This question occurred to me when I was waiting for the bus the other day and saw a man raise his hand up, attract a taxi driver’s attention and casually sit in the passenger seat of the first car that arrived.
For me, I almost always use an app to book a taxi, where I can track the driver’s route and could quickly call the police. The driver’s information is there. The driver’s rating is there. I cancel on drivers who have fewer than five stars. I never sit in the passenger seat. I often walk home late at night instead of getting in the car with a random man (also note that the area I live in is generally safe). So, why?
If I posed this question online, or to many people I’ve met, they would probably tell me something along the lines of “because that’s just the way things are,” “because women need to be careful,” “because things are not safe for women” or “actually, I am a woman and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in a taxi.”
I will briefly entertain these non-arguments.
That’s just the way things are.
It is, indeed, the way things are. The word “just” in this sentence is so heavy though. The word “just” hurts me every time. “Just” suggests that this phenomenon is inevitable. As if whatever God you believe in created a world in which women should not feel safe, and our duty as women is to suck it up and just accept that this is the life we will live. I get where these people are coming from — societal issues run deep and it can take a lot of time to undo them. But we can undo them — and just accepting it is not a viable solution. This suggestion most often comes from someone in a position of privilege. If something doesn’t affect you, it’s easy to blow it off as just an inevitable way of the world, like how sometimes it rains when you want to go outside. I don’t believe I’d hear a lot of men saying “that’s just the way things are” if the roles were reversed and they didn’t feel comfortable hailing a taxi.
Women need to be careful.
Arguments like these are fun because they always place the burden on women. I understand that, realistically, creepy men are not going to become less creepy just because we tell them to do so. But a little accountability wouldn’t hurt them. Right now, with the “women need to be careful” mindset, creepy men operate somewhat freely, going about their creepy ways without ever hearing “men shouldn’t assault women.” They are free from responsibility. Women, meanwhile, need to be careful. Be careful not to choose the wrong taxi, women! Even though there’s basically no way to tell. Why don’t you just stay home all the time? Know your place.
Things are not safe for women.
A lot of men have tried to take taxis with me or make sure I get home because they recognize that getting a taxi is not as safe for women as it is for men. But this statement can’t be used to justify anything. The world is not naturally and inevitably unsafe for women. Women are not allergic to the makings of this world. Again, this sentence somehow (conveniently) avoids mentioning any of the things that make the going out unsafe for women sometimes. Women should be cautious and safe, yes — but sometimes we have to go completely out of our ways to do so, whether that means taking a very long route to get somewhere, pretending to talk on the phone or finding someone else to go somewhere with us.
Actually, I’m a woman and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in a taxi.
This shouldn’t be the case, but when women try to dismiss gender inequality, it often annoys me even more than when men do it. It’s internalized misogyny. These people think that if something has never happened to them, it must not be a problem. When women dismiss gender inequality, that also gives men the opportunity to say, “look, even this woman says taxis are totally safe and these other women are just playing the victim!” Using a handful of experiences to discount many others is insulting. If a woman has never experienced anything bad, then I’m happy for her. Men also feel unsafe sometimes. That doesn’t mean women face no issues. No one is trying to say that all women feel uncomfortable 100 percent of the time, wherever they go — what we’re saying is that it can happen, and it shouldn’t happen as often as it does. It happens enough to seem normal to us (see “that’s just the way things are”), and I’m tired of feeling like people are OK with women feeling on edge and unsafe being the norm.
So why can’t women just comfortably get a taxi? We’re used to the world being unsafe for women. We’ve become accustomed to women’s discomfort. I give taxi drivers five starts every time I’m taken to my destination, unscathed and alive. I know it sounds dramatic, but truly, being a woman has made me lower my standards — if I’m not murdered or groped or leered at, then five stars.
I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone — let the discomfort and unease that women experience in their daily lives make you uncomfortable. It should. It doesn’t need to feel normal.