A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Gender bender

Posted by Pepper on January 7, 2014

This happened more than a month ago. And for more than a month, I’ve been wanting to mention it on the blog. Finally, here it is.

My office is very far from where I live. In order to avoid the monstrous traffic on the Western Express Highway (Hah, calling it an express highway is such a joke), I usually try leaving before peak hour. But that day I got held up at work. By the time I left, I was well into the dreaded peak hour. It was horrible. Cars going bumper to bumper. On that particular day, the traffic was beastly. I took me over 2 hours to cross a small stretch. I was driving all alone and I groaned. When would I ever get home?

Then my phone rang. It was my mom. I looked around at the sea of cars surrounding me and realised there was not much scope for any vehicle to move. I answered the phone and burst out venting. I told her about the godawful situation I was in. Thankfully, I was relatively calm after my outburst and so we continued chatting. The car inched forward a grand total of two times during the course of my conversation with her. And when I say inched forward, I literally mean inched forward.

I was in the left most lane, and all of a sudden I was asked to pull over by a traffic cop. Oops. He had seen me talking on the phone. Now I am generally not the law breaking type, so I felt quite terrible being caught doing something like this. Coincidentally, the driver of the car behind me was also talking on the phone. We were both pulled up.

The cop there asked for my driving license and I handed it to him. He then told me that my license would be temporarily seized, and would be sent to a district court. I would then have to appeal to the judge there and fight my case. God. This was scary. I knew I couldn’t afford to lose my license. He went on to explain to me how seriously they are taking such cases now. You  might escape if you jump a light, but if you are talking on your phone while driving, or driving under influence, there is no escaping. I was glad to hear this. Really. Oh, but my license.

I apologised and told him I would never repeat the mistake. I also pointed out that the only reason I was talking on phone was because the car was barely moving. I could see him soften a little, but he wouldn’t budge. Behind us, I could see the guy arguing, and alternately requesting the cop to let him go too. I could see the cop was a lot more harsh in his approach with the guy. Anyway, he wouldn’t return my license. I was requesting him relentlessly , also making sorry faces.

After what I call a long struggle, he decided to let me off with a warning. The guy who was facing charges for the same reason heard the cop, and he shouted, “Don’t let her go if you are not letting me go. You always let girls go. That’s unfair! I won’t let this happen”. I looked at him, unsure of what to do for a moment. I knew he was right. I knew, very well that I was being let off because I was a girl. A girl in distress.

But I was also the girl who was selfish, and tired. One who wanted to go back home. So without wasting another moment, I thanked the cop and went back in my car while I had the chance. Since there was a hell lot of traffic and I couldn’t really move away, I could see what was happening with the guy. He couldn’t wriggle out of it the way I did. After many tense moments, I saw the cop confiscating his license and giving him a slip of paper. I also saw the guy fuming as he walked back to his car.

I came back home very guilty that night. Being the staunch feminist that I am, what I did was not acceptable to me. I don’t know why I did it. This is another form of gender based discrimination. On one hand, I find myself fighting for gender equality, on the other hand, I allow such biases to exist. Ofcourse, to relieve myself of the guilt, I can very well say I was not responsible for what happened. That the cop chose to be partial to me because of my gender. But my heart knows all of that is false pacification. That the very fact that I encouraged it makes me equally responsible for it. Perhaps more.

Have you ever taken advantage of your gender?


50 Responses to “Gender bender”

  1. Things like this happen.. Can’t help.
    Even that other guy also tried to request but he might not have been persuasive enough.

  2. I am not going to judge you, Pepper, but I’ll say that it demands lotsa courage to public accept that you were wrong in your own eyes. I’ll say it happens to the best of us and hope u feel good inside after pulling this post.

  3. AP said

    I don’t think you took advantage of your gender. It was the cop’s prerogative to confiscate your license, but he most likely took into account how genuinely sorry you were, that a traffic jam of such proportions would have folks back home worried when you were late. He was not just going by the rule book, he was also applying his mind and judgement to the current context. And you did not ask him to let him go because you were a girl. So you should sleep easy – you did not violate your feminist thinking.
    Here in the US, traffic cops do let off folks with a warning -both and men and women- depending on their judgement of the situation ie: first time offender etc

  4. Rasika said

    I think he let you go because you accepted your mistake and convinced him that you won’t do it again, the guy must have behaved as if he wasn’t doing anything wrong. My opinion – it was nothing to do with gender but how two people handled the same situation.

    • Pepper said

      Nope. I should have given more details of the guy since most of you seem to say the same thing. The guy was as apologetic and persuasive. Which is why I felt so bad, having an advantage over him,

  5. Jay said

    Could it be you were better in persuading the cop to let you go compared to the other guy?

