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To Save Women from “Leering Drivers”, City Offers Pink Taxis, Beauty Kits

To Save Women from “Leering Drivers”, City Offers Pink Taxis, Beauty Kits

Following what seems to be something of an international trend, the Mexican city of Puebla has offered a new service to women plagued by “leering drivers”: a fleet of taxis, driven by women and catering exclusively to women.  This comes on the heels of women-only train cars in Japan and Brazil, all-female transportation in Tehran, and “ladies’ specials” in India, all designed to free women from the sexual harassment that public transportation seems inevitably to bring.

The planners of the taxi project in Puebla also tout the benefits for female drivers, saying that having women-only taxis opens up a traditionally male-dominated profession.  And certainly, it’s easy to appreciate the sentiment behind the new taxi fleet – freedom from a hostile environment is always a welcome respite, as any woman who has ridden in a subway car (or walked anywhere) in New York City can tell you.  If the program succeeds, the organizers say that it will be expanded to other cities in Mexico.

The problem with the Puebla taxis?  They’re pink.  And along with a GPS system and an alarm button, they come with a beauty kit.

“Some of the woman who have been on board tell us how male taxi drivers cross the line and try to flirt with them and make inappropriate propositions,” said taxi driver Aida Santos, who drives one of the compact, four-door taxis with a tracking device and an alarm button that notifies emergency services. “In the Pink Taxi they won’t have that feeling of insecurity, and they feel more relaxed.”  So why does that feeling of relaxation have to be accompanied by a beauty kit?  And do women really have to lured into this safe space with the color pink?

Women’s rights activists are understandably horrified by the taxis’ sugary exterior.  Many point out that simply providing women with a way to avoid harassment does not address the root of the problem.  “We are in the 21st century, and they are saying women have continued worrying about beauty and nothing more,” said Vianeth Rojas, of the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Puebla. “They are absolutely not helping eradicate violence against women.”  So basically: shouldn’t we be targeting the gropers and the harassers, not just getting women away from them?  Why do women have to change their routines – and find special taxis – because these men refuse to respect them?

I have mixed feelings about the concept of all-female transportation as a whole.  On the one hand, it’s great to provide women with a place where they are free from harassment and catcalling.  But we have to remember that this is simply a temporary measure.  Mexico City, interestingly, has one of the more progressive plans: the city began running all-female buses, but also passed a new ordinance making it easier to prosecute for public touching, and launched a public education campaign to make it clear that public touching is illegal.

The situation in Puebla is a similarly mixed bag.  The opportunities for women who wouldn’t previously have been able to be taxi drivers are good, as is the concept of a harassment-free form of transportation.  But let’s back it up with some concrete ways to stop harassment at its root, instead of expecting women to avoid harassment – and for goodness’ sake, we need to lose the beauty kits.

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Photo courtesy of diariodelviajero.com.

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59 comments

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9:11AM PST on Nov 3, 2009

"Someone tries to do something for women somewhere, and you take offense."

Yeah, because this stupid taxi idea just promotes the idea that women should hide and run away instead of standing up for and fighting for their rights. It makes women look weak, as certain societies intend them to be, it makes it look like women are incapable of defending themselves. This taxi idea is a step back from women's rights. These taxis won't protect women. Segregation is not the way to move towards gender equality.

"And as for the baloney about Lesbians oogling their fares....PLEASE! "

It's not bologne, it's the truth. Lesbians can harass other women just as men can harass women, go do some research on sexual harassment, it's not a straight issue.

1:31PM PDT on Oct 29, 2009

Ok...Sarah, you irritate me. Someone tries to do something for women somewhere, and you take offense. Take it at face value, it may not be right in your opinion...but that's just it, an OPINION. Your harping like a common fishwife because of this just makes me want to vomit. In places like mexico, families dont always teach their young men to behave properly with those of the opposite sex. And as for the baloney about Lesbians oogling their fares....PLEASE! They're people, and having been accosted, shamed, treated unfairly by society for the last umpteen years, most of them would be more apt to treat their fares with more than common courtesy. I have many friends in the rainbow community, and they are professional, kind hearted, generous people. I agree with Max M. He said it just as it should be expressed.

8:56AM PDT on Oct 27, 2009

"The remarks that lesbians would use the femals cabs as a chance to oogle their passengers is ridiculous and offensive. To bring homophobic views into a post completely unrelated to the topic is just ignorant and petty."

