This is a question I ask of American men and women. I guarantee you, women will win the contest. Why? Not because we’re naturally smaller. That’s not the right answer.
Women in our culture are socialized to take up less space than men. More importantly, women in our culture are socialized to take up as little space as we can. Men are socialized to take up as much space as they’d like. As much as this disgusts me in practice, I can’t blame each and every man. He probably doesn’t know he’s been taught this behavior, nor that it is stifling to women’s psyches.
Have you ever been on the metro and a man sits down next to a woman, suddenly edging into her space, sitting on the edge of her coat, leaning his legs to either side of his seat? The woman’s reaction?
The reaction, the only reaction, is that the woman curls her shoulders inward, pulls her legs as far together as they will go, pretends she’s ignoring that his weight is pulling on her coat, turns to look out the window Really Hard at something interesting in that dark tunnel.
What can we do about this problem, as a culture? As women, we deserve our space! Men, will you please keep this in mind? Pull your legs together, slide to the other side of the seat away from the woman, ask her if she minds if you sit down and don’t take a ‘no’ as ‘I would like to chat cause you’re cute’ because that’s not what it means. If you use your words, she will probably move her coat to the side, as well as her bag. These are not yours to touch.
Women! Will you say: You’re sitting on my coat. I don’t have enough space. I’m squished. Could you please scoot over a bit? Please for all of our sakes say something, because once men have had the experience of being spoken to about this, they might amend their ways. I am feeling good about exercising our right to take up our own space!