“I’m a feminist. So if a woman and I are going for the last empty seat on the subway, I’m not holding back.”
Like most people with eyes, a soul, and a computer, I’m a huge fan of the blog Humans of New York. For those unfamiliar, Brandon Stanton is a photographer who takes pictures of people he sees on the streets of New York, asks them a series of questions, and captions each photo on his blog based on these conversations. A couple weeks ago, HONY posted the photo and caption above. When I first saw the post I laughed out loud, said “this guy rocks” to myself, and shared it immediately on Facebook. But there are a lot of people out there unhappy with this man and believe he is making feminism out to be a joke for a cute sound byte. I totally understand this opinion and I of course am not saying these people are wrong; I just respectfully disagree. So I thought I would take a moment to defend this guy and myself.
Feminism is not just an economic and political issue. It’s largely a social issue. So when this man says he’s not holding back, he means that he’s not giving up his chance for a seat simply because his opponent is a woman. If he feels that he wants to give up his seat to another person because he or she looks tired, maybe they’re old or disabled and he wants to be nice, that’s fine. In fact it’s great and random acts of kindness shouldn’t take a hit in my defense of feminism. But to give up a challenge solely because a woman is after the same target is a chauvinistic attitude that should be done away with. These socially constructed mentalities are ultimately the root of sexism. If you were running for a position in an election let’s say for your school or local government, would you want your opponent to withdraw and say that you should win because you’re a woman and we’re supposed to be nice to you? Hell no. We want to be treated as equals (that’s kind of the point). So why not apply this idea to ever day occurrences such as subway rides.
I truly believe that when it comes to sexism, once positive attitudinal changes start happening, that’s when the positive law changes will come. And both are necessary. So while some feel this man’s words are belittling the issue, I see them as simply highlighting the social aspect of feminism. And now I will leave you with the words of Queen Beyonce herself: At the end of the day, it’s not about equal rights, it’s about how we think.