By: Aspen Jordan – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
New York City is known for many things – honking, swearing, great restaurants, murder, Carrie Bradshaw, and so much more. One thing that a lot of people don’t know, however, is that New York City is the birthplace of defensive walking.
Walking in New York is governed by more unspoken rules than the royal wedding. For example, you never stop in the middle of the sidewalk – WE’RE WALKIN’ HERE! You never walk more than two across – WE’RE WALKIN’ HERE! But the most important rule of all? It’s every bad bitch for herself.
One of the things I found myself doing when I first moved to New York was being incredibly deferential to people who walked with more confidence than me. I would stop to let people pass me on tight sidewalks. I would allow people to barrel past me through doorways – sometimes holding the door for what became hoards of shoppers. I would even let people push me out of the way to get on the train first.
And – to be clear – when I say “people,” mean men.
So, this year I made a commitment to myself to take up more space. It is my incredibly passive-aggressive way of protesting Trump’s America. In my mind, I’m saying “you, white man, will go through this door after me, a black woman because I deserve as much space in this world as you do.”
And the best part? Omg, they get SO mad.
Recently I was walking down a narrow sidewalk and a couple was talking towards me – it was clear to all parties that we were going to pass one another at the narrowest part of the sidewalk – either I would have to stop entirely to let them pass, or he would have to drop behind his wife and we could all keep walking. As we got closer and closer it became clear he thought I would stop.
But, um, obviously I didn’t.
I kept walking – I was polite AF and turned my shoulders to let them pass me. He dropped behind his wife at the verrrrry last minute, turning sideways with such drama and flair that he basically flounced past me. And then he very audibly, very deliberately huffed in annoyance.
It was fucking glorious.
If you are a woman and you find yourself making your body smaller to accommodate others, or deferring to others physically, I strongly encourage you to try out the following three steps. Even if just for a day, you get a tiny sense of what it must be like to be a white man. And – please believe – it’s incredible.
- The world is your red carpet – walk like it.
Look, I’m not asking you to stand like Wonder Woman for 15 minutes before you go outside. I just want you to walk with your head held high and your eyes straight forward. Queens don’t make eye contact with peasants. Super Models don’t look down on the catwalk. Beyonce doesn’t ask permission to walk onstage. You may not be any of those things, but bitch you OWN the 2 foot-wide piece of sidewalk you’re taking to whatever amazing place you’re headed. Walk like it.
- Don’t look at men.
Obviously, if you see someone hot you should look at him (or her, or them, whatevs live your life). Hot people are here to be looked at. What I mean is, when we’re existing and moving in close proximity to others, we tend to look at them for social cues. Each glance of eye contact and body movement tells us something about them. And what do men’s cues tell us? That they’re the boss. They own the road. They own the block. They own the building. FUCK that. Don’t defer to men visually, physically, or otherwise. You have as much right to walk in a straight line as they guy heading right towards you. You have as much right to step into the grocery store first as the guy who arrived at the entrance at the exact same time. When you make eye contact in that situation you are, whether you mean to or not, letting him decide who takes the next step, because men are used to deciding. It’s not his decision, it’s yours.
- Embrace the conflict
This is the hardest and most important part of taking up space. It realllly annoys people (men). There’s that saying: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Well, the stakes are lower here because we’re talking about, like, walking, but the principle applies. Men don’t question their right to the space they occupy. They KNOW they deserve it. When we try to encroach on it simply to have an equal amount of space, they suddenly feel slighted. They want their fucking space back – who are you to take it up? YOU ARE A BAD BITCH THAT’S WHO YOU ARE. Every time a woman takes up the space she deserves, a new democrat registers to vote. Or something like that. The point is, there is no change without discomfort. And the lessons you’re teaching by taking up space are small – the discomfort will be proportional. You can handle it. You can handle anything.
So, there you have it! The Bad Bitch’s Guide to Taking Up Space. Go forth and own some sidewalk, hunny. You deserve it.
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Aspen Jordan is a Seattle native living in New York by way of Buenos Aires, Chicago, London, and San Francisco. I’m passionate about mental health, self care, and social justice, and I’m currently working towards a career in wellness & love coaching.
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