On Crowded Swimming Lanes

This video popped up on my Facebook feed today.

Women’s issues are things I think about often, being a woman and all. This video echoes something that has been a very real struggle for me -being ok with taking up space. Lately, the issue has been lurking at my local swimming pool.

I love swimming, but I’m really bad at it. This spring, I took lessons to prepare for a small triathlon I was doing, and realized that going to the pool actually scares me. As it turns out, though, I really enjoyed the triathlon, and if I want to do any more, or any longer races, I’m going to have to practice swimming.

At first, my fear was breathing-based, as in, I couldn’t breathe when I tried to swim. But now I can, yet the fear lingers. This summer, I realized what the bigger problem is: crowded swim lanes. I’m not talking about scary, feet-in-the-face crowded, I’m talking about the possibility of getting in someone’s way.

I was terrified of being in the way, of taking up space. It took a man (accidentally or not) stroking my thigh (actually, he started below my thigh and made his way up) as he swam past to figure this out. For once, I didn’t feel the need to apologize for being there. I was too busy staring mutely in shock.

I still fear the crowded lanes, but I tell myself, every time I get into the pool, that I deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. That I am allowed to take up some space.



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  1. This ‘chip on my shoulder’ attitude of some women that they are somehow being victimized by everyone else’s expectations of them or indifference towards them is nonsense.

    Let’s take some responsibility as women of what we have chosen to define ourselves. We get easily caught up in the vanity culture of our time. Why? Could it be that we spend so much of our time thinking about how we look and how others perceive us that we neglect the pursuit of being a better person? Like loving, seeking joy, promoting peace, being patient, being kind, being good, being faithful, being gentle, learning self-control (sound familiar? ). Instead of criticizing someone else’s attitudes, why don’t we focus on our own? Which one of us can say we have it completely right?
    Perhaps we are reading way too much into someone’s careless disrespect of our personal space. What is wrong with giving another person the benefit of the doubt and being gracious in our response? Maybe they also are not a good swimmer and have trouble swimming in a straight line.
    I’m not saying we don’t deserve to fill up our own space. I’m just saying that in defending it, we can still be respectful and gracious.

    • The Girl

      Hi Mom 🙂

      Yes, us women should be ashamed at speaking up for ourselves when we are told (by the vast majority of messaging in the media) to lose weight, be prettier, and shut up, and focus instead on cultivating the feminine virtues of patience, kindness and gentleness. (Sound familiar?)

      It’s one thing to be respectful of others and give them the benefit of a doubt. It is entirely another to feel guilty when others won’t do the same for us. This spring, I watched one of my 6th grade (female) students apologize to a boy for winning a rock/paper/scissors contest.

      My point is that we should feel comfortable occupying our fair share of space in the world, not that we should demand space from other people.

      • Being a child of the ’60’s, I have heard so much hatred directed towards men from feminists. In speaking up for ourselves, let’s remember that all of us, whether men or women, make mistakes and need others to be gracious. Hatred and vitriole will not move us forward towards the goal of equality. Can we try something different for a change? If we don’t like being told to shut up, then we shouldn’t be telling others to shut up either.

  2. It is not logical