"When You're Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression"
March 13, 2016 7:01 PM   Subscribe

A guy walks into another guy, and examines privilege ... and the rage when it is denied. All this anger we see from people screaming “All Lives Matter” in response to black protesters at rallies… All this anger we see from people insisting that THEIR “religious freedom” is being infringed because a gay couple wants to get married… All these people angry about immigrants, angry about Muslims, angry about “Happy Holidays,” angry about not being able to say bigoted things without being called a bigot…

They all basically boil down to people who have grown accustomed to walking straight at other folks, and expecting THEM to move. So when “those people” in their path DON’T move… When those people start wondering, “Why am I always moving out of this guy’s way?” When those people start asking themselves, “What if I didn’t move? What if I just kept walking too?” When those people start believing that they have every bit as much right to that aisle as anyone else… It can seem like THEIR rights are being taken away.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet (101 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
Change is painful, particularly when it's change in an unfamiliar place like your feelings. People react against pain, reflexively.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:07 PM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


do as you're told:*
Sometimes people use "respect" to mean "treating someone like a person" and sometimes they use "respect" to mean "treating someone like an authority"

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say "if you won't respect me I won't respect you" and they mean "if you won't treat me like an authority I won't treat you like a person"

and they think they're being fair but they aren't, and it's not okay.
posted by kliuless at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2016 [324 favorites]


I hate this author's central metaphor. There's asserting your rights as an equal. And there's passive-aggressively running into someone in the middle of a busy night at a restaurant, and then feigning indifference about your intent, to prove a point you were too timid to make at literally any other time. And then extrapolating this story about how you stuck it to the Man into a screed about equality and racism? Heh.

Meanwhile, the people in this story were anything but passive-aggressive.

Dude, I think there's a reason Chuck got better stations than you. I think it's because management and customers thought you were a jerk.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:23 PM on March 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


Based on my experience with "management and customers", the bigger jerk most often got the better stations/promotions/elected offices.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:31 PM on March 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


from the comments:

And yes white men are blamed for everything.

They are blamed for slavery. They are blamed for oppressing women. They are blamed for homophobia. They are blamed for racism. They are blamed for sexism.

These are all lies of course, that have been fed by feminists and liberals for decades.


Wow! That's some epic missing the point there.
posted by irisclara at 7:33 PM on March 13, 2016 [43 favorites]


...no, that is generations of accumulated denial that couldn't be penetrated with a Bunker Buster Bomb.

We white men (and I am one) are blamed for everything, and the blame is misdirected no more than 10% of the time. "My Tribe" is awful, if only because we have held the upper hand most of the time and Being Awful is always a part of Privilege unless you work really had not to.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:40 PM on March 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


Wow! That's some epic missing the point there.

The comments. It's...."the comments". What Trump is a walking embodiment of.

Anyway, I don't think management and customers thought he was a jerk, since customers reported he got hit (pushed), and management said "If you want him gone, he's fired".

Anyway, another way to put this is, if the playing field has been tilted in your favor and you've gotten used to it, when the field becomes level, it's going to feel harder for you. Because it is. And it's going to seem like while it's harder for you to play, it's easier for the other people who had to run uphill all this time. It is.
posted by cashman at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2016 [46 favorites]


It's also nice to note that him and Chuck (the guy who wouldn't move) became friends in the end.
posted by cashman at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even if you do interpret his actions as passive-aggressive, what does that have to do with the point of the article
posted by naju at 7:46 PM on March 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


Can we agree we should deport the sommeliers?
posted by hal9k at 8:02 PM on March 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just figured that physical contact was the only kind of message that Chuck would understand. Seemed to get his attention.
posted by vverse23 at 8:03 PM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


...no, that is generations of accumulated denial that couldn't be penetrated with a Bunker Buster Bomb.

Named after Archie Bunker, presumably
posted by rifflesby at 8:42 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


no, rifflesby, I mean a Bunker Buster... you're thinking of "Archie Bunker's Place", a spin-off show which was, surprisingly, NOT a bomb.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:54 PM on March 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pareto principle. 80:20 rule. They define the stereotype and everyone gets tarred by that brush. 20% are dickholes and everyone in that group — race, sex, nationality, religion, ethnicity — gets blamed. 80% of us just want to get along.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on March 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think the problem is when privilege gets leveled out but expectations don't. For instance, I think a big part of what causes a lot of workplace misogyny today is men who have to deal with competing with women in the workplace, but are still attempting to support a traditional-style family on one income, because it's what they think they're expected to do as a man. So they view themselves as failing because of the loss of privilege.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:11 PM on March 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


And there's passive-aggressively running into someone in the middle of a busy night at a restaurant, and then feigning indifference about your intent, to prove a point you were too timid to make at literally any other time.

You've illustrated the author's point beautifully. This other guy walks right toward him, showing not the slightest sign of common courtesy to avoid a collision, and because the author refuses to jump out of his way, you fault the author for the collision.

And why? Because the other guy had a habit of doing that? And that habit gives him the right to keep doing it forever? Because now that it's the status quo, it would be rude or "passive agressive" not to just accept unfairness as the way the world is. That's exactly how privilege works.
posted by straight at 9:11 PM on March 13, 2016 [145 favorites]


It's a decent Privilege 101 piece.
posted by emjaybee at 9:12 PM on March 13, 2016


"What if I just keep walking" is an easy way to end up on the wrong end of a fist or a weapon if you try that thought experiment with the wrong person. Not saying Chuck was not an asshole, but still not worth it in my mind. Sort of like "What if I keep playing road rage roulette" on the highway. Anyway, the more interesting question out of all this that never gets delved into is how the author eventually became friends with Chuck. He sort of drops that in at the end like it's the most natural thing in the world that he and Chuck would have ended up friends rather than suing the shit out of each other after another escalation.

The other point of interest is that this happened in Nashville, which has become the national capital of communal passive-aggressive dickishness in the past two to three years.
posted by blucevalo at 9:24 PM on March 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


What jumped out at me is that while talking about privilege, he referred to women as girls. I mean calling women girls isn't exactly the same thing as privilege, but it's a far cry from "respect," too. [I know, I know, I'm doing that thing where someone says a whole bunch of right things and I point out the wrong thing.]
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:27 PM on March 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


I hate this author's central metaphor. There's asserting your rights as an equal. And there's passive-aggressively running into someone in the middle of a busy night at a restaurant, and then feigning indifference about your intent, to prove a point you were too timid to make at literally any other time. And then extrapolating this story about how you stuck it to the Man into a screed about equality and racism? Heh.

I very much agree with what others have said: this is one of the hallmark annoying attitudes of privilege. The idea that you can do whatever you can get away with and still be a "good" person as long as you're willing to stop/adjust what you do if someone "assertively" lets you know it is undesired. And if they let you know in any other way than "assertive" you're off the hook for your behaviour; the problem is all their's because they weren't properly "assertive".

