Do you ever find yourself on the subway or bus standing next to a visibly pregnant woman and think to yourself, “Umm, can someone offer her their seat?” Of course, the woman could ask, but is that really necessary?
University of Westminster student Georgina Kotjan not only thought about it, but also threw on a fake pregnant belly and surveyed her fellow tube riders in a social experiment, reports Time Out London.
Something we might point out is that in the U.K. pregnant women are given a Pregnancy Badge, which is helpful in the case that women may not be showing, but are definitely feeling the pangs of being pregnant, i.e. aches, nausea, swollen legs, etc.
There are situations that train riders may not be sure if someone is pregnant and are afraid to offend a woman. Kotjan took out that variable and made sure it was clear with her oversized belly and badge.
One might think that London tube riders may be more inclined to offer up a seat than say the “survival of the fittest” NYC system, but that wasn’t quite the case.
Kotjan began her study by surveying 100 people before getting on the train, hypothetically asking them what would they do if they saw a pregnant woman on the train. All 100 people answered that they would for sure offer her their seat.
Well, that’s all well and nice.
Kotjan took the test one step further. She hopped on the tube, which she rode standing for ten hours. Some people may not notice she’s pregnant, but Kotjan was able to make eye contact with 100 people and tracked their reactions.
Out of the 100 people who did indeed see that Kotjan was pregnant, only 20 offered her their seat.
When she was invited to sit, she handed the person a card saying: “Congratulations! You’ve offered your seat to a pregnant woman.” She said the recipients would shyly smile and accept the card.
On the other hand, if someone made eye contact with Kotjan, and then just stared at the floor or pretended to be asleep, she would hand them a card that said: “You didn’t pass the test.”
Kotjan said some train riders were embarrassed and tried to offer her their seat after the fact, but she explained that it was not necessary.
British expat Ruth Margolis, BBC America’s Mind the Gap contributor, told us of a time when she was pregnant and riding the NYC subway. She was sitting when another pregnant woman boarded the train. Margolis describes the situation in her Telegraph article, writing: “A tiny woman got on with a bulge so huge it made mine look like a marble. She pressed one hand into the small of her back, bent her legs like a frog and grimaced. Did anyone offer this poor creature a seat? Yes, actually: me.”
Margolis offered her seat to another pregnant woman standing because nobody else would.
Just the other day I was riding the train to work and was practically hugging the woman next to me, who happened to be pregnant. I quietly asked her, “Are you okay, do you want a seat?” Of course, she can speak for herself, but it can be difficult to get the words out when it’s your plight. Pregnant or not, people may not admit they are in pain or want to ask for help.
The people sitting down smack in front of us did the exact same thing that Kotjan documents in her experiment, they looked at her belly, realized she was pregnant, made a squishy face as if they were thinking, “I should get up, but I don’t want to,” and then just closed their eyes as if it would make the guilty feelings go away.
My new friend didn’t see this, but I did. Tsk, tsk.
The woman, who turned out to live down the street from me, said she was fine, and we had a casual chat about commuting, life and children, which made the trip speed by. A seat soon opened up, which she did end up comfortably settling into.
Are you surprised by the tube results?