I’ve recently returned from a holiday in Melbourne (a city in southern Australia). It’s a gorgeous city; you can read about some of what I did and see a few pictures from the trip here. But just now I want to tell you a small story about the flight.
My friend E and I, after an eventful train ride to the airport, finally made it to the departure lounge. We dragged our luggage along, looking for two seats side by side. We found one seat. The seat next to this one was occupied by a single water bottle. The seat next to that one was occupied by a man. We rolled up and paused, waiting for the man to remove his bottle. He did not. Well, okay, a minor rudeness. I said ‘excuse me, can you move your water bottle?’ And he did. E and I sat down and waited for out flight to be called.
There’s an announcement from the airline staff: they’re calling for pre-boarding for disabled and young folk who can’t get on planes so easily. The first two people to march up were two young blokes in business suits. Now, I guess they could both have needed accommodations and I just wasn’t reading them that way, which would be fair enough. It’s really more about what they represented to E and me, the trend rather than the individual. We stayed back and wait for the line to shorten and then we made our way onto the plane.
On the plane, we were seated next to a young man; he was the one with the window seat, lucky creature. I was very excited to see all the clouds outside the plane window, having not done this flying gig since I was a girl! As we were getting ready to leave, he angled his leg so it was obscuring a good part of the window. Through the flight, the man next to us burst into peels of laughter over whatever he was listening to on his earphones.
Towards the end of the flight, I felt a tug at my seatbelt. I turned around and ask the guy behind me to take his foot off the base of my seatbelt, which he did pretty promptly.
Off the plane, we made it to where we were staying and decided to have a look around. We were walking down the street when the man walking in front of us slowed down and I didn’t. We bumped into each other. It was mostly my fault, but he apologised profusely. I made a small acknowledgement and E and I were surprised into silence.
Men take up space, lots of space. They’re taught to spread arms and legs all over the place, make wide gestures, power through crowds. They’re taught to expect everyone to get out of their way and be affronted when that doesn’t happen. I, a woman, have learned to shrink and move aside and squeeze myself to be as small as possible, feel bad for taking up the space I need.
Futher reading: See Jet Silver’s untitled poem on gender and space.