  6. hitchy said

    I have taken advantage of my mom’s gender very recently! For a trip to our native land we had to book Dharamshala in one remote village where there were no hotels and so I called, the fellow would not book, saying they do not book, that if they had a room to let they would! I wanted to be sure of a room as we would reach the village late in night. So, I asked my mom to call, just because she was a female and said we might reach late in night, the fellow agreed and booked her room but would not book mine!

    Traffic police also lets gray haired men get away! I was once caught on my bike for PUC checking and whilst a lot of young guy’s were being fined 100RS I was let go! Why I still can’t fathom! Perhaps I have gray hair and he thought… uncle ko jaane do! 😛

    • Pepper said

      Mint always asks me to make requests for last minute bookings too. Gender advantage? I don’t know.

      LOL. I laughed out aloud at the thought of ‘uncle ko jaane do’. They usually let my dad go too. He is not only grey, but also bald. Works quite well for him 😀

  7. Boiling said

    Yes, this is a kind of gender discrimination, we don’t wish to talk about. Traffic cops let us go. People in airports let you have more baggage than allowed 🙂

    If I were to look at it practically, what were your options?
    – Tell the cop “aap fair nahi ho, yeh lo mera license?” and spend time & money in slow moving courts? To save myself the inconvenience of all that follows, I would take my license back. It is pointless giving it back.
    – After getting the license back, maybe smile and say please give him his license back too. We both will not do it again? Would that have worked? Maybe, maybe not.

    I would say there is nothing much you could have done. Giving your license back would not have changed gender discrimination. It is like not eating because so many people are starving. That does not help right?

    • Pepper said

      Haan, Mint said I could have also requesting the cop to let the other guy go if I was walking away myself. That however, is not practical at all, right? Might have infuriated the cop even more. Firstly he lets me go, and then I ask for another favour – one that doesn’t even concern me!

  8. Ravi said

    Appreciate your honesty, however all officers have certain amount of discretion that they can exercise. The very intent of fine is to correct you, but if the officer is convinced that you have sufficiently understood your mistake, he/she can let you go.

    What my manager often said when I started my career holds true always, “There’s not substitute for politeness, humility and genuine expression of regret” , I’m yet to find a place where this hasn’t worked.

  9. R's Mom said

    Ah well, I think I would have done the same thing if I were in your place. Walked away. But yes, I think sometimes we do take advantage of our gender, which is not a very good thing to do. If we talk so much about equality, it should be across everything no?

    I think the only time I have taken advantage of my gender is when I was pregnant and used to ask men to give up their seats in the BEST bus if I couldnt waddle ahead to the ladies seat 😉 And most men would get up and I would ensure to thank them profusely 🙂

  10. I don’t remember using my gender to the advantage at time recently outside of home. But at home with R I always take advantage.

    Its definitely unfair what happened to that guy.

  11. I guess sometimes knowingly & sometimes unknowingly, we, the female fraternity, tend to take advantage of our gender. It might be because of the social conditioning over thousands of years & to shake it off, by both men as well as women, will take great efforts & time too. So don’t feel too bad about it; the very fact that you felt bad is just the beginning of the “shake-it-off” process. That’s what I think. 🙂

  12. ashreyamom said

    yes, when i had wait in long Q, i take Bunty along with me.Seeing me carry a toddler, they give me way. 🙂

    • Pepper said

      Jumping the Q when you have a child with you, well,, that is just people being considerate of the fact that you have a child. Perfectly okay to do that, if you ask me 🙂

  13. Ashwathy said

    Hmm ok but what about the guy’s demeanour vs yours? Was he arguing and defensive? Refusing to apologize or accept his mistake? Cops are far more pissed off dealing with such people.

    Having said that, yes, there is a huge gender bias w.r.t driving. While there is the whole women-are-horrible-drivers bit as well, there is also the concept in India of not checking a woman driver for being drunk at all (like you mentioned in some earlier post of yours). Weird isn’t it?

  14. chattywren said

    Hmm, I think each gender uses circumstances to their advantage. Considering so much oppression and exploitation against women, this is very minor. Though I agree it does not sit well with your personal values, something that only you can come to terms with!

  15. Bingo said

    yes, I skipped queue in railway station even though there was no separate queue for ladies. I *sometimes* skipped late night work at office saying I should go alone even though my husband can come and pick me, but, everything is based on the situation, i guess. Imagine there is no traffic at all and you are not in a hurry to go somewhere and you caught by the cops for talking on your phone while driving, then what will you do?

  16. Deepa said

    Yes, I have in a way. In the early 2000s when I was a new joinee at my company in B’lore landlords in certain area used to let rooms/flats to girls but not guys and even though the guys in my new trainee batch were just as desperate to find accommodation I quickly took up what was offered to me without a nary thought for the plight of my soon to be colleagues who continued hunting for acco. I didn’t think much of it then because I was very scared of where I would stay if I didn’t take up what was offered but later, many years later I wonder if there was anything, something I could’ve done to oppose/remedy the very blatant gender discrimination. Or perhaps in the eyes of the landlords there wasn’t any. They were just protecting their women folk at home from strange and unknown males they couldn’t possibly trust. Perhaps.

