Stroller Wars

This is probably an ill-advised post, but here it goes.

When I was a young woman, I had a friend dare me to try an experiment. Prerequisite: you have to be female. Try walking down the street without stepping aside for anyone. Her point, as a female, you are expected to move out of the way for men. I actually found the experience so stressful that I have only attempted it a couple of times. The boys expect you to move. If you live in an urban environment, try it yourself.

Last week, the MBTA decided to roll out a policy that would require strollers to be folded up on the Bus and Subway. At first, I agreed with the policy. Strollers have become gigantic, and I could see how it could be a safety concern. You can see my original response on the above link.

But then I started to read the rest of the comments on various web sites. I grew suspicious. There was an awful lot of vitriol flying around. I started to wonder what was really going on.

And I thought, maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t about safety or public transportation. Maybe this was about the nerve of these women TAKING UP SPACE. And taking up space with children, damn them.

I defected. You know what, I’ve got the baby. I’ve got the Heavy Armor Maclaren Stroller. You move.

I’ve been stepping out your way for years now.

And by the way, you can’t win. The mothers’ have mobilized. You wouldn’t know because you aren’t on our listservs. But while you making your pretty fingers bleed posting comments on web sites, they have been organizing. They are writing letters, contacting elected officials, going to meetings and making a plan of attack. I would have put in a good word for you, but I decided that I hate you.

As for public transportation, me and mine avoid it at all costs. I think that works best for everyone.


20 thoughts on “Stroller Wars

  1. I try not to move out of the way for men when I’m by myself. When I’m with the kids, I do.

    So many of the pro-stroller-folding comments seem to be by the “it was your selfish decision to have kids, so it’s your problem” camp. And everyone in that thread kept talking about “urban assault strollers”. Everyone is mad at the few entitled moms who cram their giant strollers on a crowded train. But guess what, these people are going to be jerks no matter what. Most people try their best to share space with others. I’m surprised this policy even got to the public comment stage.

  2. I think those were the comments that infuriated me the most. Because we decided to have kids, we should make ourselves invisible in public. Really, they chose to live in a city with other people. They chose to take public transportation. Why don’t the chose to move?

    I am all huffy now.

  3. This is probably an ill-advised comment: if what you say above about the tone of the conversation is true, then we’ve clearly lost the ability to be rational about this issue. But, here goes:

    I have no children, but I am a regular transit rider. I speak only for myself here. I do my best, when in public, to be considerate of those around me, and I recognize that I don’t always succeed. I take my big, bulky backpack off when I get on a crowded train or bus during rush hour. In return, I ask that others treat me with similar courtesy.

    I am extremely sorry if you’ve been made to feel marginalized because you have children.

    However, before you jump to the conclusion that the proposed stroller ban is just another instance of this marginalization, I really think you ought to get some of the experience riding the T that you have admitted to lacking.

    You don’t need to take your stroller. Just get on a crowded bus during rush hour. If you’re riding one of the new low-floor buses that now make up the bulk of the T’s fleet, think about how wide strollers can be, and how wide the passage just behind the driver is. Think about how little room other passengers would have to get by, with a stroller parked right in that narrow passage. Ask yourself if there’s a better place for a stroller on the bus.

    Do the same thing on a crowded train during rush-hour — especially the Green Line.

    Transit riders are all in this together — we all have a responsibility to be courteous to our fellow passengers. The simple fact remains that, all other things being equal, a person with a stroller takes up more room than one without, and it follows from this that the person with a stroller has a greater degree of responsibility to their fellow passengers. The same applies to people with big backpacks, or with bulky luggage.

    As I said above: I recognize the obligation that I take on when I bring a big backpack onto the T. I’m frustrated that you appear not to recognize the similar obligation that follows from having large strollers.

    Finally: I’ll cheerfully admit that a great many transit riders are extremely discourteous to their fellow passengers. That does not absolve either you or me of the responsibility to act courteously.

  4. There’s got a be a way to meet in the middle on this argument. Moms with the strollers need to be conscientious of others by bringing smaller, less intrusive strollers while other passengers should be more compassionate. It works both ways and I do hope this issue gets resolved somewhat. It’s really sad to see all the vitriol going both ways.

