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Between Two Stops

March 8, 2010

I was taking the bus the other day, every day now since my license was temporarily  suspended because of unpaid parking tickets, and I noticed a sign advertising the fact that at night, if asked, the bus driver will stop between two stops in an attempt to make it safer for women taking public transportation at night. On one hand, I think it’s an interesting service, but on the other it kind of annoys me as well. 

It annoys me that we live in a world where such measure are needed. It annoys me that it is a service designed for women. Oh, I’m sure they would also stop for men who would like to stop closer to where they live or to where they are going, but I wonder how many people actually make us of this service. I mean, the underlying assumption is that the person making the request is in need of extra protection and by definition weak. I think it’s hard for anyone to ask for that extra help, to show that they are vulnerable to exterior circumstances that may or may not come to be. I know I’ve always tried to play it cool, to pretend that it didn’t matter that I’m a woman and that I could go anywhere or do anything alone. 

The reality is different, though, isn’t it? Feelings of discomfort and vulnerability aside, I’m glad that this “between two stops” service exists because in some cases it would probably change circumstances for the best. I’m lucky, because the bus stops directly in front of my apartment building. Ok, sometimes that makes me unlucky because of the noise that it makes, but I do have the ease of walking straight into my building. A privilege, unfortunately, that not everyone can claim. Walking home at night can be daunting for anyone and especially if you are a woman. Writing that down makes me want to barf, but it’s still the reality. An unescapable reality for the moment, I’m afraid. 

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2010 3:47 pm

    I’ve always found that sign annoying, too. First of all, it implies that your destination is actually between two stops, and thus COULD be more easily accessible ALL THE TIME, but that they will only allow you to get off where it’s convenient (er…. safe) at night. How does that make sense? And why should only women be allowed this privilege, which pretty much everyone would agree that frigid Montreal winters make people want to get off between stops all damn day?

    Secondly, I find most of the problem lies in the fact that many times I have lived nowhere near “my” stop, and stopping between two stops wouldn’t have fixed that problem. Having to walk more than a few blocks to the bus, no matter what time of day, can be inconvenient and/or dangerous–for a variety of reasons. If there’s no bus that goes along the route you walk, however, there’s really no way around it. Out in NDG, for instance, there’s plenty of places where you’ll be walking forever with no public transit in sight. So I’ve never really understood the concept of stopping “in between” stops, since it’s not like the STM does such a great job with its coverage to begin with.

    We need TOTAL COVERAGE, people!

  2. March 8, 2010 7:56 pm

    All good points!

  3. Wayne permalink
    March 8, 2010 8:03 pm

    In my home town (Iowa City, IA) there had been a rash of sexual assaults on co-eds and the Student CamBusr started offering free rides to the dorms on Thur – Sat nights for female students. There were also quite a number of assaults on men leading up to and after this service was gegun, yet the campus Police and the CamBus management declined to extend this service to them. I’ve been away for a couple of years so I don’t know if this program is still going, or if it has been expanded to include men as well, but I do remember thinking at the time that the next time a male stufdent was assaulted while on the way home he should sue the administration, lol. As to the need for this type of service to even exist, it’s a sad reality, and wishing it diferent doesn’t change the facts.

  4. March 8, 2010 8:18 pm

    I find it totally disgusting that they wouldn’t offer the service to men. I can’t say for sure, but I know that the “in between stops” is advertised towards women, but I would think that it would definitely be possible to take advantage of it if you’re a dude. I mean for someone to refuse it to a guy seems down right criminal in my mind…maybe I should look in to it more. I should find that out for sure. The sad part though is that because of this sort of discrimination men are probably the least likely to ask for this kind of extra-protection.

