Monday, May 09, 2005

No (wo)man's land

Tokyo is now offering women-only train cars in an effort to curb, you guessed it, the groping of female passengers.

I appreciate the good intentions at play here. More so than you might guess: I used to work in Osaka, and I have been groped on the subway, in a car that was packed so tightly I couldn't even turn around and see who the guy was. I did, however, manage to claw his hand pretty badly. (And I didn't cut my nails again for months.) I was surprised at what an invasive, upsetting experience it was.

And yet...I am concerned about what amounts to segregation.

It's like Tokyo is saying, we just can't manage to make these boys behave, so we'll give the ladies' "special cars" for their protection...we'll segregate them for their own good.

Does this mean if the ladies' car is full, and a woman gets on a "mixed" car and is groped, she was "asking for it" by going on the pervert car?

Women's lives are already segregated, in time and space. We have a defacto curfew--there are places you can not go, safely, as a woman on your own after dark. There are places you can not go safely, as a woman, ever.

And we are told implicitly and explicitly that these are "free misogyny zones,' where the laws of the land are not enforced, do not hold sway, do not protect us--so if we wilfully transgress any of the invisible temporal and spatial boundaries that delineate "women's space" from "public space," we're in no (wo)man's land, we're on our own, we're asking for it, we'll get what we deserve.

It feels like GOP free speech zones--a tacit admission that outside of a handful of designated spaces, your legal rights hold no weight.

Tokyo's move to segregate women feels like a bandaid solution, like a token gesture at public safety.

I'm frustrated that I can't quite put my finger on why this irks me, and I'm not articulating well what I'm feeling.

But this worries me.

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