Arrogant privilege rears its head again

A while back, before I got the hang of Twitter as a means of announcing blog posts and conducting cross-border conversations without having to log into a chat client (and well before getting my Android phone yesterday and being able to tweet on the go without incurring international text charges), I thought Twitter was just a silly fad and considered tweeters to be twits or, well, there’s another word which might suit (David Cameron used it on air). On Thursday night, a guy called Darren Johnson, the chair of the London Assembly who represents the Green Party (which is kind of a shock — you’d expect that sort of thing from a BNP councillor), gave his followers a Twitter feed of how he couldn’t get a cab home from a party and finally took an unlicensed minicab and got ripped off. Of course, it could have been much worse.

The London mayor’s office has been running a campaign to dissuade people, particularly women, from using unlicensed cabs, because a fair number of rapes and other violent attacks were perpetrated by drivers of fake minicabs at night. Only black cabs (i.e. official London taxis, which are in fact not always black but are one of about three specific classes of large car) are allowed to pick people up by the roadside, and their drivers have to do ‘the knowledge’, meaning learn a particular area of London (usually central London) like the back of their hand, and pass various other tests of suitability. They can also stop pretty much anywhere, they frequently block traffic at green lights, and are pretty expensive nowadays. Minicabs have to pick up passengers from pre-arranged points and cannot drop people on red routes or anywhere else that an ordinary private car cannot stop.

Taking an unlicensed cab that stops by the side of the road is pretty foolish at the best of times, and when you’re the chair of the London Assembly and the authority is running a campaign against cowboy cabbies, it’s the kind of inconsistency which should provoke a resignation. However, bragging about doing something stupid which could get you robbed or murdered is an obvious sign of arrogant male privilege at work: a man showing that he is invulnerable while you, girls, aren’t. Don’t do what I do, do what I say. Of course, men are often much less aware of their own vulnerability in general than women, but the risks of diving into shallow water, for example, are the same for a man or a woman (and a fair number of women have broken their necks this way), but the risks of being sexually assaulted are much less (although not absent). His action shows obvious contempt for women and surely it is inconsistent with the Green Party’s progressive reputation. I would hope that they would give him a sharp dressing down, but he should do the decent thing and resign his chairmanship.

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