To Call Out Male Entitlement, Women Are Creating a Flurry of Social Experiments

On the Internet and in the streets, feminists are going to great lengths to challenge men's behavior.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jan 13, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Women are so fed up with male entitlement that they’ve not only begun coining terms to classify it—“manspreading” or “mansplaining,” for example—but they’ve also started devising social experiments to find out what happens when women stop being polite and start acting like, well, men.

In an unscientific (but revealing) experiment launched on Friday, Tumblr user Claire Boniface announced that whenever she received a compliment from a male stranger online, she’d agree with him rather than simply ignore the comment or accept it with a gracious “thank you.”

Like many other girls and women online, Boniface was sick of getting criticized by strangers who complimented her photos and then expected a conversation in return.

“If a guy messages me I usually don’t reply because most of the time they are complete strangers to me,” 18-year-old Gweneth Bateman, a British teenager who undertook the Tumblr-based social experiment, told BuzzFeed News. “When they don’t get a reply out of me it usually ends up with them calling me ‘rude’ or a ‘bitch.’ ”

So Bateman flipped the table, responding to texts about her “gorgeous eyes” with affirmations such as “Thank you, I know.” As predicted, the men on the other side of the screen failed the experiment miserably, berating her for her confidence and then retracting the compliment altogether. Bateman cites it as an example of the way men are uncomfortable “when women own their own awesomeness.”
In part two of the experiment, posted to her Twitter account Tuesday, Bateman said she received an equally hateful reaction from men even when she politely agreed with them. The experiment has called attention to the way women’s behavior is judged by different standards from men’s. “If you reject a compliment you’re ‘attention seeking’ but if you accept it you’re ‘vain’ so [you] really can’t win either way,” she tweeted Monday.
Bateman and Boniface weren’t the only women who recently went to great lengths to give men a taste of their own privilege. In November of last year, New York–based labor organizer Beth Breslaw decided that rather than intuitively moving out of the way for people in her path, she’d take a more masculine approach and continue walking, with no regard for other pedestrians.

She got the idea from a friend who initiated the experiment after hearing that men were less likely than women to make room for others on a crowded street. The experiment was not only startlingly accurate but also led to countless body slams, as men either refused or were simply too oblivious to step aside.

“I can remember every single man who moved out of the way, because there were so few,” Breslaw told New York magazine, compared with the handful of women who bumped into her and had an audible reaction or offered an apology.

Last week, Mic Senior Editor Elizabeth Plank also took to the streets of New York City to perform in the subway—not as a musician or a singer, but simply as an average male subway rider taking up not one but two or three seats by spreading her legs in a V shape.
Plank reported feeling as if “people were glaring” at her and snapped photos of her expansive posture on the train. Meanwhile, when she sent a male actor to perform the same gesture on the train, few passengers looked in his direction, let alone asked him to move his bag from the seat next to him.

At the absurdist expense of head-on sidewalk collisions, retracted compliments, and overcrowded subway cars, these radical social experiments are subverting the ways in which women are expected to act in public social situations. That alone makes the sidewalk body slams—at least until men start moving out of the way—totally worth it.