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Can I sit down, please?
March 10, 2011 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Can I sit down, please? Elizabeth Carey Smith of The Letter Office charted her progress in the subway while pregnant and presented the results in graphic form. The WSJ is there.
posted by shakespeherian (78 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
The point goes to the offering gender

Does this really need to be about men vs women and not about assholes vs non-assholes?
posted by nathancaswell at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2011


People are generally pretty good if you flat-out ask them. I once had a really badly twisted ankle -- it felt okay by day's end that I thought I could hobble home, but then standing on the subway made it act up. A seat opened up, but someone got to it before I did -- and I asked him if he wouldn't mind if I could sit, because I'd hurt my foot? He gave it to me, then took the seat next to me that opened up at the next stop. We even got into a whole "how'd you hurt your foot" conversation.

Sometimes people are even too militant, though, about getting pregnant people seats. Another time I was on a subway, a woman spotted an empty seat and pointed it out to me, asking if I wanted to sit. I thanked her and started moving forward -- but a second, older woman was also making her way to the open seat. The first woman turned and stopped her. "Leave that free," she said, pointing to me. "This pregnant lady needs it."

I just blinked, and turned to the second woman. "I'm actually not pregnant," I said, gesturing to the seat. "so, be my guest." And then I stalked back to where I'd been standing, as the first woman blushed beet red.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seemed interesting to note insofar as the offers appeared to be equal. Despite not having to go through pregnancy, men were approximately as sympathetic as women in her experience.
posted by explosion at 11:37 AM on March 10, 2011


While I agree that people that need seats should be offered them. I want information that isn't scattered around a page in various formats so that I need to play "Where's Waldo" in order to understand what designer is trying to say with the data.
posted by Hicksu at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remember: Your mother was pregnant once too!

The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure that my mother would respond to "Can I sit down, please?" by saying "I think you meant to ask 'May I please have your seat?'" That's just the sort of lady my mother is.

To her credit, though, she would totally offer her seat with needing to be asked. Or, more likely, she'd just repeatedly elbow me in the ribs until I'd look up from my reading and make the offer myself.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:44 AM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Despite not having to go through pregnancy, men were approximately as sympathetic as women in her experience.

I'm young yet I still offer my seat to the elderly. Shocking!
posted by nathancaswell at 11:45 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


The demanding tone of the article, as if every pregnant woman is owned a seat and if you don't do your civic duty you're an asshole, is an interesting one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


In my experience traveling the subways with my wife, we both noted sharp gender and racial differences regarding who would offer her a seat and who wouldn't. So, our experience was a bit different than her chart.

While my wife was pregnant and commuting (with twins, so she showed before she was even three months along) we traveled in and out of the city from Queens every day by train and subway. (1, 2, 3 lines and sometimes the 7.) For months, the only people who ever offered their seat to her were women. I never, ever saw a single man offer her a seat. I saw plenty of them try to push past her, though -- I nearly got into two different fights because of that.

The ones who offered (and usually insisted) were predominantly Black / African-American women whom we estimated were in their 40's or older.

I don't think my wife ever asked anyone to give up their seat. Honestly, unless she were about to keel over that probably wouldn't have happened.
posted by zarq at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Am I an asshole for being a bit offended by the premise of this project?
posted by davebush at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't say I'm crazy about the graphic design either. And the demanding tone (as noted by Brandon Blatcher) is a bit off-putting.

But maybe that's because I, like all hipsters, hate breeders.

HAMBURGER
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:57 AM on March 10, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "The demanding tone of the article, as if every pregnant woman is owned a seat and if you don't do your civic duty you're an asshole, is an interesting one."

The NYC MTA sets aside seats on buses and subways for disabled or pregnant passengers, and puts up signs that ask people to relinquish them upon request. She's absolutely entitled to ask. The article describes people who didn't as "rude," not "assholes" which I think is pretty accurate.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Interesting how the focus of this post is on people's reactions and not at all what pregnant women might be doing to warrant this hostility.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2011 [18 favorites]


The NYC MTA sets aside seats on buses and subways for disabled or pregnant passengers

Smith notes in her poster that pregnant women don't meet the rubric for "disabled".

