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Pornography, Rape and Sexual Assault, Women's Bodies

“Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage”? Woman-Only Commuter Coaches: Yes! (Update — Woman-Only Buses Now in Mexico City)

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Mexico City’s woman-only buses were rolled out January 24.

Mexico City has become the newest city to debut woman-only buses.  While the city has long operated woman-only subway cars during rush hour, complete with police overseeing the segregating of the sexes on subway platforms, the woman-only buses are new, a response to women’s ongoing complaints of being harassed, sexually assaulted and mistreated by men.  Reports say that women are thrilled with the buses and being able to ride safely without worrying about being accosted.   

I went looking to see if there might be a Youtube video about the new buses and instead discovered yet another reason women need them.  When I did a search on Youtube using the words “Mexico woman only buses”, one of the top links was to a a video made by a perp with a foot fetish who, unbeknownst to a woman bus passenger, videoed her feet and posted the thing to Youtube under the title, “Girl on Bus (Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage)”.  How disgusting is it to have to worry not only about being groped, harrassed, assaulted, treated rudely, subjected to sexist commentary while commuting  — last week during my own bus commute, I was subjected to a male passenger’s loud, obnoxious, animated, misogynist descriptions of his visits to a strip bar and his complaints (directed to the entire back section of the bus like he was a fracking entertainer or something) that he always manages to show up on days the  “ugly girls” are working — we also have to worry about being surreptitiously filmed with the films posted to youtube for the enjoyment of perps, rapists and misogynists everywhere!

Here is the video I pulled up (I flagged it but don’t know what good that will do):

I’m aware of all of the arguments some feminists make against such buses, that they might make it easier for sexists to force women into segregated facilities. Nevertheless, I know of no woman personally who would not appreciate and use these buses if they were available. No woman wants to be sexually harassed, groped, abused or mistreated by men. 

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What follows is my earlier post from May of 2006 about woman-only buses in Rio de Janeiro.
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Tokyo Woman-Only Coach

This month, Rio de Janeiro became the third major city worldwide to approve woman-only cars and railway transportation, joining Mexico City and Tokyo.  The women’s buses and railcars are marked with woman signs or with pink striping.   According to this morning’s report in Women’s E-News, the cars were the result of complaints of groping and sexual assault on commuter trains and buses.  

This story caught my eye in part because I wrote about my own most recent groping in a post yesterday.  I had boarded a Seattle Metro bus at approximately 9:00 a.m. and was proceeding down the aisle to find a seat when a middle-aged, scruffy looking guy about my age reached out and grabbed my calf as I walked by, then joked about it to the equally scruffy-looking guy sitting next to him.  Like most women who live or work in large cities, especially, I’ve been groped a number of times in my life, and it is always violating and unnerving, but it seems even worse to me now that I am getting older.  I am almost 54 years old, a grandmother multiple times– does it ever end?  Immediately after I was groped I had to make the split-second decision:  was I going to make a big scene over it, or not?  I didn’t– for all the old familiar reasons.  Because I was embarrassed and in that shocked quasi-denial kind of state I (and I think all girls and women) enter into at the moment we are sexually violated, where we don’t really want to face up to it having happened in an attention-drawing kind of way, before we’ve had time to think about it and deal with it ourselves.  Because I was afraid of what might happen, that the guy and his buddy might get violent or act out in other scary ways.  Because I needed to get across town in 20 minutes and didn’t have time to wait for security to be called and to deal with whatever calling security entails.  Because I wanted to forget it, pretend it didn’t happen, move on with my day.

News reports covering the woman-only cars in Rio de Janeiro are hard for me to read, because they contain such unapologetic anti-woman, anti-feminist commentary, including from government officials, some of whom decried the cars as discriminatory and unconstitutional.  Their logic seemed to be either that officials should address the problem of groping, sexual assault and sexual harrassment in general, rather than ghetto-izing women by creating woman-only commuter cars, and/or that the woman-only cars discriminated against men.  Recently men opposed to the woman-only cars have engaged in protests, standing at bus and train loading areas with signs marked “gay,” “hippies,” “men,” and more protests are planned.  City officials intend to challenge the laws enacted to create woman-only transportation.  In some instances, according to the reports, men have violated women’s commuter spaces uneventfully, but in general, security guards are available to enforce the laws and  regularly do so with the hearty approval of the women riding.   When Women’s E-News interviewed commuters in Rio de Janeiro, by far the majority of women were enthused about the woman-only transportation, while all of the men queried disliked it.

