Filed under: Commentary
The MTA is doing some serious gender-essentializing, and it’s getting in the way of MY PRIVILEGE.
My stepdad commutes to the city from Westchester every day, and he has a monthly ticket. For those who aren’t Metro-North experts like me: It’s a commuter rail. The ride for him is about a half hour, and a one-way ticket (during rush hours, or “peak” hours), costs $10.50. Off-peak costs $7.75 (Fares are higher on-board). A monthly costs $229 (It’s a great deal).
So, naturally, when my stepdad isn’t using his monthly (nights and weekends), I use it. It works out pretty well – sometimes his train gets in at 5:45, and mine leaves at 5:54. He hands the monthly to me and gets in the car, and I get on a train. It’s cute.
Fine print says the ticket is understandably non-transferable. The MTA doesn’t want you and your friends sharing a monthly. They lose money if you do that. The THING is. When you purchase your monthly, the machine asks you for your gender. That’s the way the conductor identifies you: M or F. A few conductors have threatened to confiscate the monthly when they see that I present as “F” and my ticket says “M.” My friend also steals his dad’s monthly – but they both present as “M,” so theres no way a conductor would know that it’s not his own ticket. He’s never had a hard time.
I’ve been annoyed by this for a while, and I couldn’t explain why. I know I’m breaking the rules, I know I’m stealing rides. Shrugs. I can reconcile that by saying that my stepdad could ride the train on the weekends if he wanted to – and it’s the same number of passengers on the train. But I know, I’m wrong and I’m breaking the rules. OK. If I want to use the MTA’s services, I should have to pay. My grandpa reminded me that that’s how capitalism works. I’m annoyed because I want my privilege. The ride from the suburbs to the city is not reasonable for someone whose parents don’t work there, basically. And I have this luxury and I want to make use of it.
It’s not necessarily sexist – if my mom commuted, I could take her ticket. And more men probably commute than women, but the rule doesn’t really work in a sexist way. But I knew deep down that something about this policy was wrong. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m a lucky Westchester girl whining about getting her free trip that she thinks she deserves (that is exactly what it is).
Of course, it’s wrong that it’s another manifestation of the gender binary, and it’s wrong that you have to choose, and it’s wrong that someone could question you about your gender at any time and be in line with policy. All of it is wrong. Duh. (When the conductor told me he’d confiscate it if I tried to use it on the trip back, I told him I’d be male on the way back.)
But WHAT’S WRONG IS: It would be unconscionable to ask you to put your race. Could you imagine? “Excuse me ma’am, you don’t look white” “Excuse me sir, that ticket belongs to a black person and I’ll have to confiscate it.” Because that would be ridiculous. The MTA would have a PR nightmare. Because we all know that race is a spectrum, and isn’t real, and you can’t boil someone down to just their skin color and say that it identifies them. But when it comes to gender, this is still how we do it.
I don’t have an answer or an alternative. Putting anything more specific would take all of a conductor’s time to check it. And if you took away gender, more people would share monthlies. And that would just be the worst.
3 Comments so far
Leave a comment
Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>