The most stressful thing about taking the bus is all the strategizing that I have to do in order to avoid getting harassed, crowded, or ogled by some creep. My proposed solution? If you are a dude, give women some space. For men I assume that sitting on the bus doesn’t require much planning or anxiety. For many women it does.

I once got into a fight with a boyfriend because he encouraged me to sit down next to some dude who I felt uncomfortable sitting next to. I was happily standing, not having to worry about having to make an awkward escape on account of getting creeped on, but didn’t have the nerve to explain publicly why I didn’t want to sit. I said “no, no, I’m fine” and he didn’t get it and pressured me to sit. I’m sure he wasn’t intentionally trying to make me uncomfortable, it’s just that it wouldn’t have occurred to him that it’s more comfortable for me to stand on the bus than to sit next to a man. I explained to him afterwards that I didn’t (intentionally) sit next to men on the bus and that if I am standing, there’s probably a reason and to please just leave me be.

I seriously doubt that very many men think twice about where they sit (or for that matter, who they are impacting whilst sitting on the bus — keep your leg to yourself, dude. You are just as capable of keeping your legs together as anyone else is.) on the bus. For me, it’s a constant source of anxiety. I wear headphones that play nothing, specifically to discourage drunk men from talking to me. Am I being sexist? No. I have had to adapt to a world where women aren’t safe in public spaces.

So Virgin Australia has a policy that says that men are not to be seated next to unaccompanied minors on their planes. Recently, a man named Johnny McGirr was asked to switch seats with a woman because he was seated next to two young boys (usually the seat will be kept empty unless it’s not possible, in which case Virgin will seat a woman there). So what did McGirr do? He threw a fit. Obviously. Because he is an entitled dude. Because the safety of children is far less important that his comfort.

McGirr declared that this policy was sexist! And discriminatory! Because a white man having to switch seats is exactly the same as centuries of oppression perpetrated by and specifically benefiting men just like him. Making Johnny switch seats officially makes him a part of a minority group, you guys.

Sigh. This is so, so stupid but it is also so, so typical of how male privilege allows men not to see or understand how inequality works and how it feels to be a minority. The fact is that it is far more likely that children are going to be molested by a man than by a woman. Statistics show that approximately 90% of sex offenders are male.

So what’s more important, Johnny? You being slightly inconvenienced for about 2 minutes out of your life until you are sitting down again in another seat? Or potentially avoiding some kids having to sit next to a pedophile?

If dudes like Johnny actually gave a shit about sexism and, like, actually wanted women and children to both feel and truly be safe in this world, then there are some things they are going to have to do: a) stop molesting/assaulting/raping/beating, b) stop standing by while  other men molest/assault/rape/beat, and c) stop covering up for and protecting creeps and abusers.

What’s next, you ‘re going to force me to sit next to you on the bus because otherwise I’m sexist? Shut up.

Sexism will not be eradicated by pretending it doesn’t exist. Women and children not being raped or exploited is more important than your comfort. I wish it wasn’t the case that taking the bus to work was a cause for stress. Every single day. But it is. And THAT is because of sexism. Get it? Men raping women and children is what inequality looks like. Being afraid that a man is going to harass or assault us is sexist, yes, but it is NOT SEXIST AGAINST MEN.

This is what male privilege looks like. Johnny thinks that his feeling “angry, embarrassed and acutely aware of how society has become fearful of everyone” means that he has *gasp* experienced sexism first-hand! It doesn’t occur to him that maybe his “embarrassment” doesn’t really hold any weight in comparison to the trauma suffered by women and children who are sexually assaulted.

If I had my way, I would really love it if I never had to sit next to another dude on the bus ever again. I would love it if I just didn’t even have to think about it. I would love it if I could just relax instead of being constantly, acutely aware of who is getting on the bus and whether or not I’m going to have to get up and move because they want to sit next to me and breathe on me or touch my leg or stare at me or say something gross. And that doesn’t make ME sexist because the truth is that, as of today, not one woman has sexually harassed or ogled me whereas dozens of men have.

Virgin Australia’s policy makes sense and they should keep it. Sexism is Johnny McGirr crying a river over having to switch seats (and having the nerve to call it discrimination) without it even occurring to him that someone’s else’s safety could be more important than his own comfort. The fact that he’s gone so far as to try to bully Virgin Australia into changing their policy, which exists to prioritize the safety of children traveling alone (NOT specifically to humiliate you, pompous-Johnny) is pathetic.

 

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