Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On sharing armrests and Feminism

I know I’ve complained about this before, but after the 10-hour bus ride between Santiago and Temuco I just feel the need to bring it up one more time. Why is it that when a man sits down in some sort of public space that he feels the god-given right to use both armrests (regardless of whether or not one is already occupied) and spread his legs as wide as possible so as not to crowd the family jewels? I paid the same amount for my space on that bus as did the man beside me, but somehow he felt entitled to take up as much room as necessary so as to be as completely relaxed and comfortable as one might be on a public bus for 10 hours. Now, if this was an isolated incident I might not feel the need to rant about it but the fact of the matter is that this is so common in EVERY place in the world that I have had the privilege of visiting that there must be something to it.
It’s not only buses, but airplanes and movie theatres as well. I’ve even observed men crowding their wives/girlfriends/daughters/mothers out of comfortable sitting space with little regard for her having to slouch down in her seat because of the random man sitting on the other side of her. I don’t think it takes a feminist to see that this is just unfair. Why do women have to sit quietly and take up as little space as possible so that the men around them, strangers or kin, can be more comfortable for the duration of the journey or event? Of course, I believe that this is a symptom of a more generalized inequality between the genders with men feeling a sense of authority over all public space and the domination of this space being a message to women about who is really in charge, but even if you don’t agree with me on this you must be able to see the injustice.
Why then, don’t I just force my arm onto the armrest and physically take the space myself? A decent question; somehow I just can’t bring myself to do it! I don’t know if it’s my Canadian politeness or if on some level I understand that a bigger human being just needs more space (although, I have had the opportunity to sit beside more diminutive men who still take up as much room as a 250 pound brute). Usually, I sulk for a while and the depending on the length of the journey I slowly start to take back a little space, one centimetre at a time. The thing I need to get over is instinctively removing my arm from the armrest when a man sits down next to me. Perhaps, if I have already claimed the space the battle will be set before it begins.
This may seem like a small matter but I can’t help but believe it is symbolic of women’s ongoing fight for equality. Chant with me:
Hey, hey! Ho, ho!
Armrest hogging has got to go!
What do we want? Leg- room!
When do we want it? Now!


  1. Awesome post. I'd never really thought about it before, but it's true.

  2. Totally agree Jocelyn.... some men just don't even realized they are being so rude... and it also happens between males. Don't know if I can say it's a domination 'thing', but I do know that some men are sooo self unaware at times... didn't their mother's teach them a few manners? ;) Keep up the great blogs!