I agree with a some of the above that the presumption that she deserves a seat is a bit hard to swallow, although being an able-bodied, somewhat-young male i'd probably relinquish mine.
posted by casconed at 12:06 PM on March 10, 2011


The article describes people who didn't as "rude," not "assholes" which I think is pretty accurate.

The tone of the article was mentioned, not specific quotes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 PM on March 10, 2011


The comments on the WSJ article are fascinating. Some people are upset over the bashing of the G train, of all things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2011


Who the fuck would be upset about bashing the G train? The G train is TERRIBLE.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:10 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not about whether pregnancy qualifies as a disability -- it's about being a decent human being and offering a seat to a fellow person who needs it more than you do. Seven years in NYC I was constantly amazed how many people did not stand up to help passengers who were disabled, elderly, or obviously pregnant.
posted by mochapickle at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I (female, early 20s at the time) was on a bus here in Chicago once a few years back, one of those ones where the front seats are in two long rows parallel to the sides of the bus rather than in perpendicular stacks of two. Anyway, here I am sitting down, in the front, on an almost completely empty bus; the front seats are mostly full (one or two open between people), all women, but the back is completely empty.

A woman, probably mid 30s, comes on with her probably-about-10 year old daughter. The mom has a large backpack and it appears that they're coming back from the beach. She hustles on the bus, looks around, makes a big, protracted sigh, and flops her kid down in the empty seat next to me. And then she stands right in front of me, knees touching, holding the pole, and says loudly to her daughter:

"YOU KNOW, HONEY...YOU SHOULD ALWAYS OFFER YOUR SEAT TO MOMS ON THE BUS." (Yeah, ok, like that wasn't directed at me.)

One of the ladies sitting across from me helpfully offers, "maybe everyone on the bus today is a mother."

And then rude lady belts out, "HONEY, WHEN YOU GROW UP, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS OFFER YOUR SEAT TO OTHERS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE UNDER 30."

Helpful lady suggests again, "maybe everyone on the bus today is over 30."

Rude lady starts up again saying, "GOSH, I'M SO TIRED FROM A DAY OF WALKING, AND NO ONE HERE OFFERS UP THEIR SEAT SO I CAN SIT NEXT TO MY DAUGHTER."

Sure I could have moved, but this woman also could have stepped five feet farther back and sat with her child taking up all the space she wanted. So I finally step in in my own defense and pull the "I have a medic alert bracelet" card. I brandish my bracelet at her and explain that sometimes, despite looking just fine on the outside, it is really difficult for me to stand on a bus or train. (I feel kind of dirty for not adding that most of the time I'm totally fine, but in some rare instances it's much safer for me to sit down, but damnit I was trying to make a point.) And that, "SOMETIMES, IT'S BEST NOT TO JUDGE THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS BASED ON OUTWARD APPEARANCES, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE NO INFORMATION OF YOUR OWN."

Rude lady jerked her daughter up out of the seat, said, "I'M GETTING MY DAUGHTER OUT OF THIS HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT!" and stormed off the bus at the next stop.

Everyone on the bus clapped.

...

Last year when I broke my foot, I was offered a seat by multiple people every time I stepped onto transit. Except one time, when it was too crowded for anyone to see my gimpy foot, and then all I had to do was ask and three people stood up. Most people are good people.
posted by phunniemee at 12:14 PM on March 10, 2011 [23 favorites]


I'm young yet I still offer my seat to the elderly. Shocking!

Most people become old some day, so there's a certain self-interest in maintaining a cultural norm of respect and care for the elderly. Whereas it is extremely unlikely that a man will ever become pregnant. So it's not an entirely fair comparison.
posted by jedicus at 12:15 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why everyone should have their own gyrocopter.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


* note: jetpacks would also be acceptable.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2011


...it's about being a decent human being and offering a seat to a fellow person who needs it more than you do.