Well, of course.  It either interferes with their groping plans — according to Alternet coverage, there is an online community dedicated to “those who enjoy pressing up against women on crowded buses and trains” which encourages them to leave descriptions of what amounts to their sexual assaults on women on the site for others to enjoy — or it flies in the face of what they want to believe about men, or of the excuses they make for the pandemic proportions of the problem of male sexual violation of women.  A university professor quoted in the Alternet article theorizes that groping “… happens in any crowd. The proximity of bodies creates a sense of permissiveness. The issue is that these trains are too crowded, and the service provided is insufficient to give enough room for passengers to be comfortable.”  I’m here to tell the good professor that groping happens only where there are men with unfettered access to the bodies of girls and women.  I am 100 percent certain that however crowded the woman-only cars are — and based on what I have read, they are very popular with women — not a single woman is getting groped on those cars.  Groping women on crowded commuter cars, all the way up to raping them, as happens all the time, is a crime of opportunity.  If men are kept severely out of the cars, women do not get raped and violated.  In fact, the atmosphere in the woman only cars was described by one reproductive health and women’s rights activist in Rio de Janeiro (who opposes the cars)  as “good, happy, relaxed, talkative.”  And of course, some men don’t like the laws because they don’t want to be inconvenienced in any way shape or form on account of some sexual assaults and a rape or two.  I mean jeez, what’s the world coming to.

Nevertheless, woman-only commuter trains and buses are a growing trend.  Cairo and Mumbai have them and other major cities are considering them.  According to the Women’s E-News report, 67 percent of those polled in Rio de Janeiro favor the sex-segregated cars.  Feministing blogged briefly a while back in opposition to the cars, reasoning that the cars put responsibility on women to avoid being harrassed rather than on men to stop the harrassing.  I disagree.  Given, again, the pandemic proportions of rape, sexual assault, sexual violation of every kind worldwide, we cannot simply wait for men to stop doing what we already know they are not going to stop doing, as though violated girls and women are some kind of ongoing, necessary sacrifice.   Women who don’t want to ride the woman-only cars are free not to– there are plenty of mixed-sex coaches. The unwillingness of men to evidence respect for 1 woman-only bus out of 33 available (because that is the ratio) speaks volumes about male privilege, male entitlement, and the way so many men are incapable of evidencing any respect for women.  In the meantime, what an 18-year-old woman commuter is quoted to have said resonates with me: “It’s much more comfortable without the inconvenience of men pressing themselves on us.  We feel more at ease.  But they’ll need to increase the number of cars for the large number of women.”

Heart

 

Discussion

14 thoughts on ““Peep Toe & Toe Cleavage”? Woman-Only Commuter Coaches: Yes! (Update — Woman-Only Buses Now in Mexico City)

  1. the whole groping thing makes me so profoundly angry, so violently angry, I don’t know what I would do were it to happen to me. (happen to me again, rather) a stranger hasn’t groped me since the seventh grade, and then I tried to chase after him, although I don’t know what I would have accomplished if I had caught him. I don’t know how to fight, throw a punch, or anything. I fear my rage would’ve stopped at that point. and here I have to admit I have no problem (theoretically, intellectually) with hitting the men and boys who do this sort of thing. I think they deserve to get punched full in the mouth or kicked supremely hard. the pacifist in me thinks “oh no, violence is bad, two wrongs don’t make a right” etc etc. but.. but talking doesn’t stop them. appealing to their sense of justice sure as hell doesn’t stop them. yelling at them doesn’t stop them. it feels like the only thing that might stop these men and boys from doing it again would be if it cost them to do it. and as women being angry is usually seen as either sexy or funny, one might need to physically hurt them to get them to stop or at least hesitate from doing it again.

    why am I so afraid to say that? why am I so afraid to admit that, horrors, I want to hurt these fuckers that violate me and other women? tsk tsk that’s not ladylike!

    … and what I’m struggling with right now, before I click the Submit button, is the knowledge that my ex of a several years ago used to grope me all the time. there’s this whole complicated mess that’s attached to it, like if I was his girlfriend, how could he be groping me? but it was groping. he did grope me. he did it all the time. he did it no matter how many times I told him to stop. so much so, that I couldn’t go up to hug him without pressing my arms close to my sides and having my hands in front of me in order to ward his hands off my breasts. because he grabbed them *all* the time. :::rage:::

    so given that, why was the first thing I wrote was that it hasn’t happened to me since I was in 7th grade? I think the why of that, and the why of men groping women on the train, are all about access. my boyfriend had a “right” to access my body, so he grabbed it whenever he wanted. that might be harder to see as “groping” compared to strangers grabbing women because strange men don’t “own” my body, whereas my boyfriend does. at the same time, the men on the train feel a “right” to access women when the opportunity presents itself. and their anger at women-only trains is the anger of having that access denied.

    so I might be ranting, or rambling. and I might be OT or just talking about something that this reminded me of, I’m not really sure. but I am writing. I am speaking. and that is good.

