Just another taxi ride…

// 8 February 2009

I was travelling home on Wednesday night, and hailed a Hackney carriage (a proper black cab, fully licenced, with the driver’s ID displayed etc etc) by West Hampstead station in north-west London to take me the short ride back to my house.

I’m never that comfortable in taxis by myself anyway, and this driver in particular made me feel uneasy. My feelings were compounded when I requested a receipt and was given a slip of paper with this advert on the other side –


I have, of course, complained to the Public Carriage Office, who are in charge of TfL’s management of black cabs. I’ll report back when I hear anything.

Edit (10/02/2009) – Thanks to a reader comment, we’ve altered the picture so that the faces aren’t identifiable and the phone numbers aren’t legible.

I got a response from the Public Carriage Office, apologising for my “unpleasant experience” and noting the incident down on file. From what they say, it seems that this kind of advertising would not adhere to the “general guidelines applicable to all London licensed taxi drivers”.

Comments From You

Kirsty // Posted 8 February 2009 at 6:48 pm

Gosh. I live and work in West Hampstead, so that hits close to home. I always use one specific cab company and thankfully I’ve never had any problems. I’m sorry that happened to you.

Maria Aubes // Posted 8 February 2009 at 10:30 pm

The pictures themselves are not porn, so there is no question of indecency. Lap dancing is legal and so can be advertised. Are we now against free speech?

Kirsty // Posted 8 February 2009 at 10:58 pm

No, but there’s a difference between free speech and making people uncomfortable. People seem to think that free speech is licence to be offensive or inconsiderate, when really it ought to be tempered by common sense. Most women are at least a little uncomfortable travelling alone in a cab, so handing out fliers for lapdancing clubs is hardly something that’s going to make them more comfortable.

Rhona // Posted 9 February 2009 at 9:29 am

While I agee that this particular form of advertising is insensitive and possibly offensive to a large section of the population (not neccesarily just women), I feel I must pick up on the reply by Kirsty that ‘most women are at least a little uncomfortable travelling alone in a cab’.

I use taxis a lot for business (no sense driving a car in Glasgow city centre, it would take you weeks to get anywhere!) and have probably only had a couple of minor ‘moments’ in the past twelve years – equitable to any level of discomfort I have felt in any public space. Not ideal, but certainly not verging on any kind of panic.

To insinuate that ‘most’ women feel uncomfortable when using a service is, I feel, verging on RF notions that all men, no matter where they may be, should be viewed as the enemy and is neither helpful nor constructive. We lambast the anti-fem movement for using generalisations – let us temper our own language accordingly.

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 9 February 2009 at 10:42 am

I feel on the topic of taxi’s and safety it’s apt to add that it’s not like Transport for London at the very least haven’t launched a campaign which aims to make women more scared of travelling alone in a cab http://www.younglivin.org.uk/tfl_safer_travel_poster.jpg

The Know What You’re Getting into Campaign, while aimed at illegal taxi companies rather than black cabs or licensed companies carries tonnes of dark and unsettling adverts telling women of the danger on the street facing them (you know, rather than trying to clean up illegal cabs if they’re dangerous for any part of the cities citizens)

Sabre // Posted 9 February 2009 at 1:35 pm

When there’s so much worry about cab drivers attacking women I think a cab firm should be sensitive about what kinds of material they promote. As any business should. I certainly don’t like it.

Alex T // Posted 9 February 2009 at 5:55 pm


It’s a bit more than that – it’s the assumption that all passengers will be male (and straight, come to that). It’s not only offensive, but is a complete denial that women will be paying customers. It invisibilises us in the worst way, insofar as it offends and degrades us at the same time.

Maryam // Posted 9 February 2009 at 9:28 pm

“Are we now against free speech?”

Ughh… if ever there was a line for sexists and racists to proudly boast of.