There's a lot of assumptions in that phrase.

For record, I'm totally fine with offering seats to women (pregnant or not) and the elderly or disabled. But the attitude the writer conveyed in the article was off puting because it automatically assumes that the pregnant woman has it worse than anyone else. What if it's a guy who's been doing manual labor since dawn and now he's sitting before going to his second job, while the pregnant woman has been sitting all at her office job, who deserves the seat more?

Even then, I'm fine with the answer being the pregnant lady, 'cept for articles like this, which immediately divide people into two groups, based on whether they were helpful to her or not. Again, it's off putting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing the negativity or attitude. The conclusion is that on 88 of 108 subway rides (81% of the time), she was offered a seat. Factor in the facts that (i) this includes months when she was 6-7 months pregnant during which her belly was likely not huge and not as visible, and (ii) oftentimes people don't offer seats simply because they're engrossed in what they're doing or staring at the ground and don't notice other passengers, and the results actually look quite good for humanity.
posted by brain_drain at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


First link is borked now, server overload.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 PM on March 10, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: " But the attitude the writer conveyed in the article was off puting because it automatically assumes that the pregnant woman has it worse than anyone else.

Where in the article was "anyone else" implied or said outright please? Perhaps I missed it? She seems to me to be pretty clearly referring to people who are capable of giving up their seat and don't, to someone who is visibly pregnant.

It's also very rare that an entire train will be filled with people with non-visible disabilities.

Even then, I'm fine with the answer being the pregnant lady, 'cept for articles like this, which immediately divide people into two groups, based on whether they were helpful to her or not. Again, it's off putting."

I didn't take her tone in this article or the graphic as some sort of undeserved, obnoxious sense of entitlement.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who the fuck would be upset about bashing the G train? The G train is TERRIBLE.

FACT: If you get on the G train, and you are pregnant, your baby will AUTOMATICALLY be born the AntiChrist. If you sit down on any of the seats of the G train, it will develop actual horns in the womb as you sit.

More about The G Train
posted by Greg Nog at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


One time, I was on a pretty crowded bus when a (presumably) blind guy got on. He had the stick, was tapping things, had the sunglasses, etc. He got on and I, sitting in the very first seat on the bus, got up and ushered him into my seat.

He sat down, pulled out his phone, took off his sunglasses, and casually started playing solitaire.
posted by phunniemee at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


My god! You cured him!
posted by cavalier at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2011 [28 favorites]


Where in the article was "anyone else" implied or said outright please?

The chart, from the title "A four month-long, highly-detailed, first-hand perspective documenting rush-hour subway etiquette toward a pregnant lady in New York City. Note that it only covered one aspect "will you give me your seat" and not say conversations with a pregnant lady, such as inquiring her health, baby or feelings etc, etc.

The chart then displays her long commute, noting that as she became heavily pregnant it became more convoluted. Later the chart acknowledged that there was no law saying you have to give up your seat, but golly if you didn't you're be jerk in the eyes of fellow commuters and oh, your mom was pregnant once too.

The entire tone is "I'm worse off than you, give me a seat". Off-putting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:57 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Noted: don't ask Brandon to give up his seat, as he finds the question off-putting.
posted by mochapickle at 1:00 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What if it's a guy who's been doing manual labor since dawn and now he's sitting before going to his second job, while the pregnant woman has been sitting all at her office job, who deserves the seat more?

Ironically, it's those dudes who almost always offered me their seat. I often tried to refuse but they wouldn't take no for an answer.

Them and tiny, frail old grandmas who implored me to sit! sit! until I guiltily did so.

Lots of able-bodied dudes in suits developed sudden partial blindness when my giant belly hove into view though.

/anecdata
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on March 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


The entire tone is "I'm worse off than you, give me a seat". Off-putting.

