I got on the train today and searched for a seat. This usually involves Drum poking down the aisle looking for a comfy place to hide and me grumbling about how much I hate looking for a seat on the train, only to grab a pole and hope to avoid major disease and plague. Sometimes an empty seat is found, sometimes someone offers me a seat and I gratefully accept. Probably Mercury in retrograde has something to do with it.
Sometimes though, a man decides for me what I’m going to do. He has no standard face or skin color, no standard dialect or manner of dress. But he has one constant, one thing that separates him from the pack; the desire to put me in my place.
I love this man. He’s so paternal; getting up off his seat to put me in it or waving frantically and yelling at where I can find a seat of my own. He doesn’t take no for an answer for he knows what’s what. He is going to make sure it’s not my ass flying through the aisle of the bus and landing in his lap. He’s a vested interest that only he can discuss or know. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do and I just happen to be another damsel in need of saving.
Sometimes this man can’t be bothered with words. Instead, he’ll grab my nearest-to-him limb and direct it and me in the direction of his salvation. Unlike the perverted whispers of television, this isn’t in his crotch. Or perhaps I’ve just gotten lucky. No it’s to a chair, across a street, towards an intersection or on a pole. I feel so held, so gotten by this big brave superhero. Sometimes I smile. Except I also feel violated, touched without consent and dehumanized. I’m not even worthy of consent. So inferior to his able-bodied male self that asking first, offering next isn’t even a consideration. I am a parcel to be moved. It leaves me wondering if the goal is to “help” me or to remove the unsightly disability from public sight.
I’ve had women try the same shout-and-wave thing before. I’ve had them instruct an entire bus or train of people not to step on my dog (without asking me if I needed that announcement made and disregarding my caring for my dog). But rarely do I have a woman grab me, move me into a place, disregard my answer to their offer for help and ‘help’ me anyway. Rarely does a woman fight with me about sitting in their’ seat. No means no, and women generally get that. Not to say women can’t commit the same ableist ‘helping’ action that a man would or does, but rather women on women crime is a wee bit different. Mostly because it’s men who view women as weak, inferior or less-than. The weaker sex, the ‘bitchy’ mouth daring to speak up. Now couple femaleness with disability and you get an inferior inferior, a less-than who’s underprivileged. It’s just begging for a lifetime movie and some popcorn!
Today a man held out his hand and asked for mine, as if I were climbing up onto a carriage in 1882. I said no and sat in the seat without assistance. It’s 2010 and my curvy body can do this one thing unassisted just fine. But he didn’t like the no. He spent a good portion of the ride to the next stop grumbling to the person across the aisle. Sore male pride? Am I not performing according to your assumed gender scripts?