Observations on public spaces: watching men and women(67 Posts)
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?
Have they ever done studies in cities and stuff as if we were wildlife and they were watching how we all interact.
The most obvious places to notice the appropriation of space is on the tube IME. Recently there was a thread about how when walking around women tend to get out of the way of men automatically. There was a poster who said she consciously doesn't "give way" and some men get really confused about it! I wonder though whether it's a size thing - the "wildlife" survey would show that up. Maybe a combination of smaller getting out of way of larger, and socialisation. Dunno.
Your hotel restaurant sample wasn't very big it could have been that the men were more used to going to that sort of hotel - although the reasons for that might be interesting in themselves!
My conclusion is that you need to hang out at swanky hotels a lot more to further your study
Oh the tube thing and the getting out of the way thing are not the same. I have just phrased that badly! So they run into each other.
Agree on small sample size, that was a bowl of museli, some fruit, a croissant and three cups of tea worth of data!
Further studies needed!
I have only stayed in one proper posh hotel with work and was too busy feeling pleased with myself to carry out any covert feminist studies
Still trying to think of other public space stuff... There must be more!
I stayed in hotels often. I travelled in taxis and on public transport often. This made me terribly bolshy.
I don't travel for work any more. I'm still terribly bolshy
I wonder if it's just that it's a predominantly male space type thing. Most people who travel on business seem to be men - at least from what I've seen in the places I've stayed. So is it as simple as that - it' mainly men doing it, so it's a sort of male space. Like pubs, although they are better than they used to be, a woman drinking alone often looks / seems self-conscious unless a reg. And it's something that a man would feel much more comfortable doing in the first place.
I suppose the opposite would be how DH would look if he had to visit a beauty salon for something
So I guess the question is, who has dibs on the most / more important / better / more interesting spaces IYSWIM.
I go to swanky hotels quite regularly and still don't feel comfortable at breakfast / in the bar etc.
I'd honestly never thought it was a male female thing as many of my female colleagues seem fine. I thought it was just me.
I suppose men do tend to do more business trips and be in the majority and they have less concern of being bothered by strangers.
But in general is shyness and reserve a gendered thing?
It's easier for women in unknown situations as we are 'allowed'to show unsureness, look for comfort, play the damsel in distress.
Men are 'the rescuers', the ones that guide the way.
If I'm ever unsure, I stay quiet and smile.
Hmmm that's all well and good but what if you don't want random blokes approaching you just because you're on your own AKA lone woman in pub.
can Ijust ask - has anyone EVER been in a bar/pub and had a drink sent over?
slightly different topic, but I have never experienced or seen this in rl, but it is always in the movies. Plenty of experience of a man coming up to start a conversation/chat etc (not so much now I'm older) but never, ever seen or know of a man sending a drink over to a woman.
I don't spend huge amounts of time in bars/restaurants by myself but it does happen a few times a year, so am just wondering.
It's a very sexist assumption, for many reasons, but why does the myth (or reality) exist except as a poor plot device?
Interesting question kickassangel. A bartender could probably answer better than anyone but its not my profession. Perhaps it varies from country to country. I have never seen it done nor heard any man ever say he sent one. Asking a woman if she wanted a drink, sure, but never simply sent.
In fact the only time I have ever heard of this being done, outside movies, was from a documentary, The Man Who Knew, where one of the women interviewed said that she sent John P. O'Neill a drink, which she said she had never done before nor since.
Yes, when I was travelling in the US, twenty years ago mind you, my female friend and I regularly got drinks sent over. I also got lots of coffee on the house. There was no obligation implied, I don't remember being bothered by male company as a result.
I also remember it happening in continental Europe when another friend and I went to this disco place. That felt much more uncomfortable, maybe because of the location and getting more harrassment generally on that trip. We left sharpish.
To the OP, on the question of space, it is a really interesting point, whether men are still in command of public space, so to speak. I am going to look out for this.
Sorry, just to add, with the coffee, the chat would usually include some comments about their own Scottish ancestry (I am Scottish with stereotypical red hair!) so I think it was that mainly. It felt hospitable rather than sexist.
I have had two drinks sent over in my life!
Onc, when i was 19, after i had danced to ,ahem, Simply the Best by Tina Turner in a hotel disco. A drink arrived courtesy of the manager, with a message along the lines that I was a fab dancer. I accepted it and no-one followed it. Still feel chuffed now.
The other was when i was 30, with 3 gorgeous girls and a man sent over a bottle of Dom Perignon. Again, he didn't follow it. Just told us to enjoy ourselves.
This is interesting.
The other day, I was standing at a counter, waiting my turn. There was a man ahead of me. He turned to walk past me, but, he didn't walk past me, but stood there, waiting for me to move. Which I did.
That really got me thinking - I was quite upset that I had moved, and wished I had stood my ground. I then imagined scenarios where he said "excuse me", and I pointed for him to go by me (there was plenty of room for him). And wondered what he would have done if I had stood my ground.
I've never had a drink sent over
I wouldn't buy someone a drink just because tho. A drink doesn't mean sex obviously but surely you'd at least get a conversation because that's courteous of the recipient. Maybe I'm just greedy.