It's bullshit. Instead try having the awareness to notice when things are asymetrical and endeavouring to do something about it unprompted.
posted by lastobelus at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2016 [50 favorites]


I know this article wasn't really about walking in a straight line, but a few years back I noticed that, as a woman, 99% of the time when I was walking on the footpath and a man was coming towards me, I would be the one to step aside. I decided to see what would happen if I left it a little longer and played chicken with them. Was it just that I was moving aside a little earlier than they would? Or was it that they just expected that the woman would be the one to dodge?

After a week of colliding with just about everyone, I gave up. Turns out I do have to be the one to veer left. 100% of the time when it comes to groups of men, weirdly. Almost always when it's a single guy under the age of about 50. But men older than that, walking alone, will sometimes dodge me. The older they are, the more likely.
posted by lollusc at 9:59 PM on March 13, 2016 [117 favorites]


I find the shared arm-rest on a plane to have the same type of ownership issues. Sitting next to a man on a plane recently, I found my elbow being pushed off the armrest by his arm. I looked at him. He wasn't taking any notice; he wasn't even aware he was doing it. All he was aware of was that he was a man sitting next to a woman with an armrest between them; a woman who would move (of course!) once he made his wants clear.

Readers, I held my position firm and he looked at me with surprise. Then, maybe because I was about twice his age and the possessor of a high-school teacher's glare, he gave in and took his arm off it entirely. I felt like I had achieved a a small smug and satisfied win for women everywhere. Later he put his arm back more gingerly and we silently and congenially shared the arm rest for the remainer of the flight.
posted by Thella at 10:20 PM on March 13, 2016 [109 favorites]


99% of the time when I was walking on the footpath and a man was coming towards me, I would be the one to step aside

Does it not work if you do the thing where you angle the top part of your body to signal "I am moving this way"? I presumed that people veered the other way automatically, but maybe that's just because I'm a big guy and they don't want to run into me.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:01 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm a woman.

If I'm walking and already at a reasonable edge of a sidewalk, such that I'm almost on the curb or almost touching the wall/shop fronts, and a person or group of people comes towards me, i do not move.

I cannot tell you how many times I've been almost shoved into the street or buildings and had people not move an inch and instead just barrel their shoulders right into me and not even say sorry. Brushing as you go by is one thing, slamming into me such that you make me miss a step is different.

Broad daylight, too. I'm not talking about groups of visibly intoxicated people at night.
posted by sio42 at 11:01 PM on March 13, 2016 [44 favorites]


I lift my chin and glare at people not yielding my right of way on sidewalks. Most of the time it works.
posted by brujita at 11:19 PM on March 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am a woman and I was a cocktail waitress. This will be important in a moment. You would think that carrying a none too stable tray of hot pink drinks and tippy beer bottles in a crowded bar would be a sign for people to get out of your way. Nope.

I would always need to tell people multiple times to get out of the way- even if they were looking right at me. This did hone my skills of crowd surfing however- I have found leading with one shoulder can make a path where there was none before.

I've also found that the sidewalk chicken game is best played by looking them right in the eye as you approach. Scares the shit out of them.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 11:20 PM on March 13, 2016 [31 favorites]


I am a woman who doesn't often lose the sidewalk chicken game. I find having an Army tattoo and a dead hate stare really helps with that. Groups of men will part if you just look like you're willing to take the hit and make it hurt. I find bracing elbows helps if they look like they're going to be a douche.
posted by corb at 11:29 PM on March 13, 2016 [18 favorites]


But to address the initial topic- it's utter bullshit that it gets that.much.harder. when someone else has it equal to you. It's that stupid idea that there isn't enough to go around.

I've pontificated on this before here- that somehow baked into our society we think if someone else has something more than us, or even equal to us- it lessens the value of what we have- even if we have"enough".
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 11:59 PM on March 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


When I first started transitioning, I was very amused by the gradual shift of people getting out of my way on the sidewalk. I'm pretty short for a guy, but height doesn't seem to matter as much as gender in sidewalk chicken. I stopped noticing when these potential collisions happened after a certain point in time; I guess because I don't often have to be the one to move out of the way anymore. But the game still continues.

A couple months ago I was walking home with a pizza; it was later at night, really cold out. Not a lot of people around. There was a tall, athletic-looking guy walking in the opposite direction as me on the same strip of sidewalk. We were actually the only two on the whole block. I tend to think sidewalks should function parallel to traffic in the area, and, as I was in the correct "lane," I just kept walking and waiting for something to happen. Guess he was expecting me to move because he looked at me like I killed his favorite dog as we passed each other by.

It really marvels me that there are men who will extend their pathological need for dominance to include even the pedestrian activity of walking.

I don't think anger over the possibility of minority groups gaining "privilege" (i.e. equality) is about being angry at others for merely daring to ask for such. It is about fear of no longer being important or relevant when one is not important or relevant by any merit of one's own. In a society where everything is given to some people by an accident of birth, where one's self-esteem can be bolstered merely by being, it must come as a threat to one's own existence to have to answer for why they have been allotted so much more than everyone else. I imagine they are less afraid of the minority group and more afraid of crumbling the facade that is their self-worth.
posted by sevenofspades at 12:43 AM on March 14, 2016 [48 favorites]


Almost always when it's a single guy under the age of about 50. But men older than that, walking alone, will sometimes dodge me. The older they are, the more likely
Takes us that long to get a clue.

The patriarchy fucks us all, men less than others, but even if it's just 50 years of not actually living like a human being; it's a loss. It's the one thing I try to explain to those men around me. Sure equality is seen as negative because we've been on EasyMode our whole lives, but the things men gain are just as important as the things they "lose". Plus you know, not being arseholes!
posted by fullerine at 1:00 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Takes us that long to get a clue.

Or to be more afraid of breaking a hip than showing basic courtesy.
posted by harriet vane at 1:17 AM on March 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


I agree with the the "lanes" idea. That's how sidewalks work.
posted by sio42 at 1:27 AM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


I tend to keep right on the sidewalk, because that seems like natural traffic flow. I live in Seattle though, and rain will throw that off as everyone tries to crowd under the awnings of businesses as we cross town.

I will move for people with strollers, I will not move for people trying to walk 2-5 abreast and talk about whether code compiled properly. I do have to make some assertive eyecontact to get mostly men, but also some women, to realize I'm not moving. I 'win' whenever I am cognizant that I'm doing it, and lose whenever I lose focus, pretty much.

