Dear men-in-my-life…

This evening I had to work late, and took a cab home because I was tired and didn’t want to spend an hour on the train.  I got into a cab without thinking much about it. We started down the street and the door automatically locked.  I noticed the cab smelled bad: as if someone had been smoking in it.  And that it was filthy.  I told the driver where I wanted to go the corner of “Sheridan and XXXX”.  He said “I’ll take you via Ashland.”  I told him I normally go on Lake Shore Drive when I take a cab, but he argued with me, in a very patronizing tone, that he thought traffic would be better if we went his route, and that the last time he took Lake Shore (my route), he got stuck and had to ask his passengers to get out of the cab.  Slightly alarmed,  I asked “you aren’t going to leave me stranded somewhere, are you?”  I would gladly get out and hail another cab, if that was the case.

The next thing I know I’m on I-94 (quite the opposite direction) heading north and feeling quite panicked.  And my anxiety went through the roof.  He didn’t talk, he just drove erratically and very fast and turned the radio up.  He didn’t answer my questions.  He finally got off on Peterson and then drove east over to Clark and then to XXXX, running lights and take curves too fast.  I was almost in tears, feeling like I was being kidnapped, wondering how to roll out of a moving car without getting hurt.  I pulled my cell phone out and had the emergency number under my finger tip.  By the time I got home the fare was about $10 more than it normally would be, and I was a mess.

When we arrived, he said “See.  This was quicker than Lake Shore.”  When I got out, I stood there next to the car with the door open and lost it with the driver, yelling and ripping him a new one.  “You NEVER ignore a woman and take her or a route in the dark that she’s not familiar with, and you NEVER refuse to talk to her.  You NEVER lock a woman in your car like that!  YOU NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. How dare you!!”
I was so upset when I got inside that the doorman came over and hugged me out of concern, afraid I’d been assaulted. He also went out and yelled at the driver once I explained in gulping sentences what had happened.
And now I’m embarrassed.  But angry. It just didn’t feel safe at all: very vulnerable in the hands of some strange man who wouldn’t listen.  And all in an attempt for some complete stranger to prove a point to me.
Now I recognize these are unusual circumstances, and that the guy was a jerk.  But let me be clear to all the men-in-my-life: women experience vulnerability differently from men.  
In a society where 1 out of every 4 women experiences rape, you need to learn that women spend a great deal of their time being ‘careful’ and guarding themselves.  The world is a potential hazard: so we have learned to be cautious in ways you don’t think about.  I have a good friend who finds it silly that I don’t like to walk alone to and from the train stop near my building after dark: he sees it as no big deal–just a couple blocks.  He also laughs because I’ll walk way around a parking lot to go somewhere, instead of between parked cars, especially at night, as I don’t like the shadows and feel unsafe.  I’ve tried to talk to him about this: that women have a very different perception of what is and isn’t safe… but he never quite gets it.  “Aren’t you feminists supposed to be tougher than this?” he asks.  Or he jokingly comments “Oh, Donna… you’re a big girl.  You could take him.”
I have been quite shaken by the cab incident.  And I unreasonably feel foolish about it.  I say ‘unreasonably foolish’ because I have every reason to have been shaken.
I had to take a cab again this morning, and found myself in silent tears in the back seat: this time, for no good reason.  This time, the driver was polite, asked the route I wished to take, ensured I was comfortable in the car, etc.  But my irrationality… my ‘hysteria’… my nervousness was rooted in a real cause.
So please remember: when we ask you to walk us to the train, or out to our cars, or whatever… we are not looking for etiquette.  We are not envisioning some romantic perspective on the world, where men hold doors open, throw their coats down in the rain to keep our shoes from getting wet/dirty, always pick up the check, and bring us flowers.  We are asking that you acknowledge that the word is a dangerous place: more so for some than others.  And to do your part.

8 thoughts on “Dear men-in-my-life…

  1. Sara M. says:

    D–I took cabs rarely in Chicago, but something like this happened to me once too. My brother was with me, but he was from out of town and had no idea where to go. We needed a ride to O’Hare and within a few minutes of being in the cab, it was clear the driver, nor his partner (driver in training?) had no idea how to get there. When they stopped to ask directions, I thought about getting out right then, but I had *no idea* where we were. It took us a loooong time to get to O’Hare. But when we got there they did the right thing and didn’t charge us (or greatly reduced the fee, I can’t remember.) So even though these men were nice, it was still terrifying to be lost.

    I had a similar experience with a Medicar–this was even worse because I was with a severely disabled teenager. The driver had us lost on the Southside and, again, I had no idea where we were. And I had to leave the van in order to use the phone, leaving my client alone with the driver. During this time, the van was hit by another car! This was also before everyone had cell phones and my employer had neglected to give me not only the correct location for the clients appointment, but the company phone that I was supposed to take. All this to say, I know that terrifying feeling. If you can lodge an official complaint to the cab company do it–in each of those cases, I wish I had thrown a fit, which I didn’t because I was still a compliant young- twenty-something. I’m glad the doorman was there to back you up and give you a hug!


    • Oh gosh, Sara! What a horrible series of events!

      I really do think there is something gendered in the way men assume authority and knowledge, and then in the way women are conditioned to respond. It is crazy making!

  2. April says:

    Thanks for this (unfortunately) necessary post. My mom had a very similar thing happen in an airport when she was forced, literally forced, to take one of those carts. The driver snatched her bag and wouldn’t give it back to her unless she rode the cart. It was the end of the day so the terminal was mostly empty. She kept asking to be let off, and he wouldn’t. He even ended up driving her through some of the bowels of the airport, through doors she should not have gone through. She was very frightened and was very worried about her safety.

    Her story ended much like yours: her yelling at him, but ultimately her physical safety in tact…thank God. She wrote multiple scathing letters to the airport companies that were involved. When she received a form letter response back, she took it to the next level and wrote an even worse letter to the president of the corporation. She did finally get a real response.

    Members of my family, myself included, have learned the hard way that personal safety is nothing to be trifled with.

    • Good for your mom for all the necessary letter-writing. It is a crazy thing when (what I assume to be) good-intentioned men decide they know what’s best for us and won’t listen or take “No” for an answer! How frightening!

  3. Faye says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been.

    I work as an exotic dancer and last night a customer literally picked me up without my permission. I forcefully told him to put me down twice but he didn’t listen. He said that he would make sure I was taken care of (meaning paid well) but his condescending tone and insisting that I was in no danger only led to $27. I was furious! As a dancer my body is my livelihood and if I were to become injured that would be the end of me.

    The fact that a man literally took my body autonomy and compromised my physical and financial safety in one movement really gives you an idea of how male privilege not only exists but is in full swing. He did it because he knew he could get away with it.

    Again I’m sorry you had to go through that experience.

  4. indybikehiker says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Donna. I’ll take your advice to heart. Of course, the cabbie should have been immediately reported…or beaten up by your doorman. But that’s not the way it happened or happens.


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