This was written in response to an article posted to Reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes, a sub-reddit focused on the discussion of women’s issues. I wanted to save it here, because I waited a while to post to the reddit thread and I expect it to get buried.
I’ve been chewing on this one for a while. I wanted to see what TwoX’s response was and try to parse my conflicted feelings into words. I hear those saying that this is great for women, especially in countries where sexual harassment and groping on public transit are particularly rampant and culturally entrenched. I understand — intellectually, if not viscerally — how intimidating and frustrating it must be to ride the crowded public transit in those countries. I can imagine how much of a relief it must be to have an alternative that makes such treatment much less likely.
Even so, I don’t think women-only public transportation is a good thing.
The excuse used to keep women down for so long, at least in America, was that they needed to be ‘protected’. Protected from unruly men. Protected from the harshness of the world. They were to be treated as fragile perfect children to be sheltered and kept on a pedestal. It has been a hell of a fight to remove that world view and that fight is on going. This plays right into the narrative that ‘women need to be protected’. It seems like it’s handing a tool to those who would try to undo the gains women have made world wide in the last half century.
Second, I am reminded of Tony Porter’s TED Women talk A Call to Men. What are we telling the boys of the next generation with something like this? “Women need their own transportation, because you can’t control yourself.” It seems self defeating in the long run. And as a guy who has never treated women as anything other than respected equals, I’ve got to say, this is telling me “We’re afraid of you. We need to keep you away. We can’t trust you. Because of your gender.” I can step back from it and understand the need and reasoning for it, because I can imagine what it must be like to ride the subway always fearful of being groped by the people around you. But what about that kid who doesn’t have the experience to put himself in those shoes?
I feel like this has the potential to do far more harm over the long term than it will do good in the short term.