The next time I'm trying to waddle down the subway stairs 8 months pregnant in August heat with giant swollen feet, varicose veins, and a need to pee every 30 minutes, I'll be sure and shed a tear for your hurt feelings.
posted by emjaybee at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


The next time I'm trying to waddle down the subway stairs 8 months pregnant in August heat with giant swollen feet, varicose veins, and a need to pee every 30 minutes, I'll be sure and shed a tear for your hurt feelings.

Oddly enough, my response to article has a lot to do with my 5 foot tall mom who carried my 8lbs, 6oz self to term during the summer in New Orleans. We've talked about it before and her attitude as "Yeah, i could have planned that better, but just had to suck it up and do it, you know?" No charts or article, interesting generational difference.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2011


Lots of able-bodied dudes in suits developed sudden partial blindness when my giant belly hove into view though.

Being pregnant was an eye-opener in who offered unsolicited courtesy and who conspicuously pretended I didn't exist until it was evident I wouldn't be imposing on them in any way.
posted by sobell at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting project.

About tone: I absolutely think that pregnant women should be offered seats and other forms of consideration, and yet I still found the tone a little off-putting. The project of collecting the information is totally good -- present it without comment and it would be much more effective in making the point.

It's the asides that are off-putting - especially the one about getting on the train the day she was to give birth and then loudly sighing about "can I PLEASE sit down" - even though I 100% think she should be given a seat immediately, that is still a rude way for her to ask.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:10 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looking again, maybe it's really just the tone of the one aside in the top left, that is the only off-putting thing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:13 PM on March 10, 2011


I don't offer seats to pregnant women unless it's 100% obvious that they're pregnant. It's especially complicated in the winter when everyone is bundled up. So in the early days of her experiment, I might not have offered. Doesn't make me an asshole, just someone who doesn't want to accidentally offend a non-pregnant lady who has a big belly.
posted by Mavri at 2:23 PM on March 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wish we had a culture where pregnant women and others felt that they could ask for seats. That's because if I have a seat on the subway, my nose will probably be buried in a book, and I wouldn't notice a pregnant woman (or a person with a cane or anyone else who should have priority) even if they were pregnant with duodecimaluptlets and had their entire belly naked and painted pink. I do try to do my "elderly person and pregnant lady check" when sitting down on a crowded train, but within one stop I'll probably not look up for 20 minutes. But I know it's hard to know who to ask.

I was thinking about similar situations today - I have a relative who has a very serious condition which gives him great pain and weariness (a systemic cancer), but he continues to look able bodied (if a bit weary). I was thinking of suggesting that he carry a cane even though he doesn't strickly need one, because it could act as a signaller to other people that he isn't capable of standing up on the subway, etc. This would also be helpful for people with arthritis, fibromyalgia and other, often invisible, yet debilitating conditions.
posted by jb at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


On disability and the CTA: I walk with the aid of a big clunky leg brace and use a cane whenever I go out of the house. Seems like most of the time - 75%? - if the bus or train is crowded, someone will offer me a seat. Now, invisible disabilities are no joke. So, if I get on, and the priority seating* is taken up by people with no visible disability, I suck it up and grab a pole. I figure that if they're sitting there not three feet away from a disabled/pregnant/elderly person who has to stand, either they need it more, or they're assholes. Either way I'd never ask.

The guy with the blind cane and glasses who played solitaire once he got on the bus was probably what most people call "legally blind" or "low vision." One of my good Chicago friends is mostly-blind like this. The blind drag helps him with painful glare, the cane gives him an edge on not being hit by a car, and the combo lets people know that the dude is bumping into things cause he can't see, not because he's drunk.

Datapoint: the stops by DePaul are the only place I have people shove in front of me to get on quicker. Almost EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

* CTA vehicles have clearly marked priority seats near the doors, along with signage explaining that they're especially for the old, lame, and expecting. Hence my noxious sense of entitlement as regards less-painful public transit, I guess.
posted by jtron at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there is a balance between wanting to be polite and offer a seat and wanting to be polite and not assume someone is pregnant.
Also, for the first 4-5 months of pregnancy, women won't show a belly but will be at their most nauseous and probably could use a seat the most.

