Segregation Is Back: Pink and Blue Replace Black and White

We humans are the only species that seem unable to tell each other's gender without color coding.  We are also the only ones that make such a huge deal of the difference in genitals in all circumstances where it is irrelevant.  In other species, genitals are relevant to copulation.  Although the related dichotomies (pink/blue, male/female, masculine/feminine) are finally multiplying into a more genuine and natural fluidity, the primitive color coding does not only not disappear, but it appears in odd places such as banks, buses and trains.

I‘ve written previously about the pink women’s banks in Costa Rica who, to add insult to injury, use the slogan “No woman is complicated.” Now pink is being used in various countries in order to separate/segregate women “for their own protection.”  How so?

In Japan 64% of girls and women reported incidents of sexual  harassment at transit stations or on trains and subways.  Such incidents and worse are commonplace in almost every nation on the planet and it is to the credit of many governments that they no longer just ignore them.  Following the United Nations principle of gender mainstreaming, these nations now consider gender in all their planning.  But how and from whose perspective?

This new form of gender mainstreaming has had an interesting combination of paradoxical consequences.  Many cities and entire countries, from Egypt to India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil, have introduced separate buses, streetcars and trains for women, who are subject to everything from harassment to rape in mixed situations such as public transportation (and every other public and private circumstance).

This last New Year’s Eve, some 90 women were robbed, harassed and assaulted by young men in a crowded public plaza outside the Cologne Cathedral.  There are no formal reports of the number of these incidents in other New Year’s Eve celebrations, probably because they are so common as to hardly be noticed or reported to the authorities. Perhaps it is a unique enough experience in Cologne to be reported as news, but I suspect not. Everywhere on this planet, this is part of what it means to walk around in a woman’s body and until now women and girls have learned to be responsible for their own self-protection as much as they can.

For this line of thinking to be effective, they will have to introduce pink elevators, pink cafes and pink sidewalks, pink bedrooms and pink kitchens.  On the other hand, there are also those who suggest the opposite dichotomous strategy.  How about isolating all males from the onset of puberty to about 35, as these are the perpetrators of most of these crimes.  Alan Alda many years ago, wrote about Testosterone Poisoning in Ms. Magazine[1] and that has continued to be discussed as an issue. Should we put all young males on pink buses and trains, as an alternate solution?

How is it that the pinking of women's lives seems to so many a fine strategy, while isolating young men may seem more radical and damaging? What strategies are we accustomed to because they are so common as to be invisible to many of us? Haven't we learned yet that segregation is part of the problem and not the solution at all? Is there no other way for girls and women to be safe?

[1] Alan Alda, "What Every Woman Should Know About Men", Ms., New York, October 1975

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