Saturday, December 01, 2012

The working life: The solution to the space-hoggers‏

They've figured it out here! They've figured out how to keep women from having to sit next to strange men who hog the armrest and who spread their legs into space that is not theirs and who lean over into space that is not theirs.

They have a women and children only section on the metro.

I know, I know - that's probably not their intention, although it is not a mandatory space for women. That would be annoying. SH and I were arguing via facebook last night over this concept. He was disturbed that I was so happy about this women-only coach because he thought it demonstrated the inequality of the sexes here and the overall unfavorable attitude toward women. Which this section may well do. But women can sit anywhere else on the train, so I don't think it's about women tempting men to commit sins of lust and perversion.

It could also be that this train serves mostly expatriate workers - low-income expatriate workers, and who cares if expatriate women tempt expatriate men. I don't know.

And of course in principle I am against mandatory separation of women and men. I am not a fan of churches that do that. It says very little of a religion's view of men that men are such lust-crazed beasts that they can scarcely control themselves in the presence of women, to the extent that sitting next to a woman IN CHURCH would drive a man so crazy that he would tear her clothes from her modestly-clad body at that very moment. I don't think men are like that. I don't think most men are space hoggers in public spaces. But some are. Enough are that it is an issue for me and, I suspect, for other women. Men, hear me: We do not want to touch you if we do not know you. We do not want you in our space.

I prefer to think that the train designers here talked to their wives and sisters and mothers and daughters and asked, "What is the one thing that bugs you the most about public transportation?" and heard the answer, "I am so sick and darn tired of men I don't know sitting next to me, even when there is room elsewhere, and bugging me. I am so sick and darn tired of men I don't know sitting next to me and sprawling into my space. Taking over the armrest. Spreading their legs into my side. Leaning into me. I am tired of it!"

If a train or an airplane or a public bus system designer had asked me what bugs me most about public transportation, that's how I would have answered. "Make the men stay in their own space," I would have said. "Make them keep their legs on their side. Make them not spread their legs even more when I pull my in because I don't want their legs touching mine. Tell them that I am not giving them more space! That they are in MY SPACE! Make them stop snoring and rolling their heads toward me."

That's what I would have said. And then if someone had asked if I wanted a women-only section on the train or the bus or the airplane, I would have gasped in delight, because I have never thought of this brilliant plan before. If I had been in a women-only section on my flight here, I probably would not have bruises on my cheekbones from the hours I spent leaning my forehead against the seat in front of me with my elbows on the armrest, palms of my hands dug into my cheeks to keep my head uo, all in my attempt to sleep without touching the guy next to me, who was leaning into my space.


GB said...

I think this is similar to the subways in Japan that have women-only cars, intended for use at night, when the typical male office worker goes out and gets drunk with co-workers, then takes the subway home, and in a drunken stupor, starts to grope strange women. No kidding. So they can take refuge in the women only cars. I would expect your metro is similar, that it's more for late night riders than typical commute hours.

rubiatonta said...

Many a time riding the NYC subway, I wished there were women-only cars. I also wished there were no-eating cars and no-applying-makeup cars. (I mean, seriously. The whole face, starting with primer, from Ditmars Blvd in Astoria to Times Square.)

Women-only cars in Japan get used all the time, not just at night, because some Japanese men aren't shy about taking advantage of a super-crowded rush hour ride to rub against women. (Ask me how I know.)

In Dubai, the late-night drunken scenario isn't really an issue, since if you're a local or from a Muslim country, you aren't allowed to buy alcohol -- even if you could in your home country, like Turkey. Many women in the Gulf are simply not comfortable being in a public space with men they don't know.