    Posted by Cinder | May 26, 2006, 9:32 pm
  2. So true, re male partners groping! Some *do* grope, don’t they– and until you posted your comment, cinder, I’d never thought about it that way, but it’s an offensive, ownership kind of groping that is the polar opposite of affection.

    The only thing worse than being groped by a stranger is being groped by a stranger while you’re with an alpha male partner. When I was in my 20s, my second ex and I were at the Seattle Center, in the Food Circus, with our then three kids. Geez, I remember it perfectly. It’s amazing how perfectly you can remember things like this. My ex was in the men’s room and I was headed towards the women’s room with my small kids in tow, when this 20-something idiot comes alongside me and grabs my butt! Hard! Then books off laughing with his buddies. My ex came out of the bathroom and I told him what had happened, feeling really angry, mortified, and shaken, so what does my ex do but goes and chases the guy, grabs him, and throws him up against the wall and gets all up in his face, yelling and making a huge scene. UGH. Because all that is saying is, “she’s MINE to grope, not YOURS.” When in fact, I am MY OWN, not anybody’s property to grope or defend either one!

    I constantly, constantly got groped when I was a cocktail server for a few years in my early 20s. It was just part of the !$^@$^#%!#$^% job. I also once got severely and hideously groped under the table, under my skirt, more like a rape, by an upper level manager at the then Olympic Hotel in Seattle. I had rebuffed him many times — he was at least twice my age, was married, was a total asshole — and this happened at a meeting of servers, bartenders, our manager (a woman) and this guy. The woman manager gave us working names at this bar; mine was “Brunhilde.” As we’re sitting there talking, this asshole gets to talking about the opera character Brunhilde, how he never really liked her, he found her to be some word, I can’t remember, but the equivalent of a bitch, and as he is saying this and looking right at me, he is groping me under the table. I didn’t say a dang thing– I was humiliated, I thought it was my fault, I was a single mom and was afraid I’d get fired, I didn’t want to embarrass my woman boss (who always took tons of shit from the male management). It is one of the most hideous memories of my working life. 😦 But not the only one like it. 😦

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | May 26, 2006, 10:45 pm
  3. It doesn’t just happen to women. I used to work in downtown Los Angeles and was on the DASH local transit bus. A guy who worked on the same floor was standing right behind me. Although the bus got extremely crowded during the lunch hour, he was making a lot more contact than necessary under the circumstances (although not groping me). I got off the bus first but the next time I saw him, he averted his eyes when I looked at him.

    Posted by Ralph | July 8, 2006, 9:36 pm
  4. My only concern about these buses is this: what happens to the women who don’t (or for some reason can’t) take these buses? Are they going to be blamed for being groped? (like women are blamed every other time some douchebag does something wrong).

    Posted by Renali | February 1, 2008, 7:20 pm
  5. Well, we can count on it that no matter what happens to a woman, she will be blamed for it! Even after she’s dead!

    So all things being equal, bring on what will provide women with some safety and peace of mind.

    I swear to god, riding commuter buses can be ATROCIOUS for women, I know because I ride them every day, three hours round trip, more if the traffic is bad, which it often is. There is no way to avoid being smashed up against men (unless you do like me and decide ahead of time to sit next to a woman). There is no way to not have to listen to them running off at the mouth, often in really sexist, disgusting ways. And as this post shows, there is no way to know whether one of them is filming you!

    That filming business is CREEPY. There are youtubes posted of little girls’ feet, too, for pervs and fetishists. Who knows what some idiot is filming on a bus, it might be that horrific guy who runs that site for pedophiles who spend their days finding and going to places little girls are in hopes of touching them, photographing them, basically sexually assaulting them.

    RAGE.

    Posted by womensspace | February 1, 2008, 7:40 pm
  6. Ralph, with all due respect, I think most of the wimmin here could impart either dozens or hundreds of stories, including the groping.

    The frequency and degree with females suffer this harassment is the reason why females need safe(r) spaces.

    Your story also relates that it was a male as perpetrator, something which feminists have been saying for years (that most perps are male). We have been unsuccessful in getting males to stop such behaviour. Time for you males to clean house now.

    Posted by stormy | February 2, 2008, 2:47 pm
  7. I’ve never been groped on a bus (once years ago, in Victoria Station in London and I yelled in his face..) but I do find it horrible to have to listen to the LOUD conversations on trains and buses by men about their sexual conquests. Usually very young, often intoxicated and in a group, always full of profanity. No concern for the children on the bus or the obvious discomfort of other passengers. What to do? On a train you can move carriages but on the bus you are trapped. Once a bus driver threatened to throw a group off if they did not shut up and the whole bus cheered. Packs of loud males talking about “bitches” and who the have fucked with details are common on public transport in Australia. It’s actually illegal to use profanity on public transport but no one is going to pull the emergency handle for this.. instead everyone sits frozen, not wanting to risk the violence that will be the response to any rebuke.

