Taking Up Space

As part of my 2020 goal to live my most authentic life I’ve started analyzing how I present myself to others. Through this process I’ve learned that I make myself small in an attempt to be palatable – how boring is that!

Taking Up Space as a Woman

Have you ever observed how many times in a day you’ve moved out of a man’s way because he wasn’t going to move out of yours? Have you counted the number of moments a man has explained something you specialize in to your or the times a man has interrupted you in a meeting? I cannot because the interruptions are everyday and moving out of the way is ingrained in me.

Learning About Taking Up Space

I used to resent men for this; how dare they possess the audacity to spread their legs on public transportation, to take up so much space, to interrupt with their ideas whenever they see fit. But I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t beat them, join them. I’ve decided that I too, can take up space. 

Take up space in a way that feels authentic to you.
Taking up space in a coffee shop bathroom

Field Research on Taking Up Space

Stereotypically, women are taught to take up as little space as possible so my first to do is to unlearn the habit of making myself small. From my field research (google deep dives and personal observations), I studied that men tend to sit wide legged on public transportation (man spreading). They like to lean forward in meetings and interrupt women mid sentence. They don’t worry about their idea being dumb or being perceived as rude.

My Experience with Men Taking Up Space

Last week on public transportation during rush hour my research subject literally flung himself into me on the train (that was standing room only). Instead of apologizing he continued with his very loud phone call not missing a beat. While other people would have perceived this as rude I could only look over with admiration. A blatant disregard for others around me isn’t my ideal but it’s impressive to see in action. In other words, men know they are entitled to take up space. 

After observing many men take up space (the majority more politely than my public transportation pal) I’ve decided the best way to start taking up space is to refuse to move out of the way. I’m expecting to have a couple run ins that land me on my ass but I love the idea of not moving out of the way. 

Sound and Taking Up Space

I’ve also learned that men are loud. As women we are taught that politeness and social graces are key but men are taught to be loud and argue. To grow and develop, women are told to be likeable and friendly. But this is just bullshit to keep women small.

My observations have reminded me that men aren’t told they need to be likeable – they’re told to be innovative or in charge but the moment a woman puts out that energy she’s perceived as bossy. Because of this, for a long time I’ve made myself small to make myself likeable which is counterintuitive. Now that I’ve realized that being likeable won’t get me to my goals I’m throwing that to the side and taking up space.

To take up more space I’ve decided to drop politeness. I’m saying goodbye to unnecessary “I’m sorrys” and expectations of being a social buffer. I’ve blogged about this before but I still instinctually apologize for things that aren’t my fault. So it’s time to drop the I’m sorry and the social graces with it.

As a woman I also take the burden of social graces. When a conversation goes awry I feel like it’s my responsibility to fix it. I’ve decided to save my breath in moments like this and take a step back. I want to save my energy for taking up space instead of smoothing out the rough patches in conversations. I think the best way to take up space is to use my voice to fight for what I believe in (and god knows we need more women to stand up for what they believe in with this political climate). 

I’m taking up space because I want this to be normalized for future generations. I want to live in a world where women take up space and girls know they take up just as much space as boys. So sprawl out with me – let’s take up space! The future generations depend on us. 

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