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Mill and Molesters

April 12, 2011

As my discussion section and this blog continue to debate equality between men and women in sports, my thoughts went to an article I read about Japan’s public transportation system.

"Women Only" subway cars are being allocated in both Japan and India to protect women from gropers during rush hour travel.

To briefly summarize the article, although Japan is famous for maintaining an extremely efficient and sanitary subway system, it apparently has an issue with women being groped during rush hour travel.  In a poll, 64% of women between the ages of 20 and 30 have reported being touched by subway gropers referred to as “chikans”.  In order to provide relief to women, railways are allocating some carriages as “women-only”.

How would Mill feel about these separate train cars?  Mill theorizes that women are considered to be weaker than men due to their lack of physical strength.  He continues to explain how women were freed from slavery much later then men, and society continues to view women in a lesser light for this reason.  He describes how the present system of subordination is only a theory, but society can continue to put the system of strength and weakness on trial.

The question is, do Japan’s women-only cars put the current system on trial or do they merely trap women in a subordinate role?

After the Japanese reported positive effects of the separate carriages, the trend spread to India.  The New York Times has reported that some women in India are now complaining that they are often berated by men who must wait in the long lines due to the lesser number of carriages available to them.  Reports of men storming the women-only cars and harassing travelers are surfacing in both Japan and India.  While many women state that they feel safer from the “chikans” in these isolated train carriages, the train companies are using more resources to maintain these carriages that are transporting less people, yet are often more luxurious.

64% of women between the ages of 20 and 30 have reported being groped on trains

I think that Mill might agree that these are wasted resources that continue to cripple women.  While it is important to protect the women that continue to be violated by the “chikans”, when Japan and India isolate these women in separate train cars, they are isolating them from the opportunity to break free from the shadow of subordination.  These resources could be better used to address the “chikans” in a manner that empower women, not force them to eradicate themselves from difficult situations.  While women-only cars may be the answer, maybe a better budget should be approved to provide an equally comfortable traveling experience between men and women.

What do you think?  Are these women-only carriages giving women preferential treatment, or are Japan and India merely protecting their citizens?  How do you think Mill would handle the situation?

  1. chelseahoedl permalink
    April 12, 2011 4:50 PM

    I personally feel that Mill would not approve of separate cars for women. Instead he would suggest that the issue be directly taken care of rather than tip-toed around. By placing women in a separate car in order to protect them, women are being portrayed as weak and helpless. This should not be the goal. Instead, men that grab women inappropriately should be punished accordingly. Separating men and women only creates a larger discrepancy between the two genders.

  2. April 12, 2011 7:37 PM

    Mill would not approve this system, even though in theory it is a good idea. Mill preaches against separation/division by gender and this system is just enforcing more separation. I agree that these two countries should just devote more money and focus on limiting the “chikans” rather than separating the carts. I think that this separation should be a last resort action, unless this is already what has happened. It is unfair for men in my opinion as well as they are forced to wait longer for a cart due to the problems of a minority of their gender. I believe that Mill would be in favor of restricting “chikans” rather than separating the carts.

  3. Bri Kovan permalink
    April 13, 2011 10:13 AM

    I agree with the first responder to the post. By creating these separate cars, it automatically portrays the women under a light that they are weaker and unable of protecting themselves, falling into Mill’s point of view.

    Clearly there is a separate issue at hand: If men were being groped on the trains, this would need to be regulated as well. It’s not an issue of gender, but a general issue of safety — something the carriages need to address. So instead of picking it apart as a sexist game, maybe they should instead focus on regulating overall safety — not just in regards to women.

  4. Emily Slaga permalink
    April 13, 2011 12:03 PM

    Mill would not support the separate carriages because, like the other people who commented have stated, Mill believes women should be treated as equals. I think he mostly preaches that women should be treated just as well as men, but I’m sure he would also agree that they should not be treated better than men, just for being women. And, I also agree with the other comments about how it is an issue of safety. I wonder if men were asked if they were groped, or the poll was only for women? Just like it’s not only women who are raped, men can be sexually assaulted and be the victims. It might be rarer, but it still happens. Thus, the separate carts are giving women an unfair advantage to safety compared to some men who could be left vulnerable. Mill would definitely argue that it’s not right because of this. While men may be less likely to be a target of the “chikans”, and may have more strength to fight them off, they still deserve equal safety.

  5. meymk permalink
    April 13, 2011 5:46 PM

    As a short run solution, I think Mill would encourage separate cars for women in order to provide a sense of security. Separating men and women on these trains is different than other instances of segregation on public transportation in modern history. These women have the choice to travel on the “Women Only” train cars and this measure has been put in place for their own safety, not because of direct discrimination. I don’t think Mill would support “equal rights” on a train if it meant that women were left to feel in danger.

    In the long run, I believe Mill would propose that a different approach be taken to solve this problem. There are obviously problems within society if it is socially acceptable for men to grope women in public. By separating men and women, Japanese society is putting a “band aid on an open wound.” Rather than addressing the issue of sexual abuse in public, they are simply separating men and women as a temporary solution. I believe Mill would encourage Japanese society to shift its views in order to make it unacceptable for sexual abuse to go unnoticed in public (or in private for that matter).

    Although increasing police patrol on these trains would cost more money than simply separating men and women, I believe this would be a more effective solution to the problem. Women would feel safer while also experiencing the freedom of traveling on public transportation without any form of gender discrimination or sexual abuse. Additionally, being more vocal about the problem will encourage women to report abusers. Implementing nation-wide campaigns to encourage women to reveal this ongoing abuse would give women the opportunity to defend themselves. If women feel too humiliated to report this abuse, then abusers will continue to threaten society and fuel gender inequalities.

    Overall, I don’t think Mill would oppose the gender-separated trains–the fact that women feel defenseless against men in this circumstance is a form of gender inequality. However, I believe there are more effective solutions that would benefit gender roles in society rather than just address the issue of abuse on trains.

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