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.
PATRIARCHY + PET PEEVES ON THE MEXICO CITY METRO
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.)
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.
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 tú 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.
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.
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?