If you recall my post on self-love reminder mantras, you’ll know that one of my favourites that always bears repeating is: You are Allowed to Take Up Space.
What might not be obvious is how all-encompassing this concept needs to be. You (ALL OF YOU) are allowed to take up space. That is, body, mind, and stuff.
I’m sure you’re already familiar with the messages directed towards women’s bodies: be smaller, thinner, skinnier, etc. I mean, enter any clothing store and try to find clothing in larger sizes. Or, just take a look at the mannequins and models on store walls and you’ll know that the target sizes are always those that conform with our accepted standards of western beauty.
None of this is new information. We already know that women’s bodies are expected to be small and submissive.
There have been plenty of fun examples of how, in everyday life, women are forced to minimize their bodies to make room for others.
The problem with combating the physical aspect of taking up space is how it also makes us more vulnerable. As with any act of subversion, it draws attention, and it can
create a target emphasize a target.
When I think about taking up physical space in protest to Manspreading, for example, it means allowing for unwanted physical touch. Imagine the scenario: you’re seated on the subway, a man sits next to you and “spreads.” What are your space-taking options? First, you can submit and shrink into your seat in favour of leaving some room for the holy spirit in between the two of you. Or, you can hold your ground and maybe resist slightly; however, this most likely means your bodies will be touching (legs, arms, shoulders, and maybe more).
Is it worth it? I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to touch a stranger. And, socially, that’s what a manspreader is counting on.
As a former resident of Toronto, I have also encountered a number of Manslamming opportunities by virtue of it being a busy city with crowded sidewalks. In my own informal experimenting wherein I kept to the right down any bustling sidewalk, I noted that I “lost out” in this ridiculous game of chicken around 60-70% of the time.
Of course most men aren’t actively clomping down streets trying to run down women…but keep your eyes open to this trend. I expect you’ll observe, as I did, that the more important looking a man (think suit, briefcase, cellphone), the less likely he is to relinquish the right of way.
Try a power stance.
This concept was introduced to me a few years ago as a way to feel confident when struggling to be assertive. While I have deliberately implemented it into many work presentations (especially when answering questions), I have also found it to be particularly helpful when just standing amongst people.
Personally, I HATE when people get in my personal space in line ups. Dude, standing on top of me is not going to change your place in line. What I like to do is adopt a power stance, plant my feet firmly, hands on hips, and slowly turn…Sometimes I’ll be pretending to look for something in the distance and sometimes I won’t bother with the pretense. I have found that it works well to emphasize a “sphere of personal space.” For me, if I can stand with my hands on my hips and rotate 180 degrees with out hitting a stranger, I’m happy.
As with all things feminism, this is a work in progress for me. In the meantime, I’ll keep repeating this mantra and hope for a time when I feel confident to take up the space for which we are all entitled (as long as it isn’t at the expense of another woman – but that is another blog post for another day).
How do you remember that you are deserving of space?
Stay tuned for Part 2: You are Allowed to Take Up Space – MIND