Therefore I suggest a pregnancy identifier armband that women can wear and people can look for so they aren't trying to guess. HAMBURGER.
but something like a pin would be helpful
posted by rmless at 3:37 PM on March 10, 2011


So, as someone who's never been pregnant and never has any desire to become pregnant, my first reaction was kind of similar to Brandon Blatcher's. Meh, more whining from pregnant people who think they deserve special treatment, I guess.

But then I read her little note in the lower right-hand corner of the infographic about why she thinks pregnant women deserve a seat more. Oh! Wow! Joints loosen and become elastic and they could fall more easily? And their center of balance is compromised? Hunh, I never knew that. So, okay, I now accept the premise and find this to be a sort of interesting discussion, and will in the future give up my seat to a pregnant lady with less annoyance. But I still won't go out of my way to offer if they don't ask, because I am terrified of assuming someone is pregnant when they aren't.
posted by booknerd at 3:41 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Therefore I suggest a pregnancy identifier armband that women can wear and people can look for so they aren't trying to guess. HAMBURGER.
but something like a pin would be helpful


Even that might not work. Waiting in line one time at Target, I was standing behind a woman (with a sizable belly) wearing a t-shirt that said "BABY ON BOARD." The cashier said, "hey, congratulations, mom!" T-shirt lady snapped back, "I'm not pregnant!" and shot the poor cashier a death glare.
posted by phunniemee at 3:46 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never had anyone mistake me for pregnant (as far as I know), but I did have a funny moment in a ladies room. I'd accidentally leaned against a damp (high) counter. Another lady gave me a sympathetic look and commisserated on the hassles of lactating. Then I looked down and noticed where the water blotches had landed...
posted by Karmakaze at 4:00 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


A common misconception is that you should give up your seat because the elderly or pregnant woman has it harder than you. The main point is you should give up your seat because it is safer for you to stand than people in these situations.

When you are pregnant your balance goes haywire. A sudden stop and it's much harder to stay upright. A fall during pregnancy is terrifying enough - so why not eliminate the chance of accident by just simply standing up for a little while?

The same goes for the elderly - often they don't have the strength to keep themselves held up. In Japan often the little old ladies couldn't even reach up to the handles!

It's a small gesture and inconvenience for an able bodied person to stand up for someone who needs to sit to be safer. And as someone who dealt with having to ask even on the "priority seats" - it gets tiring pretty quickly.

In Japan the ward office issues you with a special keyring for pregnancy (photo) - please note this has little impact you still gotta ask people if you can sit down.

In contrast I am surprised in Cairns traveling on the buses just how much people help you out when you are infirm or pregnant or have a small child - the entire front sections of the buses are set up for wheelchairs and strollers, and other passengers help you settle your little one and move to allow people who need to to sit there. Makes life just that little bit easier you know?
posted by gomichild at 4:01 PM on March 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


But I still won't go out of my way to offer if they don't ask, because I am terrified of assuming someone is pregnant when they aren't.

In that case, just frame as a general offer, i.e. "Would you like to sit down?" Maybe they're pregnant, maybe they're overweight and tired, but it's still a good deed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lobstermitten, assuming that she was in labor, she was actually rather polite.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2011


assuming that she was in labor, she was actually rather polite.

She wasn't in labor. The graphic makes it clear that she was going in for a check-up (so presumably she was just overdue by a bit).
posted by booknerd at 4:15 PM on March 10, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "The demanding tone of the article, as if every pregnant woman is owed a seat and if you don't do your civic duty you're an asshole, is an interesting one."

