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What It's Like To Drive Uber Or Lyft When You're A Woman
We've been running stories from Lexus Jones, an Uber driver who shares with us his insights and anecdotes from the road. However, we had to wonder: are things different for the women behind the wheel? So, we decided to ask a few women who drive for Lyft or Uber, including LA Uber Gal, who's been documenting her experience for Uber on. Through our conversations, we found a few patterns.
Jessica McMahon is a casting manager for reality TV who drives for Lyft when she wants extra money for stuff like weekend getaways. She said that nearly every time someone gets in her car, they comment on how she's a 'girl Lyft driver.' "They want to know, 'Do I feel safe?' Well, yes, I really do feel safe. They ask, 'Has anything ever happened?' Well, of course not or else I probably wouldn't be driving anymore. The most famous question is, 'Has anyone ever thrown up or done something crazy?' No. To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm super lucky or if the majority of the people, who choose to take Lyft, really are respectful. I feel safe at 3:30 a.m. on a Friday night in Hollywood because I know that Lyft is just a touch away if anything were to happen. If you hold a presence that you will not stand someone trying to walk all over you, usually they can feel it and won't dare try anything. By this, I do not mean rude; be straightforward and strong."
Caitlin Mae is a hair stylist who has been driving for Lyft since November. She said she chose Lyft because she was concerned about Uber's treatment of women. She said her Lyft mentor was open about safety concerns. "It was explicitly stated that Lyft, as a company, wouldn't have any issues with me canceling a ride or ending a ride early if I felt like my safety would be compromised," she said. While no passengers of Mae's have been rude or made her feel unsafe, she too gets the comments about being a woman. "I have had passengers make comments on my appearance or gender, such as, 'Oh, wow, you're cute. Most of my drivers are old men.' Or, 'Oh, wow, a girl!' I didn't really expect those kinds of comments because I was under the impression that Lyft (at the time) had a more proportionate rate of female drivers. It was really only after those experiences that I realized that I was seen as more of a novelty."
Megan Marshall has been driving for Lyft for 7 months. She said most of her customers have been friendly and talkative. She said she takes a lot of precautions when it comes to who she chooses to pick up, preferring passengers with a rating higher than 4.7. She makes sure to look at the pictures her male passengers have submitted to the app. "I also don't pick up in sketchy areas. I drive downtown a lot and I'm really picky when it comes to who I pick up there. I feel like men don't have to be so cautious when it comes to that."
Ashley Moon, the screenwriter and host of 'WeirdAF' podcast, has been a driver for both Uber and Lyft, though finds herself using Lyft more often. "Uber was frustrating because they force you to use their map within the driver's app and it's not very accurate. I had one older gentleman heavily insinuate that I didn't know how to read the map because I was a woman. Which, talk about blast from the past sexism. I honestly didn't even realize that people thought women have no sense of direction."
LA Uber Gal, who we'll call Jane as she requested to remain anonymous, drives a stick shift. She said she's had a few male passengers ask her if they could drive her car, or expressed surprise that a lady drives a stick. Of course, sometimes it's used to flirt. She jokes that it's nothing so blunt as, "How'd you like to drive my stick shift, but they might say, 'Oh, that's hot.'" She had a few men ask if they could drive her car, something she's not sure would happen if she were a man.
Another anonymous driver for Uber and Lyft told us, "Almost everyone would comment either 'You're the prettiest driver I've ever seen'...not meant to be a pick up line, just that I wasn't the usual older male. Or, 'Do you feel safe?' To the former I reply with something like, 'Thanks, I know the competition is pretty stiff!' To the latter I'd say, 'No, never. I try to drive during daylight and stay out of sketchy areas—just being street smart.' I used to say I carry pepper spray, which I do, but then I decided I didn't want to create any issues or threats, so I kept it to myself. I never even had to think about using the pepper spray."
Moon said she also found that people liked to ask her for her opinion on dating—men, in particular. "I've driven a lot of guys to and from Tinder dates and they've asked me what I thought about certain behaviors or things the woman they saw said or didn't say." It's not just men, though. Moon's also had quite a few couples try to use her as a relationship counselor.
