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Intersectionality Story Time

March 17, 2010

Hey kids, gather round, it’s time for Auntie Shinobi’s intersectionality story time.  Frankly I’m not totally sure what the moral of this story is, but it happened to me this morning, and it was a really interesting coming together of a number of different issues that are important to me.  (Eating, Racial Privilege, Women’s body issues, and yelling on trains.)   So I thought I would share it.

I was attempting to nap on the southbound purple line this morning.  I was sitting next to a young girl.  She was quiet and well behaved and I don’t know if she had a parent with her as I was trying to nap.  When all of the sudden the yelling started.  A woman near the entrance of the train began yelling about “Watching a young girl eat” and how the perpetrator should be ashamed of themselves.

At first I was confused I thought perhaps does she was concerned about some kind of pedo-feeder-fetish thing.  But then I realized through the very high volume discourse she was conducting that she was concerned about the emotional effects on this young girl who was just eating her breakfast.  (Which I think was a bagel sandwich from Dunkin Donuts.  Yum.)

Apparently our speaker (who I will henceforth refer to as the Duchess of Decibels because she was both impressively loud and very concerned that everyone know a lot about how important and upper class her ancestry was) felt that the woman was judging this little girl for eating her breakfast.

Further complicating this dynamic was the fact that the staring woman was white, and the girl was black.  (As is the Duchess of Decibels) The Duchess continued to upbraid this woman for several minutes.  She touched on a lot of major issues about race and the fucked up standards that white women apply to eating and how that little girl did not need to be given those issues at such a young age.  Her rant culminated in some major put downs that made the part of me that appreciates a well formed insult want to get up and hug her.  I wish I could quote it verbatim, oh to have had an audio recording going  but it was pretty much “You sit there in your business casual attire and act all upper class but really you are trash.”   I want someone to give this woman a TV show.

Of course another white woman joined in the fray, attempting to get the Duchess of Decibels to stop yelling.  I am not sure what she said at first, but she said something about language, which is interesting because I don’t remember hearing The Duchess curse until AFTER she was called on her language.   She said she had a 10 year old too, but pretty much didn’t get very far before the Duchess told her that she DID NOT CARE.  IF you were wondering what the Duchess things of what white women on trains think, let me tell you, she does not care, I know this because she told us repeatedly.

And y’know what?  I don’t blame her, I don’t expect her to care what a woman who was trying to shut her up has to say, nor do I expect her to care what I think.  But you’re reading my blog, so you obviously care what I think.  (Either that or you have been tragically misled as to what the content of this blog is going to be.)

So here is what I think:

I wish that this conversation could have been had in a different way.  I saw the Duchess of Decibels being spoken to by a CTA employee as I transferred cars, so I know this ultimately did not go well for her.  And I think she had a good point.   Unfortunately the way she went about expressing it made one question whether or not she was on drugs.  Some of her behaviors were very similar to what I’ve seen people on drugs do, but she was also very clear on some of her points and her speech was clear and not at all slurred.  So I don’t know, she could have just been someone who had had it up to heaven with other people’s BS and so she snapped.

And just like I don’t know what was going on with the Duchess of Decibles to make her so loud and repetitive, I don’t know what was actually going on with the staring women.  Maybe she was judging the girl, but she might have just been hungry too.  I did see her on the other train and I think she also might just be one of those people who constantly looks disgusted.  (This is a weird phenomenon, I had friend of a friend with this problem, I thought she hated me because whenever I saw her she looked like she smelled something unpleasant.  But it turns out that is just what her face looked like.)

But I did really enjoyed hearing all the pretentious people on our train car getting called out.  Because you know what, pretentious suburbanites are annoying, I’m tired of rude people and judgmental attitudes.

And I was really glad to see someone stand up for a little girl’s right to eat in a public place.  This girl was not fat, maybe a little chubby, but it was perfectly reasonable for her to be eating a breakfast sandwich on her way to school.  She had a right to eat and not be judged.

