Men On Southwest

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First, I have to say that I love Southwest airlines. I find the cheapest flights and a few times a year, free flights, so this is not a story about Southwest. It is a story about men.

Every few months I fly to St. Louis to see my mom. In June I had a terrible flight sitting between two men, neither of whom was huge. But they spread their arms out as I sat in the middle. To them I didn’t exist. Today I flew from Denver to St. Louis and again I was in the middle seat. Both men had spread their arms onto the armrests, not giving me an inch. They didn’t say a word as I got settled in my seat. So much silence yet I felt like screaming through part of the flight.

In the past I might have just found this annoying, but since the Kavanagh hearing, I find myself noticing even the smallest, inconsiderate things that some men do. In the past I think this minor injustice wouldn’t have bothered me, but now I feel so much anger.

I like men, I really do. When I was a child, I always chose to spend time with the male family members; the women in the kitchen bored me. To take a walk with Daddy and Uncle Wilfred after Grandma’s Sunday meal was a treat. To be in the kitchen with the women, cleaning up– that wasn’t for me. Grandpa introduced me to hot tea, which has become a lifelong habit, and the desire to own a pick-up truck. Daddy taught me that outdoor work was not just for boys. Hence I’ve always been one to mow the lawn, split the wood, plow the driveway.

But the men I encountered on Southwest are not like my husband, my son-in-law, or my brother-in-law, the men in my life now. I can’t imagine that those three would ever hog an armrest and make an older woman feel invisible.

I feel angry tonight thinking about those two men sitting in row 14 with me today. Yet I know that my anger has been displaced from Justice Kavanaugh to strangers on an airplane. I’ve been a feminist ever since I knew there was such a term and at the same time a little girl and a woman who likes the company of men. But I feel something is different for me since that hearing and since President Trump’s mocking of Dr. Blasey Ford. And I don’t know what to do with that anger.

If you are a woman, maybe you feel that anger too. However, this morning on
the Today Show I heard a woman say how she and her colleagues felt so badly about how Kavanaugh was treated. I can’t deal with that.

If you’re a man reading this, which may be unlikely, I hope you’ll understand why so many women are angry. Our anger may seem petty or rude or just plain unkind. And you probably don’t deserve that. But let me say: it is a terrible feeling to carry, to think that your words don’t matter. That memories of any kind of abuse don’t matter. That you are a woman who is invisible.

I am not a victim of abuse of any kind. I am, therefore, one of the fortunate ones. Still, I know that today I was treated as if my comfort, my existence, was not equal to that of men. I didn’t assert myself. I was not taught to do that, and perhaps that is the biggest lesson of my flights on Southwest. I can only hope that I have done a better job with my daughter and that she will do an even better job if she has a daughter. To teach our girls to stand up for themselves. To lean in and, when necessary, push those elbows out.

My heart tonight is with Dr. Blasey Ford and all of the girls and women who have been made to feel invisible. Who have been hurt by boys or men who didn’t think of them as equals and today don’t think of them at all.

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About Linda H Spaet

New resident in Colorado: Wife, mother, cook, reader, homemaker, explorer of our new surroundings
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4 Responses to Men On Southwest

  1. sara moran says:

    > Great piece, Linda. I, too, have felt the folks next to me on an airplane stake their claim of the arm rest (women, too). I think we were supposed to learn sharing in kindergarten, right? These folks must have been absent from school that day. I have also felt the anger you describe as I can relate to Dr. Blasey Ford. I think you did exactly what you were supposed to do with your anger. Write this blog. Bravo on this post. > >

  2. Thank you, Sara. I always have more time to think and notice and write when I’m traveling. Whatever else is going on with this travel, it’s a good thing for me.

  3. Linda says:

    I always love to read your blogs, Linda, and I am glad that you took the time to write this piece as a way to release some of your anger today. I believe that there are many women, including me, who feel the same way you do since the Kavannaugh hearings and confirmation. Most of all I am so angry and concerned that this man will influence rulings which may affect our little granddaughter’s life in the years ahead. We will have to continue to encourage our daughters and granddaughters to respond differently than we were taught to do when men of this ilk take advantage of us and worse yet simply overlook us. Linda, I also have a feeling that since you have given this situation a great deal of thought today, you may react differently the next time you find yourself in the middle seat.

  4. Yes, I can imagine the fierceness a grandmother would feel for her granddaughter. But I don’t know if I could react differently in the middle seat. It is so ingrained in us to be quiet and not make a fuss. Unfortunately I think of Trump and Cavanagh as being of the same ilk. Yet I do have hope for women like Erika and girls like Penny.

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