Some bloke years ago in some posh bar I was in sent over a bottle of chablis to the group I was with -a mixed group of men and women. He then came over and asked for a dance (it was a jazz club IIRC). Got to say, I felt swanky, he was a brilliant dancer. He didn't ask to join us afterwards or anything, so no obligation.
I like your informal hotel studies! It doesn't surprise me. I think woman are more obliging, not wanting to "offend" etc. it's why we are the nicer sex
DH and I argued yesterday over his, IMHO opinion, appalling driving. It was a 50/50 who should go first and the other vehicle was a moped and it was wet. I would always give way in that instance as it is easier for me, in a car, to stop. DH ploughed on regardless and obscenities were exchanged..... "Why should I stop?"
It's this flipping attitude that causes wars, I tell you!
I have marked this thread to watch the video later. It looks fascinating.
Thanks for the comments, I will definitely look up those links.
I was born in the mid 70s and the unwritten rules that I learned about the hospitality industry as I grew up (tv, films and what my parents said) were:
Pubs are for men, unless you go with a man.
'Barmaids' are chatted up.
Men order the drinks
A man might be a 'businessman'.
Men and women book into hotels for illicit encounters.
Women generally travel with men.
I know that all these ideas are thankfully, archaic, but a bit of me wonders if a shadow of them remains....
Ah, if it's unwritten rules of behaviour that interest you, I'd also suggest reading 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox. Brilliant anthropology of the English.
I've had drinks sent over. By Canadians, in London, in my early 20's. My friend and I went over to them with the drinks, put them down in front of them and said thanks, but you are getting no sex out of this, so please have them back again. They were quite horrified that we thought this was what they were after - apparently it is common in Canada to do this... ( where's SGM when you need her)? And they insisted we have the drinks as we 'looked like we were having a good night' and they wanted us to enjoy ourselves. We pointed out how weird this was (would they have done it for two men having a good night?) and parted on good terms.
In the interests of fairness we sent them some drinks back later (being Northern, we liked to stand our round ).
Having worked in a pub in the late 80's, it was incredible the amount you got hit on. I wouldn't say I was particularly attractive (or even approachable - apparently I have 'psycho bitch' resting face and I called out every bit of sexism I came across quite vocally) but nonetheless I was asked out by many, many blokes. Even when I had a boyfriend and said so, one particular loon said 'yes, well when you finish with him, can I have a turn?'
Regarding breakfast, yes it is more socially acceptable for a woman to dither and smile and look for help. I tend to pause at the door of a 'new' hotel simply to spy out the lie of the land before sitting down - I don't want to eat with the queue for the toast machine wending its way around my table. Also the 'rules' are different for each hotel, so it seems - do you find your seat, do you wait to be seated, do you have to show your room key, etc etc. From my limited observation of DH and work trips with other men, they tend to just barge ahead and sit down because they are largely oblivious to such niceties. And get away with it - is this because women are held to higher standards?
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.
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...
Oooh the research continues BranchingOut!
Of course he was surprised what on earth are you doing out by yourself woman?
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
I like it when they have a cheffy person doing eggs for you. I get VERY excited about hotel breakfasts
I don't know, my mum always used to it too but I suppose it those days French rolls and croissants were unusual
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!
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
And you can sit there with coffee and a paper feeling all grown up which is nice as well!
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
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
A warm pork and stuffing roll, unless you can't eat pork (for whatever reason) is a fine thing
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!
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
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.
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?
"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.
I don't laugh at overweight women 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.
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.
"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.
"All the normal girls" was a high point too.
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.
This woman upset our 17 year old apprentice by picking on everything in the poor girls lunchbox the girl was so upset she started eating in the corridor until we realisedwhat was going on. I used to laugh about her and tell the girl to laugh it off cause this woman did it too everyone. She also had another coleague that did I with her
Ah. We're down to one woman now. Not "an overweight person thing". Or a 40-50 year old woman thing. Just an unpleasant individual thing.
Yes to having drinks sent over. I guess working in cities has 'perks'....?! It's a drink. Not a declaration of intention.
Why did a posh hotel not have a waiter seat people? Not that posh...?
Most people know women that do this and thats why its always parodied on tv
I do the salad then sweets mid afternoon thing. But it's planned. I just have a ridiculously sweet tooth and would eat sweets all day if I could. So a small but healthy lunch so I can make up my calories later on sweets.
Not saying it's right or I'm proud but it's a choice not weakness.
DP does the same only his is booze. Cut calories on lunch so he can have a beer in the evening.
Fine if you choose it but not if your the type to say how can you eat that Ive only had raspberry keatones, a herbal tea and a carefully blended juice plus with 7499 vitamins and then you see them eating half a pack of biscuits an hour later.
Minnie, there were waiters, but they kept being busy/out of the room, hence it being interesting to see what people did as I was munching...
I went back there today and had intended to carry on this work, even sitting at the same table for consistency - but no women came down... Never mind!
