Standing our ground when we step out of line
Over the bank holiday weekend I’ve been at a festival with my 15 year old on a mother-daughter adventure (the festival was Victorious in Portsmouth and it was absolutely brilliant fyi). As we walked around the site weaving through vast crowds (apparently around 170 thousand!) I was reminded of the fun game of Patriarchy Chicken.
You can play Patriarchy Chicken on the pavements of city streets, on your commute, as you stroll through a holiday resort - anywhere where there are people. The rules are simple - you are a woman and you hold your ground. You have to be female to play, and, as a man walks towards you, you have to stick to your existing path, not side-step, not waver, not slow down and not get out of the way.
Warning number one: you will find this surprisingly hard.
Warning number two: a considerable number of men will walk into you.
The reason that you will find this surprisingly hard is because, as a woman, you have almost certainly been socialised to ‘be kind’, that the polite (and safe) thing to do is to concede, and that your needs are not as important as the needs of others, in particular the needs of men.
The reason that a considerable number of men will walk into you is because they are used to a world in which they dominate without challenge, in which their needs are considered more important, and in which they can take up all the space they need. A woman who does not automatically sideline herself comes as a surprise.
None of us really wants to admit that this is how the world is structured and yet as a woman writing this I’m already experiencing the low level anxiety that comes when we are female and challenge this dynamic, even in a light-hearted way like Patriarchy Chicken. The fact that I’m feeling this anxiety proves there’s a power problem here, and that I’m exposing it. Already I’m wondering if it would be better and safer to take a different route, to yield. The status quo depends on my doing so.