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It's late. I'm alone. I'm a woman. I need a ride home. Given the choice between Uber or a ride-sharing app that promises I won't get raped, I'm going to lean toward the latter.
That feeling of vulnerability is the driving force behind Chariot for Women, a ride-sharing app launching in Boston on April 19. The car service is exclusively for women and children — and all the drivers are women too.
The cause behind Chariot is noble: to make women feel empowered and safe on their rides home. The company also donates proceeds to women's charities. It's open to transgender women and other non-binary individuals.
"Any person who identifies as a woman will absolutely be eligible to drive for us or ride with us!" the company stated in a Facebook comment.
It's exciting, sure — but it's also disturbing. That there's a market for a safe, rape-free cabs implies that in mainstream taxi services, women should anticipate the risk of sexual assault.
Sexual assault in taxis is a real problem. Hell, Uber even recognizes its own drivers are capable of committing sexual assault. In Egypt, the company is teaching drivers "how to not sexually harass women."
The past few months alone have seen no shortage of damning headlines. In November, police in Austin, Texas, were investigating seven cases of alleged sexual assault by Uber and Lyft drivers. In February, a Brooklyn, New York, woman accused her Uber driver of exposing himself to and sexually assaulting her. In April, news emerged that a Boston Uber driver worked for the ride-sharing app while awaiting trial for two rapes.
It's no wonder there's a market for assault-free options.
But therein lies the problem: The real issue isn't that women are taking the wrong cars — it's that rapists are driving them. Women shouldn't be asked to use a separate app for their own safety.
Women shouldn't need a safe haven like Chariot. We should be able to ride in taxis — and go to bars and walk down the street and wear form-fitting clothing, for that matter — without being attacked.
Like telling a woman to cover up before leaving the bar, the Uber assault problem implies that risking sexual assault is the norm, and to prevent those attacks, it's on women to make a smarter choice.
That's not the only issue. Take the app's name: For some, "Chariot" may conjure up the image of a valiant white knight coming to save some damsel in distress — that women are inherently delicate beings who shouldn't be expected to fend for themselves on the streets of Manhattan. The company is currently taking submissions for a new name.
In a perfect world, women wouldn't have to take Chariot — instead, there'd be a separate ride-sharing app for assholes who commit sexual assault. Or, you know, a prison.