Transport for Women

It’s been bothering me that I hadn’t written a blog for October, when I usually write them at the beginning of the month, but at the beginning of the month I was in a bit of a funk.

A big part of that was politics and current events, namely the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court after he was accused of sexual assault and harassment. I read the news regularly, and am interested in politics, but I try to keep my emotions at an arms-length. It would be too easy to let it all get to you when the positive so rarely features, especially in the last couple years. But this news really got to me, upset me, as a woman. Considering all the other #MeToo stories, I wasn’t sure why.

I have never, thank God, been sexually assaulted. The closest I could come to what Kavanaugh’s accusers described was a memory of a man exposing himself to me. Not at a drunken frat party, but when I was about seven, riding around my neighbourhood on my bicycle. A car pulled up and a complete stranger flashed me. I sped the other way so fast, I might have left the block faster than he did. My mother called the police and I had to describe what had happened. Which wasn’t much. I don’t know if they ever caught him. I’ve rarely thought about the incident since, nor could I say it has affected my life.

And yet, I am a transport planner, and the whole thing was intimately (pun intended) tied up with modes of transport; the more powerful, the more entitled preying upon the more vulnerable. I love my chosen profession of transport planning, but as a woman in a male-dominated profession, the metaphors of female subordination in transport are often just below the surface. And it’s that contrast of entitlement and assumed subordination that upset me most in the Kavanaugh case.

However, having recently read an article in the Times about a former Google employee, Sarah Cooper, who has turned to stand-up comedy and writing tongue-in-cheek tips (and books) on how women try to get ahead by pleasing and pacifying men, I’ve been cathartically inspired to write a few ideas in the same tone. Perhaps I can thus make the argument that women are not only well suited to working in transport, but should feel entitled to work in transport!

Here goes:

  1. Boats, airplanes, and cars are all often referred to with female pronouns, so surely females will know best how to plan for them.
  2. Trains might sometimes have male names, but most would say girls are best at staying within the lines.
  3. If the fastest female athletes are slower than the fastest men, slow modes must be our thing too.
  4. We’re the only half of the species biologically designed to carry a foreign body for 9 months at a time – it makes us naturals in long-term logistics.
  5. Women make up the majority of professional models, so why not modellers?
  6. There must be a reason car insurance for young women costs much less – an instinct for road safety that young men can only hope to learn?
  7. Community engagement and public involvement require empathy and emotional intelligence, which women are supposed to be over-endowed with.
  8. From buggy pushers to tartan trolleys, we can definitely deal in accessible planning for the whole life-cycle.
  9. Ever heard of women’s intuition or that a woman always changes her mind? Not so great for fixed forecasts, but in a world of technological change and uncertainty, the womanly tasks of visioning and scenario planning are on the rise.

But what about that technological change? Technology is a professional discipline, like transport, where women trail men. But then Sarah Cooper made it, and moved on to make jokes about being a female tech professional that have launched her comedy career. I don’t claim to be a comedienne. And there’s always the danger that patronising too can be disguised as joking. But perhaps a bit of humour will help women in transport move from the trailer into the driver’s seat too?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s