I Don’t Blame Guys For Taking Up Too Much Space On Public Transit — It’s Awesome!

I’m sure by now that everyone has seen Men Taking Up Too Much Space On the Train, a genius Tumblr that more than adequately demonstrates the fact that we teach women to take up as little space as possible and teach the opposite to men. The blog draws regular ire from dudes, and the person (woman? I don’t know) who curates the blog is happy to just rip apart their responses, so good luck with that, guys. The most common excuse guys give is “We sit that way because we have dicks.” Ironically, I’m pretty sure that “because we have dicks” is the basic justification that’s been used an immeasurable number of times over history to do things like deny women the right to vote or own land or have autonomy over our own bodies, harass us in public all the fucking time, and block us from adequate and equal access to healthcare, but WHATEVS. Another thing people like to do with this Tumblr is write in to mock the blog by saying things like “Oh yeah you’re so oppressed because guys are taking up a lot of space on the train,” which kind of completely misses the point. So I feel like it’s my duty to say here that the point is that we teach men and women to dignify their bodies differently, and that’s worth questioning.

That being said.

While I’m not usually the kind of person who’s going to tell women that they should start adopting men’s behaviors (that seems like a really insidious way to perpetuate the idea that man > woman), I am the kind of person who’ll do it myself to see if I like it. I do like “men’s” razors, but I prefer step-through bicycles (they are not “women’s” technically, by the way, just because they’re better at accommodating skirts); I’m not into wearing men’s button-down shirts, but I love their jackets; I’ll always take the men’s Clarks over the women’s Clarks; I like the reaction I get when I give someone a really firm handshake; I’ve stopped holding my tongue about my opinions (NO REALLY?!?!), and I speak louder these days which is challenging but, I think, necessary. I’m still waiting on the opportunity to wear cufflinks. That’s like my dude-thing holy grail.

But of all the dude stuff I’ve tried, I gotta say: Taking up more space on public transit IS. THE. BOMB.

When I ride the CTA it’s a miserable physical experience for me. Most of the pictures on the Tumblr are from New York’s MTA, so I have to explain that Chicago’s CTA train cars are narrower and more of the seats are either front-facing or back-facing. I don’t know why, but unless I’m in a middle-facing seat, I can become violently nauseated, and only 6-8 of the car’s 40 seats will be middle-facing so I’m SOL a lot of the time. It’s predictably not always a very smooth ride, but another difference between CTA and MTA is that the MTA has very broad-curving routes, whereas the CTA’s routes work frequently on straight lines and 90˚ angles. Those 90˚ turns KILL me. And then when the train gets delayed while you’re on a turn and the car is at a weird angle to the ground up on the tracks, just — ugh. Don’t get me started.

What I’m saying is, it sucks to ride public transportation. This doesn’t even cover the whole “being around a bunch of strangers” thing, or the smells, or the noise. So really, whatever I can do to make a 20-to-120-minute train ride easier, I’m going to be happy to do. I started slouching, spreading my legs more, stretching them in front of me, and resting them on other (unoccupied) benches. And you know what? No one seems to care very much. I adjust if the car’s getting full. Conversely, I’ve also started making a point to take seats other people haven’t taken because there’s a dude occupying it with half of his leg and thereby forcing him to move his damn leg. And you know what? They have always been willing to comply.

It’s not to say that I don’t thoroughly enjoy Men Taking Up Too Much Space On the Train, of course. I agree with the general premise, and it caused me to reevaluate why it was that I wasn’t demanding more space or comfort for my own body. And oh man, the difference a few inches makes.

Rebecca Vipond Brink is a writer, photographer, and traveler. You can folllow her at @rebeccavbrink or on her blog, Flare and Fade.