I actually believe this. Ditto for anyone with a disabilty, or a broken leg, or any other reason why it might be particularly hard or unsafe for them to stand on public transport. Is that really a controversial opinion?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:24 PM on March 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, I'm not saying I wouldn't have said the exact same exasperated or angry thing. I'm saying that including that story sort of distracts from the point she's making in the poster. "I was ready to pop and exhausted and I snapped at fellow riders" is understandable but it's kind of part of a different story. The poster is "objective graphing of who spontaneously offered a seat vs who didn't" and the story is a break from that detached numerical perspective, and into a narrative of personal annoyance which isn't even about spontaneous offering (since it sounds like she was quick on the draw to say "let me sit" that day, so no time for spontaneous offering) - it's just kind of out of place and puts the rest of the thing in an irritable light rather than an objective light. (Even if I would be irritable in the same situation)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:26 PM on March 10, 2011


" She wasn't in labor. The graphic makes it clear that she was going in for a check-up (so presumably she was just overdue by a bit)."

Heh, my bad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:42 PM on March 10, 2011


I'm not sure why everyone's all mad about her attitude.

things:

1. It's rude to not offer a seat to a pregnant woman, old person, person with disability.
2. It does not make them upity to be the ones that point it out. It's still rude.
3. Pregnant women are much more likely to fall, and if they do they can be much more likely to really hurt themselves or the fetus. You still want to fight about how they shouldn't get special treatment like getting to sit down on the train? Really?

Heck, old people, blind people, people with gaping wounds- why do they think they are so special? You should all think about that before you decide to get all old try and take the seat off my 29 year old butt.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:16 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blisterlips: "3. Pregnant women are much more likely to fall, and if they do they can be much more likely to really hurt themselves or the fetus."

I agree with all your points here, but thought this worth mentioning: It would take a very serious fall for the fetus to be injured. The baby is protected by the amniotic sac, where it is cushioned with amniotic fluid. A fall capable of hurting a fetus would no doubt harm its mom far more severely.

The biggest concern regarding the fetus when a pregnant woman falls is placental abruption. Less likely (I believe) is leaking fluid from a ruptured amniotic sac.
posted by zarq at 5:31 PM on March 10, 2011


You still want to fight about how they shouldn't get special treatment like getting to sit down on the train? Really?

No one's fighting, really, just put off by tone. It happens.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:36 PM on March 10, 2011


In my opinion, there are legitimate reasons to keep a seat:
* Nervous
* Don't want to seem overeager, "nice guy," or creep
* Have a disability that isn't immediately visible
* Not sure if the lady is actually pregnant
* Not paying attention
* From a different culture where offering seats isn't the norm
* Tired... it would make more sense for someone who isn't tired to give up the seat because they would be the most comfortable standing BUT if the thing starts moving and nobody's offered it, they would offer it

It is very rude to keep your seat if a pregnant woman asks.
I don't see why it's such a big deal to have to ask.
posted by grammar corrections at 5:55 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The demanding tone of the article, as if every pregnant woman is owned a seat and if you don't do your civic duty you're an asshole, is an interesting one.

Are you actually arguing that every pregnant woman does not deserve a seat on a crowded train?!

Is pregnancy not considered a short-term disability where you live? Honestly, I'm a little boggled that anyone could contend an obviously pregnant (second term+) women does not deserve a seat.

People are generally pretty good if you flat-out ask them.

The problem is that a lot of pregnant women are generally afraid to ask. I've done a few alley-oops just to let people (specifically the able-bodied people in the disabled seats) know that "hey, there's a very pregnant woman here."

I do sympathize with those people who are wary of mistakenly identifying someone as pregnant, but when it's obvious, it's obvious.

Lots of able-bodied dudes in suits developed sudden partial blindness when my giant belly hove into view though.

I always thought that was aggravation bias (i.e. those guys upset you more than the overweight middle-aged women, etc.), but I started commuting on the train twice a day a few years ago, and I gotta say it's true. The able-bodied men in nice clothes are the sociopaths.

Interesting how the focus of this post is on people's reactions and not at all what pregnant women might be doing to warrant this hostility.

I figured this had to be obvious sarcasm, but now I am not sure. ... Ok, it has to be. Well done.

