by Lucy Korn
Just Another One Of Those Things
Next time you are walking down a busy pedestrian street, take a moment to notice who, out of all the people walking in the opposite direction, avert their paths to get out of yours. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that if you are female, you are going to be the one doing the majority of the averting. I became aware of this unwritten pedestrian rule once I started walking through the city to work. I noticed that I and other women were continuously weaving through the oncoming foot traffic while every man seemed to walk in a straight line, unencumbered by the burden of social grace. And once I had noticed it, like with anything, it was all I could see. Could this be the Man-spreading of pedestrian pathways? Man-Walking?
The next morning I decided to take back the sidewalk and walked like a dude, unflinching and unswerving into the oncoming foot traffic. No less than seven grown men walked right into me. Well, not right into me, we didn’t have head-on collisions, it was more of a shoulder-ramming situation, but It still hurt. In each case, the men were neither looking down at their phones or walking next to someone or something that would have prevented them from moving out of my path. They were just walking, as they always did, with the built-in expectation that I was going to get out of their way. One was even looking right at me as his left shoulder bashed into mine like he was challenging me to an intense game of sidewalk chicken.
To their credit, though, most offered fleeting apologies after ramming into me, I didn’t because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t apologize for things that aren’t my fault. In retrospect, probably in their minds it WAS my fault and my refusal to apologize lead them to think I was a massive bitch. But that’s what a girl gets for acting like a man right?
I’m not sure what I was planning on doing with the results of this small experiment. I don’t think women should be petitioning the council to erect signs on our sidewalks that read ‘Man-Walking’ with a big red cross through it. Nor am I saying that I want all men to bow out of my way so I can walk down the middle of the sidewalk like the fucking queen. It’s just, as Leandra Medine said in her recent post about Resting Bitch Face, “it’s hard to know how to act when you realize there is a gender power structure tied into everything.”
Would I be doing a disservice to feminism by not standing my ground and forcing dudes to bow out of my way so that I can indeed walk down the middle of the sidewalk like the fucking queen? Maybe. But my shoulder is a little sore. What’s more, I think that we should progress from the ‘women should’ narrative that so often surrounds these types of things. Women should not stand for man-spreading, women should stop apologizing, women should speak up in the boardroom. It makes more sense to me that feminism be about having the autonomy to choose how we conduct our daily lives. Walk like a man down the sidewalk or don’t, whatever makes you happy.