Sunday, 31 May 2009

Women Only


Hurrah for the Women Only cars on trains and subways! Thanks to the 0.5% of Japanese men who are sukebe chikan (dirty touchers) many lines run women only cars during the morning and evening rush hours. This gives us women a place to sit in comfort and put on our make up. Women Only cars felt strange at first. I thought there might be some greater sense of cameraderie and that women might chat to each other. But we don't. Most women are so tired they fall straight to sleep. What unites us in action is the idiot male who decides to get from one carriage to another by going through the Women Only car. I have noticed women stretching their legs out across the passageways to trip them up. I have started doing it too. Some women will tell the guy outright to get off the train. The complete sense of entitlement and feelings of instant outrage when a man tries to abuse our rights is quite surprising. After all, if I was in the next carriage I'd be surrounded by men. But one man in the Women Only car is totally unacceptable. Kill him! Now I realise how some British men must have felt in the Seventies when women began invading their companies and working men's clubs. I see how easily the hostility can bubble up.

A male colleague rightly stated that if there is a Women Only car then there should be a Men Only car too, for all those guys who don't want to risk being accused of being a chikan. Because it can happen so easily. Tokyo trains are crowded at all hours and putting your hand in your pocket to get your railpass could land you in jail. This is the sad part about Women Only cars, that they have to exist at all. On rare occasions a man will get in a Women Only car and sit down. He will relax there for a moment, perhaps planning his route or checking his stop, and then slowly the realization will dawn that he is the only man in the carriage and that the women around are staring at him. When he sees the Women Only sign he is utterly mortified, like he has suddenly found himself in a ladies' restroom, and he will leap up and run like a frightened rabbit to the next carriage. He will be demonised for making an honest mistake. The real chikan meanwhile will be somewhere else on the train touching up high school girls.

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