….or Banstread or Whetstone or Kirkby-in-Ashfield, anywhere you care to name.
We awoke this morning to the news that Labour Leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn would consider, after consultation, the idea of women only train carriages. Nothing new there, I remember the stares when I, as a spotty acrylan clad seventeen year old got into a women only carriage, this must have been about 1975/76 as I was on my way to a Caister Soul Weekender (I’ve never been cool).
Corbyn’s idea was being slammed left right and centre (pun intended). He had put this idea forward in the light of figures showing a 25% increase in sexual assaults on public transport.
Fellow leadership contenders Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham said it was turning the clock back, which it is, the Everyday Sexism Project, which only speaks of sexism against and not by women on their website, said Corbyn admitted defeat in the fight against sexism with this move and a good few journalists and commentators made silly sniping comments. Matilda Murday wrote a very balanced piece here where as a feminist she gives good arguments for not undertaking this initiative.
I fully agreed with Ms Murday and I think I still do, but then the mental cogs started whirring and I got to thinking. My initial thought when I heard Corbyn’s thoughts was “it’s a train Jezza, not a mosque on wheels” and the idea of segregation was what concerned me. But hang about, segregation has existed on public transport all my life, and it still does. What about quiet carriages on trains where you cannot bore your fellow passengers with the ins and outs of the job interview or your cousin’s funeral, is that not segregation? It was not all that long ago smokers were segregated on trains and buses, and as I said at the start, women only carriages existed as recently as colour televisions and trimphones, so why is it such a bad idea now?.
What would be the purpose of this segregation? Surely it would be to help some women feel more comfortable travelling on public transport, particularly those who have had occasion to feel uneasy or unsafe. Can we really say to them ‘no you can’t have what you want to feel safe because other people won’t like it’, we are not talking about weapons here. .
Various arguments, all with merit have been given against this initiative, segregation in the third millennium is wrong, men need to know how to behave, passengers need to work together to keep each other safe, a woman who is attacked in a mixed carriage will be blamed for not using the women only carriage, women still get attacked by other women on trains, these ideas all have merit, but so does the ‘feel safe’ argument.
Ultimately I would have to agree with Ms Murday on this, I just don’t like the idea for no other reason than I just don’t like the idea, and if it was proved not to be effective, somehow, women would get the blame.