Is there any contemporary problem that the identity politics Left will not propose solving through the introduction of segregation?
I see that the recurring debate about whether or not to introduce female-only train carriages has bubbled up again from the swamp of leftist thinking.
Charlotte England tries to make the best case she can for theocratic-style gender segregation over at Left Foot Forward:
There is a pragmatic argument for women-only carriages as an interim measure, which is being largely buried by simplistic rhetoric and a disingenous framing of the original proposal. Arguing against the policy on ideological grounds ignores the experience of many women and young girls who are assaulted and become afraid of travelling alone on public transport. It ignores the fact that they feel forced to alter their behaviour already.
When he first proposed the policy two years ago Corbyn made it clear the aim was to give women more freedom than they currently have, not less.
“It is unacceptable that many women and girls adapt their daily lives in order to avoid being harassed on the street, public transport, and in other public places from the park to the supermarket,” he said. “This could include taking longer routes to work, having self-imposed curfews or avoiding certain means of transport.”
He also did not suggest the measure in isolation, floating the idea of a 24-hour hotline for women to report harassment, along with broader measures to tackle assault in society such as tougher rules for licence holders on reporting incidents on their premises and cabinet members for women’s safety on local councils.
A 24-hour hotline for women to report harassment? Perhaps somebody should inform Charlotte England that such a line already exists, and that you can reach it 24/7 by dialling 999.
At some point the Left will have to confront the fact that they have devalued terms such as racism, white supremacy, sexual assault and “rape culture” to such a degree that if we are now to take them literally, the police would have to be called to millions of incidents which qualify as crimes every single day. Blurring the line between socially inappropriate behaviour (including microaggressions) and criminal behaviour has helped the Left to point to rapidly rising reported statistics and claim that an epidemic is underway – of racism, Islamophobia, other generic hate crime, you name it. But it is also creating undue alarm and making it harder to focus resources and policy on the most pressing issues.
If sexual harassment on trains is a serious and growing issue – and I’m not arguing otherwise – then the correct response by train companies (and the Office of Rail and Road) to their customers frequently being bothered and assaulted onboard rail services is to dramatically improve security. That means ensuring that CCTV is installed and functional on all trains, placing more passenger alarms in carriages and hiring more guards. Or perhaps the train companies could deploy the private militias they have hired to zealously crack down on fare-dodging to also protect passengers from unprovoked attack. And when ticket fares rise by 20% or 30% to cover the additional cost, we can all pay the extra money knowing that we are helping to clamp down on sexual harassment.
Alternatively, perhaps the citizenry should be legally permitted the means to defend themselves, if not with firearms then at least with tasers and pepper spray, rather than being forced by government to remain at the mercy of thugs, hooligans, sexual harassers and terrorists.
But the Left don’t want to do any of this. They don’t like it when people are given the right to defend themselves, and they certainly don’t like it when private companies take independent action to tackle issues. They want government to step in with a heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all mandate instead, because then leftist politicians (rather than the private sector) can claim credit for the results. And if those policies ride roughshod over civil liberties or equality then who cares?
In no way do I mean to diminish the experiences and suffering of those who have experienced sexual harassment. But when the Left defines the term downward so far that it now includes clumsy flirtation, it does a disservice to those who are verbally threatened or physically groped, stalked, flashed or assaulted – and counter-intuitively makes it harder to focus on eradicating criminal behaviour rather than behaviour which merely causes social offence.
But this is only one of the ways that the leftist identity politics argument for segregated train carriages comes unstuck. To use the language of the Left, there is apparently a growing problem of sexually aggressive behaviour in the male population of this country – behaviour which makes some female citizens feel concerned for their safety. And the Left’s answer to this problem is to offer gender-segregated seating on public transport for those who feel unsafe sitting in unrestricted areas because of the heinous actions of a small subgroup of the male population.
Now try applying the same logic to – oh, I don’t know – let’s say the British Muslim population. The vast majority of British Muslims are upstanding, patriotic citizens whose behaviour is generally above reproach, yet there is a small minority within this population who plot and carry out heinous terrorist attacks for religiously motivated reasons. And this spike in Islamist terror attacks has arguably caused some people to “adapt their daily lives” (as Charlotte England puts it) to reduce their exposure to risk, or at least to constantly be thinking and worrying about the possibility of a terror attack as they go about their day.
Is it reasonable, then, given that Islamist terrorists have historically targeted public transport, that train companies offer segregated carriages for non-Muslims in order that other travellers might feel safer? Of course not. Is it more unreasonable for someone to feel nervous standing next to a Muslim on the tube than it is for a woman to feel nervous sitting in the same train carriage as a man? I would argue that both are equally unreasonable.
But the Left do love to pick and choose their favoured victim groups, and “people who are legitimately afraid of Islamist terror” generally don’t get much sympathy from the identity politics brigade, while women in fear of sexual harassment are deemed worthy of protection by extraordinary means.
