FeminismMetro DiariesMexicoMexico City

Patriarchy + Pet Peeves on the Mexico City Metro

The second instalment of my Mexico City Metro Diaries series touches upon an issue mentioned in the first instalment (which you can find here); men using the women and children’s only carriages. For those of you thinking ‘but women and children’s only carriages don’t exist?’, in Mexico they do. However, as with most things here, the rules are very rarely respected; police are sporadically spotted patrolling the platforms or checking the carriages (usually at only the busiest stations), and even though you can supposedly be fined for using the women and children’s carriages, I’ve never heard of anyone reprimanded for it.


Why do they exist?

Implemented in 2008, to combat the rampant issue of sexual harassment on the Mexico City metro, they were at first only used on certain lines during the notoriously hectic Mexico City rush hour (there are around the same amount of people using this metro system on a daily basis, as there are using the NYC Subway equivalent). This was prior to being expanded to all lines, at all times.

This, as you can imagine, riled up some entitled people (men) who believe it’s unfair for women have their own carriage and clearly have never felt threatened by the possibility of a sexual assault. (Just a sidenote: Some men I know have commented that it’s unfair for them to be crammed in like tinned sardines on the mixed carriages, when women have ample space in theirs. I will honestly never understand why they think the women’s carriage is any more luxurious then the mixed ones during rush hour though; if anything, women are far more violent when it comes to vying for that last seat, and breathing room at peak times is just as tight.)

mexico city metro diaries women's rights

Metro, CDMX | © Paul Sableman/Flickr

My biggest Mexico City metro pet hate

For that reason – the whole ‘combatting sexual harassment’ thing – my biggest Mexico City metro pet hate(s) are the men who think they’re entitled to come on to the women and children’s only carriages (not even during rush hour, I might add) and take up a seat that isn’t intended for them.

As you can imagine, roughly 60-70% of my time during these journeys where I’m left standing because a perfectly able man wants to continue reading his book in peace is spent formulating some kind of witty comment that will put him in his place. You know the one, the kind that makes you look intelligent and self-assured, and possibly provokes a round of applause from those within earshot.

mexico city metro diaries women's rights

Waiting for the metro | © kevin/Flickr

In my head, the scene plays out like this:

‘¿Disculpe, usted sabe que este es el vagón de las damas y niños?’

‘Excuse me, do you know this is the women and children’s carriage?’

‘Sí, sí lo sabía señorita, pero es que, como hombre en una sociedad machista, no siento vergüenza cuando viole los derechos de las mujeres. Así se hace aquí.’

‘Yes, yes I did know that señorita, but, you know, as a man in a machista society I’m not ashamed of violating women’s rights. That’s just how we do it here.’

I mean, that’s obviously a fantasy, because no man would recognise their own deeply-rooted privilege and entitlement in that scenario, let alone admit to it.

Enter scenario two:

‘No, no lo sabía. ¿Gustas sentarte?’

‘No, no I didn’t realise. Would you like to sit down?’

Also unlikely, but note the play of innocence and use of form, rather than the polite usted. Even in my fantasies I’m disrespected.

Of course, I’m quite clearly been facetious, because there are many men clearly aware they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be when you spot them roaming around the women’s carriage, and they’re actually very quick to offer you their seat. But, you see my point.

mexico city metro diaries women's rights

‘For greater security, this area is reserved for women and children.’ | © Eric Titcombe/Flickr

Either way, those ridiculous fantasy conversations where I save women’s rights for all and leave a heroine are never going to happen. What’s actually more likely to happen if I were to confront a man in the woman’s carriage with a rational and measured ‘Excuse me, sir, do you realise this is the women and children’s carriage?’ is that they spit on you, punch you in the face or just plain ignore you and pretend you don’t exist. Which, to some of them, you obviously don’t. I’m not exaggerating by the way, these are all things that have happened to women who’ve tried to stand up for themselves to overly-entitled and just downright rude men.

mexico city metro diaries women's rights

Metro, CDMX | © yonolatengo/Flickr

So, what can you do?

My top technique (ineffective so far, but I’ll report back) is a very British stare-down. Position yourself close enough to where they’re sat to make them marginally uncomfortable (but not enough for them to say anything to you) and then stare at them. Maybe throw in a tut or two, or even a disappointed sigh. Definitely scan the carriage for supportive eye contact from the other metro users. Maybe accidentally stand on their toe when the metro grinds to a violent halt at the following station. As I say, this might work in Britain, but in Mexico you’re just pissing in the wind. Ultimately, there’s nothing you can do.

To round up and be done with this infuriating subject, my question is why men of the Mexico City metro, why? Can’t you just let us have a vagón of our own?

Related Post: A Beginner’s Guide to the Mexico City Metro


  1. Olivia 10 May, 2017 at 06:35 Reply

    You can also go in the first car of the train and, since the driver usually has to watch the closing of the doors at every station stop, poke your head and ask him to get the ‘gentlemen’ removed from the women-only cars. That way, you are less exposed to a nasty retort and avoid having a bad time for saying anything directly (sadly, a lot of the times it’s the women themselves who defend that behavior).

  2. Karen 11 May, 2017 at 15:08 Reply

    I ride the Metro 6 days a week ! My worst experience of living in Mexico ! As an American living abroad to teach English , it is digusting the lack of resepct ! The men and women ! Its like a group of animals let out of a cage ! Theres no real rules or RESPECT ! On the womens side they are mean ! They steal ! Won’t let you off at your stop !(they won’t move ) The men are much nicer but you deal with the perverts everyday ! Mexico City Metro has serious problems ! I come from a large city in America and if you did what they do here in Mexico City you would go to jail ! Get your ass kicked ! Maybe even shot !

  3. Metro Diaries | Broken Glass - Northern Lauren 30 July, 2017 at 23:35 Reply

    […] It wasn’t the first time I’d seen men on the women’s and children’s section of the metro platform before. After all, there was nothing new about men flouting their rules and taking up seats on carriages reserved for the majority who are treated like the minority. But I hadn’t seen such a large group of vest-wearing men hanging about before. As they hung out, I hung back. […]

  4. Male traveller 26 November, 2017 at 16:12 Reply

    I am a man with poor eyesight and I don’t know any Spanish. I am visiting Mexico City next week. Can you give clear advice on how to avoid ending up in the women-only area by mistake? Yes, I would probably realise, but probably only after walking into the wrong place, and possibly too late to correct it.

    • Lauren 27 November, 2017 at 23:33 Reply

      Stay in the centre of the platform. The womens carriages are ALWAYS at the end of the platform (it can change side from line to line). This only applies to the metro though!

  5. Rachel 29 April, 2018 at 04:28 Reply

    I go through exactly the same thought process every day on the metro! I’d like to see those men spend just one day living with the constant fear of harassment and assault women face and then they can decide if they deserve to take up space in our carriage.

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