A LOT of thought can go into choosing a seat on public transport. Too much, for many of us women. There is for instance, the thought I sometimes have when scanning the empty seats of a bus or train, that though it feels safer and more comfortable to sit next to a woman, really that's not a reaction I like - so instead I sit next to the biggest, toughest looking guy, just to prove it’s okay. Perhaps I would have a similar response when confronted with a "women-only" carriage such as Jeremy Corbyn controversially proposed as a measure to protect women from harassment and sexual assault. I might choose instead the "mixed" car just because I don't want to assume that men are brutes and animal. Whatever the assault statistics, I wouldn’t want to believe I wasn’t safe in the bear pit with the guys.

I can afford, perhaps, to feel this, because nothing very bad has ever happened to me on public transport. Some women (and men), however, cannot: they know from their own experience that public transport is not safe. Some of them, this week, in response to the Corbyn proposal, said that they would choose the security of such carriages were they available. But these voices were tiny against the loud clamour across social media decrying the idea and writing off the concept of "women-only" as thoroughly out-dated. I’m not in agreement with these critics. Unlike many commentators, I do think we still need a little “women-only” in the world - just not necessarily these Corbyn carriages.

Whatever the pluses and minuses of Corbyn’s proposal – and, by the way, he was only suggesting a consultation to get women’s views on the subject – what interests me is that there seems to be a majority feeling that the days when women needed a room of their own are long gone, consigned to a kind of gender politics dark ages. If you look at some of the reaction this week, it appears that many saw the mentioning of “women-only” as some kind of politically-incorrect gaffe, almost ranking, in terms of feminist horror, alongside Donald Trump retweeting a comment about Megyn Fox being a “bimbo”. But the debate is not over on “women-only”. Particularly as now, it seems, a new generation of feminist, fed-up, frustrated, harassed, or male-intimidated women is seeing the need for such sanctuaries. Do we still need women-only gyms, female political gatherings, solidarity groups and safe spaces? Some women are clearly saying, “Yes we do”.

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And actually I agree. I came to this view because of some of the women-only spaces I have seen and been part of. I agree because back during the referendum campaign, I organised a women-only event, with all-female panel including Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and I was startled by the number of women who came up to me at the end and said that they hadn’t ever been to anything like it, in which women felt so relaxed, or appeared so vocal. I agree because I’ve seen some of the confidence generated by Women For Independence. I agree because I’ve talked to victims of assault who have needed the safe space of women-only environments.

Of course, a great many women don’t feel intimidated or threatened by the fact that there are some abusive and violent men out there. It’s easy when you’re a privileged, educated, older woman with a smidge of self-confidence, to imagine that actually such spaces are not and should not be necessary. And that’s what we’ve seen a lot of this week: older women who, perhaps, like me, don’t actually even experience that much harassment any more, denouncing the women’s carriages as regressive. Libby Purves described them as the most "dismally retrograde step imaginable", Yvette Cooper said they "turn the clock back" on equality, and Conservative women's minister Nicky Morgan, said it smacked of "segregation". Meanwhile, it is two young women, Anneliese Midgeley and Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice President (Welfare), who actually came up with Corbyn’s proposal. When any group comes up with a plan around their own safety or security, we should certainly pay attention. We should listen when they write: "One thing we must all agree on is that we cannot continue to let harassment and assault on public transport continue to rise. It has risen by over 25% in a year. We need to address women's safety right now."

We should listen even if they say things we don’t like, things that go against the orthodoxy of current thinking. On one level, I agree with Corbyn’s critics. The carriages are flawed. It’s hard to see how we could stop them from being vehicles for victim-blaming. As Egyptian activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy tweeted this week, "We have two women-only carriages on the #Cairo metro. While they can be a relief, some men think women in mixed cars are "fair game.""

But at the same time, it seems to me that women-only spaces are still relevant: as are Black and Ethnic minority-only spaces; as are transgender-only spaces. Of course it’s complicated – and it’s particularly so because we are now seeing, amongst young people, such blurring around gender, such questioning of roles and stereotypes, alongside the rise of feminism amongst young men. It's also complicated because we aspire to being an inclusive culture. But to be truly inclusive, sometimes a society needs its nurturing and protecting “only” spaces. Sometimes it needs places where the people who don’t feel so included, or safe, or powerful, get to sound off , support and protect each other. Sometimes it needs, not Corbyn's carriages, but networks and meetings and support groups and comfortable environments. Much as we might like to announce the death, or irrelevance, of "women-only", there are many out there who still need it.