Not today, patriarchy, or how I decided today was the day I was not taking it anymore

This land is my land, too, so stay in your lane


(Noonish – I have updated my rights and lefts! Sorry, earlier readers.)

Did you guys read this? How to play Patriarchy Chicken: why I refuse to move out of the way for men.

It came out a few months ago. When I read it, I thought, “Oh! I am not the only one and there is a name for it!”

How many of you have experienced this? Think about it. If you are a woman, I know you have, but perhaps you have never thought about it because it’s so, so normal. This is the water we swim in. How many times have you unthinkingly, automatically stepped aside because a man is walking toward you and he does not appear to be changing his path so he does not hit you?

Sometimes, this is legitimate. In the US, we tend to walk on the right. If I am in the middle of a sidewalk or a path and someone is approaching on my left but there is not enough room for me to remain in the middle, then of course I move to the right. My space – the part of the path that is legitimately mine – is the right-hand side. I do not own the middle.

But if I am already on the right and an approaching man is walking on his left, it is very rare for him to step to his right. Our unspoken dance is that I will move to my left so he does not have to move at all.

Have I mentioned this pisses me off?

I decided years ago that I was no longer going to move, but I get tired and I forget. I have to be thinking about it all the time. If I am not, I revert to stepping aside.

But after reading the article, I had renewed determination. And I still lapsed!

I was in the airport, walking on the right, next to a wall. A man approached me. There was about a gajillion feet of space to my left and about 0.3 feet of space to my right.

And yet – and yet – he was unyielding. He was on his path, looking at his phone, assuming that of course the world would clear a path for him.

And the world did.

I saw him coming.

I saw that he was not looking where he was going.

I automatically stepped to the left.

To. The. Left.

In the US, I should never have to step to the left. We step to our right.

He was so sure that The World would clear a path that he didn’t even look up.

I stepped to the left and then I remembered and I thought, Why did I even do that? What is wrong with me?

Which is why when I saw the man in the photo approaching me, I thought, Nope we are no longer playing this game.

I kept walking on the exact path he was on. I had just walked past the wall and into a gate area. I had stayed straight.

I waited for him to notice he was in the path of the people approaching him.

I waited for him to step to his right.

He did not.

I kept walking.

He kept walking.

He did not swerve.

I did not swerve.

I refused to swerve. It was my lane. I was in the proper place.

He kept coming.

So I did what I do when I remember I am not playing Patriarchy, which was I came to a complete stop.

I became Lot’s Wife. (What was her name, anyhow? Cindy? Denise?)

I became the immovable object.

He almost collided with me.

I did not move.

I did not move.

He surrendered.

He stepped to his right and around me.

And he probably thought to himself, if he even could articulate it, “Bitch! Why is she in my way?”

And I thought, A strike for equality.

6 thoughts on “Not today, patriarchy, or how I decided today was the day I was not taking it anymore

  1. Oh yes, have done!! And yes, often just stop instead of continuing to walk. [at work – on campus – it’s not always a patriarchy thing (though it can be) but a rude “we’re going to walk 3 abreast and screw anyone else” attitude – and I’m not going to swerve for rudeness either!]


  2. In my hood, we are at war with men-on-bikes-using-the-sidewalk-and do-not-yield. When I rode a bike, I used the street, but I have big lady pants.


  3. I’m a 5’1″ woman, and I was a cheeky kid. I learned as a teenager that everyone expects shorter women to just give way, so I started employing the “stop and look around” method of maintaining my path while forcing the person who is on the wrong side of the sidewalk to give way. I never use this if I’m not on my own side of the walk (like you, I give way if I’m walking several abreast or something like that), but I have used it on busy sidewalks when I see someone weaving through the crowd and just expecting everyone to get out of their way as they take up more than their own lane.

    When I first met my husband, he didn’t understand that people would barrel right into me if I looked at them and moved forward. For me, looking at them was acknowledging that I see them, so they always assume that I will move for them. I see them, so I’m obviously going to move, right? I then thought about why I do it, and I explained my reasoning for stopping vs. continuing toward them. He’s 6’2″ and had never thought about it.


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