Discussion Thread: Segregated Train Cars

[Trigger warning for discussion of sexual harassment and assault.]

Iain sent me this piece by Tracy Clark-Flory about the introduction of women-only train carriages in Indonesia, which women can use voluntarily. Melanie Abrahams has a piece about it here, too.

Like both Tracy and Melanie, I have very mixed feelings about the introduction of segregated trains and/or segregated train cars, which is an increasingly common practice in Asia, particularly.

I absolutely support the idea of safe spaces for women, and I would, quite frankly, have been thrilled to have the option to ride in a women-only car many days when I was a regular El commuter in Chicago.

But here's the thing: Segregating women isn't really a comprehensive solution. It is, in my estimation, only a small part—the smallest, even—of what needs to be a culture-wide strategy to change attitudes about sexual harassment and assault. Giving women segregated spaces, without any public initiatives to ultimately render them obsolete, just treats the assault of women as an inevitability—which ironically reinforces the very attitudes (e.g. men are sexually compulsive and can't help but treat women's bodies as public property) that underlie sexual assault in the first place.

The main objective should be setting higher expectations of men: Their behavior toward women needs to be addressed via a public and exhaustive deconstruction of their privilege and the associated entitlement that feeds the assertion of ownership over women's bodies, combined with education about respecting women's bodily autonomy and their right to consent.

Segregated train cars don't actually solve the causes and enabling narratives of sexual harassment and assault, and, as a stand-alone "solution," may actually more deeply entrench those causes/narratives. So...I like them. But not in a void.

What do you think?

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