  17. I consciously try to avoid taking advantage of my gender, but let’s not forget that we too are victims of old school conditioning. As long as I learn from my mistakes, and do not let it happen again, its fine. I have come to realize that feminism is more of a continual process than a state of being.

    Now coming to the scenario you described. A cop favouring you over the other guy may be because you are a woman – I cannot deny that. It also may be because you look meek, you look hot, you have a certain colour skin, you dressed a certain way, you used certain words, you reminded him of someone – the possibilities are endless(especially given that it’s India). It could also simply be because your cop was in a good mood and the other cop dealing with the guy was in a bad mood.

    I don’t think you are responsible for the cop’s mindset unless you pointed out that you are a girl and hence you need privileges. Nor did the cop openly admit to favouring you because you are girl and you are guilty of still letting him favour you. On the contrary, the other guy is guilty of reinforcing sexism by pointing out that you are a girl and hence you were let go when he doesn’t know for a fact that it was the real reason. It was merely his assumption, wasn’t it?

    Also question this- was the man punished because he is a man or because he broke the law?

    • Pepper said

      I would not say it is his assumption, you know. It was very obvious to both of us. Take for example, the cop allowed me to talk to him as I sit in my car initially. But the guy, he was asked to step out in a rough, impolite way. The cop was gentle with me even as he spoke, but with the guy, he screamed and even used expletives like ‘saala’, etc. So much difference in his behaviour towards us. Now the most obvious thing to occur to you is this – gender.

      Especially considering both of us were apologetic.

      Was the man being punished because he is a man or because he broke the law? I would like to think it is because he broke the law, but then, I am not sure.

  18. Atul said

    No kidding!!! I faced the exact same situation on Andheri-Kurla road two days back, caught talking on phone while being stuck in dead-stop traffic.
    No Gender issues for me – although yes I got Challaned. But the cops just tells you that you have to go to court and all just to scare you and get some money. The actual fine is Rs.100 but they threaten with a court case and get a bribe much higher than that.
    In fact I posted it on the website ipaidabribe.com
    Do read it if you have time.
    Btw do you know that the law states that if you are driving alone then you can be fined even if your mobile phone is switched ON. Just ON, not even talking. Imagine the power that cops have with which they can abuse you.

    • Pepper said

      Wait, are you serious? This is ridiculous. Your phone can’t be switched on while you drive? I really wonder why they have such senseless laws. You’re right, they can totally abuse this law.

      Oh btw, I was let off without ANY bribe. That is nice, isn’t it? Also, I do think you have to appear in court to reclaim your confiscated license. I just read more about this while writing the post.

  19. MR said

    You are right , He probably let you go cause you are a girl. I too whine and cringe and apologize profusely when i”m caught here. not happened for a few yrs now, but in my younger days caught for speeding was a regularity, not becaus ei was a daredevil, but because listening to music and singing along i lost track of pushing the accelerator. and to start with I was a terrible driver.

    First few times i didnt think of it, but once when both me and r were caught , i realised how not sweet the cop was to R. form then on no pleading, no sad face no nothing, i saw a simple sorry, resolve never to repeat the mistake and dont even make eye contact with the cop. chupchap pay up and go …

    Guess it’s the down side of asking for equality – acting equal 🙂 sad na.

    • Pepper said

      Ditto! I also lose track with the accelerator. Rather, I used to in the US. Here, the bumpy road never lets you forget. You end up slowing down if you don’t want your car in pieces.

  20. Arch said

    I am guessing that it would have irked the police officer when the guy pointed out the bias in his decision. Though the police knew he was biased he wouldn’t want some offender blaming him. Had the guy not said “Don’t let her go if you are not letting me go. You always let girls go. That’s unfair! I won’t let this happen.”, he might have got away too.

    You relax.. It isn’t your fault.It wasn’t a competition between you and guy and you didn’t take undue advantage. It was the officer’s decision. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂

  21. You did not try to use gender to your advantage. In that sense, you’ve not done anything wrong.

    However, you were given preferential treatment because of your gender. That’s wrong, but it’s not your fault.

    You could have insisted that you should not be given preferential treatment, but you’re not Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Teresa! Most of us, irrespective of gender, would have walked away as you did.

    The creditable things are:
    1. You are introspecting about this incident and sharing your thoughts with others.
    2. Despite quite a few commenters trying to rationalise that it wasn’t about gender, you have stuck to your stand that it was about gender.

    We all feel bad when we are victims of discrimination. Very few of us feel bad when we are beneficiaries of discrimination. That’s what is great about your response to this incident!

  22. Jack Point said

    Using a phone in a traffic jam, when vehicles are stopped is not a danger, therefore he should not have charged you anyway.

    He was unnecessarily harsh on the other fellow, but that was his bad luck.


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