  5. Craig permalink
    March 9, 2010 3:59 pm

    I think that this is one of those cases where it is the publicly explicit nature of the gender-specific service that rankles more than the service itself. For example, because I’m aware from talking to female friends that the late night walk can become more anxious when a woman hears the heavy trudge of a man approaching behind her, and because I walk faster than average, I generally move to the other side of the street, to remove any suspicion that I’m a threat. Not to do so, even in the name of “equality,” would seem churlish and petty. It’s really no skin off my nose, even if I have to cross back later on, and it could make somebody’s night more relaxed. I don’t do that with men, just for practical reasons: men seem less worried about that sort of thing, and anyway, there’s only the two sides of the street, so it could get complicated fast. But my real point is that if I announced aloud to a woman that I was crossing the street for reasons of chivalry, it would become downright obnoxious, wouldn’t it?

    Anyway, as you say Olga, a gender-neutral offer of the service probably would still just mainly appeal to women, but at the least the sign would not be irritating. However, I suspect that the reason they DON’T offer it to men is that, if a man also decided to get off at the same “in-between” location as a woman, it would vitiate the whole point of the service; whereas the idea that the creepy guy who has been staring at you has to go an extra couple of hundred metres before he can get off the bus and pursue you has got to be a comfort in such cases.

  6. March 9, 2010 5:00 pm

    Men are definitely less worried about that sort of thing. I remember when I was 17 and I was living alone in Montreal and I was walking home at night and someone was jogging behind me…well at the time I didn’t know the person was taking a midnight run and it just sounded like someone was running to attack me or something. I mean, it’s a thought that passes through your mind for a second and makes really tense until the moment passes. I know a lot of women have experienced something like that.

    It might actually be more creepy if a guy was to announce in the middle of the night that he was crossing the road to not freak you out. Depending on the situation it might be really infuriating or just plain ol’ creepy. It’s not like we are born with this innate fear of a male overpowering us, it’s ingrained into us though by images of rape. They teach us (women) to be careful, teachers tell us, our parents tell us, the news tell us. Ya, it’s a reality that there is a lot of violence out there and that a lot of women are sexually assaulted, but I wish the fear wasn’t ingrained in me at the same time as the advice to be careful, but it’s such a present message even in the differences between the way my parents raised my brother as opposed to the way they raised me.

  7. March 10, 2010 1:22 am

    How interesting, I’ve not heard of such a service but it seems like a good one – though annoying in the way they present it.

    By the way, entirely unrelated but where do you find all these wonderful, perfect images for your blog? They really give it a feel of it’s own which is fantastic.

  8. March 10, 2010 8:18 am

    Google cafepress and pulp art and you’ll find it. Glad you like it!!!

  9. March 11, 2010 7:29 pm

    Even if they would offer it to men, no man would feel comfortable asking for the “in between stop,” for fear of being dubbed a sissy.

    Carry mace, please. If I could buy all of my female friends a can of mace for their birthdays, I would. It is complete peace of mind.


  10. March 11, 2010 8:55 pm

    I agree with you there.

    I’ve never owned any mace. Have you ever used it on anyone?

  11. Dynamo permalink
    November 14, 2010 3:17 pm

    I’m glad to find all of your really interesting comments. I’m actually thinking a lot about this service, and have even decided to make a study of it for one of my term papers (yes, I’m a student!).
    I was very annoyed when I first heard of this service: again, women are branded as victims, and men as attackers. I thought that it is not with such initiatives that we are going to reach a better society, when sexes and genders would be truly equal. I know it seems an utopia, but it is worth trying.
    However, when I talked about this around me, all the responses I got where unanimously positive: aaahh, women are protected, it is good. And this was from individuals from various backgrounds.
    I’m not stating the other material problems of this service, that are mentioned above (eg: what about women not living on the bus line?), and which also make its efficiency dubious as regards its aim of protecting women and girls travelling alone at night.
    I think this service – and its advertisement -, make women feel at risk, teach them fear, and, concurring with other social discourses, may incit them to restrain from finding themselves in the situation of walking alone at night in Montreal. And this would tend to restrict their possibilities of doing things outside of the house.

  12. November 16, 2010 2:28 pm

    @ Dynamo: Thank you for your comment and your interest in this subject. I’d be interested in hearing/reading about your term paper.

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