The Dumb Web is a weekly series that shines a light on the dimmest parts of the internet.
by PJ Westin
Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train (MTUTMSotT going forward, and even that abbreviation is a pain in the ass to type) is a Tumblr blog that encourages readers to submit pictures of men taking up an inconsiderate amount of space on public transportation. Essentially, it’s a lot of pictures of this:
The blog’s byline proudly proclaims that this is “A classic among assertions of privilege.” That guy who put his feet up on the seat next to you on the way to work? Turns out he wasn’t an inconsiderate asshole, he was asserting male privilege. As is every man taking up slightly more space than a woman on a train. In any situation. Regardless of context. Even if they’re-
-not invading anyone’s personal space:
-a lost old man with heavy bags:
-or, actually not taking up that much space at all:
Now, I could point out that it is inherently wrong to take photographs of strangers without their consent and post them on the internet. I could point out that taking a small inconsiderate gesture and assigning it to one sex is, by definition, sexist. I could point out that this blog turned the work of German photographer, Marianne Wex into half-assed slactivism. But the most important thing to point out is that the blog’s claim that this is “A classic among assertions of privilege,” makes no fucking sense.
See, privilege is a sociological term, one that became prominent in the late ’80s when Peggy McIntosh published White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. In short, privileges are unearned benefits that you get from society that you don’t recognize because they seem normal. You don’t worry about being sexually harassed? That’s male privilege. You’re not afraid of talking to the cops? That’s white privilege. You don’t worry about your tap water giving you dysentery? That’s first world privilege.
They are unacknowledged advantages that exist within our society, and while it’s not your fault for having them, you should at the very least try to make yourself aware of them. Of course, none of the internet’s memes seem to cover this, probably because it won’t fit over Fry’s face.
Privileges, however, are NOT feelings of entitlement people have, and they are NOT a set of behaviors that people engage in (like being a jerk on the train). So while MTUTMSotT might sound clever saying these pictures are “A classic among assertion of privilege,” the author is actually just parroting a sociological term that they don’t really understand.
It’s also worth mentioning that MTUTMSotT is, above all else, a blatant plagiarism of another blog, Move the Fuck Over Bro (MTFOB). This blog tends to get less attention because, unlike the author of MTUTMSotT (who mostly uses the blog to troll men into crowd-sourcing a poem about their balls), MTFOB’s author is clearly insane. The blog actually has more angry posts from the author and readers than pictures of men on the train, and FAQ is a laundry list of crazy (I’m not going to pick apart the whole thing, but I will say that the second one is particularly dumb).
What is truly disturbing is that MTUTMSotT has more than 24,000 followers. It routinely gets mentioned on click bait sites like BuzzFeed and Pinterist. “Diversity Consultant” and guy who thinks he can pull off a soul patch Jamie Utt also cited it in one of his recent “musings,” which was then picked up by a few websites. The Huffington Post covered it twice, and some people mistake that for a real newspaper. Even the Guardian covered it (albeit in a small opinion piece) and that IS a real newspaper. The movement has even spread to Turkey and Sweden. And more sites than I’m going to list lost their shit when someone posted a picture of Rob Stark.
Now, I shouldn’t have to say this, but this is the internet, so:
If someone is violating your personal space, harassing you, touching you, or is in any way trying to make you feel intimidated by their physical presence, that is not OK. That is never OK. That being said, if someone is just being inconsiderate commuter, either call them out on it or ignore it and get on with your life.