Of course all this goes out the window if the oncoming traffic looks to be particularly crazypants.
posted by taterpie at 1:39 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


In my first university teaching job, the set texts for our first-year undergraduate literature course were split 50/50 between male and female authors. We kept to this every year, even when we swapped the actual authors about. And every year, in the student feedback, someone - usually multiple someones - would complain that we were teaching more female authors than male. Every year.
posted by Catseye at 1:54 AM on March 14, 2016 [62 favorites]


I agree with the the "lanes" idea. That's how sidewalks work.

I was taught that men should walk adjacent to the road. Apparently it is to shield ladies from soil flung up by carriages.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:27 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


It really marvels me that there are men who will extend their pathological need for dominance to include even the pedestrian activity of walking.

I've noticed that some men will actively veer into my path (I'm a middle-aged man).

I thought I was being paranoid at first, but then started watching for lines on the pavement I could use to gauge their initial trajectory.

It's always men walking alone and they don't seem to do it when I'm walking with my wife, for example. Most seem oblivious that they're doing it, and I wonder if they realise or whether it's just some testosterone-fuelled reflex, forcing them to play this game of chicken with every other lone man they encounter.
posted by faceplantingcheetah at 2:30 AM on March 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


I don't think anger over the possibility of minority groups gaining "privilege" (i.e. equality) is about being angry at others for merely daring to ask for such. It is about fear of no longer being important or relevant when one is not important or relevant by any merit of one's own. In a society where everything is given to some people by an accident of birth, where one's self-esteem can be bolstered merely by being, it must come as a threat to one's own existence to have to answer for why they have been allotted so much more than everyone else. I imagine they are less afraid of the minority group and more afraid of crumbling the facade that is their self-worth.

I'm not sure - I think it is simply that people sense their privilege is being threatened or impinged upon and they reflexively strike out / say something cutting / etc.

It's reflex first and rationalization afterwards, and the emotional tone there could be arrogance, anger, fear, bemusement, satisfaction, or a sense of setting things right and proper, the addressing some violation of the social order (although that's just codified privilege), yadda yadda. I'd say it reflects an underlying contempt for the infringer or less privileged party, but fear's only going to crop up sometimes; it's situational and not always particularly thought out.

I find myself turning again and again to the idea of contempt, or rather the lack of compassion, in trying to pick apart stuff like this.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:36 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


After a week of colliding with just about everyone, I gave up. Turns out I do have to be the one to veer left. 100% of the time when it comes to groups of men, weirdly. Almost always when it's a single guy under the age of about 50. But men older than that, walking alone, will sometimes dodge me. The older they are, the more likely.

My partner has made it a project to make men dodge out of her way. She had experimented with different postures, stances, speeds, and so on. It seems she has somehow figured this out. I have been walking down the street beside her and see her walk straight through a group of three tough-looking dudes and they part like the red sea around her. Over and over. Collisions happen but they are very rare.

It is hard to say exactly what does the trick, but she's described it as adopting a confrontational attitude, that looks like she is perfectly willing to crash into them and is ready for a fight. People back away from this it seems. But I guess it's a subtle art and you have to read the situation carefully.

Something else she discovered is by doing a slight stagger right before towards the men, occupying a bit more of the space, as if she is maybe a little distracted and not watching where she is going or perhaps drunk, really throws people off and makes them move. She derives great pleasure from this.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:01 AM on March 14, 2016 [41 favorites]


When I walk down the sidewalk, I always get out of the way, because it just doesn't matter to me. I wonder about those people who have somehow made it a matter of macho pride not to avoid oncomers. It's rather a petty thing to stake one's self-worth to, isn't it?
posted by JHarris at 3:03 AM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


I have never had problems with people getting in my way when I walk. I have no idea why.

However, I do have a really vivid recollection of one time I was getting off public transport, saying Excuse Me as I went past a group of young men. One of them laughed and said something to the effect of me needing his permission. The most beautiful thing was his face when he realised I was way past him as he made his 'joke' and that I didn't give a shit. He looked so crestfallen - like this was the first time he realised he didn't have an automatic right to command women's public behaviour or something. I remember it so clearly.
posted by kariebookish at 3:12 AM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Whether this guy fights or not, he has the aggression going just the same. He knows what a "pushover" name is, he's Mr. Peacemaker EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE GUY I HATED FOR REASONS. Overall, the essay is nonsensical.
He didn’t like my smart mouth, and I didn’t like how he walked in and immediately acted like he owned the place.
This is tough because I'm trying to come up with a word for forceful and/or confident that has the same sentiment as the author's apparently-habitual popping off, without being a euphemistic masculine stereotype. Suffice it to say the author is not being very forthright about their own privilege, which supposedly undergirds the article.

As a white guy I have fold, spindled, and mutilated my privilege for good (I hope) and bad. This is just a cock fight between two roughly equivalent white guys that seemingly reflects no privilege aside from seniority at the restaurant.

"The same discomfort that an only child feels when she goes to preschool, and discovers that there are other kids who want to play with the same toys as she does."

Oddly specific.

It’s like an old man being used to having a community pool all to himself, having that pool actually opened up to everyone in the community, and then that old man yelling, “But what about MY right to swim in a pool all by myself?!?”

I'm at a loss.

Proving that people who see the world very differently can get along when they are open to change, and when they are willing to try to see the world though another person’s eyes.

I scanned the article a few times, the only change was in the other guy, right? "We'll get along just fine just as soon as you realize I'm God."

--

I used to walk straight, insisting on my lane. I used to stop when faced with a phalanx of whoevers until they walked around me. I used to say "excuse me [sigh]." It got to be a bummer to walk down the street, so I gave it up and just started walking around, on the curb, gutter. It's much easier. (jinx JHarris)
posted by rhizome at 3:27 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a woman who plays in a co-ed soccer league. I can't even tell you how many times I've been on defense and a man on offense with the ball will literally run straight into me at top speed while I'm going in for a tackle. Which typically ends with me getting knocked down and the man will saying something like "oh sorry I guess you didn't have time to get out of the way". Wtf!!! I am defending you! I am in your way on purpose! You are supposed to attempt to go around/get away from me! This is a basic rule of sport! Did you honestly assume that because I'm a woman I'd politely get out of your way so you could approach the goal unencumbered? Oh, you did.
posted by emd3737 at 3:31 AM on March 14, 2016 [63 favorites]


Anyone remember this Simpsons episode? I couldn't help but think about it while reading this.
posted by Borborygmus at 3:33 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I generally speaking get out of the way because most of this type of scenario happens while commuting, a time when it is never advisable to test anyone's temper. But goddamn does it make me mad when I am walking one way, as far to the right as possible, and people still crowd me and force me to walk basically sideways to avoid a collision. Every once in a while I just let the crash happen.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:45 AM on March 14, 2016


You only notice particular people who refuse to get out of your way if you're the type of person who takes it for granted people should get out of your way.

