Column: Uber and Lyft provide students an uncomfortable ride
An Uber driver picks up a student outside of Park Student Union on Nov. 9, 2016. Uber is commonly used by students looking to get a safe ride home, but some female students have had the experience of an uncomfortable ride.
In the past two weeks I have had not one, not two, but five different middle-aged male Lyft drivers who all managed to (possibly unintentionally) say or do things that made me notably uncomfortable for the duration of my ride with them.
As a student whose sole form of transportation is my bike, in order to avoid the dangers of riding home alone in the dark on the nights I stay late in the library or for a review session, I take a Lyft or Uber home.
From time to time, I become more lax on this policy of mine, when I can’t spend the money or when I stupidly forget that I am a constant target, simply by being young and female. But then something happens, and I am reminded of just how real the terror is of being alone, outside, in the dark.
So, usually I find my best course of action to be taking a Lyft or Uber home. Last week, I had a Hebrew test on Monday, a law and morality test on Tuesday, a neuroscience test on Thursday, and a chemistry test on Friday; hence, I spent nearly every night in the library until the wee hours of the morning.
The first night of last week I took a Lyft home, my driver instantly asked about my religion and nationality as soon as I got in the car. That is no crime, though it was unusual and made me feel a little strange. Had it then proceeded to normal chit chat, it would have been a fine ride.
However, then he asked me what I studied, and upon finding out, told me “oh! You don’t seem like the type of girl to study neuroscience and philosophy.” “Oh?” I ask, “What type of girl had you stereotyped me for?” “You seem like the type of girl who just likes to have fun, you’re too smiley and friendly to be studying those things!”
So apparently, for anyone who was not yet aware, having fun and being intelligent are actually mutually exclusive. Be careful, you wouldn’t want to try to live a well-balanced life. Either be stoic and smart, or be smiley and dumb, those are your options.
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The next morning, a different Lyft driver picked me up from my house to take me to campus. I slid into his car and he asked if I was going to school. I responded yes, and asked him to please take Park Avenue. He began to drive as he turned to me and told me to keep being a good girl and stay in school.
A “good girl”? Can you imagine an adult male telling a 20-year-old guy to “be a good boy and stay in school”?
While I am sure he meant no harm by the comment, it resonated with me as I thought about how demeaning some societal norms are, like calling adult women “girls” or telling adult women to be “good.” It is a blatant double standard, as I don’t see adult men being called boys (except as an insult), nor do I see other adult men (or women) instructing them on how to act to please society or individuals.
The saga continued that night, with another middle-aged male driver who inquired about my studies. “Oh, so you wanted to have the smarts and the beauty, huh? One wasn’t enough?” he asked, chuckling to himself.
It may seem harsh to complain about someone for giving a “compliment,” but when it is a compliment aimed at a woman you’ve never met before, who is in a confined space with you, who is at least 25 years younger, a “compliment” like that can be very unsettling.
It’s not to say any of these men are bad people, nor to say they necessarily even had bad intentions, but the fact of the matter is there is a problem in this world if I, and every other young female, cannot figure out a way we feel truly safe getting home after a late night of studying.
How ironic is it that we take Uber or Lyft to avoid the dangers of walking or biking alone at night, and yet those same uninhibited, entitled men could be our drivers? Even if some of these drivers mean no harm with their abrasive, sexist commentary, how am I supposed to know that?
I have been trained to always have my defenses up with men I don’t know, and I don’t think it is asking too much that I be able to get a ride home in peace, without having to fear the fact that a strange 45-year-old man who hit on me now knows where I live.
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