Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


May I use your phone?

“So … one hundred percent of the female gender has felt unsafe or harassed while taking public transit, and that’s garbage.” – rough quote from Mr. Jackson, in response to class discussion a few weeks ago about how different genders experience taking public transit



life without a phone is very… windy

I travelled alone to Victoria on Sunday, January 18 for a day trip to visit my boyfriend. Unluckily, in a rush to catch the ferry in the morning, I left my phone wedged in the seat pocket of my mom’s car. Because I’m pretty terrible at directions, my method for getting places is to screenshoot (it should be a word) transit routes from looking them up on Google Maps. I panicked for a little while. Although I knew that I could just ask my transit-savvy boyfriend how to get back, I still had a deep-seated feeling that timing the route back to the ferry would be tricky.

Having enjoyed my day without much worry, at the end of it, I decided the safest option was to go to the bus station on the UVic campus at around the same time that I did the previous time I went from Victoria back to Vancouver. There were two buses that were pulling up, and I took the first one. For an hour, I rode on the bus to where I thought would be the ferry terminal, except something was wrong. This was not the familiarly-lit road to Swartz Bay… Instead, this road was getting rapidly darker. In addition, I was one of the only passengers still on the bus, trying my hardest to prevent the panic from exploding.

I got off at the next available stop, a metal bus-shelter, which I might add was the only source of light on the road for almost as far as my eye could see: it was also somewhat secluded by a rock hill and some trees. What reels through my head?

Something bad is going to happen to me and nobody will be around to witness it.

Obviously not the exact bus stop I waited at, but this is just to get a feel for how isolated it was. The sky was darker than this one. Think about your overall fright level while looking at this picture.

Even worse, I absolutely had to find someone with a phone to tell my ride not to come on time (because I was going to have to miss the ferry I wanted to take). The situation was becoming desperate. I don’t think I had ever been so scared to walk alone in the dark, and I was a perfect victim, according to some of those articles: it was near-pitch-dark, I sure as hell was nervous if one could have seen me clearly, and I was in an unfamiliar location. Thankfully, it wasn’t far before I arrived at a checkpoint for a military base, and hoped that there was someone inside. The person inside was a woman. It was as if I relaxed by pure instinct. She let me use her phone, and my innate response was that because she was a woman, I was able to normalize my panic level quite a lot and ask her calmly if I could use her phone.

The rest of the story concludes with my taking the bus downtown and transferring to a different one that got me safely to the ferry terminal. I ended up taking the 9:00 ferry to Vancouver without a problem.

I thank my lucky stars, because it could have been so much worse. Pun intended.

The most intriguing part of this story that strongly relates to this issue is this: the person who let me use her phone in an emergency situation was a woman, and this was relieving to me.

If a man and a woman, both strangers with a cell phone, were equal distances away, who would I choose to help me in my state of emergency?

  • Utilitarianism: I would choose the woman. It is good for a woman to be my aide because it would cause me pain to ask an unknown man for his cell phone, whereas to ask a woman for her cell phone would cause me less pain. Therefore, the more pleasurable option is to ask a woman.
  • Categorical Imperative: I would not choose either, as, according to Kant, it is unacceptable to ever use human beings as means even in dire situations.
  • Behind the Veil of Ignorance: It would not matter who I choose. Ultimately, they both have a phone and are the same distance away from where I am.

As you can see from the multi-hyperlinked sentence, I was alone in the dark and I am not alone in my fear of what could be in it. Society is solving this issue by educating the female gender on how to stay safe when alone. The best defense that women have for being alone at night is, in most cases, just to avoid doing that! It’s sad, but society seems to have succumbed to that all women are targets.

Yes, I know it was pretty dumb of me to not double-check that I had my phone with me before leaving the car, but do you have any other opinions on anything I’ve said? I’m very curious to know: how would you have felt if you were me (retaining the gender you currently are) on the night of January 18th?


6 Responses to May I use your phone?

  1. aileen4 says:

    I really liked how you added your own story/experience to your post. It allowed you to add your own personal touch to the topic and made this whole idea a lot more relatable like as if it could have happened to any of us. Also, I admire that even though we had a whole class debate on this idea and there was so much said about it, you brought up a fresh perspective and it all tied together nicely. Good job!

  2. sassidy says:

    Thank you. It was ironically very lucky that this happened to me, because it gave me a great point to support that safety theme. I know you wanted to explore this theme as well, so I hope this was good input for you!

  3. jmills says:

    I would argue that if I were in the same situation my decision to go to the man or the woman would highly depend on their appearance, not their gender. For example, if the man was younger-looking or around my age i would almost certainly go to the guy, and the same goes for if the girl was younger or closer to my age. When we see someone for the first time I think we make subtle subconscious observations and for a lack of a better word, judgements about that person. If we were to see someone who looked inherently friendly, or happy I would argue that that would be the person I would be more drawn to, regardless of gender.

  4. alyssa says:

    To add to Jaydens comment. For me to chose, if it was a sketchy girl, and a male that was more sensible to approach, I would ask the male. I would be pretty scared to ask the female due to her appearance. However if they both appeared to be fairly sensible people, I would go for the female.
    We judge people before we know them due to keep our self’s the safest in this case.

  5. sassidy says:

    Alyssa: What, in your opinion, constitutes a person to “look” sensible?

  6. alyssa says:

    Probably someone who isn’t wearing like short shorts in the middle of winter, or someone who just seems to be having a bad day I would not approach. Someone I identify with, or someone who your judgment of them is the better of the two.


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