You never know what's going on with people. Maybe the aggressive guy had just decided to stop being polite, and getting out of everyone's way, as an "experiment" like so many in this thread, prior to starting his new waitor job.

It's funny to see people describe the various times they have barrelled into people and simultaneously wonder what makes ppl such assholes that they refuse to yield on a sidewalk.
posted by ServSci at 4:28 AM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


You only notice particular people who refuse to get out of your way if you're the type of person who takes it for granted people should get out of your way.

There are rules to walking that mirror driving. I notice people that don't follow those rules and, as a result, get in my way and anyone else that abides the rules.
posted by jpe at 4:53 AM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


It seems she has somehow figured this out. I have been walking down the street beside her and see her walk straight through a group of three tough-looking dudes and they part like the red sea around her. Over and over. Collisions happen but they are very rare.

I've achieved this by always looking at my feet as I walk ;). Obviously not intentional, but people will move out of the way if they see you're not paying attention. Also, I usually walk on the right, and I find people in my neighborhood generally obey that rule. So this is something I've never observed before.
posted by bluefly at 5:13 AM on March 14, 2016


It's also nice to note that him and Chuck (the guy who wouldn't move) became friends in the end.

Lately--say, since the beginning of primary season--I have become furiouser and furiouser at asshole pushback (when people who say racist things get mad if you call them racists, etc., ad nauseam). When I got to the end of the article and read that Chuck and the author had become friends, I felt a bit disappointed that the author didn't end up beating the shit out of Chuck with one of those two-foot-long pepper grinders or something. Great, they were friends. Did Chuck get the message? I think not. I think probably Chuck still expects other people to get out of his way and has simply made a little room for the blogger to be the beta male. But that's not the metaphor, OK, fine. I'll just say that it seems like a lot of resistance to privilege takes the form of passive aggression (don't ask me for examples, it's not even 6:30 a.m. yet) when, as the days and years roll onward, it seems like armed resistance is the only thing that will work.
posted by scratch at 5:23 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jesus, where the hell do all you people live?

I haven't always been married, haven't always been old, but I've always been a white guy and I've always made at least a half-step to the right when meeting anyone on a sidewalk. It's been very rare when the person coming the other way didn't do the same.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:24 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


I haven't always been married, haven't always been old, but I've always been a white guy and I've always made at least a half-step to the right when meeting anyone on a sidewalk. It's been very rare when the person coming the other way didn't do the same.

I dunno. My gut reaction is the same thing, but then I try to think back to the rare days when I've said "fuck it" and dropped the common courtesy, either because I was in a bad mood or was in a hurry to get somewhere. I vividly recall a few major collisions, all with men under the age of 40. Like, my shoulder hitting someone else's shoulder hard enough that one of us would have dropped something we were carrying in that arm. And I am MASSIVE; you'd know better after hearing me talk for 3 seconds, but at first glance, I look like exactly the last person to play weird dominance games with on the sidewalk. I never really gave it much thought until literally just this minute, but yeah, that means there are a non-trivial number of people for whom this is just an everyday thing that they do, consciously or not. It very likely also means that for every collision I've ever been involved with, there are a hundred women who have ducked out of the way while I charged obliviously forward. So: sorry, people whose days I have unthinkingly made worse. I will try not to do that again.
posted by Mayor West at 5:49 AM on March 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


I find that if I keep my eyes focused straight ahead then people get out of my way, if it looks as though I'm paying attention to anything around me then they run into me.
posted by clockworkwasp at 6:08 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ever since I started needing a cane regularly, I will often just stop when confronted by people (men) who will seemingly suddenly need the space I am currently occupying, and I just give them the Southern Woman of a Certain Age stare, which often generates an apology and a quick shift back to their side of the sidewalk. But these days, if I take a shoulder slam like the ones I tolerated in my younger years, I will fall, and I will most likely be hurt.

That said, getting older has pushed me out of the "need to show her who's boss", demographic and into the "I bet she's gonna hit me with that stick and get away with it" demo. So...I've got that going for me.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:32 AM on March 14, 2016 [35 favorites]


In the past few years, I have interacted with oncoming phalanxes of young men who work in tech(*) as I walk between my workplace and lunch venues. It's always groups of 3-4 walking side by side along the sidewalk. Once or twice in many interactions have they changed the configuration of their line to allow pedestrians to walk past them in the other direction.

My options as I see them are a.) slam myself into the nearest wall and hope they don't bump me further; b.) walk into the dangerous street; c.) stop and wait for them to move around me; d.) walk faster, increase the kinetic energy of collisions, and brace my elbows for impact.

I don't like any of those options. Mostly I stop and wait, but sometimes I get annoyed enough with these roving bands of inconsiderate boys that an elbow strays outward.

From what I'm reading in this thread, I should walk into the wall? Or go from far-right on the sidewalk to far-left and walk on the gutter? This ruffles my feathers for some reason; is there a good argument why I should change how I react?

(*) I know they work in tech, and what company they work for, because they invariably wear lanyards with blue badges. Some of my best friends work for that company and don't exhibit this sidewalk behavior, I don't understand the ones who form sidewalk-blocking formations.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 7:02 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is a decent (though not perfect) privilege 101 piece, and I appreciate it for that.

I'm a short woman, pushing 60, and with a limp that makes me walk funny. I'm usually wearing stuff like jeans, a jacket, and casual shoes when I'm walking around, so don't look privileged or powerful enough to avoid (and no cane!) Pretty much everyone expects me to get out of the way on the sidewalk, even when I am very clearly carrying heavy bags of groceries and they could easily move out of my way. This includes just about everyone between the ages of 20 - 50 particularly. Younger women also, most particularly when they are with a couple of friends, can be bad as well. In some cases I can attribute it to texting behavior/obliviousness, but not always, and I've been hit walking, sometimes fairly hard, numerous times during my sidewalk adventures, during those times I don't get out of the way fast enough.

It's ... just another of those fingernails on the chalkboard moments you get as a woman, and as someone no longer young to boot (so do love all the ageism there is out there, even on metafilter). Mostly I can laugh it off, but when I'm having a bad day, it stings. The most egregious example recently was the 40 something "suit" guy who went out of his way to hit into me hard, and told me he had done so, because I had impeded his ability to quickly exit a subway gate when he was cutting directly across my path as he was exiting the system and I was entering, and I did not get out of his way properly.