I take room.service orders regularly at a hotel and it is the men who order mire healthy or smaller options, and the women who order the unhealthier bigger meals. The men do tend to order later into the night, whereas the women order by seven. Its usually an even split of men / women (we have a LOT of regular corporate guests and more men to women stay so I assume those extra men are in the bar or out).
Yeah sure some people plan it but judging by what people say I don't think that's the case for everyone.
The "light lunch" is often framed in terms of "I'll be good" and the snacks later are framed in terms of "I'll be naughty" and there is a lot of conversation around wanting to lose weight / calorie counts and things as well.
It has been this way in a lot of my jobs in offices and I notice that the men hardly ever do it, and it makes me sad that lots of women seem stuck in this denial / guilt merry-go-round.
I admit that I was usually observing this from a position of slimness, now I am bigger I get where they're coming from. But it's just such effort & time wasting preoccupation IYSWIM. And driven and encouraged by a lethal combo of advertising, diet industry, food manufacturers & human nature.
God I just hate the boring lunchtime conversations about food.
At any one time at least half the females in the office are on some faddy diet or other.
"It's one of my fast days today so I've got this salad...it's one of my green days today so I've got this... I've saved up my sins for today so I've got this chocolate"
And they all look the fucking same weight wise anyway, so it has no impact on how they present to the world. None of them are particularly fat or even overweight, they just aren't size zero. (Well actually one of them is.) Yet they spend disproportionate amounts of time and energy denying themselves decent food while bingeing on shite biscuits (I mean, why eat that shite? Sodding biscuits.) And it's so boring. Can't we talk about politics, or what's on the telly, or even bloody work, anything but your tedious marketing-driven, body-hating, energy-sapping diet?
I am overweight. I tend now to be much more conscious of people watching me while I eat. I therefore tend to order differently than I would otherwise. So, instead of the steak I really fancy, I'll get a salad. I have heard people make comments about my weight and how what I have ordered is contributing to that. I have left a restaurant in tears because a group of men decided to have a really loud conversation about fat women who eat in public and how disgusting that is, while looking pointedly at me.
I'm not even 'that' overweight, but I carry it all around me face and belly, so it's really obvious, if the weight were more evenly spread, I'd probably hardly get a second look.
Overweight women are expected to endlessly and obsessively discuss dieting/food/weight loss, or they are seen as not making an effort to be normal.
Yes CC, I think women are expected to apologise for taking up space we're not entitled to. If we're not giving men boners, we've no right to be in the space (any space).
However, I think it's becoming the norm that practically all women are expected to vet what they eat and endlessly discuss and obsess over what they're eating. The women in my office who do it, are nearly all slim and perfectly healthy looking, not overweight at all.
Dd has just been asking me about what to do if any men drive by and call out to her or chase her. She has heard that this can happen and a friend was just saying how stunning she is so now she's worried that this will happen to her.
She is TEN and still into Pokemon. I should not have to be having the Hollaback conversation with her!
Posted here as vaguely about women and space and too her up to start a thread.
That's awful, Kickass, but I agree with you that the street harrassment thing should be included in discussions on space because it shows how, in patriarchy, nearly all space (and particularly public space) is male space. Thus, if women dare to enter it, they must expect to be harrassed by men and they usually have to obey conditions set by men too. Think of all the religions which insist on women wearing particular dress in public, all the attention that is paid to girls' school uniforms rather than boys' (skirt lengths/trousers tightness/maybe no trousers at all/shoe descriptions/jewellery), rules about what women can wear on beaches in the summer time and on and on and on. Yes women, you can come into male public space but only under certain conditions.
Allowing women into public space without conditions is seen as a "loss" to men. For example, in all the huge rows that erupt over where women can breast feed, there is an implication that this is an unpleasant thing for
men people to witness, so if a woman is allowed to do this (on the park bench or in the restaurant or wherever the controversy has arisen) then that is a piece of space that is no longler available for men others. As usual, patriarchy sees women having something in terms of a loss to society in general. There are lots of examples throughout the twentieth century, when women began to campaign to have access to space (such as golf clubs/Houses of Parliament), of one of the most frequent objections being that there wouldn't be room for female toilets - if women get space, it is as a loss to others.
On the point about women's weight being policed by society, I went to see Dawn French's show this week. There was a part in it when all the newspaper/magazine headlines about her weight, over the last 20 years at least, were projected, one after the other, on to a giant screen - it was overwhelming. When done like that, all in one go, it made such an obvious point that women are judged, first and foremost, not on their achievements but on their looks - and, of all the aspects of their looks, one of the most important is how much space they take up.
Just to derail this thread for a moment - if you like hot roast pork sandwiches come to Wolverhampton. They are a delicacy, hot pork with stuffing and gravy and extra crackling in a bap is my favorite and I'm not the only woman in the queue.
This seems relevant:
I like the pints he makes but am cynical about any actor who bares their soul.
But yes, we are brought up to think that women have to be beautiful and must therefore strive for it. If you aren't beautiful you shouldn't be seen out in public. If you are then you become public property.
People don't understand why I tell them that comments in dds appearance (other than brush your hair type stuff) aren't compliments. She should be praised for behavior and achievements not something as ephemeral as her looks.
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