As the conversation around #MeToo evolves, some women are drawing attention not just to instances of sexual violence, but the ways women have to live their lives to avoid such violence.
Earlier this week a woman shared the story of a man who came into her home to purchase a dryer from her when her husband wasn’t there and used the opportunity to sexually harass her. Now, writer and humorist Jill Gutowitz (disclosure: The Daily Dot syndicates some of Gutowitz’s work from Into) is telling a similar story, but instead of a home, it’s an Uber or Lyft car.
“Male Uber/Lyft drivers OFTEN ask me, and ONLY at night when I’m alone, after we’re already en route, ‘So, where are we headed?’” wrote Gutowitz on Twitter. “I’m careful not to say ‘home.’”
I've seen tweets going around about how normal situations for men can be dangerous for women. Here's another: Male Uber/Lyft drivers OFTEN ask me, and ONLY at night when I'm alone, after we're already en route, "So, where are we headed?" I'm careful not to say "home"— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) October 8, 2018
Gutowitz points out that because they already have the address, what they really want to know is what the destination means to her. “I know they want me to say it’s my place. One time, I did, and he asked if I lived alone,” she wrote.
Gutowitz says her strategy now is to tell Uber drivers she’s going to her boyfriend’s house. That lie brings up a lot of complicated feelings, however, because she’s gay. She says it feels bad not just to know that the man respects another man’s ownership more than they respect her, but also because she has to lie about who she is. “That’s a shitty feeling,” Gutowitz wrote, “having to begrudgingly perpetuate heteronormative and patriarchal structures just to protect myself.”
Then there’s an additional layer to that lie, Gutowitz wrote, and one that all queer people face when they’re using rideshare services: “The amount of times a male driver has asked if I have a boyfriend is staggering, and always leaves me with the dangerous decision of coming out to a stranger and thus possibly putting myself in danger, or lying again.”
I will never be going to a "boyfriend's" house. For as long as ride-sharing exists as is, I will have to lie about my sexuality just to stay safe. That's a shitty feeling, having to begrudgingly perpetuate heteronormative and patriarchal structures just to protect myself.— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) October 8, 2018
Gutowitz told the Daily Dot that the current narrative surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation compelled her to share her experience. “I really feel at the end of my rope with the ways in which women are treated every day in this country, and how consistently we’re told our bodies, our thoughts, and our traumas don’t matter,” she told the Dot. “I saw a few other women online reacting to all the ‘white men are under attack in America’ narratives that GOP legislators are promulgating by sharing their stories about the ACTUAL every day dangers women face in America at the hands of the patriarchy.”
In replies to her thread, other women shared their experience with rideshare drivers making them feel unsafe, and how they try to protect themselves. Some say when they used the “boyfriend’s house” answer, they were dropped off in the middle of the street. Another said she tells them she’s going to her brother’s house. In general, women often feel compelled to reply to and make small talk with drivers.
got an uber home from uni and the driver was asking me if i’ve ever had sex and saying i could have it with him and because i’m disabled and was in pain told me he’d give me a massage and then i could give him one with a happy ending and then gave me his phone to put my number in— chloe (@adelaidesgf) October 9, 2018
Almost every time I’ve gotten in an Uber I tell them I’m heading to a boyfriend or a brothers house. I have neither, but it’s what helps me feel safe.— gabriela (@cudderisback_98) October 9, 2018
Had this from a driver once. They pressed and pressed and when I told them I was going to my boyfriend's house they stopped the car and told me they couldn't take me any further. It was the middle of the night and I was about a mile from home.— Rachel England (@Rachel_England) October 9, 2018
“It’s been illuminating, and heartbreaking, to know that my experience is so prevalent and relatable—it shouldn’t be,” Gutowitz said of the response.
Then, of course, there are the trolls. “Some of the more infuriating and disgusting troll responses have been from men saying I need to ‘grow up’ or ‘buy a gun’ to protect myself, or ‘buy a car’ and stop using cabs,” she said. She even took a break from Twitter for a bit.
In the end, she said, “It’s male behavior that needs to change—women shouldn’t have to adapt to the dangers of violent chauvinism.”
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Editor’s note: This piece has been updated with a response from Gutowitz.