"I had one fairly drunk couple get into my car and almost immediately, the woman said, 'I need your opinion on something, I think you could help me.' She went on to tell me that her boyfriend didn't want kids but that she thought she could be the one to 'change his mind.' She asked me to side with her because 'You're a woman, you understand where I'm coming from.' I told her I wasn't equipped to answer her and she pestered me until I said 'Well, it would really suck as a kid to find out one of your parents didn't want you.' And she got really mad at me. Her boyfriend was really low-key and apologized when she got out and slammed my car door really hard."
Jane said that she's noticed that women tend to feel like they can unload on her, venting about significant others or other frustrations. Jane might not be invested in the person, but she will hand back tissues.
Safety and Harassment
Moon said, "I've only had one awkward situation with a man I picked up in Culver City while driving for Lyft. He was making really sexual and inappropriate comments about my body, his body, and his girlfriend's body who we were on our way to pick up. But I didn't feel like I was in danger, mostly because he was SO drunk that he was completely slumped over in my front seat and heavily slurring his words. I thought he might have alcohol poisoning."
Jennifer Stavros drives for Uber. She said she once picked up three guys in suits from an apartment building—oddly enough, the same building an ex of hers called home. They got in her car, said hello and then began talking among themselves. "They talked about a friend dating a girl long-distance. Then it just started getting worse. They talked about how much of a slut she was, about how their friend was a pussy for not leaving, etc. Then, we had to pick someone else up. They were going from West Hollywood to The Edison. More talks about mistreating women: 'Yeah, she kept texting me so I put that bitch in time out.' The whole time I was sitting there, trying not to vomit in my mouth. It was crazy how they didn't care to maybe not talk about that in front of a woman. It was bad enough they were doing it at all, but it was extra [douchey]." Starvros said she felt "drained" by the ride. She next picked up two women who were also drivers. "They were disgusted, but said that's common, sadly. I told them which bar [the men] were going to so they could avoid them."
Occasionally, Jane said she'll have a passenger who might get be a little inappropriate. She said there is one obvious tell if a passenger is trying to pick her up. "They might say something like, 'You can turn that off, right?'" she said, referring to her ability to shut the app off. The implication here being that she could switch off Uber when she gets to the passenger's place and maybe come in and stay awhile. One time she was dropping off a group of friends at their homes, one by one, and she hit it off with one of the men in the group. When she got to his place, he asked her if she'd like to keep chatting and have a beer. Assuming this was an innocent enough invitation and knowing she intended to quit driving for the night after this particular ride, she accepted. So, they had the beer and chatted and it was pleasant. When she told him it was getting late and she should take off, she said he practically chased her to the door trying to take his pants off. He did not succeed.
But not every woman we talked to had issues with harassment. An anonymous driver told us she'd only once had a problem: "Many people asked if I wanted to join them at their event, but it's just because we vibed. Maybe some were crushing on me a bit but it never made me uncomfortable. Only once did a guy keep pressing 'Where do I meet a girl like you?' and it got annoying, but luckily it was an UberPool and the other rider was a cool chick...Truthfully, I dealt with more inappropriate behavior when I was a bartender."
Other Women Like Having Female Drivers
"I find that people, especially young girls who are out partying late at night, get excited when I pull up. They are riding alone, for possibly 15 to 20 minutes from one side of town to the other. Sometimes from a friend's house to their own. And some have made it clear how much safer they feel knowing a young girl, around their age, is the one who now knows where they live," Mae told LAist.
Mae said that her experience driving for Lyft is "incredibly mellow" compared to what she has been told by her female passengers. "I rarely sign on to drive anymore, but when I do, I feel a certain responsibility to make my services and my car a safe place for female passengers. I offer to walk them to the door, tell them they can wait in my car with me if they're meeting up with someone, and always wait until I see them safely enter their destination before I drive away."
Jane also said that occasionally a woman will tell her they feel safer with her.
Another anonymous tipster who drives for both Uber and Lyft told us that while some girls are very nice, others are not: "The girls are the ones that always make you wait a long time for them to come out, and are most particular about routes. More than once girls have gotten mad at me because they were running late for something, when really they didn't request early enough or whatever," she said.
While Uber says tips are included in its prices—a claim drivers dispute—lady Lyft drivers feel like they do get better tips than men. McMahon said she's spoken to some male Lyft drivers, "and it seems that I am actually tipped more regularly and more than they are."
"I also get a good amount of tips—like very large amounts, sometimes. I don't know if that has a direct relation to being a woman or not, but it feels like it sometimes," Marshall said.