Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Male Commuter Rage

[Content note: Misogyny, misogynistic slurs, assault]

In this article, which I first saw in a Shakesville blogaround, really struck a chord with me.

In it, the male writer describes his experience of having long hair, being mistaken for a woman, and thus being on the receiving end of disproportionate levels of male road rage compared to when he was readily read as male.

Male rage at women in public is something I've long noticed in my 10+ years of commuting in a major city.  Just in the past month, I've seen the following "male commuter rage" incidents on public transportation (race and gender noted, because I think the dynamics are relevant):

  • A white woman was trying to get off a crowded train by saying "Pardon me." Her tone was assertive and not what is typically thought of as, in my subjective opinion, "sweet." The white man who was standing in her way didn't move, so she repeated herself, this time more loudly. As she was leaving the train, the man shouted at her, "Fuck you, BITCH." As though he couldn't stand having to move for a mere woman.
  • A white man was trying to get off a crowded train. Instead of using his words, he began shoving past people. He happened to knock into a black woman and her young, approximately 5-year-old, son. The woman yelled, "Watch it!"  The man turned around, stepped back into the train and, I shit you not, slapped the woman on the head. The woman then went after him and the train conductor yelled at them both to back off. The man left the train platform without further incident or being in any way questioned or detained.
  • A white man was trying to get off a crowded train. Instead of using his words, he began throwing elbows as he passed people, to urge them out of the way. He ended up elbowing my spouse, a white woman, in the back pretty hard. He then exited the train without further incident.
I have dozens more examples witnessed over the years, which I could also share.

My point is that white men, especially, seem prone to feeling entitled to express their rage in public in ways that other groups are not.  I have literally never seen a woman start assaulting people on a train because they weren't moving out of her way fast enough. I have never heard a woman start screaming at people for merely being asked to move out of someone's way on a train.  I'm sure it has at some point in history happened. But, the sheer disproportionate numbers of men I have seen do these things compels me to believe that this is a gendered, and likely racial, phenomenon.*

Ultimately, such verbal and physical assaults seem similar to the anger that drives so many white men: The realization that all the resources/status/space/hot women that our male supremacist society engrained in them was uniquely their birthright was a lie. 

It turns out other people are human, too, and they/we also have places to go and shit to do of their /our own that might mean a white guy doesn't get to go to all of his important places in a completely un-impeded rose-petal-strewn path.

The horror.

[*Yes, I did do a cursory review of stats regarding road rage, and the studies I found in actual academic journals suggest that the expression of road rage is a male gendered thing.  See citations here, for instance - with 97% of the most serious incidents perpetrated by men.  Various "pop media" sources, like this Fox News article, try to present a counter-narrative where women are more ragey than men - citing an un-linked to CareerBuilder survey where people self-reported their "road rage."  Really, I think a lot of people joke about having "road rage," so I would be skeptical of the self-reported survey. That could mean anything from "I beat people up for how they drive" to "I get annoyed when people don't use their blinker."  A key distinction in these studies is whether the road rage is actually expressed and acted upon - and it seems men are more likely to act on it, even if we all get pissed now and then.]

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