A woman and a man, unrelated to each other, stumble out of a bar or club at 3:00 a.m. unable to drive in their current state. They each call an Uber to pick them up and take them home. Both cars arrive, and the man and women enter their respective rides. There is a 13.8 percent chance, according to Forbes Magazine, that the drivers will be female and an 86.2 percent chance that the driver will be male. This is where the problem begins.
There is absolutely noting inherently wrong with an intoxicated individual stepping into a male-driven Uber in the small hours of the night but combine an intoxicated female passenger, typically deserted streets, and a male driver and the potential for things to go wrong skyrockets.
In no way is it fair to assume that female drivers are not capable of sexual assault on male or female passengers. This would be grossly false. However, the striking majority of sexual assaults and rapes are male-initiated attacks. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, nine out of ten rape victims were female. Uber is a contributing microcosm of this statistic.
According to Business Insider, Uber has had over 6,000 reported cases of sexual assaults on passengers, as well as five alleged rapes. This number may seem inconsequential considering how many passengers Uber sees every day, but it is vital to note that Uber does not have an emergency hotline for passengers and the only form of contact with Uber is through email. The vast majority of sexual assault incidents are reported directly to police, not to Uber.
Female passengers are not the only victims in these cases. Female drivers, the individuals providing the transportation, are also subject to sexual assault and rape.
Lyft, a smaller ride-share company, is not innocent of these reports.
It is also worth noting that both Lyft and Uber make their statistics of sexual assault and rape very difficult to interpret. Neither company displays straightforward, numerical statistics of these incidents; rather they make some of the reports by drivers and passengers available in list formats that can take copious amounts of time to navigate.
In the wake of Uber and Lyft’s many horror stories, a new start-up company has driven onto the scene. Chariot for Women is a ride-share service that caters only to female and children passengers and has exclusively female drivers. Transgender women are also welcome.
Chariot for Women begins like Lyft and Uber: drivers, all of whom are female, are subject to an extensive background check. Each day before her shift begins, the driver answers a new security question to validate her identity. The app includes a picture of the driver, her car’s make and model, and a real-time GPS that tracks the progress of the ride.
A new safety feature, that both Uber and Lyft lack, is the use of a “safe word.” According to Chariot for Women, “when the passenger requests a ride, a safe word pops up on the driver and passenger’s phone. If the driver says the correct word, the ride may begin.” If the safe words do not match, the ride will not take place.
The company also donates two percent of every fare to women-based charities that rotate every month.
This new ride-share program is very much needed. Women deserve an environment where they can feel safe while trying to go about their lives. There is also a better connection to be had, leading to a more positive experience, when both the passenger and driver feels safe.
Opponents of Chariot for Women say that this is gender discrimination, only catering to women and children. These opponents have clearly never been the subject of sexual harassment, assault, or rape, regardless of if it happened in a ride-share or elsewhere.
Men have spoken out saying that if women are fearful of taking or driving for ride-shares, they should simply not use them in the first place. This is disgustingly ignorant. Women have every right to use ride-shares, just as men do, and not fear for their safety. Every environment should be safe for everyone, regardless of gender but since this is idealistic thinking, alternatives have to be created, thus exemplifying the need for services like Chariot for Women.
Time to cue people becoming offended because this service is an act of feminism. Be offended, be ignorant, take an Uber if you have a problem with Chariot for Women. Gender discrimination would be a fair argument if the disparities between genders driving and their correlation with male-aggravated assaults for Uber and its likes were not already so obvious.
The Christian Science Monitor would like to argue that a women-only employer is illegal. Well so is sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape but they all still happen in male dominated ride-share services.
It has been said ad nauseam that implementing women-only services will not solve the greater problem of sexually aggravated crimes against women but there is absolutely no reason why measures can’t be taken to lessen the strain.
People who oppose Chariot for Women clearly have a problem with self-absorption. They have never ridden in a ride-share while the driver makes sexual remarks and rakes them with their eyes. They have never been plagued by the “what if’s” of what if this was my daughter, my sister, my mother, my best friend? “What if this driver takes me off course and I never see them again?”
Some people might call it catastrophizing but most women would call it the daily onslaught of paranoid thoughts that accompany a woman seeking to keep her independence. No one should expect to have these sorts of encounters.
Chariot for Women will no doubt face backlash from those who will cry ‘gender discrimination’ but those who do are welcome to go drive for Lyft or Uber. Those people are not the individuals that Chariot for Women welcome anyway. Take your negativity and ignorance and go call a cab.