Observations on public spaces: watching men and women

(67 Posts)
BranchingOut Tue 24-Jun-14 20:54:27

I recently stayed by myself in a hotel for work and had the opportunity for a little bit of people watching in a mildly interesting situation.

I came down for breakfast quite early and was quite struck by the way that men and women, almost all of whom were coming down individually for breakfast, seemed to have a different degree of comfort within the space.

This was quite an old hotel, so a lovely room with big mirrors, high celings, chandelier etc - so potentially a bit intimidating if you were on your own or not feeling comfortable. But because it was early the staff were quite busy and not always in the room, resulting in guests having to navigate where to sit/what to do/the process of where to get things by themselves. So it was interesting to see what people did in a situation where there was a degree of discomfort/ambiguity.

I watched two separate women and three separate men come into the room and it was interesting to see that the women were more hesitant, looked indecisive in their movements towards choosing a table and, in one case, when a staff member appeared, asked if it was ok for them to have breakfast as a non resident in quite hesitant language.... Whereas the three separate men were each more direct in their movements, chose a table and sat down with minimum hesitation.

Interestingly, one of those women was wearing quite professional dress, very suited to the room/ambience. Yet the most comfortable group within the space was a small group of men who they were wearing work clothes/work boots, which were much less suited to the ambience (the hotel though old and quite fancy, is quite good value).

When I came down I was aware of consciously trying to act confident, act relaxed, but am sometimes aware that I fail dismally in this respect!

Any thoughts on men/women/body language in public spaces?

melissa83 Wed 25-Jun-14 18:30:30

They are obviously not used to sneaking in places. Maybe its a working class thing but you have to act brazen if you want anything.

BranchingOut Wed 25-Jun-14 19:02:17

Funny, posting this while eating alone in a popular pizzeria before catching a train - polite surprise from the waiter that I wasn't waiting for anyone... smile

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:06:33

Oooh the research continues BranchingOut!

Of course he was surprised what on earth are you doing out by yourself woman?

Owllady Wed 25-Jun-14 19:13:11

If I travelled alone I think I would ask for a continental breakfast to be delivered to my room
How dull is th as t

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:19:26

lol owllady

Why?

I like it when they have a cheffy person doing eggs for you. I get VERY excited about hotel breakfasts blush

Owllady Wed 25-Jun-14 19:51:06

I don't know, my mum always used to it too but I suppose it those days French rolls and croissants were unusual blush

I remember I once stayed with her in a hotel in the lake district (she was a single mum) and she decided against the continental to the door option and myself and my sister had to watch her wax lyrical about the grapefruit peeled in juice etc
We weren't allowed bacon, not with all the fruit on offer! smile

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 19:59:20

Oh I really go for it.

I get something involving bacon and eggs and stuff whatever I fancy and follow it up with fruit and then if still peckish maybe some bread and cheese continental stylee.

Try it owllady, you'll never look back grin

And you can sit there with coffee and a paper feeling all grown up which is nice as well!

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 20:00:34

You can tell the class of the breakfast by whether they have an "egg bar" with someone cooking what you want, also by whether there are options for things like kippers and the like.

God I'm starving grin

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 20:07:41

Oooh I just thought of an observation. Thinking of food!

Where I used to work there were lots of places to buy lunch and one was a stall with fresh roasted meat and they would make sandwiches. It was utterly delicious. I was usually the only woman in the queue.

Meanwhile, female colleagues would buy lunches of not very filling things like a salad bowl and then stuff themselves with biscuits at about 3.

Food is a very gendered thing. Surely men and women don't have different tastebuds, and even when taking health things into account (women apparently better at healthy eating on the whole) that doesn't explain why the vast vast majority of people buying the delicious meat sandwiches were men and the vast vast majority buying 200 cal salads and then supplementing with biscuits & cake later were women? Esp as in the end the health and calorie intake probably ends up much the same.

I find it sad i guess that many women have an unsatisfying lunch because they want to be slim / stay slim / feel guilty about eating and then because it's so tiny end up eating rubbish which probably makes them feel worse? I am guessing that's what's going on. Why not have a decent yummy lunch in the first place.

I'll shut up now smile

Owllady Wed 25-Jun-14 20:10:47

A warm pork and stuffing roll, unless you can't eat pork (for whatever reason) is a fine thing grin

LoveSardines Wed 25-Jun-14 20:18:07

Mmmm

They had roast pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, beef. Still hot and you could ask them for crispy bits. Then condiments. And fresh fresh doorstep cut bread.