    No answers to this. I’ve always used public transport and this is my No.1 gripe, much worse than late trains.

    Posted by Arietty | February 3, 2008, 12:56 am
  8. I think we should expand the women only spaces to an entire U.S. city. Say we make men move out of NY City for an entire week? Let’s have downtowns closed to men at least once a week.

    Let’s have women take over all the buses and make the men walk! Wow, we could just get rid of the rapists, harassers, gropers and sexual insulters by banning them from lots of public spaces. Men would be allowed to come back only after they agreed to police each other. One male backslider would mean all men would be kicked off the buses once again.

    Men would be rewarded every time they prevented other men from doing sexist things. Maybe a free turkey from Ralph’s, or a free tie from Macy’s🙂

    Men are not going to change their incredibly bad public behavior ever. We’ve been talking about the evil idiots on buses and subways for decades now, and still no change.

    Los Angeles is one city that I’ve loved living in about the best. I never really thought about why I loved it so much here until I realized it is the very first city where I have never ever riden mass transit. My commute is delightfully male free, credit card/ATM card gas pumps make it easy for me to never deal with the creepy men that so love to work in the auto industry, and if I go to a health food store at certain hours, hardly any men are there shopping either.

    No children live in my neighborhood almost, so there are no annoying teenage boys — I hate them the most! A lesbian bar in Los Angeles is rare these days, but the bars that do allow men in are changed places. The men, knowing they are outnumbered, are surprisingly cautious in what they say. They fear being stabbed to death with a pool stick, or slammed against a wall by a lesbian cop. Men understand one thing — complete banishment from the buses, and they know that women who fight back are not to be messed with.

    If every man knew that he would either be beaten up and crippled for life or jailed for 10 years for anything he ever does to women, well, you’d see these jokers clean up their acts pretty damn fast.

    Women don’t get this about men. Men are primitive creatures, and you can’t reason with them. You can only kick them off the bus!! I say kick them out of a country, so women could move to a male free country somewhere in the world. If Jews can have Israel, why can’t women have a small or medium size nation state? Think about it!

    Posted by Satsuma | February 3, 2008, 3:34 am
  9. My goodness, the memories this discussion starts to pull up!

    Back in the early days of video – I still remember the sudden horror of realising that the tutor who had supposedly been videoing his students ploughing, had not had his camera aimed at the plough, or the controls, or even my face, while he was in the cab with me.
    Of course there were a few appreciative smirks around the class as that video was shown – and it wasn’t the only time either.
    I think I was just a bit too amazed that I hadn’t even noticed at the time the video was taken to think of anything else – just due wages of being the only female in the group. I don’t think I have it in me to get angry about something like that when there is so much else – and when it’s so much a part of life if you must associate with males.

    A while back I stated that if groping were included as sexual assault, then the percentage of women who have been sexually assaulted must be so close to a hundred as makes no difference.
    My sister’s response to that went along the lines of, “No, that’s – oh…”
    Do we even talk about these things with each other? Off-line? Or just rationalise half of these incidents as ‘accidental’?

    Posted by Sophie | February 3, 2008, 10:59 am
  10. “Given, again, the pandemic proportions of rape, sexual assault, sexual violation of every kind worldwide, we cannot simply wait for men to stop doing what we already know they are not going to stop doing, as though violated girls and women are some kind of ongoing, necessary sacrifice.”

    Brilliant.

    Posted by Emma | February 6, 2008, 6:45 am
  11. I ride public transit often. Once, just once so far, has a conductor (male) called out profanity-spewing young men. They were rattling along very loudly saying “f-ing” this and “f-ing” that, “those ugly f-ing b*tches at ___ Bar”, constantly voicing their vile opinions about female bodies in traditionally hateful male language. That type. The driver finally said “if you’re using profanity, you’d better feel like walking”.

    Once again I’m reminded of Nikki Craft’s work, and that of many other courageous activist women, with regards to filming women without permission. Just go to your average local “adult” (read: woman-hating pornography and twisted sexual shame) shop and start filming the men who approach or exit the store. You’ll learn how skewed male expectations of privacy are in a hurry, and probably be harassed and threatened since you dared “violate” their “rights”.

    Posted by christine | March 14, 2008, 7:51 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Groping and Coping - May 25, 2006

  2. Pingback: Abyss2hope - June 1, 2006

  3. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Sex Segregated Mass Transit - August 6, 2007

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