Kez // Posted 10 February 2009 at 10:26 am

Maria – It’s not about free speech, it’s about advertising. There are rules surrounding where, when, how, and even whether certain products/services can be advertised – alcohol, cigarettes, etc, as there is a recognition that it is inappropriate and undesirable for these to be advertised without any restriction. As I understand it (please correct me if I am wrong) lap dancing and similar establishments are currently classified as bars, rather than as part of the sex industry, so their advertising seems to be fairly unrestricted. (Where I live, we were recently treated to the edifying spectacle of buses plastered with ads for something called “Private Eyes”.)

It seems reasonable enough to me to find clearly sexual advertising material (“nude table dancers”) unacceptable and inappropriate in somewhere like a black cab, which is used by a whole cross-section of the public.

JenniferRuth // Posted 10 February 2009 at 11:52 am

@ Rhona

“To insinuate that ‘most’ women feel uncomfortable when using a service is, I feel, verging on RF notions that all men, no matter where they may be, should be viewed as the enemy and is neither helpful nor constructive.”

This totally misrepresents radical feminism.

Please – can we not divide feminism into “good and “bad”? The F-Word is meant to bring us all together.

As for the advertising, I hate it – but I don’t see how it could be prevented…

Advertising lap dancing clubs and escort services seems to be becoming more common. I have recently seen posters around Manchester advertising lap dancing clubs. I plan create some feminist stickers to plaster over them. I don’t know what to do about stuff on the back of a receipt though…

Anne Onne // Posted 10 February 2009 at 5:40 pm

I really, really think someone needs to address the ‘Free Speech!!!1!’ argument, maybe Feminism 101 should have something about it.

Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights declares:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

This means that should someone want to go print out their opinions, they have a right to do so. It does NOT mean that there is any obligation on the part of anyone else to publish their opinion. Or like it, or not complain about it, or not in turn publish their own opinion.

But in this case, we’re not dealing with opinions and beliefs, we’re dealing with advertising. Advertising has rules: not every advert is considered acceptable, and adverts that are acceptable for some places and audiences may not be for others.

And of course: anyone (a company, an individual who rents advert space etc) is within their right to turn down a certain advert if they feel it inappropriate. TFL or whoever is responsible should have their own guidelines on what advertised services are appropriate. They are within their rights to carefully choose which adverts to use, and people who use the transport are within their rights to complain about any adverts they find offensive.

Equating rules that forbid the torture of political dissidents with corporate consumerism that exploits women whilst making other women uncomfortable and reminding them of their second class status is making a large jump.

Alex T: I’ll also add that it puts women in their place. Reminds us that we’re supposed to be second class citizens useful for nothing more than wank fodder. It used to be considered rude to put this kind of material before women (or other people), because it would be offensive to them, and though the paternalistic reasons behind the old prudery are questionable, I can see the reasons: it IS disrespectful to present people with sexual pictures of people like them half naked.

Ironically, we’ve moved backwards in a respect: now we’re supposed to smile wryly and crack a joke about the model in question having a lovely pair. If the situation was reversed and there was suddenly a lot of advertising everywhere with half-naked men subserviently selling some product or their time to women, the most vocal proponents of using women’s bodies to sell everything would complain, because apparently it’s only women that deserve to be plastered over everything half naked.

If the adverts had been of half naked men for gay strip clubs or escorts or whatnot, there would probably have been complaints about whether this is appropriate for what is essentially a public service that anybody could be using. There would be complaints of ‘sleaze’ and of protecting the children. But because it’s women’s bodies, people don’t see advertising sexual services (and no, I don’t buy that lapdancing or pole dancing aren’t sexual, if they’re not that, what are they?) as something that may offend. We’re just supposed to like it or lump it.

Sabre // Posted 11 February 2009 at 10:13 am


If you get a receipt like this from a cabbie you could sneakily put a sticker inside the cab somewhere, maybe behind the drivers seat!

JenniferRuth // Posted 11 February 2009 at 12:44 pm

@ Sabre

Good idea! I think I will need to carry a set of stickers with me everywhere – there are plenty of opportunities for subversive feminist messages in Manchester.

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