I take up physical space. At least 30 per cent more than many other people. I fill out subway seats and bus seats and space on park benches; and you might have to scooch over a little when I ask you whether that seat is taken.
I seriously doubt that your balls do the same.
Yet, this dude in baggy sweat pants, taking a seat opposite to mine on the packed, rush-hour subway yesterday, had severe trouble in sitting somewhat upright in an already crammed 4 people compartment. And he thought it was appropriate that his crotch kept touching my knees.
So… Should the fact that he chose to wear loose crotched sweats make me assume that he has really big balls or a medical condition that requires him to sit spreadeagled in every possible sense of the word next to and in front of two women? If he had had a medical condition that required knee-crotching, would he have shifted with me as I awkwardly repositioned myself repeatedly instead of crouching a little lower to make up for the newly created space between us (due to my knee shifting)? Is it rude to assume that he might have had second thoughts about crotching other people’s limbs if I had been a fellow baller?
This is a subject that has been talked about very often, and I do not have anything new to add to the debate other than my recent annoyance with it, basically… People have talked and written wonderfully and adequately about the interlocking mechanisms of gendered ideas of public space, the perpetuation of power, dominance and the appropriation of the public sphere, sexism and images of women that portray them as ideally invisible when it comes to representing a whole person and highly visible when it comes to representing the sexaaaay.
Besides the multitude of more or less subtle indicators and messages, the physical appropriation of “ordinary” space in ordinary situations, such as the subway example, seems to be both crass and prevalent – the vast majority of *women I can think of has had experiences like the one mentioned above with cis-men in public spaces, especially public transportation.
I am particularly fond of the “sandwich”-move that has happened to me many times before on the subway: some bench seats that are designed for three medium-sized people are usually occupied by two at each end, but if things get full and hectic, someone has to take the awkward seat inbetween… Through some form of feminine, moon goddess magic, it is usually possible for women I have collectively travelled with to make this manageable. Yet, there is a “random dude with big balls” factor: the vast majority of men who employ the sandwich-move apparently feel the need to take up 66 per cent of the bench, spread their legs as widely as possible, and rub their thighs and arms against the bread slices (or: women next to them); reproachful glances are usually interpreted as encouragement in this scenario.
I have to break the news here, though: this is not a compliment. I do not want your crotch to touch my knees. I do not want you to rub up against me. I want 50 per cent of the goddamned shared arm rest of my airplane seat (dude, it’s economy class – I need all the space I can get!). I am not happy if you choose the bus seat next to me, the only *woman, although there are twenty seats closer to you but they’re next to another man and you would not dare invading his space.
You are not entitled to my space or to taking up more room than I do. Your balls aren’t anywhere near as big as you pretend they are (I’m sorry, but we both know that, and so does everyone else). This is not the way you always/’naturally’ sit, since you’re pretty damned good and quick at straightening yourself up and closing your legs when another dude sits down anywhere near you. There is no such thing as a signature subway swagger. Yes, dear, I know you have a penis and I do not; I am a fat woman in public space and I take up my fair share of it – could you let go of your imaginary pearls and get over it already?