Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taking up Space

While I was watching the town hall coverage this morning (which I won't start on until I'm calmer about it), I saw two commercials I knew I needed to write about.

The first was for MultiGrain Cheerios, which I rather enjoy, but the commercial and ad campaign includes this slogan:

It's a prime segue into one of my biggest feminist thought bugs: taking up space. It's pretty common fodder in the thought process of a feminist-thinking person that women are discouraged from taking up space. It's in the weight loss thing, but also in so many other ways. As a woman, I am conscious of my tendency to step to the side of the sidewalk when someone is passing, for example. Women will frequently step aside for me, as well, but men do not. Men tend to assume their space is theirs while they occupy it, whereas women assume their space is common to everyone and are more likely to give it up. I am constantly aware of the amount of space I take up, and not just as myself but in comparison to others. Leg crossing is an example of the impulse to shrink ourselves into as much space as possible (despite the fact that it's no more comfortable for a woman to do so than that man sitting with his legs splayed).

As a project for a sociology class once, I was asked to break several folkways. Most people did silly things; we all had to choose three, and admittedly one of mine was to walk backwards. The second, I made eye contact in elevators. The primary one, however, was to refuse to step aside on the sidewalk. I did not take up more than the right side of the path; I did not walk arm-in-arm or anything that would otherwise make my passage awkward for others. I simply refused to step off the path to let others pass me.

At best, I got dirty looks. I was called a bitch, I was shoulder-bumped. It was unpleasant at best, and not only that, but it made me immensely uncomfortable to try it. To simply walk on the path, when others were approaching, made me uncomfortable.

To me, that says something.
As does an add that encourages women to eat a food that creates "less you."

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