Segregating men from women and Muslims from non-Muslims would infringe on the natural rights of both groups, reduce them to second class citizens, provide them with a lesser service (fewer available seats per train) and stigmatise both groups as being inherently dangerous. And yet while the Left would be up in arms if such a proposal were targeted at Muslims – and rightly so – they advance exactly the same argument for male/female segregation without seeing the contradiction.
But assuming that the Left were able to implement their scheme (over what I’m sure would be the strenuous objection of train companies, who would have to fund and enforce the policy) how long would this gender segregation last? Jeremy Corbyn, Charlotte England and other fellow travellers of the hard Left may claim that they only propose female-only train carriages as a stop-gap measure while other actions are taken to tackle the supposed sexual assault epidemic. But this only begs the question of what actions they propose. Mandatory anti-rape classes for boys at school? Re-education of adult males?
If you are going to propose introducing segregation into British society in the 21st century – to place Britain in the happy company of theocratic states such as Saudi Arabia, who similarly keep their females locked away lest they arouse the lust of helpless men – I think you have a duty to be straightforward and explain why the same identical logic does not apply when it comes to protecting people who don’t make the cut for inclusion in the Left’s hierarchy of victimhood. And given that temporary laws have a pesky habit of becoming permanent, anyone proposing such a draconian, authoritarian policy should also clearly outline how it will be time-limited, and how the underlying root issue will be addressed by other means.
Jeremy Corbyn, Charlotte England and others on the Left promoting this divisive and discriminatory policy have no answers to any these questions and have no intention of providing such answers, because this isn’t actually about making women safer at all. It is about gaining political support by being seen to be on the side of minorities, oppressed peoples or perceived victimhood groups, gaining their support and then failing to meaningfully help said groups once in office.
Just as affirmative action hasn’t done a damn thing to increase representation of black and Hispanic students at American universities (because it papers over the cracks rather than tackling the deep underlying issues), so forcibly segregating men from women on public transport will neither tackle the root causes of male sexual harassment nor protect women from danger for the vast majority of the time when they are not travelling on trains. (After all, why stop at trains? Why not introduce gender segregated cinemas, swimming pools, workplaces, nightclubs, stadiums, universities?). Proposing gender segregated train carriages may not be effective, but it sure will make certain leftist politicians and commentators look good to their base.
This isn’t compassion. This isn’t applying creative thinking to an entrenched social problem. This is cheap virtue-signalling at the expense of threatening fundamental civil liberties and rights, while promising to place Britain in the unfortunate company of some of the most backward and oppressive theocratic regimes in the world.
Slow hand clap, leftists (or should that be slow jazz hands?). You’ve really outdone yourselves this time.
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I agree with a lot of your sentiments here, especially all of the comments towards the ‘regressive left’ as US political commentators have coined it. Yet, I find it ironic that you criticise identify politics, yet group all of ‘the left’ into one gloopy mess, like there are no shades of grey.
Identity* – I have chubby fingers!
Bit of cognitive dissonance here in the leap from “a line [for reporting sexual harrassment] already exists, and that you can reach it 24/7 by dialling 999” to “if we are now to take them literally, the police would have to be called to millions of incidents which qualify as crimes every single day.”
Clearly, the issue here is how we handle incidents that fall between ‘dial 999’ and ‘just ignore it’. I am not in favour of segregation, largely because I think it would exacerbate the underlying cultural problems instead of remedying them. Nor am I in favour of pepper-spraying everyone who gropes or inappropriately propositions me. Reading between the lines of this post, it seems your suggestion for a third way would be to simply ignore such incidents and carry on – which, to be fair, is mostly what I and millions of others do each day. But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to?
I understand your argument that the state should not get too involved in legislating to promote a change in cultural attitudes; I broadly agree. But that isn’t going to stop me from working towards a change in cultural attitudes, as a member of society.
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On the contrary, I certainly wouldn’t suggest doing nothing. I’m fortunate, I’ve never been sexually harassed on public transport (once at work, though can’t say I minded too much) and can’t fully imagine how awful it must feel. I was quite serious about increasing security with CCTV and more guards, though I see how it may have come off as facetious. If the problem is as endemic as suggested then measures urgently need to be taken and rail passengers must pick up the cost. Until your cultural change wins through I don’t want to think as a man that I am enabling harassment when by paying a bit more I could prevent it.
We also need to talk about public intervention. Too often, bystanders are afraid to intervene because of high profile cases where good samaritans are set upon, attacked and even killed by the person they were remonstrating with. Some of this fear (especially of teens) is unfounded, but some is very real. I like to think I would always intervene in such a situation – indeed, I have before (fortunately I noted that there were a couple of other large men nearby in case things went south). But if it was just me, the victim and the attacker (who was twice my size), I honestly don’t know how I would respond.
I feel passionately that people should not be put in this position. The state cannot guarantee security for us everywhere yet they do declare on pain of criminal prosecution that we deny ourselves the means of self defence. I know all the arguments against, but I still come down on the side of legalising tasers and pepper spray at least.
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