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Give up your seat or stay put? Our man’s dispatch from the gender wars front line


As members of the XX chromosome community, who identify as conservative women, how do you feel about this article, where a woman disguises herself to look heavily pregnant then gets on the Tube looking for men to disappoint her?

These articles always follow the same pattern. Men routinely shun her but, irony of irony, it is women who give up their seats. The frailer and more vulnerable, the better.

Once again, a newspaper has conducted one of those man-shaming exercises and found our testes to be toxic.

Does anyone else tire of these unimaginative stings? I’ve conducted ‘research’ (albeit for IT companies) and I know exactly how these things work.

The conclusion always dovetails perfectly with the marketing message of the company that commissioned the study. Never mind that the studies are never statistically significant.

In this case, the piper who is calling the tune is the blogger Anna Whitehouse. Negative sentiment gets far more hits than good news, and monstering men is a great way to attract readers. In the new surveillance marketing model of internet publishing, misery-monger tactics are far more likely to attract readers with proven levels of gullibility.

Still, imagine if they tried to conduct a fair study. The results would be different. They don’t take into account the social pressure men are under not to patronise women by offering them a seat in the first place.

I try to give my seat up to a woman whenever I can, but you can get bizarre reactions.

I was sitting in the two-sided chair area of a train, among five blokes. You could tell they were all thinking of getting up to offer their seat to the young woman (thirtyish, I’d say) who was strap-hanging in the standing area. In these circumstances, you don’t want to shout down the train ‘hey lady, do you want my seat?’ because that sounds poncy.

So I got up and walked over. I was out of the seat (not easy for me these days) and down the train a bit when she said, ‘No, it’s all right.’ So I sat down again. Then she sniffed, ‘At least you’re one of the few men who offers these days.’ She looked far too young to remember the previous golden era, so goodness knows how she benchmarked this social change.

All the other men around me looked stunned at this generalisation. So I said, ‘Well, I did offer you a seat and you said No.’

Mercifully, we left it at that. But it could have evolved into a passive-aggressive stand-off. Why complain if you’re going to make me look like a buffoon for risking the embarrassment of attempting a public display of chivalry?

I carry on, though, I suppose because I desperately want womanly approval. We’re constantly getting monstered so I have this pathetic need to try to prove I’m not a Weinstein.

However, they don’t make it easy for you.

You’re shamed if you don’t give up your seat, but it’s equally cringeworthy to walk down a crowded train and have your offer rejected. Suddenly you feel like you’re wearing a clown suit. I can’t help feeling a bit of resentment at this rejection too.

You want to ask: Does Germaine Greer mean nothing to you?

One woman in a suit on the Bakerloo line looked out of it, leaning against one of those wall seats and taking her shoes off. So I offered her my seat. She refused. And when I turned back my seat was gone.

I was fuming. How dare she? Why shame me, with that look of exhaustion and foot-airing schtick, then rub my nose in my attempts to be good? I think women just enjoy making you look bad.

Another time, on an Overground train (Willesden to Clapham Junction) I got the ‘Oh, no, it’s all right’ rejection treatment. I wasn’t taking that nonsense sitting down. In the end, I stayed out of my seat until she damn well parked her bottom down.

If we’re supposed to give up our seat, at least have the grace to take it.

I like simple guidelines and rules that we can all understand.

The other day, I was completely tired and mullered coming back on the Tube from Camden Town. But I like giving up my seat. These two Italian women got on, and there was only one seat available. So I got up to let the other one sit down. Again, they were way younger than me, in their thirties, but the standing one said, ‘Oh no no, you don’t have to.’ As if I’m an object of pity. Ha!

And she refused to sit down. I was already out of my seat, blushing with the embarrassment. While we had this Mexican stand-off, another woman came along, and took the seat. But here’s the irony: she thanked the Italian woman for the seat, not me! And the Italian lady didn’t say, ‘Itta wassa that old fat bloke who donated the seat.’ Oh no, she took the plaudits.

That’s not an isolated incident, sadly. It’s happened before. Women thank other women copiously for the seat that I gave them as first refusal, which they then sell on in the emotional currency markets.

I’m not asking for the moon on a stick, but a ‘thank you, old man’ might be nice.

It’s as if there’s this collective mentality that men are untouchables who should give up their seat anyway and they are not worthy of thanks.

Funnily enough, older women are nice to me. I think younger ones see it as an insult that I’m offering them my seat. They probably think they’re stronger and fitter than me, or something. Or it’s mansplaining. Or patriarchal chairmanship. Or hetero-hegemony.

Once two women got on at Vauxhall looking dead on their feet, like they’d completed a night shift. Even they refused my offer. Martyrs or what? It’s as if women don’t want you to do the right thing.

One Polish woman I gave my seat to was ecstatic, though. I know that’s a small survey sample, but I’m going to extrapolate massively (everyone else does) and advance the theory that maybe the Poles appreciate old-fashioned chivalry. But this wasn’t long after the referendum, when Remainiacs worked tirelessly to inform all immigrants that they were hated by the majority of the British public. So maybe she was just relieved that the horrible projections of the Remoaners were baseless.

Still, it’s complicated, this seat exchange business. I think there’s some kind of hidden power dynamic.

Can anyone explain? That’s what the comments section is for.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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