  5. Last year I moved from East Boston to JP because I wanted to ride my bike to work, and the T wouldn’t let me take my bike one stop from Maverick to Aquarium to get over the harbor. When I took the trouble to argue this issue with the T, and other bike riders, I pointed out, my bike (a small women’s Trek) is smaller than some strollers, and yet those strollers are allowed on the T during rush hour.

    As an ardent feminist, I fully recognize that women, particularly women with children, are often marginalized (i.e. mommy tracking at work, stereotyping in the media) but I feel that in this situation, asking people to fold strollers is not about marginalizing, but about creating space for all. And I think it’s unfair for the T to recognize the rights of mothers to have big strollers on the T but deny bike riders the same treatment.

    And before you tell me that bikes and strollers are not the same thing, please ask yourself how many children in strollers are capable of walking on their own? And how many times have I seen people (men and women) carrying a child and using a stroller as a giant grocery cart?

    I recognize the rights of mothers to have strollers, but not to the point that it impinges on the rights of others to ride public transit without tripping on those strollers.

  6. Hi Kate,

    Like I said above, I actually do think that strollers should be folded when parents get onto the T. There are some exceptions, i.e. people who have kids who are disabled.

    I realize that my post is a little over the top. But I am reacting to is the blatant misogyny that I am reading on web sites.

    Googie Baba

  7. You make such a great point about space. Ever notice just how much space a man takes up on a not so crowded bus or train. Unless someone tells them to fucking move sometimes young men will just have their legs sprawled out and their arms all over the place. This was especially bad on the BC bus I remember…

    I am in complete agreement mothers and children are just as deserving of space on the T as everyone else. A lot of people need to drop kids off at day care in the city near their jobs, so the “don’t take the train at rush hour with a baby” suggestion doesn’t fly. They do it out of necessity.

  8. I’m a man, and I take up one seat on the bus, and whenever possible I get out of the way for people on the sidewalk, whether they’re men or women. Honestly, when I have encounters on the sidewalk where I don’t have anywhere to go but someone else would rather walk into me than move out of the way, it seems to me that it’s more often women than men. But that’s probably just because I’m walking around a college campus that’s populated by more women than men.

    Anyway, my point is, making unqualified generalizations about “the boys” makes me feel defensive, and that makes it harder to listen to what you’re saying with an open mind, and I think ultimately that makes it more difficult to deal with the issues created by sexism in our society.

    • It’s hard to listen to I am sure for you as a very polite college age male (go you!), but that doesn’t mean underprivileged groups should have to mince words to make them easier for the privileged groups to swallow. I didn’t mean to say that everyman acts that way, but the ones who do are just very noticeable.

  9. I love this post!!! You are sooooo right about women taking up space. They hate it. Now, commenter Meaghan beat me to it, but here goes: You know what they ought to outlaw on the MBTA? Men who sit with their legs wide open (after all, they’ve got to take up more space so as not to appear feminine).

  10. @John, what Meaghan said.

    @Rhea, I appreciate that you weighed in on this. The one comment that bothered me on Universal Hub was the “You aren’t a real feminist because this isn’t an important issue” comment. But no one has more feminist cred than you.

  11. I don’t know if this is a productive way to look at it. Most examples of dominance of men contain a reciprocal explanation. For instance, I’m sure there are many situations where women expect to be approached and are counting on the male willingness just to barge right in. In other words, if you want to explain pegs, look for holes.

  12. I don’t get a lot of these comments- why are we comparing women with strollers to individuals with bikes and backpacks? It’s the baby who needs the stroller, not the woman. The baby cannot walk by itself and so needs a stroller to get around. It’s not about making space for the mother, but for the baby, who guess what, is a whole additional human being deserving of space.
    I used to have to take the DC metro every day with my kid when he was a baby to get to get to law school. I can’t imagine how I would have managed if I’d had to fold up the stroller, what with carrying a bunch of law books, diaper bag and on top of that a fragile baby?

    Sure people should always be considerate and make way for people as much as they can- including folding up strollers when possible, or maybe even not brining them at all when the kid is old enough. But a strict rule like this seems crazy to me and totally unfair to both parents and babies.

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