Taking Space: How Women Have Been Taught to be Small

by Myranda — December 18, 2017

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What’s the difference between a man ‘taking space’ versus a woman? And other problems we can see when we examine how society has been distorted for decades. 

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world these days, what with the unveiling of predators, harassers, and apologists on a near daily basis. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions for many more than just myself. I’m sure: rage, disappointment, despair are some of what I cycle through with each new name on the list of what Lainey Lui of Lainey Gossip has been calling the Predator Advent Calendar.

Surprise hasn’t been absent, though it wasn’t prompted by any names. Rather, I’m surprised that some of this insidious tumour that is present in every industry is actually being cut out. Woody Allen’s career went on, Roman Polanski’s career went on, Bill Cosby, Johnny Depp, so many others whose abuse has been glossed over or swept under a rug made of money. I don’t know why, finally, things seem to be different. It has to be more than just the numbers. They’ve been there all along. I wish I could feel glad, but instead I’m too afraid to hope. People in power like to stay that way. I can’t yet tell if they are just cutting losses to keep the structure intact, or if there is work being done to get rid off all the rot.


As I marvel over what is happening it makes me think more and more about women’s space, the difference of a man taking space versus a woman, and about how when you’re female taking up space is policed in so many ways. Young girls have been socialized to be ladylike, to be genteel, to be quiet, and to make way for opposing forces. It’s not always the big things either, like the women in Hollywood who had to navigate flirting and come ons–or worse–to try to keep their careers. Sometimes it’s small patterns over and over again, like the way that every time I’m seated next to a man in an airplane he uses both armrests without a thought.

On the other hand, if I want the space I’m owed I have to make an effort to take it. For a woman, taking space is a conscious act, we have to fight for it or create it, like my friend Lizzy, who recently created a private woman-only space on Facebook. She had the need to make a space where women can have a place to talk about everything from the inane to the political without worrying about those “Yes, but…” comments we’ve all had to endure. Even our bodies are targets, with almost every form of media prompting women to be thinner, smaller, less.

This is not the future I want for little girls growing up today. For bold, vivacious girls like my niece. She’ll be three in March, but already she’s showing big personality. I don’t want a future where girls like her tone themselves down, teach themselves to be smaller versions of themselves, to concede space because that’s what girls and women have always done. I want a future full of fierce women, whatever that may mean to each one individually. I want there to be space for her, without her having to create it or take it forcefully.

I want a future where it doesn’t take dozens and dozens of people calling out predators and pulling out receipt after receipt to make sure action is taken to protect those on which they prey.

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I don’t know if that’s the world we might finally be able to build, if we’re cutting out enough of the rot to build on a new foundation. But I’ll keep hoping. Keep fighting.  I’ll keep amplifying the voices of other women. I’ll keep saying to victims of predators “I believe you.” I will continue to keep taking space or creating space until there is enough for our future generations of girls, like the women before have done for me.  I don’t have all the answers, but I hope you’ll join the conversation.


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