Thursday, January 20, 2011

Morning Thoughts About Benevolent Sexism

So everyone knows what hostile sexism is - it's what you typically think of when it comes to sexism generally. Benevolent sexism is a different strand. It is the kind that causes men to open doors, pay for meals, those kinds of things. It's the nice variety. Normally it's accompanied by a paternalistic, talking-down-to kind of patronizing. It can point to really negative behavioral traits, but generally I think it's just being nice, and it's mostly welcome.


Anyway, I started thinking about this on the bus this morning. Actually, I've been thinking about it every time lately on the morning bus ride to Salt Lake because the bus has been unusually full in the last little while. So many people are getting on to ride, in fact, that at least a few people (sometimes many) are left without seats for the 45 minute ride and are left to stand in the aisle. Men will usually get up and allow women to sit in their places, and this morning one man even went so far as to ask some inattentive young man to give up his seat for a woman that was standing in front of him.

It kind of bothered me a little, and here's why: everyone on that bus is on his or her way up to Salt Lake, and it's an early hour, and it requires waiting outside in the cold, 12 degrees this morning to be exact. I used to drive from my place out to a later exit so that I wouldn't have to stay on the bus as long, but with the overcrowding I've taken to getting up earlier to get on at an earlier stop so that I can get my own seat and not have to stand. This is important to me just because I depend on being seated so that I can get a good 30-40 minute nap on the bus before getting to work. I get up earlier and will wait longer if it means I can get a seat. Anyone else can do the same.

I'm not opposed to giving up my seat to a woman. I've done it a few times on the way back to Utah County without complaint or hesitation. I don't mind when everyone has the same opportunity for the same seats, but there is something that bothers me when anyone else can do what I do and just get up a little earlier and make sure you get on the bus before it fills up. I think that taking more time out of my day and getting up earlier is a cost to bear, and with that cost, I expect to have a seat. Is that unreasonable?

In any case, I mostly remove the need to give up my seat by going to the very back of the bus and reserving for myself a window seat. Turns out people won't ask you to get up if it's really inconvenient to get to your seat. And that is the benefit to being observant.


Shelli said...

I wondered this in New York, when we were all riding the subway system and women would get in the car, and essentially, men who had seats would ignore them.

It didn't bother me. But I did notice it. I was waiting for just one of the guys to offer their seat, and no one ever did.

I don't think you would expect an 85-year old woman to ride for 45 minutes standing, would you? I think that respect for the elderly and handicap are more important than giving up your seat to an able-bodied woman. I know I would be standing the whole time, because I'm not an early sort of person, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone for not giving up their seat.

Still, it always makes me really, really happy when I see such acts of chivalry.

Kira Cook said...

Give up your seat to an older woman or very pregnant lady otherwise enjoy your little nap!

Laura said...

I took th subway for over 6 years to downtown so I witnessed this a lot and I must admit I much more highly of the able men who gave up seats to the women or elderly. I even often gave up my seat for elderly. I was usually fine standing but I cant tell you how many times when I was visibly pregnant I had guys with their noses buried in the newspaper pretending not to see me because they didn't want to give up their seat. Interestingly enough it was always the blue collar Latino men that gave up their seats over the white business men. Here is my question...why are you getting up earlier to reserve a seat to get a nap...

Silvs said...

Okay. So it's not like I don't ever give up my seat. It's usually on the way back where it happens. I was just saying that when we all have equal opportunity to take the same seats, I'll always give up my seat to a woman. And I'll always give it up for someone elderly or pregnant regardless of circumstance. It's just that if I'm getting up earlier then that's the cost I'm paying to get a seat. Make sense? And it's getting up 15-20 minutes earlier for about a full hour nap.