I take the train every day. Going in to work and going home. Me and my commute. Pretty lame. Same train in and same train out. Most mornings I get a seat and sit down and just listen to my iPod and go through my Bloglines. Some mornings it is packed. Just packed liked sardines. And this morning was one of those mornings.
I got a seat though – an aisle seat. It wasn’t that full when I got on. I opened my laptop and starting going through my morning routine. But the train filled up pretty quickly – more than the usual (damn Boston marathon). A few stops later an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if he could take the middle seat. No problem. I got up and he shuffled in. Oh, he was a gentleman all right. He had a bow-tie on! On a Thursday morning people! Anyway, as I was about to sit down I saw her. This older lady standing next to me in the aisle.
There was no seat for her. All taken. So I closed my laptop and slipped it into my backpack. Looked at her and pointed to my seat. Mouthed, “please take this one”. (I still had my iPod on so couldn’t talk.) She looked somewhat bewildered. Not sure what I was doing. I paused the iPod and said, “Please take this seat“. She tried to argue and shook her head. But I wasn’t having any of it. I got out the way and moved sideways so that she had little choice but to take the seat. She looked at me while I closed my bag and flipped it on my back and was still looking at me when I straightened up. She smiled. It was a warm smile that said thank you in a million ways, but I could see in her face that she was still a little bit puzzled. Wondering what the hell I was doing. I smiled back and moved on.
I walked to the front of the carriage where I was planning on standing for the next twenty odd minutes. As I walked I realized that she had no clue why I did it. Why I got out of my seat. Why I smiled politely and asked her to take my seat. And she didn’t have a chance to hear my accent either – I hardly spoke. And she wouldn’t be able to hear it clearly over the noisy train in any case.
I got to my new standing room and looked around me. I was pretty much one of a handful of people standing. But we stopped at a few more places on the way to my station – Back Bay. And each time more people will get on and stand with me. And many of them were women. No one got up to offer their seat. No one. Not the young dude sitting on the seat next to where I stood. He was busy on his laptop and listening to his iPod. Not the youngish guy sitting next to him. He was busy eating his yogurt and muesli. Not the middle-aged man sitting on the seat behind them. He was reading the newspaper. Not a single one of them got up and offered their seat. And I wondered why.
Why don’t these men get up and offer their seats? Are they to selfish? Or are they just too involved in their reading or music or eating? Are they just too involved in themselves to notice? Are they so lost in themselves that they don’t realize there is a world around them? Are they so self-absorbed in their belief that they own the world that they don’t realize those who love them and gave berth to them are all arounf them? Are they so self-obsessed that they don’t notice they are not the centre of the universe? Don’t they notice the women around them?
Was I brought up wrong? My mother taught me to respect women. Not only in what she said, but in the way she brought me up. And the way she treated me and expected me to treat other people. Where did she go wrong? Am I wrong in getting up and offering (almost insisting) my seat to the older lady? Am I being sexist in getting up and letting a woman take my seat? Am I just being a stereotypical male in trying to be nice and respectful?
Some would argue yes. And so be it. I won’t try to convince them. But I won’t stop getting up. No I won’t. I will continue to offer my seat. I believe that men and women are equal. I have two daughters and fiercely proud of them. They can rule the world if they want. There is nothing they can’t do. There is no man better than them on this earth. Oh men would like to believe they are better. But they are not. They are just men. No better than women. The best they can hope is that they are not too far behind.
But me believing in equality doesn’t mean that I don’t think that men are different from women either. We are different. Just take off your clothes and have a look. You’ll notice a few things that stand out. Or not. Men and women are equals. But men and women are different. Note that we have two words to describe the two of us. But being different doesn’t mean we are not equal. We are. We just treat each other differently.
And I won’t stop doing it. I open the doors for women because it is my way of showing respect. I get up and offer my seat because I want to show them I do honor them. I offer them my place in the queue because I want them to know we are not all bastards.
Women are treated differently. And most of the time not in a good way. Want that job? Be prepared to be paid less. Be prepared to be overlooked for promotion. Want to get married? Be prepared to cook, clean, work and be the sex-kitten. Be prepared to change your name. And it is women who are beaten by their partners. And it is women who are raped. And it is men that kill their wives. And it is men that cheat. Oh don’t tell me it happens the other way around as well. I know that. But the difference? More men do it. Far too many men. And somehow those figures have made it more “acceptable” to expect it from men. The murders and the rapes and the cheating. Yes. We are equal. But different. In the way we treat each other.
And the men come home from work and slowly drain the soul of their wives. Listening, but never listening. There, but never being there. Never wondering what their wives did while they were at work. And what their wives lives have become. Never thinking whether the dreams of their wives might have involved more than just being their partner, cleaning the house, cooking the meal and bringing up the kids. Serving the men. Slowly suffocating. Women. Equal. But different.
So sorry if I open the door. Sorry if I offer my seat. Sorry if I smile. Sorry if I make way for you to go first. Sorry if I offer to hold your bag or push your trolley. Sorry if I do these things. I don’t mean to offend. I don’t mean in any way that you are less than me. I don’t want to insult you. It’s just my little way of saying sorry. Sorry that I am one of them. Sorry for what you have to face each day. Sorry for a life that isn’t fair. Sorry for the bastards that don’t even know they are doing it. But most of all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for putting up with us. Thank you for giving birth to us. Thank you for making us better than what we really are. Thanks you for being a women.
Equal. But different.
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