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Sex and the city bus

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2008 12:02 a.m. MST

Mexico's bus service has come a long way since John Steinbeck wrote "The Wayward Bus" in 1947. Back then, bus drivers had to worry about what species was being hauled on their buses. Today, they only have to worry which gender.

In a move that would seem oddly discriminatory in other cultures, Mexico City has begun a line of "Women Only" buses. The move follows on the heels of a fleet of "Women Only" subway cars. The reason is Mexican women are tired of being harassed by male passengers as the buses make their way down Paseo Reforma. Men, who are now forced to wait for mixed-passenger buses while buses sporting pink placards go by, are fuming. But women who ride the bus are delighted.

Mexico isn't the only nation that needs an "attitude adjustment" when it comes to how women are treated. Even so-called First World Countries like France, Germany and the United States are still working to learn the rules. But the fact the Mexican authorities have taken the complaints of women seriously and have taken appropriate action shows that the nation is trying to make headway on gender issues. They are on the right track. What's more, Women Only buses in Mexico City are no more exclusive than Male Only dressing rooms at department stores in the United States. Common sense and practical considerations must come into play when gender issues surface.

Anyone who has ridden a bus in Mexico City knows how cramped the quarters can be. And they also know that women on the bus make easy targets for harassers who can misbehave and then quickly slip away into the sidewalk crowd.

What's more, the irony here is delicious. When a man jumped onto a bus for women not long ago, he was belittled and mistreated until he leapt away to the safety of the street.

"No you know how we feel," a female passenger called after him.

If men — here and there — don't want women to be segregated, they should curb their ugly habits. When men stop acting like louts in Mexico, the "gender buses" will disappear.

It's a lesson not only for those south of the Border to ponder, but those to the north of it, as well.

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