I found it a little amusing that the WSJ considered 88/108 a good percentage. Certainly not horrible, but I would think a man with a cane would do better.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:40 PM on March 10, 2011


phunniemee: "One time, I was on a pretty crowded bus when a (presumably) blind guy got on. He had the stick, was tapping things, had the sunglasses, etc. He got on and I, sitting in the very first seat on the bus, got up and ushered him into my seat.

He sat down, pulled out his phone, took off his sunglasses, and casually started playing solitaire.
"

cavalier: "My god! You cured him!"

An incredible phunniemeenon!
posted by Rhaomi at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2011


A previous poster confirmed my experience: When I was pregnant, it was the older African-American women who offered me seats on the bus. Young guys just spread their knees wider :) Everybody else just looked into space. That last couple of months was brutal.

Speaking of invisible disabilities: I'm an extremely athletic (I compete in a master's sport, very successfully), healthy 59-year-old woman, and I have found in the last few years that I'm unsteady walking on the bus while it's moving. Even if I'm able to grasp the high bar, I'm still not as steady on my feet as I was in my forties, and I've come close to falling a number of times. Funny thing.
posted by Peach at 12:44 AM on March 11, 2011


Well, NYC has Boston beat by a mile on politeness to pregnant ladies. People on the Boston commuter rail were the worst to me while I was hugely, disgustingly pregnant last summer. I have actually had people offer me seats since going back to work (having dropped the baby weight, I'm pretty sure I don't look pregnant now), but I got stuck sitting on the floor of the commuter rail train once while obviously pregnant. Weirdly, while pregnant I was asked to get up more often so people could squeeze into middle seats next to me when there were tons of easier to get to empty seats on the train. I was surprised people weren't afraid I'd puke on them, because the jerky train ride made for some especially queasy moments where I was terrified that my poor overheated, swollen, nauseous body would just lose it. Please be nice to pregnant ladies on the train if you are able to.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:20 AM on March 11, 2011


Are you actually arguing that every pregnant woman does not deserve a seat on a crowded train?!

NoFor the Nth time, I'm fine with pregnant women being given seats and various other courtesies. However, the tone of the article was indeed irksome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 AM on March 11, 2011


"All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage,excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can -- and must -- be dumped in an emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect" society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" Is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly -- and no doubt will keep on trying."

- R. Heinlein


Of course, Heinlein was speaking about the bid picture: about marriage, laws, families, etc. But I think our society even encourages minor kindnesses shown towards pregnant women for this reason.
posted by zarq at 6:05 AM on March 11, 2011


Errrr.... "Big" picture. Not "bid."
posted by zarq at 6:08 AM on March 11, 2011


"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."
-R. Heinlein
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 AM on March 11, 2011


"One man's theology is another man's belly laugh."
-R. Heinlein
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2011


"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."
-R. Heinlein
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Your point being?
posted by zarq at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2011


The obvious one, of course. Quoting authorities is a risky business, as they say many things, not all of them agreeable or wise.

He had a lot of good quotes, here's my newly discovered favorite: "Premenstrual Syndrome: Just before their periods women behave the way men do all the time."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 AM on March 11, 2011


Brandon Blatcher, you're kind of coming off as unsympathetic and misogynistic even though I don't think that's really your intent. At first you said it was merely the tone of the article, now you're getting into a tiff by using other quotes, and I'm not getting what you're trying to accomplish.
posted by kpht at 7:13 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


...I'm not getting what you're trying to accomplish.

Just making the following point:
"Quoting authorities is a risky business, as they say many things, not all of them agreeable or wise."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on March 11, 2011


To clarify, you're arguing that the content of what I quoted is somehow invalid because he also said other things which may not have been "agreeable or wise?"
posted by zarq at 7:53 AM on March 11, 2011


To clarify, you're arguing that the content of what I quoted is somehow invalid because he also said other things which may not have been "agreeable or wise?"

Nah, at most I thought it was amusing that you were quoting Heinlein to make the case on how women should be treated, since there's debate about his attitudes towards his female characters.