I wish Michelle Obama had been a fly on the wall during this encounter, so maybe she could understand why her obesity initiative might actually be hurting children.  This girl was just trying to get some breakfast on her way to school.  But (assuming the Duchess’s interpretation was correct) she was being judged for it.  And I’m sure that will not be the last time that happens to her or any other kid who eats something other than apple or carrot slices in public.  While kids do need access to healthy foods we need to not shame people for their eating choices, especially kids at such a young age.


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  1. Orlando permalink

    But what damage do you think that did to the little girl? What if she didn’t even notice anyone watching her or being “disgusted” with her, which ever the case may be, until the loud mouth made her the center of attention. Poor girl. I think what that woman did was WRONG. Perhaps even planting seeds in the girl’s head about weight/eating issues. Kids just want to eat their breakfast without incident. Sheesh

  2. YES I forgot to mention that! That is such a good point. Like I said I wish this had been handled totally differently, and especially for the little girl’s sake. I wanted to say something to her when I got off the train but I didn’t want to make it an any bigger deal than it already was. I smiled at her though and she smiled back, she didn’t seem visibly upset, so hopefully she didn’t let it ruin her breakfast.

  3. Am I missing something? A young girl was eating on the bus, and a woman on the bus felt that another woman was watching this young girl eat in an inappropriate manner, and somehow that makes it acceptable for her to start acting like a fool about the whole thing?

  4. I mean, I don’t actually think that what his woman did was in any way acceptable. She was probably arrested. Perhaps I need to edit my post to be more clear on this point, that’s what I get for writing things before I drink coffee. But I think the points that she was making were still valid and interesting, even if delivered inappropriately and at an inappropriate volume level in an inappropriate place.

    People act like this on the train all the time. Probably about once a week there is someone yelling about Jesus or random syllabols, or singing, or harassing drunk girls. I thought this particular instance of ridiculous shouty people was interesting because it brought together a bunch of different issues that I actually give a shit about instead of it just being a smelly dude shouting out the window about how he was going to kill us all. (That’s totally played out.)

  5. If Shinobi was trying to nap, it is quite possible to ‘disgusted’ woman made a comment that Shinobi didn’t hear, a comment which set DoD off. We will never know. And yeah, while it wasn’t an appropriate way to handle things that doesn’t mean her (DoD) points weren’t valid.

  6. Hope permalink

    I totally get it. I’m sick of pretentious suburbanites too.

  7. Yes, and it’s also quite possible that the ‘disgusted’ woman did nothing but sit there and happen to look at a child eating a bagel.

    Whether the Dutchess’ points have some validity or not (and it seems to be unknown if they were even applicable to this particular sitution) acting like an asshole still makes you an asshole. And it makes most people not give a damn about what you have to say.

  8. jaed permalink

    It sounds as though the Duchess had been in possession for some time of a rant that wanted to come out, and it chose this occasion to do so. It’s entirely possible that her target did and said nothing at all to provoke it – the rant, so to speak, saw its opportunity and it took it.

    (I realize this is an odd way to talk about such a thing, but I think sometimes emotionally significant rants feel like they have a sense of volition of their own.)

    This, though:
    “Because you know what, pretentious suburbanites are annoying, I’m tired of rude people and judgmental attitudes.”
    sounds, er, awfully self-blind.

  9. Jaed,
    I never said I was excluded from that. (Although the only part I am 100% sure about is that I do, in fact, live in a suburb.)

  10. JennyRose permalink

    The DoD might have been reading a bit much into the situation. Even if someone was staring at the girl eat, how did she know it was with hostile judgement? Maybe she thought the bagel or whatever looked good. Her points sound valid but I think it brought attention to the girl she did not deserve. Let her eat in peace.

    I am a city person and I find myself complaining about suburbanites but in reality they are not that different from city dwellers. Also, if you got on the Purple line in Evanston aren’t you a suburban dweller too? I know people say Evanston and Oak Park aren’t the suburbs but they are even if they are not Naperville or Lake Forest. There are also many low income minority suburbs, mostly south of the city. It just bothers me (and I am not saying you are doing this) when white people think the suburbs are all middle class and white and the city is all minority and poor.

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