When 25-year-old labor organizer Beth Breslaw’s friend told her that more men than women bump into people on the sidewalk, Breslaw decided to test the theory by walking around New York City without moving aside for anyone.
Breslaw told New York magazine that she did this “experiment” for most of December and all of November. And what did she find?
“I could probably count on my hand the number of women that bumped into me and the number of men that didn’t,” she said.
And so the term “manslamming” was born: More men than women refuse to yield to women on the sidewalk because our patriarchal culture conditions them to occupy space without showing consideration for anyone else.
But here’s the thing: I did a similar “experiment,” walking in and around Grand Central for an hour on Friday — and 66 women ran into me as compared to just 23 men. Sure, more than 23 guys got kind of close before they moved, but they ultimately seemed afraid of knocking me over and moved out of my way.
I was physically bumped, body-checked, and pushed by nearly three times as many women as men.
So, should we call it “womanslamming?” No, that would be missing the point — which is that it’s not a gendered phenomenon. If you walk around not caring if you bump into people, you’re going to bump into people. It’s as simple as that.
Maybe it was the area I was in. Maybe it was because more women were on their phones or chatting in groups of friends. And, of course: I was testing the hypothesis that more than just a handful of women would run into me — just like Breslaw was testing the hypothesis that more than a just a handful wouldn’t.
After all, any outliers or biases that could be used to explain away the results of my “experiment” could also apply to hers.
(By the way, I am using quotation marks around the word “experiment” for a reason. First of all, it’s kind of hard to define what counts as a “slam” and what doesn’t. Some were smaller bumps, some were full-on pushes and body-checks. And although I know that the “experiment” calls for not altering your path at all, I did move out of the way for babies and people in wheelchairs — which is not something I will apologize for.)
I don’t doubt that a ton of men ran into her. Seeing as is it’s on video, no one can doubt that a ton of women ran into me. Some people might have an experience like mine, and others might have an experience like hers.
The street-slamming experience you have likely depends on a lot of things: The location. The time of day. Whose winter coats block their peripheral vision. And approximately 9 million other reasons that have nothing to do with gender.
I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist. Of course it does — and that’s why it’s so important not to discredit the idea by making issues about gender when they’re not.
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.