The actual content is generally fine, though I'm not sure "all societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children." Sadly, it seems that some societies are more interested in using women and children than protecting them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm probably thinking more philosophically about the quote and Heilein, where as you're thinking (I assume) more about the concrete reality of the post. Neither is better per se, just in two different directions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2011


Ah. Okay. That makes sense.

The man was definitely a product of his time. Even characters that he supposedly wrote from his idea of a pro-feminist perspective (Friday, etc.) had weird sexist overtones. But I like the bit I quoted above.

The actual content is generally fine, though I'm not sure "all societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children." Sadly, it seems that some societies are more interested in using women and children than protecting them."

Or simply culling them to reduce competition.

Perhaps the quote should be modified to read "healthy" societies? Dunno.
posted by zarq at 8:36 AM on March 11, 2011


On a related note, the Nordstrom not far from me has for years had several parking places designated "For Expectant Mothers Only" by signage. This infuriates me & I tend to park there deliberately. The question of whether I am an asshole for doing this aside, I see it as a completely separate issue from offering a seat to a pregnant commuter. After all, nobody "needs" to shop at Nordstrom that badly.
posted by PepperMax at 8:49 AM on March 11, 2011


...I'm not getting what you're trying to accomplish.

It does seem like you've gone a bit off the rails, sir.

FWIW, conductors on BART trains now specifically announce (paraphrase) "Please keep the seats near the doors available for seniors, disabled persons, and pregnant women."

Though BART's Accessible Services page does not mention pregnant women.

..

Ha. BART is moving a bit slow on getting pregnant women adding to the signage...

Sep 14, 2006 BART Board of Directors meeting notes (pdf):

"President Ward Allen requested that the District revise the language on signs in rail cars designating certain seating for persons with disabilities and seniors to include pregnant women."

...

Apr 10, 2008 BART Board of Directors meeting notes (pdf):

"Director Ward Allen requested a status report on Roll Call for Introductions Report Item No. 06-237 Designated Seating for Pregnant Women (Ward Allen)."

The BART signs now definitely still do not mention pregnant woman. But the conductor does.

I'd be very surprised if there were any state or local law regarding seating on public transit, and I'm pretty sure pregnancy is not covered by the ADA (because it is temporary), so those of you who steadfastly keep your seat from that pregnant woman, feel safe that you are likely well within the law in doing so.

Being pregnant was an eye-opener in who offered unsolicited courtesy and who conspicuously pretended I didn't exist until it was evident I wouldn't be imposing on them in any way.

I suppose I wouldn't suggest it to able-bodied folks, but getting stuck in a wheelchair for a few months provides a similarly eye-opening experience in regard to the people in your town.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:13 AM on March 11, 2011


88/108? Damn, that seems pretty solid to me, especially since it's hard to say how visibly pregnant she was earlier on in her experiment. My wife took the commuter rail with me up until she was 38 weeks pregnant, and I think I could count on 2 hands the number of times people offered her a seat in the last 8 weeks.

Having said that, I've been guilty myself of being engrossed in my book, only to look up 20 minutes later and notice a pregnant woman standing 3 feet away. In those cases, I've always offered my seat, and I hope they didn't think I was some douche intentionally ignoring them.
posted by antifuse at 9:23 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm going to have to agree with the tone thing - it's the placement, the first thing that you read is basically completely passive-aggressive. Not that she wasn't basically in the right, or that the project isn't interesting - but if someone did that on the bus that I take I would think that they were incredibly rude. I've spontaneously given up my seat in the past, and would always give it up if asked.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:03 AM on March 11, 2011


Pregnant or not, I'm just tired of farters sitting next to me.
posted by stormpooper at 11:22 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


getting stuck in a wheelchair for a few months provides a similarly eye-opening experience in regard to the people in your town

Honestly this is why I refrain from using the motorized carts at the grocery store, even when I'm really having a hard time and probably should. Also the fact that they emit a truck-like beeping when they back up.
posted by jtron at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2011


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