I don’t mind taking public transit. I would even go so far as to say I enjoy it. I find bus rides relaxing and I don’t mind commuting to school. Like most people though, I don’t enjoy having to take public transit when it’s jam-packed with people sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder.
Recently, I was on a bus ride that turned from pleasant to uncomfortable very quickly. As more and more people came on to the bus and filled the seats, that anxiety about “Who’s going to sit beside me?” began to build. Going through campus the bus became completely filled, and a guy who had previously been standing sat down in the only empty seat left, next to me. He smiled politely as I tried to make as much space for him as I could, and then he sat down. The second he started to lower himself onto the seat, he expanded. He leaned to the side, towards me, so he could take his backpack off and I felt the weight of him. His legs spread out and took up more of my space as I continued to make myself smaller. His backpack was placed on the ground leaning against my leg and at that point every part of the right side of my body was in contact with his.
I was trying so desperately at every turn to plant my feet firmly on the ground and not lean all my weight on the girl next to me. My muscles ached by the end of the ride because I was trying so hard to make myself smaller. I was so desperate to get as far away as I could but every centimeter I moved away, he took it.
Normally I’m not one to speak publicly about issues like this but this speaks to a much larger societal issue. Other people, primarily, but not always men, continue to consider themselves more important than me, more important than women. Where does it say that you deserve more space than me? More respect than me? I know I’m not the only woman, or person, that has been in a situation where they felt like they weren’t considered as important as someone else. Whether it be during a bus ride, or during a conflict on a much larger scale, we are equal.
So to the boy on the bus: you do not deserve more than me. We are equal individuals who have the right to the same amount of space. It may seem silly and I have no doubt that you were completely unaware of your daunting presence over me, but that’s the problem.