Walking Like A Man

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 12 2015 @ 5:19pm

Or at least the dickish ones:

Jessica Roy covers an experiment carried out by Beth Breslaw:

She spent most of November and all of December colliding with dozens of men, on sidewalks and in train stations and outside of cafés. On one particularly eventful instance in early January, every single man who came across her path on the stretch of narrow East Village sidewalk between the N train and her sister’s apartment smacked right into her, she says. It was like that for the whole experiment, wave after wave of men knocking into her with an elbow or a shoulder or a full-on body-check.

“I can remember every single man who moved out of the way, because there were so few,” Breslaw told me. And though she refused to reposition herself for anyone — including women — Breslaw found that while she did end up running into some females, most cleared a path for her.

Update from a reader:

I’m afraid I have to call bullshit on Breslaw’s experiment of “walking like a man” to see what happens.

She should have said “walking like a jerk” because that’s what she did. My scholarship involves urban spaces and how people share them, and the behavior she describes – refusing to give way at all, just barging ahead – is not exclusive to men, nor is it the correct way to behave in general. Sharing crowded spaces means zillions of quick decisions, including last-second mutual giving-way/pivoting/angling to keep moving among many other people.

My own practice – as a 6’/230 pound pedestrian – is to always share the space, except with one sort of pedestrian: those who aren’t giving way to me in turn. For these jerks, I just stop cold, and get walked into all the time, by men and women, young and old. It’s more prevalent when people are walking two, three, or four abreast on narrow sidewalks, having their conversations and acting like they own all the space, but solo pedestrians of both genders (though, admittedly, more often men) act as though their preferred trajectory was somehow their private property. It isn’t. It’s a shared public space, and we all gotta play nice if we’re going to get along.

Had Breslaw walked towards me in the way Roy’s story describes, I would not have given way (I also would not have walked into her: I’d’ve stopped in my tracks). Had she turned ever-so-slightly, I’d’ve done the same, and we’d’ve passed politely enough.

It’s literally a two-way sidewalk out there. Can’t we all get along?

P.S. My favorite collision ever: a teenaged skateboarder who just ran right into me. Laying on the ground, he said his dad was a lawyer and he was going to sue me.  Even his buddies laughed: if you want to be tough enough to own the sidewalk, you need to be tough enough to take a fall and not go to Daddy for legal assistance.