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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?

kickassangel Sat 28-Jun-14 15:24:00

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.

DadWasHere Sat 28-Jun-14 10:55:53

This seems relevant:

sashh Sat 28-Jun-14 08:53:44

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.

rosabud Sat 28-Jun-14 08:21:54

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.

kickassangel Sat 28-Jun-14 04:17:14

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.

AskBasil Fri 27-Jun-14 12:30:11

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.

CaptChaos Fri 27-Jun-14 11:30:32

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.


AskBasil Fri 27-Jun-14 11:15:30

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'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?

LoveSardines Thu 26-Jun-14 16:28:09

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.

ThinkIveBeenHacked Thu 26-Jun-14 16:23:41

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).

BranchingOut Thu 26-Jun-14 16:22:37

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... smile Never mind!

melissa83 Thu 26-Jun-14 16:18:07

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.

ThinkAboutItTomorrow Thu 26-Jun-14 16:14:10

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.

melissa83 Thu 26-Jun-14 15:59:04

Most people know women that do this and thats why its always parodied on tv

Minnieisthedevilmouse Thu 26-Jun-14 15:57:38

Odd thread.

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...?

Hakluyt Thu 26-Jun-14 15:49:15

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.

melissa83 Thu 26-Jun-14 15:40:48

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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