Feeling Small? Claim Your Space

“This is what most girls are taught — that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space.”        — Roxanne Gay

In yoga class today we were talking about taking up space.  It was a “curvy yoga” class for larger people and as our instructor talked about the ways larger women in particular are trained to make ourselves as small as possible, I could see every head in the room nodding.

It’s one of those unspoken rules, like not making eye contact in the public restroom.  Women get this.  We sit with our legs crossed, while male counterparts manspread.  We cross our arms over our chests or bring our arms close in when in a seat with shared armrests, while our male counterparts drape their arms out without a thought.

I was reading an article recently about a woman who decided to break the unwritten rule that women should move for men on the street.  When she came up to a guy coming the other direction, she didn’t move over to allow him space like she’s been taught, she just kept moving forward in a straight line until, the majority of the time, she would crash into the guy. The guy would usually look at her like she had done something wrong, a look like, “why didn’t you move?” because it would not occur to him that he should move to make space for her.

Seeing the women in yoga use the expansiveness of their poses to take up space, I was heartened.  What if, regardless of size, we all took up some space?

It’s not that we need to hog space, but let’s practice taking some of some of the space we’re entitled to – our share of the space.   Here are some ideas :

  • Use the armrest. Half of that thing is yours anyway.
  • Stand with your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman and embrace the inherent power of that pose.
  • Interrupt that guy in the meeting who keeps talking over you in work meetings. Your ideas are valuable too.
  • Stop moving out of the way, even if it means you have to shoulder check someone. Courtesy is  a two-way street.
  • Sit right down on that subway seat that’s partly blocked by the manspreader and force him to yield the extra space he’s hogging.
  • Tell your relative that you don’t want to hear their racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic comments. You can’t change their beliefs, but you also don’t need to be beaten down by hearing them.
  • Project your voice and talk with your hands. You know that thing guys do where they say things like they know for sure they’re right, even if they’re not?  Do that.
  • Go to the beach or the pool and wear what you want, regardless of your fat rolls.
  • Apply for that job even if you don’t meet 100% of the requirements. Be confident in your skills and your ability to learn on the job.
  • Stand up straight and tall, keep your head up and open your chest, allowing your breath to expand it to its full capacity.
  • Believe that you belong in every space, and you have the same right to be there as others.

You have value.  You deserve your space.  Grab it!

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