My father was old school courteous, and my grandparents were old school European, so this is not how I was raised, and I have a hard time pushing or bumping back (plus, it hurts!), but it is awfully tempting sometimes. However I don't expect that pushing back would change attitudes permanently with many people either. They mostly just seem to think I'm the one being obnoxious on the rare occasions I do.
posted by gudrun at 7:02 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


Radiophonic Oddity, as one of those blue badge wearing boys in tech, I salute you. Our penchant for doing that fill-the-sidewalk shit down by Denny (guessing, here 😀) pisses me off to no end.
posted by ChrisR at 7:07 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hold doors for people. It's just a thing I do, if someone is walking behind me and I open a door I let that person through first if it is not terribly awkward. Most people just say thanks and go ahead but I have noticed that some middle-aged men are really take aback by it. I've had them stop and stare, I've had them grab the door and insist multiple times that I go ahead. I've had them hold me up for about half a minute while they insist that I go ahead of them, even though I've stepped to the side and there is absolutely no reason for me to go first. I'm a woman.
posted by arachnidette at 7:32 AM on March 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I should mention that I live in a teeny town, one of those picturesque places with an actual Main Street with family owned businesses, so I don't spend much time walking around areas like Manhattan, where I noticed much more aggressive behaviour from men, than I see even in big Texas cities like Dallas and Houston. But crowds and people pretty much terrify me, so I tend to avoid places where they may be.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:34 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love this conversation at least partially evolved into women refusing to get out of men's way. After thinking it was a great way to explain (but not excuse) the current crazyness that seems to be going on in US society, I was thinking exactly that when reading this article.

It is my personal mission to not get out of the way when some asshole is walking towards me and I am already as far over to the right as I can be. Whether it is on a 2 person wide sidewalk/trail or one that is 5 people wide. It is actually hilarious to see the confusion on their faces. I do the Shoulder Turn that indicates "I am not only *not* going to cater to you by getting out of your way but I am actively preparing to take you out" while looking directly at them. They usually either get out of my way or we stop and stare at each other until they do step around me. Most often this is men (though surprisingly not usually white men, but from another culture where females are Less Than) but it will happen with women too. One time on a trail the woman actually went off to my right, into the brush (and potential for poison oak) to go around me vs going to my left and staying on the trail.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm a man, and I hate when men pull the sidewalk chicken game, because it feels like an Alpha Power Play and i have zero patience for that kind of shit. I'm also usually the first to position myself in a way to avoid collisions whether it's a man or woman walking toward me, starting well in advance. One aspect of how privilege informs such situations -- many minorities, especially black men, are often perceived as scary, and so they often go out of their way to be deferential and not freak you out, whether you notice the effort or not. I'm not black, but I find people (esp. women) are often scared when they see me at night, so I account for that. It's just another thing that most white men probably just don't even have to think about in their daily lives, which leads to them feeling like it's perfectly normal to steamroll their way through such interactions and feel like king of the hill or whatever. Lots of non-white people, and white women, are used to always negotiating the simplest of interactions in such ways and taking notice of what happens during them.

I'm reminded of Questlove's essay about riding the elevator with a woman who was terrified of him.
posted by naju at 8:23 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


Dude, I think there's a reason Chuck got better stations than you. I think it's because management and customers thought you were a jerk.

No, Chuck was nice to management to get the job, with that aggressive maleness that passes for attractiveness. Chuck was still training and coping with a learning curve, people who are afraid, run on fight or flight, and testosterone if they are cis males. The writer had always gotten by with his wits, (according to the writer.) Now they are privileged friends. They have both retained employment via typical privileged behavior. They aren't all that privileged, they are waiters. But, once they become attorneys then their skills will be more valuable. I guess my point is they are both, meh. They might make each other better, by jointly grinding off their rough areas. It is better to help out new people if you can, by the conventional method, helpfulness.

Q: How do you get the attention of a new MBA?
A: Hey! Waiter!
posted by Oyéah at 8:32 AM on March 14, 2016


As someone who is still physically capable of it, I am an elbow whacker of people who play dominance games (memorable: the time someone walked directly in the middle of a group of people I was in, yelling out "Give way, give way, you must give way, I do not give way!" in German -- we gave way).
posted by jeather at 8:35 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


A relevant-ish thing on white fragility I find myself sending to angry white relatives who insist that racism no longer exists in America. Invariably met with stony silence. Thanksgiving's gonna be super this year.
posted by sutureselves at 8:46 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm a woman who plays in a co-ed soccer league. I can't even tell you how many times I've been on defense and a man on offense with the ball will literally run straight into me at top speed while I'm going in for a tackle. Which typically ends with me getting knocked down and the man will saying something like "oh sorry I guess you didn't have time to get out of the way". Wtf!!! I am defending you! I am in your way on purpose! You are supposed to attempt to go around/get away from me! This is a basic rule of sport! Did you honestly assume that because I'm a woman I'd politely get out of your way so you could approach the goal unencumbered? Oh, you did.

Good ol' rec soccer. Once a guy had the gall to get mad at me for not moving out of the way after he ran full-speed into me, charging straight at the net. He legitimately thought I'd fouled him by blocking him instead of, I don't know, politely standing to the side so he'd have a clear shot? I really wish I'd had a good comeback...I think I just gaped at him like he'd grown an extra head.

There are all sorts of "fun" experiences in co-ed sports where it's often hard to tell whether it's sexism, obliviously reckless/entitled guys, or just low expectations based on past experience. For example, pretty much every guy I defend against being visibly surprised when I actually...defend. Unfortunately a LOT of co-ed rec teams are just a bunch of fairly skilled guys with (the minimum allowed) two girls who have very obviously never actually played before, so the low expectations are somewhat logical, if extremely irritating. It does get a lot better once you get to intermediate level, when usually everyone knows at least the basics of soccer.
posted by randomnity at 8:56 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


> It really marvels me that there are men who will extend their pathological need for dominance to include even the pedestrian activity of walking.

It shouldn't. The whole point of the need for dominance is that it has to be dominance in everything; if there's one little crack in the facade, the whole thing could collapse. If you're thinking "Hey, it's just walking on the sidewalk, it won't kill me to be the one to get out of the way," you don't have a pathological need for dominance.

Great little essay which I've already passed on to others. You people who think the author sucks just as much as Chuck are weird.
posted by languagehat at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


John Galt's message to the world:

GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!
posted by tspae at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


jeather said: the time someone walked directly in the middle of a group of people I was in, yelling out "Give way, give way, you must give way, I do not give way!" in German...

Welp, I've just leaned the new phrase I need in German, for this is a magnificent thing to know!
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just for the record, IMHO it is acceptable to ram into people only when the only alternative is to walk into traffic, turn yourself sideways, stop altogeher, etc. And of course making exceptions for strollers, disabled people, the elderly and so on. But when people are being straight-up douchehats and taking up 85% of the walkway or whatever, it is completely OK - if perhaps inadvisable - to give them the what-for by not accomodating their implicit demand for submission.

