Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Taking Up Space

So this past weekend, Ronald and I took a quick trip down to Orlando and visited Universal Studios and did their Halloween Horror Nights. It was a fun momentary excursion from every day life, and over all too soon.

I haven't been to a theme park in quite a while, and I certainly haven't spent three consecutive days at one since I was 12. Before going into it, I had forgotten how these situations put you into very close quarters with tons of people...for very long amounts of time. And certainly the last time I was in this situation I didn't yet think critically about body and gender politics.

I feel like this is going to be a rambling nonsense that might only make sense to me, but whatever, here are my thoughts.

A few things stood out to me, as a larger woman. The first was that the vast majority of the people who bumped into me, invaded my space, and hogged up more seats than they needed were men. This is not a new revelation. It's long been written about and observed (Google "taking up space, feminist" for a short tour.) The general consensus is that men are socialized to take up space and feel entitled to it, while women are supposed to be diminutive and this affects our behavior in public spaces.

However, I noticed a second trend that went in tandem with this one--the few women who did invade my space were thin. In fact, one in particular sat next to me on the plane. She was small enough that she could curl up in the fetal position in her seat and sleep for the flight...problem being that it meant she was edging over into my seat...a seat that my ass requires 100% of.

Look, the truth is that I do NOT like physical contact with people I don't know so I am more attuned to these things than your average person. But I'm also a wider chick, so I'm continuously worried that I'm going to be in someone's space and that my body will be bothering or disgusting them (not that it is! Or should be!)

On a daily basis, I am acutely aware that the dominant message to me and people like me is that we should be smaller. I know that fat men feel the pressure to be smaller and like I said, all women are socialized to take up as little space as possible. However, I can't help but feel that this is one of those cases of an intersection where the pressure to be smaller on fat women is doubled. So while I made the casual observation that at no point in the trip did I come into physical contact with another fat woman who made me uncomfortable, it wasn't a surprising observation. If they're anything like me, they're probably operating from a point of trying to stay out of people's ways as much as possible. a general kind of way, it's simple politeness to not invade other people's spaces and to keep your body within your own seat/space. But I also need to make a shift to realizing that I am allowed to take up the space that is actually designated for me. It's not bad or wrong to do so and I shouldn't have to shrink away because someone else is in my space.

Simply put, I really want to stop feeling apologetic for existing in the physical space I need.

*It should be noted, that I realize that I am operating from a place of size privilege just by the fact that my body does fit into airplane and roller coaster seats at all. But I wanted to write about my personal observations/experience as a woman who is at the larger end of the spectrum of people who can fit in those spaces. People who needlessly invade others' spaces are very different from people's bodies that do not fit the limited confines of the physical spaces we are given. Personally, I think we'd all be happier/more comfortable if seats were bigger (more space to sit in, or to curl up in to if you're the lady on the plane next to me) but the economics of it all gets complicated and so the seats remain small.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm a large gent and I sat next to my meek professor on a plane. He holds his position on his seat taking up his entire allotted amount of seat and half of his arm rest that we shared. The student sitting on the other side of him says, "Oh, come on professor give him some could even lift the arm rest." He replied that he would not do that, he said, "you give a big guy like him an inch and he'll take a mile." Whether or not I would is neither here nor there. I think there is an aware mentality of little people and they get pushed around in crowds and in lines and maybe they are defending themselves even at personal chairs? I realize in this case the skinny-minnie next to you is taking MORE than her allotment, so not my situation at all. oh man, I've been there! Well hopefully the itty-bitties out there are reading and realizing that this particular giant is also aware of his body:)


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