When Will Women Be Worthy of Personal Space?

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While I get ready in the morning, I like to have the news on in the background. This morning, one story in particular caught my attention. An United Airlines flight to Denver had to make an unexpected stop in Chicago and two passengers – a man and a woman –were removed from the plane. Why? Because the guy’s an asshole. Here’s what happened…

So, these two strangers (and everyone else on the flight) board in Newark for their trip to Denver. They sit in their seats, hers directly in front of his. Both the man and the woman had purchased Economy Plus seats, which means that while you’re still in coach, you get “up to five extra inches” of legroom. So let me just start off by saying that if you’re willing to drop an extra ~$40 for a tiny bit of extra legroom on a 4 hour flight, personal space is probably pretty important to you.

Anyway, the dude puts down his tray and attaches a Knee Defender (a $21.95 product designed to prevent the person in front of you from reclining their seat). Yes, this man actually purchased a product thats sole purpose is to deprive the person in front of them from 5 inches of personal space. Wow. So, the guy takes out his laptop and starts typing away. The woman apparently tried to recline and when it wasn’t working, she called over a flight attendant. The flight attendant noticed the man behind her using a Knee Defender and asked him to remove it. He refused. So, No-Recline-Woman stands up, turns, and throws a cup of water IN. HIS. FACE. An argument ensued, and of course they had to take a detour and remove the two from the plane.

Look, I’m not saying that it’s cool to go around throwing water in peoples’ faces (although in this particular instance, I think it was pretty badass). But, seriously, dude? What in the world makes you think that you deserve more space than the person in front of you, or behind you, or beside you? What makes you think that you deserve more space than someone who probably paid the exact same amount of money for the same reason you did: more space? What makes you think that someone who paid extra money for extra legroom wouldn’t also appreciate the ability to recline (which, I might add, all passengers get, though to differing degrees)? What makes you the exception to the airline’s rules? What makes you think that whatever you’re typing on that laptop of yours is more important than another person’s comfort? And why the hell do you get to be so comfortable at the expense of others?

I was so angry at this. And I know it’s petty, or rather, it may seem petty if you’re viewing it as just a single occurrence. But, it isn’t. It happens every day. All the time. Everywhere.

I have had many, many conversations with women I know about times where they’ve felt that their personal space was diminished by men. (I know, I know, women do it, too. I fully understand that people of all sexes/genders, races, and sexual orientations are fully capable of taking up excessive space. But go ahead and ask around about which group is guilty of it the most.  I could get into this argument all day, but I won’t. So, go #notallmen somewhere else, if you must.)

This doesn’t just happen on airplanes. It happens on subway cars, when men sit with their legs wide open and their arms draped across the tops of the seats, as if to embrace the women next to them who are folding into themselves. It happens under tabletops when despite having your knees bent to a 45° angle, you can’t stop getting kicked by the man across from you who won’t stop stretching and shaking his foot from side to side. It happens at the movie theatre when your neighbor takes the entire arm rest. (You don’t mind holding your soda for the whole movie, right?) It happens everywhere.

The worst part of this particular story is that unruly passengers can be fined up to $25,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration. Is refusing a flight attendant’s request unruly? Yes. Is throwing water in another person’s face unruly? Absolutely. But it would break my heart to see her charged for standing up for her personal space in a world where so few women do. How do you fight for your rightful amount of space without being labeled a bitch? What are you supposed to do when you ask for your space and are simply told no? What’s the next step?

I am incredibly proud of this woman for not taking “no” for an answer. Even if her response may seem a bit dramatic, she didn’t relent to bullying. She paid for her extra space, and she was gonna take it! Plus, let’s just be honest, you know you wanna throw a beverage in someone’s face. It looks so liberating in the movies.

The message here? Don’t be a douche. Don’t buy a Knee Defender. If you manufacture Knee Defenders or sell them, just stop. You’re part of the problem. Be aware of your surroundings. Be considerate. Everyone deserves personal space.

Yes, everyone.

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