I miss it!

Owllady Wed 25-Jun-14 20:42:25

Oh stop it, I'm starving! grin

ToffeePenny Wed 25-Jun-14 20:45:10

Enjoyed the film Lomaamina linked. Thought the way men were observed preferring to stand in the main thoroughfare to hold their conversations interesting as that is something I associate with women and space in my office, they block doors and hallways as if they have to look like they are on their way somewhere.

Lomaamina Wed 25-Jun-14 21:35:17

I think both men and women block doorways like that. It's something to do with thresholds perhaps, or the protection a doorway provides. Sort of explains why the best conversations take place as you're saying goodbye after a party.

No idea if this is true BTW, pure speculation.

Lomaamina Wed 25-Jun-14 21:40:33

But the men watching women on Whyte's film, that's surely true!

Funnily enough I had a similar moment this week, sitting in a cafe on campus waiting for a colleague. Was very quiet, and my attention was drawn to a group of people, three women one man. They were discussing a project they were all going to work on (I suspect, though not sure, that they were postgrads). The man sprawled over one sofa, himself and his belongings taking up the space. Two women sat on the other sofa and one perched on a chair. Their bags tucked away and their paperwork held in their hands. I sat there for 15 minutes, and in that time the man spoke. Just him. The women nodded.

Perhaps he was a tutor, maybe it was a staff meeting and he was the boss giving info. I don't know. But the dynamic of the interaction and how they used the space really interested me.

Hakluyt Thu 26-Jun-14 10:31:50

"Meanwhile, female colleagues would buy lunches of not very filling things like a salad bowl and then stuff themselves with biscuits at about 3."

That's because women are not supposed to eat- they are judged if they do- by both men and women. The classic "naughty but nice" (ugh) "the lighter way to enjoy chocolate" type campaign are exclusively aimed at women. No man is ever judged for eating- rather the opposite.

LoveSardines Thu 26-Jun-14 10:51:44

It is bizarre. I have always eaten a good lunch - I don't tend to have breakfast and am hungry!!!! And this seems to have been a source of endless surprise and interest to an awful lot of people, often provoking lengthy questioning confused

It is when you do something that is different from the crowd and yet innocuous - like regularly eating a lunch that is different from what most women eat - that you feel how strong social pressure is. If you're doing something like having blue hair or lots of facial piercings or whathaveyou, you are braced for it. But when doing something as innocuous as eating crisps instead of yoghurt and then saying no thanks to a mr kipling at 3 attracts really intense attention, it's a real eye opener.

melissa83 Thu 26-Jun-14 12:15:36

Its a overweight person thing doing that. We used to have visitors come in eating salad and trying to tell all the normal girls they shouldnt be eating space raiders or mcdonalds or whatever, then 2 hours later they would be sneaking food and we would laugh at them. What is that about?

Hakluyt Thu 26-Jun-14 12:44:54

"and we would laugh at them. What is that about?"

What, the laughing at overweight women? No idea. But that's something that happens a lot too.

LoveSardines Thu 26-Jun-14 12:58:56

I don't laugh at overweight women confused I don't really hear that going on at work either.

Maybe when I was in a younger workplace. I think young people are harsher on each other, often, than those who are older. A combination of having more life experience and thus more empathy maybe? Combined with not being at the cut and thrust of the sort of meanness that comes out of lack of confidence + competitiveness that our society likes to try and instil in our young women.

melissa83 Thu 26-Jun-14 15:24:58

Laughing at them coming in and being like ooh you will get diabetes, put on weight, have a heart attack eating that. Im eating a home grown 100 cl salad and these women are all 40s/50s then later you see them sneaking around.

Hakluyt Thu 26-Jun-14 15:27:28

"Laughing at them coming in and being like ooh you will get diabetes, put on weight, have a heart attack eating that. Im eating a home grown 100 cl salad and these women are all 40s/50s then later you see them sneaking around."

Yep. That helped. hmm

Hakluyt Thu 26-Jun-14 15:28:23

"All the normal girls" was a high point too.

LoveSardines Thu 26-Jun-14 15:29:34

To their faces, melissa?

I haven't worked anywhere, where people laughed and said stuff like that, either to people's faces or behind their backs.

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