This also only applies when they are coming from the opposite direction. And trying a gruff "excuse me" first often eliminates the need to ram.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:56 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I see Chuck as a low-status person, an ex-con working an entry-level job later in life.The author is just waiting tables until his white-collar career takes off and can afford to mess with Chuck since his long-term career doesn't depend on it.
posted by michaelh at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sutureselves, thanks for that article - up to now I had just been calling it everything from '#notallprivilege' to 'my privilege isn't spherical-cow-in-a-vacuum perfect privilege' to 'privilege toxicity'. White fragility is a much better label. This was a great pull:

RD: When I’m doing a workshop with white people, I’ll often say, “If we don’t work with each other, if we give in to that pull to separate, who have we left to deal with the white person that we’ve given up on and won’t address?

SAB: A person of color.

RD: Exactly.


I've heard it expressed like this: You're not racist? Great! Now, get to work on the rest of White People, 'cause they're obviously not listening to anyone who isn't white.
posted by eclectist at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


Maybe Chuck is just a big guy. Maybe Chuck stopped moving around people because it was fruitless...maybe Chuck was wondering why this other guy with a chip on his shoulder was deliberately running into him, and he responded in the way you do when someone is picking a fight.
posted by Chuffy at 10:36 AM on March 14, 2016


The whole point of the need for dominance is that it has to be dominance in everything; if there's one little crack in the facade, the whole thing could collapse. If you're thinking "Hey, it's just walking on the sidewalk, it won't kill me to be the one to get out of the way," you don't have a pathological need for dominance.

Well said. And systemic racial oppression in the USA has included the expectation that black people on sidewalks encountering white people would be required to step aside into the gutter or the mud or the dust or the street, whatever. I don't think our discussion about sidewalk deference is complete without remembering this. I'm also interested in global variations in walking ettiquette and what the expectations are.
posted by puddledork at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just an FYI, for anyone who thinks bumping is necessary on the street:

Walk with your eyes lowered and with purpose. If you are looking at the ground, people will move around you. If you are looking at the people coming towards you, there will be a dance of some sort involved. Works 99% of the time.
posted by Chuffy at 10:41 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Walk with your eyes lowered and with purpose. If you are looking at the ground, people will move around you. If you are looking at the people coming towards you, there will be a dance of some sort involved. Works 99% of the time.

Actually I found out that you had to glance at the other person's face at least once in order for both of you to tell which way to step around each other. When I didn't, I bumped into people constantly, possibly because they couldn't read my body language. At least in NYC; maybe other cities are different.

I didn't get the dominance dance on the sidewalk much, the subway was another matter.
posted by emjaybee at 11:02 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Walk with your eyes lowered and with purpose. If you are looking at the ground, people will move around you.

If everyone did this, people would be crashing into one another constantly.
posted by MsVader at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


You only notice particular people who refuse to get out of your way if you're the type of person who takes it for granted people should get out of your way.

That's not true at all. I've had to pin myself against a wall to avoid bumping in to people in my old neighbourhood. And it's not like those women didn't see me coming. They just couldn't be bothered to make room; they were too committed to walking 3 abreast on a narrow sidewalk. I notice it a lot when it's people significantly smaller than me, because I'm 6'3" 220lbs and if I don't get out of the way, I'm going to knock someone on their ass. I'd rather not have that happen, so I actually watch where the hell I'm going and try my damnedest to not bump into people. Which is more than I can say for a lot of the lovely people of Vancouver. While I'm on the subject, you know that wide gate at the entrance to the Canada line, with the picture of a person in a wheelchair and a person pushing a stroller on it? Did you notice there's no picture of an awesome bro who can go real fast through the train station on it? How about yielding that one single gate out of the 4 there when someone with a stroller or wheelchair is coming through, lovely people of Vancouver? I know, I'm being unreasonable.

If you're the type of person to say "hey watch it" or something when someone bumps you though, maybe you're the type of person who takes it for granted that other people should get out of the way. I mean, it's not like it's everyone else's job to watch where you're going. Like, what, are you saying you were watching, and just decided to plow into me for some reason? How about instead of "hey watch it", we both say "oops sorry" because for this to happen we both sorta fucked up a bit? I came as close as I ever have been to issuing a beating when my wife was pushing our daughter through one of the gates mentioned above and this dude didnt even bother to wait for her to get through the gate before plowing in to her and my child in her stroller. My wife said a sarcastic "Excuse me?" and he says "fuck you!" to her, because Vancouver. I have to assume he didn't think I was with her because he looked like he was about to shit his pants when I grabbed him by his collar and asked him to repeat what he just said to my wife and child. Another time I was walking home alone down the sidewalk and 3 or 4 guys were walking the other way, occupying the whole sidewalk as is apparently the norm here. Probably 2 or 3 am, likely they were drunk and I'd had a few too. Anyways, I decide "nope, not walking in the mud to avoid these guys," and knock into one of them while walking the edge of the sidewalk, and he promptly says "fuck you buddy". So I stop, and turn around, and I guess the guy noticed, and he uttered the most pathetic and satisfying "sorry" I'd ever heard in my life. That probably could have resulted much worse for me.

I'm also going to add, because last time we had a conversation about this on Metafilter, I was told I was walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk when a dude threw an elbow at me instead of yielding when I was less than 5 feet from the walkway entrance to my building. I have not noticed "sides" in this City before, and after paying specific attention to see evidence of "sides" of the sidewalk in Vancouver since then, I've come to the conclusion that I didn't miss anything and there's just no such thing here. People just walk wherever they feel like. And I walk 5-8km per day through downtown to the west end and back again, rain or shine, going on 10 years now so it's not like I'm the type who's normally driving and just never noticed some "system". I would absolutely love it if there were a simple system like there is for the road, but no, it's just chaos. Judging by how many people here in other cities are describing bumping in to people, I don't think such a system is adhered to in many other places, either.
posted by Hoopo at 11:17 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone brought up the question of where do you live- there are definitely differences in sidewalk chicken on the two different coasts. When I lived in Boston there was that don't meet the eyes , make yourself big as possible thing. Not folding to the oncoming gave you a minor victory for the day. That being said, most people are pretty polite there and won't aim for you.

I live in Portland now and I have to pay attention because most people here float among their personal clouds . You can end up with a stroller stuck in an inconvenient place if you aren't careful. I do take it less personally here, because I know that people here are so busy navel gazing it's definitely not about me.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's a shame this devolved into a discussion of sidewalk etiquette and whether the author might be a jerk. Because just assuming you have the right of way and that anyone who doesn't agree is (ridiculously) somehow the aggressor seems like a pretty darn good metaphor for explaining privilege.

