James Landrith thinks it’s worth talking about people who believe they are entitled to take up more than their fair amount of space in public. But those people are not all men.
There is a lot of talk about how men need to be aware of the space they take up in public. Some men are unaware or outright act like entitled children. I don’t dispute the need for such conversations. SOME men DO need to hear that message. I’ve had a lot of huge, overstuffed backpacks smack me in the head while seated or been knocked back by some clueless commuter who isn’t compensating for the space his big, stupid bag is occupying while hanging in the air behind him.
As an introvert, I am always aware of the real estate I occupy. I am present without being dominant. I don’t require anything more to feed my intellect and self-worth. I don’t need to control or dominate a situation or location. I don’t feel the need to fill a room with noise and posturing. As a male rape survivor of a female predator, I am even more aware of my surroundings. That does not mean I am worried about what will happen. It means that I want to be left alone and not have to deal with unnecessary, ridiculous situations that may be triggering or cause a spike to my PTSD.
I’ve carried a messenger style bag to work since the early 1990’s while still on active duty. It usually contains, pens, note pads, PDA, books, Nook, documents, my lunch or whatever. I don’t swing it around like I’m in a sword fight. I don’t try to take off people’s heads while getting on or off the train. I don’t expect it to have it’s own seat while others stand. I put it on my lap when traveling and hang it on my shoulder, but swung in front of me so it is not in the way while people pass. I believe it is my responsibility to watch out for others and not their responsibility to jump and duck as we navigate public spaces. Call me crazy, but I think that is how rational, mature human beings should behave in public.
Today on the train ride home, the car was about two thirds full. That was comfortable enough for a ride from DC to Alexandria, Virginia and left plenty of room to breathe and keep a polite distance. I maintained about two feet between the young woman to my front and my own person. Throughout the jostling and turns this was just fine to ensure we both had sufficient space. A few stops later and my new friend Entitled Woman gets on and takes up position behind me. At this station, about the same amount of commuters embarked vs. disembarked. Plenty of room was left in the car and a sufficient number of handholds were available. There was no reason to crowd. This person decided that she needed to get right behind me, pushing and shoving her stupidly large bag in my backside, all the while leaning into me for several stops. Every time we got jostled, she would shove back into me and try to dominate space as if the train were overcrowded during rush hour. Meanwhile, there was space behind her and on her other side. I closed up some of the space between me and the young lady to my front in order get her out of my back. Entitled Woman saw this as an excuse to push in further and continue her attempt at Metro dominance. This went on for several miles and through many stations until a seat opened up and she sat her rude, entitled ass down.
As relevant as conversations about space and public courtesy are for men and boys, it has been my experience far too often that plenty of women need the same teachings. There are simple courtesies that just don’t seem to be taught, whether it is something as simple as keeping a polite distance; not expecting that your purse, laptop case or bag deserves it’s own seat; or keeping your elbows tucked in and to yourself while riding. I’m not going to even get into how many purses and backpacks I’ve taken to the side of the head over 20 years of riding the train. While the experience I outlined above was not the end of the world, it is very commonplace in the Metro and can be a problem for those of us who are wired a bit differently. I am completely understanding of crowded, densely packed trains during rush hours and inclement weather. I deal with that through simple acceptance of it being a temporary nuisance that won’t last long. That said, acting like an entitled asshat is not anyone’s right where another person’s bodily sovereignty is concerned. Flipping the genders in such interactions doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
Is it really so hard to just respect EVERYONE? Can we please stop pretending this a male only problem? Truly, it isn’t.
Originally published on JamesLandrith.com