Today, my feminist utopia will include...

…or actually, will not include that annoying habit that many men on public transport have, of sitting there with their legs wide open whilst they listen to their iPod or read a newspaper so that anybody (usually a woman) sitting next to them has only a corner of a seat to sit on.

I see it happening everyday to some poor woman and this morning it happened to me for the 9 millionth time, as well as the woman sitting diagonally opposite me. You know, women don’t get a fair share of hearing in business or in politics, we earn less for work of the same value and, AND WE DON’T EVEN GET THE SAME AMOUNT OF SPACE ON A TRAIN!!!

The guy who had laid claim to the majority of my seat on the train today was perfectly capable of talking up less room but he didn’t bother until the train got so packed that he had to slightly shift his legs closer together. So, he could have done it all along but he chose not to, despite my rather unsubtle attempts to get him to shift back into his own side of the seat.

The other thing that will happen in my feminist utopia is that when an acquainted man or woman meet, the conversation will not, 8 times out of 10, be one of those one sided ones where the woman asks lots of questions and the man just sits there answering them without a thought of actually finding anything out anything about the woman he’s speaking to. Like I again heard this morning, on the train.

You might hazard a guess that I forgot to put my book in my briefcase this morning (the very excellent Booker short listed The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, since you ask) and therefore was unable to escape the general daily ordure that is commuting into London Bridge from south east London.

I may think of some other things for my feminist utopia at some other point. They are of course, not the big ticket items (equal pay, reduction in domestic and sxual violence, a real voice in politics) but rather the symptoms of the lack of equality whether financial, political or just plain cultural that we women have to put up with and that many men may not even notice happens. And yes, it’s not as bad, in fact it’s incomparably good when compared to as women’s lives in Somalia or Darfur or many, many other places but still: how hard is it for men to not be so rude and selfish, and just sit with their legs out in front, in this really rather pleasant and comfortable country that we live in? Is it really so hard?

You know, I really think I’ve failed to express how much I hate men who sit there with their legs wide open, taking up all the room on public transport. I shall try antoher way: .Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! GRRRRRRR!!


Wit and wisdom said...
2 Oct 2008, 14:05:00

No doubt we have a policy on this...

butterflywings said...
2 Oct 2008, 22:07:00

Brilliant post.
The space on seat thing really bugs me.

Charlotte Gore said...
3 Oct 2008, 00:09:00

I haven't been on a bus in ages and I'd forgotten about guys doing that. Grrrr indeed.

Jen said...
3 Oct 2008, 09:18:00

Oh yes.

I commend to you the Hothead Paisan cartoon strip where our heroine tries to sit on a park bench with a man doing this, and in her frustration saws off one of his legs and hands it to him saying something like "Excuse me, I found this over here on my side of the bench, is it yours?"

thomas said...
7 Oct 2008, 18:33:00

I'm tempted to leave a comment on this, and no doubt I'll be slapped down for intruding on some assumed imaginary personal space.

Can I suggest you don't need to refrain from middle-class politeness to be occasionally more assertive?

I appreciate a straight-talking gal, but I also understand that conformist heirarchies value demure and obedient servitude more than uppity recalcitrance. So it may be a bit forward of me to say that your frustration could be tied into your acceptance of imposed values and how these influence your self-esteem.

This is no bad thing in itself and has clearly got you far, but I think it may have become habitual in which case it may also hold you back by internalising external conflicts.

This post reminded me of an occasion I was left shamefaced in similar circumstances when in my teens.

An older lady (picture a Miss Marple figure) sat down opposite me just as I was hoping to spread out on a train. It made me severely uncomfortable to be aware that she would smirk after eying me up in silence every time I did spread my legs and in so doing I became far more self-conscious and considerate.

I suppose I might have been flattered, but I felt violated (well it was the colour of my cheeks!). The lady had got her point across subtly and in a way in which I couldn't answer back (believe me, I would've if I could've).

Looking back with hindsight though, I think I might have enjoyed a conversation with her!

grapecat said...
16 Oct 2008, 13:45:00

too right! I HATE HATE HATE the arm rest tussle on the train every morning, and the men who not only hog the whole thing as a matter of right, but extend their arms into your seat as well so if you don'rt want to touch them (and I don't) you have to lean away. I have only once had a woman do this. I cannot honestly begin to count the men who do. And who will literaly push your arm off as well, should you be so uppity as to attempt to use communal property.

And Thomas, you have really missed the point. Your example is especially telling - even this older woman communicated in a non-direct way - of course restrictions on what women are "allowed" to do in our socity are frustrating! That's the point!

And personal space IS NOT imaginary, it's a luxery that many men take for granted and many women don't get.

Tristan said...
20 Oct 2008, 12:02:00

Its not just women who suffer from men who do this...

It is really really annoying for other men too, especially those of us who don't feel the need to assert their dominance by displaying their crotch to the world.

Being male I do have an advantage, the sort of person who does this is more likely to be made uncomfortable by my leg up against his. Unfortunately for women doing that would probably just be seen as a come on...

Just to balance things up a bit - could women who feel the need to have a handbag the size of a small village please keep it to themselves.

Other peeves on buses, which are comitted by both sexes (although due to their child related nature they are mostly comitted by women - I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a reflection on a sexist society, although I do think it is in part so).

Those with small children - sit them on your laps please, rather than giving them a seat (okay, if you have loads of shopping it can be difficult and I'd understand you not doing so, but otherwise its only polite).

And - pushchairs. I'm not sure when they became the landrover of the pavements, but they are now so huge, and take up so much room on the bus. Sometimes, just sometimes could people fold them up? Especially if there's no child in there. Using a push chair for your shopping does not entitle you to take up half the bus with it...

Costigan Quist said...
24 Oct 2008, 14:17:00

Perhaps there's some subtle design change to seats and armrests to encourage people not to encroach.

I believe there's evidence that the faster paced and more stressful our lives are, the less likely we are to connect to our fellow human beings, so downsizing might be another answer.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
24 Oct 2008, 15:29:00

Or Costigan, men could just amend their behaviour, recognising that it is rude and selfish.....or is that just toooooo much to ask :-)

jemand said...
9 Jan 2010, 20:47:00

tristan seriously? Children don't get a seat? Whyever not? They'll usually be WAY more comfortable and pleasant sitting in a space of their own, and thus less loud. A marginal decrease in yelling is I'm sure more pleasant to the rest of the passengers than losing one seat.

I actually don't notice this specific thing much. What I personally experience more is large people encroaching on my seat because they are heavy and the seat wasn't built big enough. It's not like I can get mad about that since it isn't their fault but it *is* super annoying.

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