(Picking apart the story to show that, no, really, in this case, the one who failed to submit to The Dude's Right of Way actually was being the aggressor -- that's also a pretty good metaphor.)
posted by straight at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


Yeah, I really liked the metaphor in this article not only because it's highly accurate, but also because it leads to a perfectly parallel discussion of #notallcolliders, elaborate excuses for the colliders, and lists of ways the collidees are Doing It Wrong.
posted by randomnity at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


So the better question to ask is- how do you share the sidewalk? what messages are we sending to people in general that create this game of who's going to fold first as opposed to giving space to everyone?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 12:26 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think anger over the possibility of minority groups gaining "privilege" (i.e. equality) is about being angry at others for merely daring to ask for such. It is about fear of no longer being important or relevant when one is not important or relevant by any merit of one's own. In a society where everything is given to some people by an accident of birth, where one's self-esteem can be bolstered merely by being, it must come as a threat to one's own existence to have to answer for why they have been allotted so much more than everyone else. I imagine they are less afraid of the minority group and more afraid of crumbling the facade that is their self-worth.

via the man of twists and turns...
Last Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism:
[I]t’s hard to disagree with Coates’ point here. Of course poor whites have an interest in maintaining structures that keep down blacks. Presently, poor whites are in the lowest economic class alongside poor blacks, but they aren’t in the lowest social caste. In a society with white supremacist structures, poor whites avoid being in last place. They aren’t up with the rich whites, many of whom regard poor whites as inferior trash. But they aren’t all the way down with the poor blacks. They occupy a social rank that is near the bottom, but not at it.

If you blow up the racial caste component of social ranking such that only economic class remains, poor blacks would rise to the level of poor whites, creating a new last place where both poor blacks and poor whites reside. But people are last place averse, meaning they really don’t like to be at the bottom of anything. Those who are near the bottom, but not at it, are especially prone to oppose things which might help those at the very bottom rise to their level...

People care about (i.e. have an “interest” in) where they shake out in the hierarchy of society. Poor whites don’t want to be in last place, and pro-white social structures ensure that they aren’t.
Racism is an outcome more than it is a cause:*
We are depriving the white working classes of their means to give. As we export manufacturing jobs internationally and as we streamline labor with technology, we start moving people to the sidelines. It’s not just that they have less money, it’s that their identity as providers is being threatened. This is why they are often so against welfare. Even if it would fix their financial situation, it would not fix their identity problems. It would hurt their dignity. While the working class is undoubtedly worried about the economy, we already know many will not vote in their economic best interests. They vote for the candidate who promises a return to dignity, and it’s not because they’re dumb. It’s because they care about their dignity more than they care about their finances.

Which, by the way, directly ties in to how they are racist. Not all Trump supporters are necessarily racist, but a fair number of them explicitly are. Normally, when liberals talk about racism, they use “racist” as an end point. “Trump is racist” is, by itself, a reason not to vote for him, and “being racist” is an indicator of a person who is morally deficient.

But, if you don’t take this as an end point — if you instead ask “what do people get out of being racist?” — you’ll start to unravel the emotional motivations behind it. One of the best unpacking of this I have read is Matt Bruenig’s piece Last Place Avoidance and Poor White Racism. To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.
is there a way out? (of zero-sum status games and away from positional goods... to public ones? bringing this back around to sidewalk etiquette/improvement ;)
The End of the GOP - "The modern GOP as a political construct has principally been an alliance between two interest groups: urban economic elites and rural social conservatives. The reason the party is disintegrating is that it has over-delivered to the former, and completely failed the latter... embracing a new economic narrative that actually delivers the goods to regular folks is what it will take to compete in a meaningful way again... Prosperity does not end racism—but it is one hell of a distraction. When most citizens feel like they are winning, it's not so important to them that others lose. Shared prosperity creates the conditions whereby few reasonable people are angry enough to take a clown like Trump seriously."
posted by kliuless at 12:34 PM on March 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


I tend to yield to people on the sidewalk.

But the area where I work in NYC is filled with tourists. Many of them don't seem to understand how to walk down a sidewalk properly. They'll walk 3-5 people abreast. Or stop in a group unexpectedly in the middle of a sidewalk. In Manhattan, it's fine to do that on some avenues where the sidewalks are very wide. On east-west streets, that'll clog the entire sidewalk. Sometimes it's possible to step into the street to keep moving.

They just couldn't be bothered to make room; they were too committed to walking 3 abreast on a narrow sidewalk. I notice it a lot when it's people significantly smaller than me, because I'm 6'3" 220lbs and if I don't get out of the way, I'm going to knock someone on their ass.

I'm about your height and a bit heavier than you are and when I simply can't get out of the way, I'll stop dead in my tracks, look exasperated and let people walk around me.

It's not hard to get used to and walk around the tourists. But what drives me crazy are the umbrellas. They're all edged with pointy bits and I'm just the right height to get spiked in the head/face, since people never bother to look around themselves in crowds when it's raining. If you have your own it's usually possible to deflect against them. But I've accidentally broken other people's umbrellas before, by batting them away from my face with my arm or hand.
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


in order for both of you to tell which way to step around each other
I hate these nonverbal negotiations with strangers of varying attentions. There are both social customs and laws of physics that can do that work for the both of us. If you both move right, you will not collide. If the person you are approaching can't move right, you are in the wrong lane. Move right and stay right, please. I understand that lanes are not always a thing, but surely when it comes to a conflict, right is right in a country that drives on the right.
posted by soelo at 2:02 PM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


they're all edged with pointy bits and I'm just the right height to get spiked in the head/face

Preach!
posted by Hoopo at 2:08 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Walk with your eyes lowered and with purpose. If you are looking at the ground, people will move around you.

If everyone did this, people would be crashing into one another constantly.


Untrue. I'm not talking about walking around like you're reading Facebook on your phone. Think like a bicyclist...you focus on the ground a yard or two ahead of you, no eye contact. Anecdotal evidence...it works. I've done this around the world. You don't even need to do it all the time, you can see a small mob approaching and quickly change your focus to 2 yards ahead, and it works.
posted by Chuffy at 2:28 PM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


It works until some bully wants to put you in your place (out of their way).
posted by agregoli at 3:03 PM on March 14, 2016


Anyone remember this Simpsons episode? I couldn't help but think about it while reading this.

This one
seems more apropos.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Arachnidette, I have similar experiences here in the Deep South holding open doors, which I do for everyone, regardless of age or gender. I often just roll my eyes at the men who get bent out of shape that a woman would dare hold a door for them. But I did have a recent encounter that made me chuckle: our Post Office has a set of VERY heavy doors. Coming to the first one, I held it for an older man. He hesitated, but walked on through, then flung himself at the next one, saying, "I'M getting this one for YOU. You ain't stealing ALL my manhood." That's laying it on the line, which I always appreciate.

