings.P.S. BTW I would kick the crap out of one that stepped over my line with out an invitation…

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