The Patriarchy and the Airplane

This past year I have flown a lot, to conferences, to Mexico City, to visit friends, and between Toronto and Ottawa. In these many flights (often on small planes because they tend to be cheaper) I have had the good fortune to get up close and personal to many fellow travelers.

I have come to some reflections: few women travel by themselves, and men traveling by themselves seem to think it is their God-given right to take as much space as possible on an airplane. I say, if you book late, or check-in late, it is more likely you will get a middle seat. That doesn’t mean this person needs to get close to me and get into my space. Interestingly, it never seems to be a problem with women.

This came to a head on my flight back to Mexico City from Tuxtla Gutiérrez. It was a small plane, VivaAerobus. I take this airline because it is cheap, and because you can pay extra money to bypass lines and board first, which means that I can get my favourite seat, with extra legroom. It is like legal bribery. (I probably could get this seat in any case because other people in the VIP boarding group cram into the first few rows of the plane, but the seats are so close together I don’t want to chance it). Unfortunately, in spite of my classic travel pose (sweaters, scarf, headphones and ipod that I turned up as soon as the men sat down), they decided to stare at me and try and talk to me and take over my space. Several times after I thought I made it clear with body language that I didn’t want to engage. Then I just told them.


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