Experiencing Delays

The Red Line was horrible today because of single-tracking and mobs of tourists on it, which I can deal with, but I can’t deal with men invading my space on the train.

I stood for a good part of the ride, and when the train finally got to Dupont a seat became available for me. I was going to take the free seat, but instead of moving over this man (who was a tourist with his son) maintains his seat in the aisle. Annoying. I chose to be active and told him “Excuse me.” He moves aside so I can take the window seat.

I thought it would’ve been an event-free ride home, but then this man aggressively spreads his legs out and knocks his foot into mine hard. I tap his foot back. He moves temporarily, but then once again aggressively opens his legs and hits my foot. I had to fight fire with fire, so I aggressively knocked into his foot hard. He gives me this “What the hell?” look.

I pointed at his foot and said “You keep knocking into me. Keep your foot THERE!” while pointing at that imaginary border between the two seats. He crossed his arms and pouted in his seat like a little kid, while his son looked at me in shock. The man, for the rest of his ride on the train, compacted himself in his seat and sulked. Now he knows what we women feel like when these men aggressively take up space on the trains, to our discomfort. He and his son got off at Metro Center, and the rest of my train ride went fine.

Ladies, if a man ever tries to do that aggressive leg spreading and knocking into you nonsense, don’t just sit there and take it. Call them out on their behavior. If the situation’s too uncomfortable for you to deal with, feel free to get up and move. Even if you’re at a window seat, you’re not “stuck.” Tell that creep “Excuse me” and you can move on away from that situation. You have options, you have choices. You don’t have to put up with that.

Location: Red Line towards Glenmont

Submitted by D

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8 Responses

  1. Daniel M. Laenker

    Tourists are always horrible with social space on the Metro. I had this exchange on the Green Line this morning:

    “She said ‘excuse me’.”

    “Oh, um, did I knock into you? If so, my apologies.”

    “No, we’re just getting off at this stop.”

    “Ah, so am I.”

    Excuse me.”

    Because whatever they needed to use the station for was obviously more important than any other passengers’ needs for it. Anyway, I digress from the point, which is sexual harrassment on the metro, obvz.

    People who don’t even seem to understand your personhood, to say nothing of normal issues about personal space or polite behavior in tight situations, aren’t going to respond to the normal passive-aggressive social enforcement of Metro etiquette. It sucks that this would happen to you at all, but you did the right thing by confronting this guy and making him an example.

    That said, thank God I haven’t heard much about outright frottage on the Metro or other such bullshit I’ve heard about in New York.

  2. Nitty

    what the hell does this have to do with gender issues or the problem of sexual harassment in the city? i’m a (horrible, evil) man who takes the red line to work every day, and i have to deal with this kind of crap every day, both from men AND women. just because you’re a woman and a man did this to you, that doesn’t mean that this is a gender issue. get a fucking grip.

    • hollabackdc

      Not sure what you quite mean about being a horrible, evil man. Assuming that was added to fire up comments. Never, on this blog, do we talk about gender based public sexual harassment issues as being just a woman’s issue. We’ve actually taken a wider approach to understanding gender based public sexual harassment, including those who identify as males. Further, this person believed the passenger was doing this due to the fact that she was a female rider. How do you know that it wasn’t due to her gender?

      Further, if you have to take this crap, you should say something about it if it makes you uncomfortable and you believe it is due to your gender. We have an anonymous form here. Also, there are several blogs in the DC area that post metro rider stories. Submit there!

      And in terms of this actual piece, we would direct you to Jackson Katz‘ work on gender issues. He does a great job explaining how men and women utilize public space and how we are taught to do so.

    • Daniel M. Laenker

      Wow, Nitty, you sound kind of threatened, there.

  3. viv

    for some reason, my experience in l.a. has been that the tourists are the ones who say ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’.
    oh, and that 1 person sitting on the aisle seat, leaving the window seat open? arghhhh!!!! that drives me INSANE!
    also, i don’t know about the d.c. area – but FOR SURE in los angeles, after 5 years, i have yet to see a woman sit with her legs splayed open taking up a seat & a half & making it clear with body language that both seats belong to her – happens MULTIPLE times on a DAILY basis with men here in los angeles.

    • Daniel M. Laenker

      I think one of the things is that tourists in DC like to assume ownership of the city in a way that they don’t in LA. I call it Our Nation’s Capital Syndrome, which is an attitude that emphasizes Washington as a mausoleum and a public possession and de-emphasizes it as a living, breathing city where many people live and work. (See also Louis Gohmert and pretty much everyone else who opposes greater autonomy for DC on the ostensible grounds that “everyone in America owns it”).

  4. Mazzie

    Viv, that seems to me to be very common in the DC area as well. I am constantly amazed at how many men sit on public transportation with their legs splayed. Just this morning, on the bus, I sat next to a gentleman who had his legs splayed – knees at least a foot apart – and his arms practically akimbo, as well, as he read a book. When I sat down, he didn’t make the slightest move to make room, and, as a result, I spent the entire ride thigh to thigh, with his elbow in my side, and my butt half off the seat.

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