It's not ignorant and petty, it's considering what can happen and that sexual harassment is not just limited to straight people.

"There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with homosexuals, but since the subject was introduced i want to address it."

No one's saying there is. They're thinking realistically and realistically even gays and lesbians can sexually harass people.

"It would only stand to reason, common sense, and decency that a lesbian driver of a female cab would be expected to treat her passengers with the same level of respect that is supposed to be expressed by the drivers of regualar taxis. Much in the same way that a gay taxi driver would be expected to be courteous towards his male passengers."

Just because it's expected, doesn't mean they'll do it.

"It is completely unfounded to say that just because someone is homosexual they will be offensive."

Who said they would be offensive because they're homosexual? Sexual harassment isn't straight, it's also gay and bisexual. It's ignorant to assume a lesbian or gay driver wouldn't hit on the passengers.

1:36PM PDT on Oct 25, 2009

Women didn't get rights by hiding and or running away from trouble.

10:42AM PDT on Oct 25, 2009

This just perpetuates the idea that women can't take care of themselves & have to be protected from men - and from leering, of all things. Why stop with special taxis? Maybe women should only be allowed out during certan times, so the police can keep a better eye on them. Or maybe they shouldn't be allowed out at all - no one can leer at them if they stay home. The most brutal oppression of women is always done under the guise of protecting them, & while the taxis don't quality as brutal oppression, they are at the top of a slippery slope. I can protect myself, I don't need big brother watching out for me. It's called the real world, and I live there, not in some pink utopia where men never leer at women.

9:18PM PDT on Oct 24, 2009

Women can't run or hide from trouble forever.

8:05PM PDT on Oct 24, 2009

I see nothing wrong with a pink cab. Many taxis are yellow so they can be picked out easily. Pink is easy to pick out as well since it is an extremely uncommon color for a car. Yes, it is associated with the female gender, so what? Some razors designed for women are also pink, is that sexist? Does it really matter? The beauty kit does seem a tad silly though.

11:14AM PDT on Oct 24, 2009

lucks was supposed to say looks. my bad. :( Oh, and if someone is having a problem with harrassment, they should turn in their complaint to the company and find alternative means of transportatoin, even if that just means catching a different cab. And the article was very well written, thank you.

11:10AM PDT on Oct 24, 2009

much negativity? When it comes down to it, pink is just the color of the paint, and the beauty products are just the contents of a box. Oh, and this last thing is just a little personal note i felt like adding. To all the women out there: it IS okay to be appreciated by men. There's nothing wrong with being appreciated for by your lucks, much in the same way as there is nothing wrong with being appreciated for your mind. Ease up, not everything a guy does is to try to keep you down because they think we're the weaker sex. It's really backwards to believe such a steriotypical generic personality trait attributed to all males. And for the men: while your comments are appreciated by some, myself being one of them...thank you..., you have to realize that some women have been traumatized or raised in situations different from yours where certain comments aren't okay. So get to know a girl before making certain comments, or keep them pg please. Not all women mind, but some do and its just a matter of respect to not offend someone regarless of the topic.

11:03AM PDT on Oct 24, 2009

it available to be reused by each female passenger.
There were some comments that just seemed so narrow-minded that i wasn't even going to respond but i changed my mind. Go figure... The remarks that lesbians would use the femals cabs as a chance to oogle their passengers is ridiculous and offensive. To bring homophobic views into a post completely unrelated to the topic is just ignorant and petty. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with homosexuals, but since the subject was introduced i want to address it. It would only stand to reason, common sense, and decency that a lesbian driver of a female cab would be expected to treat her passengers with the same level of respect that is supposed to be expressed by the drivers of regualar taxis. Much in the same way that a gay taxi driver would be expected to be courteous towards his male passengers. It is completely unfounded to say that just because someone is homosexual they will be offensive.
On a different note, i am truly saddened that so many people missed the chance to note something positive and turn a post into a name calling fest, myself included. Even if there are some flaws in the idea, i am impressed that there are gov'ts out there who care so much about their people that they are willing to spend money trying to make their lives simpler and more peaceful. Kudos to them! And for all the people out there trying to nitpick the idea apart to find the one piece that offends you, why bother spending all your time on so

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