Fresh from the annals of ‘In-Group Preference’, this morning’s opinion piece by NZ talk-show host Kate Hawkesby shows a lack of self-awareness that is somewhat surprising for a broadcaster of her arguable repute.

Her opinion article is a response to a petition raised against a female-only Uber-style taxi service claiming that the service is discriminatory towards men. The petition itself is quite obviously a tongue-in-cheek effort, but with an underlying nod towards the contradictions that can occur when discriminatory practices are instigated in the name of equality. If the petition is actually serious then it would be rather a waste because it’s excellent troll bait and certainly hooked our Kate.

There was lots that irked me about this article, not least her sense of superiority based on a purely consequentialist position lacking in any real principle whatsoever. She seems to be unaware of the point that men are barraged with propaganda about the myriad ways they are sexist misogynists every day it seems, but when the tables are turned, as in this case, it is not only not sexism but any men who have the very effrontery to claim that it is are being sexist for wanting to compromise the safety of women. I believe this is precisely the point of the petition, the very need for which is helpfully exemplified by her own emotional response.

There is plenty here that I found fun, so lets take a look.

“The women-only ride-sharing company DriveHer has been accused of being sexist.”

LOL Kate, the clue is contained in your own statement. See if you can guess where it is. I’ll wait.

“The basis for this particular insanity is that they feel an all-woman taxi service is an affront to men.”

You’re making an assumption about what they feel, the petition doesn’t claim anything of the sort. It claims that the service is discriminatory towards men as customers, and denies employment opportunities to men. Both are clearly true.

A spokesperson for the group, whose[sic] clearly visiting from the dark ages, said, “if women are afraid they are going to get raped, just don’t go out.”

How can you even let those words out of your mouth? They claim it’s the start of a men’s employment crisis. They even had the audacity to use the hashtag #HimToo.

Seriously, Kate? I bet you were easy to wind up at school. 

“Where do you get off criticising a business model, which by the way is optional, women aren’t forced to take women-only taxis, where do you get off saying that’s sexist?”

Because it is, literally, sexist. It is offering a service to a distinct group of people based purely on their gender/sex. In the same way that it would be racist to offer the service only to black or white people. Whether this particular piece of discrimination is ‘bad’ or not is a completely different question, and one that she fails to address in her outrage, but she cannot claim that it’s not sexist.

DriveHer is similar to Uber, users hail a car using a cellphone app. The difference is its drivers – and riders – must be women.”

And somehow that is not sexist? And not only must the drivers be women but men are not allowed to use the service unless they are accompanied by women, and they must sit in the back. I don’t know if there are rules around how many of each must be present.

“A male came up with this.”

Irrelevant – does that somehow make the service not sexist? Within this context even the very observation is somewhat sexist.

“An actual man, whose[sic] not affronted by, afraid of, or intimidated by women.”

The petition did not claim any of the above, just that the service is discriminatory – which it is. And her insinuation that masculinity is defined by a subjective view of women (not afraid/affronted/intimidated) is a little odd. For example what about men that have been the victims of abuse at the hand of women who could quite legitimately feel some or all of the above – are they not ‘actual’ men? Perhaps this is a feminist power position that says the only acceptable form of masculinity is one that is defined by women.

“A man who was hearing too often from female friends about awful experiences in Ubers and taxis late at night.”

This is debatable – my understanding (which may be lacking) was that the ‘actual man’ who started the service had heard only that his female friends felt uncomfortable being alone around male taxi drivers, not that any of them actually had awful experiences. Such feelings are highly subjective of course so perhaps feeling uncomfortable is an awful experience, I don’t know. But this certainly looks like a case of shifting the goalposts to bolster her outrage. It also unfairly paints a picture of taxi services as full of perverts, based only on feelings of discomfort that may or may not have any real world justification and may indeed have been irrationally fuelled by the #metoo and toxic masculinity issues pushed by the feminist movement.

“He decided to do something about it.”

Good for him, especially since he invested his own savings into the venture. Why didn’t one of the women in question do it? Isn’t that what empowerment is all about? Not needing permission or a man to come to their aid and solve their ‘problem’. Or perhaps the women in question didn’t see enough value in such a service to be worth the time, effort and resources. The market will decide if there is value in the proposition.

“All this app does, is provide an optional service, a choice, an alternative.”

That has nothing to do with the point of the petition which is that the service is discriminatory based on sex. It is only an alternative choice for women as men are excluded (except under certain specific circumstances).

“Men are welcome to ride as a plus one. What’s wrong with that?”

It’s sexist – men cannot partake of the service on the same terms as women. That’s what’s ‘wrong’ with it.

“The great irony here is that those who shout inclusivity the loudest, are often the ones participating in pushing exclusion.”

This is bizarre – she seems to have shot down her own argument. Yes, women are predominantly those calling for inclusivity and yet here are participating in pushing exclusion. This would also apply to her own positions that are often divisive on gender issues to the exclusion of men.

“This driving service isn’t running men out of town, it’s simply providing an option for women, many of whom travel alone late at night and would like to feel safe.”

It is “simply providing a service” that excludes men. Do men not also travel home alone at night and want to feel safe? Her argument as to why a sexist service should exist simply doesn’t stack up.

“As a mother, I’d rather have my daughter travel in this any day of the week, but that’s a choice I can now make, not all women have to”

In-group preference on display here. Perhaps another parent would feel the same way about their son. And women have always had the choice of not using Uber but using an established cab company that has cameras and vets their drivers more thoroughly. Or even not using cabs at all and organise a lift with a friend.

“And while we’re at it, ask yourself whose fault is it that women don’t feel safe riding alone in taxis late at night in the first place?”

This is perhaps the most egregious comment of the whole article. It is utterly without foundation in its sweeping misandrist accusation. People (not just women) can feel unsafe for many reasons, including their own psychological responses and attitudes yet she is trying to place the blame squarely at the feet of men. As usual this kind of white-knighting simply serves to disrespect women by painting them as victims of circumstances outside of their own control, unable to respond in any way other than with base emotions and without the agency to form a reasoned response of their own.

“And no, this is not presuming all men are assaulters, it’s simply giving women the opportunity of not taking that risk.”

And almost as though she had realised her own bigotry she tries to walk it back but fails completely by still saying essentially the same thing – that men are the risk factor to women who are simply the victims.

Having said all that, I personally don’t have any issue with the service itself, especially if it helps to improve the safety of women. As an individualist anarchist who believes in property rights I believe it is our choice to associate with whomever we choose for whatever reason we want, as long as we do not violate the property rights of another – as long as it is consensual.

We must discriminate in every choice that we make, where we go, where we shop, who we choose to do business with, laugh with, love, marry – life would not be possible without it as we have limited means, so opportunity cost is a fact of reality. Erecting subjectively chosen barriers to consensual choices made by individuals according to their own values is not equality, it is the very negation of equality. It is selective violation of consent, the imposition of the will of one upon another by force.

So sure, provide a service only to men, women, whites, blacks, abled/disabled. It’s all good as long as property rights (both in your own body and externally) are not being violated.

The Hawkesby article however betrays a deep double standard in that it makes a special case for the protected treatment of women that excludes men when it happens to suit women. At no point does the article say that the opposite case would be acceptable (it most likely would not be under the Human Rights Act), which would defuse the whole point of the petition – something that Hawkesby seems to miss. When held to her own standards of ‘equality’, her argument for a service that discriminates on gender fails. Yet more equality for me but not for thee.

I would have far more respect for her opinion had she said that her idea of ‘equality’ is based solely on subjectively defined outcomes that please her rather than any deeper principle.