Being a Pregnant Woman on the Train Is No Fun

pregnant woman, tired, seat on subway
Please let there be a seat on the train...

When I was pregnant in 2005, the NYC subway was my main means of transportation. As any woman who has been pregnant in New York will tell you, it’s no picnic. Unlike suburban women, pregnant women in the city are walking all day and then, when they just want to sit down on the way home, are often forced to stand on the train. Exactly why New Yorkers are so reticent to give up their seat to a pregnant woman is unclear, but Lynn Harris took a few guesses about it in this 2009 essay for The New York Times. Harris proffers, “Perhaps you think people don’t offer women seats because they don’t want to make the faux pas of mistaking pregnant for fat. Fine. But then explain why would we be fat below ground but pregnant above? You see, for everyone who failed me on the subway, there was someone on the street who held a door or let me cut the bathroom line at Starbucks.” Excellent point. The only answer then could be that people who don’t offer pregnant women a seat are promoting equality among the sexes. But Harris says, if “you think offering a pregnant woman a seat is demeaning, implying she’s weak,” you’re wrong. “Sorry, no dice,” she writes. “Feminists are as tired as the rest of you. Probably more.”

In her new film, Subway Baby, midwestern transplant Sheryl Matthys chronicles what her life was like riding the rails while pregnant – and with a toddler in tow. In the trailer, below, you’ll see some of the disdain other New Yorkers have for pregnant passengers. As Lynn Harris noted in her 2009 NYT essay, it’s often able-bodied white men who are the ones complaining about the need to accommodate pregnant women, a notion echoed in the footage below. Harris and Matthys believe we’ve lost not just a sense of chivalry but civility as well when society looks at babies and pregnant women with such terrible loathing. Check out the trailer for Subway Baby and let me know what you think:


Subway Baby will be screened in New York on August 11th at The Art of Brooklyn film festival. Save $2 online by using code AOBFF.

Photo via iStock

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