On the campus of my southern college way back in the 90s, I noticed that it was common that African-American women would walk veeeeery slowly and abreast, taking up the entire sidewalk. It wasn't threatening, but certainly appeared sort of purposeful to me. My read was that it was a way of trying to be assertive in an environment that wasn't just full of opportunities to do that directly. I admired it, to be honest. "WHAT???" it seemed to say. "We are just walking here. Don't we have the right to WALK?" There was also lots of really loud singing in the communal showers which I read similarly. "You're going to fault me for SINGING?" People take power where they can, it seems to me.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. andrewpcone, drop it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:55 PM on March 14, 2016


My observation is if there is any more than one person in a given square kilometre, they will eventually bump into one another. This is because humans, as a universal rule, are massive frothing morons.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:00 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I see Chuck as a low-status person

Since we're just making stuff up, I see Chuck as a Martian.
posted by maxsparber at 8:12 PM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Since we're just making stuff up, I see Chuck as a Martian.

Yeah, I don't, but I think the author does. That was clear.
posted by michaelh at 8:36 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am Chuck's prolapsed identity.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:37 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't, but I think the author does. That was clear.

It wasn't, and I am curious about why you are forcing so radical a reinterpretation onto the piece, including inventing back stories for the characters, in order to paint the author as a villain?
posted by maxsparber at 8:47 PM on March 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am curious about why you are forcing so radical a reinterpretation onto the piece, including inventing back stories for the characters, in order to paint the author as a villain?

why u h8 fanfic
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:27 AM on March 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm generally extremely polite about walking but if people are clueless and don't notice that I'm there (groups of three or four yapping at each other), they may feel a glancing shoulder on their shoulder. I'm not stepping off the sidewalk to "dodge" you because you're all involved in an "important" conversation. Sorry (not really).
posted by theorique at 2:10 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


The first time I was shouldered while walking was clear dominance aggression. I was with a group of colleagues; the only woman, and, as is my wont, tall. We were standing in this big, open, pedestrian area. I noticed a man walking towards us. All of a sudden he veered towards me. I didn't move, because as mentioned: standing, in a group, in an open pedestrian area. He had looooads of empty space to use. Well. He continued on his beeline towards me and BAM, shoulder to the spot between my clavicle and shoulder. I reeled and said "WTF?!" My colleagues were speechless.

One colleague asked me where I'd been hit. "Oh it's okay, it doesn't hurt too bad," I said while pointing to the spot. "Oh for fuck's sake," groaned colleague, "you are going to be in so much pain in a few minutes." I asked what was going on. "He did it on purpose!! Arseholes like that fuck with people, you don't feel the pain at first so you don't kick their ass, and later you wish you had!!" Sure enough. A few minutes later sharp spasms were radiating throughout my upper chest and back.

Ever since then I have also made it my mission to walk politely, and without giving way to arseholes who veer. I always check their faces – the dudes (it's always dudes) who do this have a signature side-glance and nearly-imperceptible sneer that happens a split second before they "accidentally" change course straight into you. Those dudes? I see them, I hold their face so they know I saw them, and I aim my shoulder straight for that spot the first arsehole inadvertently taught me, putting my weight behind it so I keep my balance. This freaks out 95% of aggressive dudes. The other 5% get shouldered and run off. Only one dude got in my face about it., and I didn't even shoulder him, just didn't move. Guess when that happened? End of last year, when my right arm was IN A SLING AND CAST BECAUSE IT WAS BROKEN. I didn't back down from him, told him that basic politeness would be A. to not veer into someone when he had plenty of room and B. especially not someone with A BROKEN ARM, but he started getting all "gonna punch you back in your place lady, how dare you judge me" and... suddenly scampered off with a submissive pose after glancing behind me. Turns out a huge, burly construction worker (he was wearing his company outfit) had walked up behind me and given him the stinkeye. "Asshole," he muttered. "You okay ma'am?" I thanked him and concurred about the asshole bit. Still though. Woman with a visible broken arm! Let's beat her up! Oh look, a MAN, time to behave. grr.
posted by fraula at 2:42 PM on March 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


I hate this author's central metaphor. There's asserting your rights as an equal. And there's passive-aggressively running into someone in the middle of a busy night at a restaurant, and then feigning indifference about your intent, to prove a point you were too timid to make at literally any other time.

I loved this guy's metaphor because it's a thing I sometimes do.

When I walk on the sidewalk, a lot of times I'm ducking around people to move through traffic. Semi frequently there is That Guy who just walks along and everyone gets out of his way. Sometimes, I don't feel like getting out of his way (a few times this has been exacerbated by there being no place for me to go). Sometimes, I knock into guys and they are pretty much always incredulous and irritated that I didn't move, even if there was literally no place for me to go. And sometimes I'm tired of fitting in around other people and I want to take up space, to remind myself that I exist.

Passive-aggressive? Aggressive-aggressive? I don't even know anymore. All I know is that sometimes I just want to walk instead of getting out of That Guy's way.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:36 PM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I feel the need to add - my own experience with my weird, inexplicable, sometimes humor-fueled responses to sexism is part of why it's become easy for me to listen to, for example, black women go on about white women and how feminism failed them - either seriously or humorously - even though I am one of the white women in the room. I know that feeling. I know that breaking point, intimately. And so I've tried over the years to spot when I'm the target of those feelings I'm used to being the originator for - both so I can learn to be Not That Guy and so that I'm doing my bit in accepting and anticipating the loss in privilege which is equality.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:01 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


hey, just for the record -- and the sake of provenance and attribution :P -- that imgur, re: "A great explanation of why 'be respectful' especially across unstated power dynamics fails." i found (from a rt somewhere?) via@CarlaSchroder, who got it from@knzconnor, which came from words written by... stimmyabby! (on pale green things :) respect!
posted by kliuless at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that some men will actively veer into my path (I'm a middle-aged man).

I thought I was being paranoid at first, but then started watching for lines on the pavement I could use to gauge their initial trajectory.

It's always men walking alone and they don't seem to do it when I'm walking with my wife, for example. Most seem oblivious that they're doing it, and I wonder if they realise or whether it's just some testosterone-fuelled reflex, forcing them to play this game of chicken with every other lone man they encounter.


I don't know, sometimes lately my husband will veer straight into where I'm standing still, talking to him, to walk to another room and will get upset if I don't move, when I was standing there first. This is not me blocking the door; this is like he would have to step an additional foot to his left and for some reason he doesn't want to. Weird.

That said, my husband is currently in another room talking to himself while watching a movie and playing a video game at the same time, so...
posted by limeonaire at 5:40 PM on April 11, 2016


Moth effect?
posted by phearlez at 7:34 AM on April 12, 2016


« Older "Who's Out There?"   |   Hilary Putnam (1926-2016) Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments