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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Equal rights take a back seat
Readers are being invited to submit their own articles to the BBC Scotland news website. Paul Anderson, 38, who is a librarian, married and lives in Dunfermline, gets hot under the collar about equal rights between men and women.


In these days of so-called equal opportunities, it seems to me that some women are adopting an la carte approach to women's rights and civil equality, asserting their rights when it suits them and reverting back to another century when it doesn't.

Every day I commute on the train from Fife to work in Edinburgh. And every day the train is packed to capacity with scores of passengers being forced to stand due to the chronic shortage of carriages.

Crowded train
Standing room only - but who gets the seat?

This is always a stressful and uncomfortable experience for everyone but is usually accepted by millions of Britons as part-and-parcel of the daily drudgery of commuting.

Last week, however, events took a nasty turn when I was angrily harangued by a 30-something female passenger, for not doing the "gentlemanly thing" and giving up my seat.

My response: "You're joking, aren't you? What? You want my seat and the right to vote? Forget it."

This was not well received and resulted in other female passengers interjecting and saying how rude I was.

Genuine need

Can I be alone in finding this hypocrisy astonishing? Why should I give up my seat to someone solely on account of their gender?

Have these women never heard of the suffragettes? Do the phrases "women's liberation" and "sexual equality" mean anything to these women?

Like many men, I often give up my seat for passengers who have a genuine need - pregnant women, elderly, and visually impaired passengers, for example.

Empty seats on train
These are valuable commodities on busy commuter trains

But give up my seat purely because someone is female? Dream on.

Am I being selfish, insensitive, ungentlemanly or unchivalrous? No. In sticking to my guns I'm standing up for equal rights, of course.

It seems to me that these complaining women are the same verbose characters who would are the first to sound off about women's rights and equality of opportunity on issues like equal pay, equal pensions and such like.

No 'special rights'

I'm all for equal rights. But not special rights. People like this want to have their cake and eat it.

But, I suppose, being a member of THE most discriminated against minority (white, middle-aged, heterosexual males) that my opinion will be dismissed as male chauvinist claptrap.

It was interesting that as I was leaving the train at Edinburgh, a number of fellow passengers who had witnessed this exchange, commented in passing: "Well said, mate", "Good on you, pal."

Guess which gender they were.

It's your choice ladies; my seat on the 0755 from Dunfermline in exchange for your right to vote. You can't have both.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.

Your views on Paul Anderson's article.

Quite right Paul. Would the woman who complained be as vocal if her boss promoted her not because of her work, but because he had to make up a certain number of woman? I don't think so.
Tam, Gourock

I wholeheartedly agree that this woman did not have any right to claim a seat on the train nor chastise you for the fact that you already had a seat. I would, and do, offer my seat to the elderly or infirm no matter what gender they are, that is only good manners. Paul would have been better though of had he laughed off this idiotic females remarks. However, the diatribe written since especially 'K in Kirkcaldy' of her probably being a "selfish female leaving her kids with strangers to travel to a high flying job" etc is diabolical, its the 21st century women are not only expected to work they need to, but lets face it most people be it male or female only work because they have to, would he prefer that parents should all give up work and live on benefits for us all to pay for! I know that this has nothing to do with the original piece but this idiotic statement could not be ignored.
Anne, Glasgow

A lot of men seem to be commenting about being the most discriminated against in today's society - but they can vote and therefore, according to Paul's account, that is all it takes to ensure equality. They aren't paid less for doing the same job, they don't have the expectation that they will manage career, a home and children and they don't wear high heels. Please guys walk a mile in our shoes (be they 2in or 12in heels!) before having a little rant.
Sarah, Glasgow

The train companies and respective transport ministers are being given an easy ride. Instead of men and women arguing over who should get a seat, unite and argue we should all get a seat. Investment in our train services is what we should be arguing about and for.
Ian , Livingston

I bet if the woman in question was attractive then her chances of getting the seat would have increased greatly!
Andy R, Aberdeen

I totally agree with your view, why should woman be treated any differently? Just because we're women doesn't mean we can't stand on the train! Come on girls, don't bring out image down. We're just as equal as men.
Laura C, Edinburgh

I think you need to have another wee look at the definition of manners. It is courteous to offer your seat to a women, if your mother was there how would you have responded then?
Stuart, Edinburgh

Quite right about time guys woke up and realised the women out there are trying to have their cake and eat it too. I say it was a far better world when their was an established gender role, where women knew their place men also.
Stan Matthews, Stornoway

Agree with Paul. I would gladly give up my seat for anyone who needs it; elderly, disabled, pregnant, etc. On a busy morning commuter train where seats are in short supply I certainly wouldn't be offering my seat to any random female who happened to staring enviously at my comfortable surroundings. Advice for women who believe they should receive priority in the queue for the seating: Get out of bed earlier and get there first.
David, Dunblane

I find it all a bit sad that this minor incident is worthy of an article at all. Just seems to me Graeme has finally found something to complain about. Notice no-one has written defending the woman in the incident because most people are in agreement that there is no 'right' to a seat because of gender. I am female and would expect either sex to give up a seat for an elderly person (male or female) or a pregnant woman or someone carrying a young baby. Mostly this is the behaviour I see happening. I don't cry about it either if a person walks through a door in front of me and lets it slam in my face either! That person is rude. Get used to it. Some people are. Graeme could have just politely refused and not felt the need to pull out the vote issue. I mean, did he really think that made us equal anyway?
SKW, Edinburgh

I have to agree with Izzy (Preston). Respect for each other and not just women has been eroded in society. It is every persons right to vote, and Paul demonstrates today's mentality of "money hungry, and pay-me-at-all-costs" attitude, by demanding payment for his seat on the train. However, I do agree on the broader point that some women need to examine whether it is not being hypocritical to demand special considerations just because they're female. There is no doubt that some women are 'playing the system' when it comes to equality in the work place.
Dougie, Glasgow

I believe women are the physically weaker of the two sexes so men should be prepared to give up their seat's to them based on the reality that men's legs are stronger than women's. Also, the fact is men still get paid more, get better jobs and generally command more respect than women do. Although my comments may suggest otherwise I do not mean to offend anyone and I will always be prepared to give up my seat to anyone who need's it more than me.
Allan, Edinburgh

Isn't it surprising that there are so many single people out there? Especially when you read some of the comments from the men on this page!! Paul, I do agree with the fact that you pay your money, and are entitled to your seat the same as every other passenger. However, as I read the comments to the woman on the train, I was very surprised that you are actually married at all - if I was your wife I would be ashamed of you!
Catherine, Glasgow

More to the point - where's our "world class" train service with an abundance of seats???
CT, falkirk

I would only give up my seat if there was an elderly man or woman standing, not if it was just a fit, healthy female. They can argue about doing the "gentlemanly thing" but I don't think any woman would rush to get give me there seat if I was sitting
Jordan Mcghee, Dunfermline

Jennie, Inverness. Your view is a typical one I'd find in a post-war book on housewives. Speaking as a male I can do all that myself - how about the not so new ideas on men doing the women's roles? I know a few men that parent their kids at home and let the wife do the external work. You can't compare the two. Giving up seeing your children all day, leaving the house every morning not to see them until 6pm that evening. Or having time to do things with them all day - with new technologies the work horse theory isn't as viable as it used to be. Parenting can be done by both sexes. And so scathing comments on the trials of one or the other isn't acceptable any more. Sorry. Peter
P Fleming , Glasgow

If a man is rude to me on the train, I have enough intelligence not to assume that his entire gender is inherently rude. It's a shame that Paul isn't capable of making that logical leap. Oh, wait, he said 'some' women. Clearly that makes it all better.
Dorothy Rothschild, Fife, Scotland

If straight, white men are the most discriminated-against group, why do they still have all the best jobs, the highest pay, and run the government? If you extrapolate the discrimination from the fact that there are few people explicitly agitating for straight white men's rights, perhaps that's because you already have them and more. Of course someone shouldn't get a seat on the train just because she's a woman. If that was the only reason she was asking for your seat, she's an idiot. But if you think that means that you're suffering systematic discrimination and high rates of abuse the way that women in this society still do, then you're an idiot too.
Kate, Edinburgh

KJ of Fife's response to this article typifies the hypocrisy of her type of woman. She is absolutely sexist and sizeist in that only big men have a right to complain, yet power is invested in women by virtue of their gender rather than their size!! She probably also thinks it is professional in the promotion stakes to be accredited with experience she has missed due to career breaks, but would take out a grievance against any man being appointed on the same basis. Thankfully a minority of women are like this, but they are the ones you notice, like the "loud" Americans!
T. Parkinson, Edinburgh

A total farce I have to say. Paul's response was total & absolute. Why should he forego a seat that was available when he got on the train to another that does not require it, only to claim that he should stand & allow her to sit simply because she was a woman. I mean PLEASE, the next thing you know there will be requests for male/female carriages next. Get some backbone & learn to live with the world you live in, we all have hardships in life. I had an incident recently with two women behind me waiting for a bus. They started to throw small balls of paper/foil from sweet wrappers at my back. When I challenged them to stop they became all innocent and claming that I can't tell them that as they are women.
Graeme, Aberdeen

Absolutely spot on, couldn't agree more. Having been a well brought-up fellow, I regularly do things such as hold the door open for people (especially females, as this has been considered in the past a 'gentlemanly thing to do') and have been somewhat disheartened by the lack of any form of thanks for my efforts. No more! I shall now allow doors to slam in people's faces, be they male or female, and look out for no. one only. All thanks to the women's rights movement!
Matthew, Glasgow

I would never expect a man to give up his seat for me and find it incredible that this woman felt that she had more right to a seat than a man does. I would always give up my seat for someone who is elderly or who has children with them - regardless of their sex. I would've thought that this would be the norm in this day and age
Karen, Glasgow

I totally agree men should not have to give up their seat for a woman just because the train is busy, however, if she has a genuine need that's a totally different story. My sister, who is due to give birth in a few weeks time, was a regular commuter to London. Often she couldn't wade her way through the scrum of people trying to get onto the train and in turn couldn't find a seat. Not once during her eight month travels did anyone offer their seat to her. It's admirable that the author says he 'often' - note that's not 'always' - gives up his seat for those with genuine needs, but sometime it isn't obvious what the need may be (i.e. the woman could just be in the early stages of pregnancy, not have a noticeable bump, but feel like she is going to pass out or be ill if she doesn't sit down for five minutes). Maybe if the situation arises again he should firstly ask if she is say pregnant or has a disability not initially obvious to the eye before being so quick to give a smart-Alec response.
Ali Jack, Falkirk

I think the woman's behaviour was outrageous. Women are constantly reminding us that they can drink like men, fight like men, dress like men and drive like men, so it's about time they began taking responsibility like men! I bet she's the kind of selfish woman who leaves her kids with strangers just so that she can work in her 'high flying' job at an Edinburgh call centre. It's just a shame that no-one laughed her off the train.
K, Kirkaldy

In that instance on the train, you were right. However it is naive and short-sighted of you to say that you belong to the most discriminated against group in society. Women AND men still get confused by gender stereotypes, but economically and socially in a whole range of factors which relate to standards of living, there are far more disadvantaged groups. There are many statistics to back this up.
Jane, Leeds

Forced to stand for an entire train journey at five to eight in the morning, I'd bet a lot of people, male or female, would exchange their right to vote for a chance to sit down. But, if gaining the right to vote, equal pay and pension rights and 'such like' means women are no longer entitled to a bit of chivalry, then surely it also means they are no longer obliged to cook and clean for, and tidy up after, men. But most of us still have to. That little bit extra that people do is what makes the world go round. Giving up your seat for a woman doesn't mean you have to wave the white flag and descend into submission, life is not a competition.
Niamh, Dundee

I certainly wouldn't expect a man to give me a seat just for being a woman - you pay for a seat and if you're lucky you get one - why should you give it up? I think he could have been more polite however. I mean, he can't be credited with women getting the vote!?!
Helen, Glasgow

I'm with you Paul. I would never expect a man to give up his seat for me simply for being a woman, in fact I think I'd feel a little patronised if he did. I'd tell that woman that she's the rude one, you got up earlier and got that seat first, it's yours.
Anna, Edinburgh

Last time I checked there were over 20 million white, middle-aged males in the UK alone - hardly a minority let alone a discriminated minority. Was the woman more butch than you Paul? Is that why she unleashed the chauvinist monster within you? Did it not cross your mind to simply crack a joke or even ask her why she wanted the seat? Perhaps she was pregnant just not obviously so. Or had a medical condition (think MS) with other less obvious physical manifestations. As you say, yes, perhaps she was simply someone who holds those "old-fashioned" values that are now so out-of-vogue with 38-year-old heterosexual men. In any event, you clearly didn't want to probe any further; just wanted to look macho and air your hitherto suppressed grievances in front of a captive audience. Your wife must be so proud. Does she know you'd rather she wasn't able to participate in her democratic right to vote? Anyway, just think of this. Won't it be great when she comes home to you one evening, and tells you the same story in reverse of how she was shouted down by some oaf on a train who wanted to publicly abuse her because she showed him up for the ungentlemanly jerk he was? Gaun yersel' (Congratulations on your sexuality incidentally, you really do deserve a round of applause for announcing it in a public forum. Well done.)
Alison Dunsmore, Brisbane, Australia

I fully agree with Paul's comments. Women are just as capable of standing up on buses and trains as men. I also vacate my seat for the deserving passengers included in his article. I was particularly interested to read that his fellow (obviously male) passengers waited till he was getting off the train to give him the verbal pat on the back! Had I been on his train I would have been a sole female voice backing him ...the other women on that train have done the equality cause a disservice ...... we want to be treated equally so we need to behave accordingly..... if those other women felt so strongly why didn't one of them get up and give their seat to the complaining female - in my opinion she was in the wrong to even suggest that Paul should stand up for her. It is first come first served on a busy commuter train.
Marion Watson, Lytham St Annes

White, middle-aged, heterosexual males as "THE most discriminated against minority"? Am I alone in finding this claim the most offensive thing about this article? That population group is the most over-represented, privileged bunch in our society... perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that being asked to give up his seat on the train one day is the most frustrating thing in Mr Anderson's life that he can think to write about.
Alison Gowland, Dundee

Paul's article is spot on. White men are the most discriminated against group in the UK today, and a lot of women have a pick-n-mix attitude to equality. The blatant hypocrisy displayed by a lot of women is staggering, not only over relatively minor matters such as a seat on a train, but in every aspect of life: work, relationships, social responsibilities and the rest. Meanwhile, we white men are continually told what beasts we are - apparently we are violent and we treat all other groups, such as women and minorities, unfairly. However, to give a few examples of actual reality: I am refused entry to council facilities on certain nights on the ground that I am the wrong gender, ("ladies night"), the law frequently favours women as special case - indeed high profile characters, such as Cherie Blair, are forever speaking out against actually sending female criminals to jail - and a recent study claims drunken women are more likely to commit acts of violence than are men. Also, certain companies will purposely not employ me in favour of a women in order to improve their employment statistics - 'positive discrimination' I believe its called (an oxymoron surely?). The trouble is that women have become accustomed to the ludicrous idea that they are some downtrodden minority and for decades now have been used to accepting 'equality' with one hand and taking 'favours', when it suits them, with the other. It is almost as if they have the need to feel like victims in order to function - 'X' % of men are violent partners, women are paid much less, blah blah blah. I, for one, am thoroughly sick of it - true equality should be exactly that.
Graham Wright, Glasgow

As a twenty something female commuter I have to say that I agree with Mr Anderson's comments. It is everyone for themselves on these "cattle trucks" that Scotrail call trains. I too believe than many women these days want special rights which is unfair in today's society. I do feel that if someone is in genuine need of a seat e.g. disabled or pregnant, then anyone, not just a "gentleman" should give up their seat. On this point though, even when I myself was very heavily pregnant I found myself standing on very busy trains with people avoiding my gaze so they did not have to give up their seats. I find the actions of these people far more rude than Mr Anderson refusing to give his seat to a perfectly able bodied female.
Debbie, Edinburgh

I think commuting brings out the worst in all of us. Paul's account seems to me like a frustrated exchange of views between two people who are tired and harassed commuters. He was right to hang onto his seat, but in future should try not to be provoked into over-reaction. ScotRail have provided more seats this year on the Fife circle, but clearly it's not enough. C'mon ScotRail, these people are paying 100 per month to stand all the way to work- no wonder they're getting angry!
Steve, Dunfermline

I totally understand Paul's frustration. I'd also appreciate if women such as Jennie, didn't demand a 50% share of everything that she (not me) defines as female household duties. Seems to me she's brought more to the argument than is required. This isn't a debate about marriage/co-habiting is it? It's about equal rights Jennie, not the fair share of family obligations.
Al, Glasgow

Curious that whenever this type of discussion is instigated, men rush to the "votes for women" equal rights arguments and women retreat to the "I do all the work at home" argument. Bottom line is that everyone pays the same fare so everyone is equally entitled to a seat. As a civilised society, we must make provision for those more vulnerable or frail than ourselves, but that is and will always be a matter for personal interpretation.
M. Butler, Markinch

Completely agree. I would definitely give up my seat for someone elderly, disabled or pregnant, but not someone on the basis of their sex. This is supposed to be the age of equality, after all.
Scott Gardner, Wishaw

Having the right to vote is nothing to do with giving up a seat on a train. It seems that Paul is envious of women's' right to vote, yet does not have the good manners towards his fellow passengers, be they male or female. Jennie from Inverness struck the nail on the head when she questioned if Paul is a "new man" at home - I would be interested to know if he does his full share of the housework/childcare too!
Iris Walker, Aberdeen

This guy is bang to rights.
Kenny, Edinburgh

Firstly I'd like to point out that it was the woman who was rude for asking for a seat in the first place. If she had a reason other than being a woman to request it (not feeling well, etc) then she could have said that and not used the 'woman' stick! As for Jennie's comments they are not relevant to this well written piece looking at our journey into work. Another thing I've always thought, why do women tend to have a go about men not giving up the seat to a pregnant woman but not complain about other women who do not?
Philip Watson, London

Paul, equal rights have nothing to do with being a gentleman.
Scott, Edinburgh

I think Paul makes a great point that many women are taking on this " la carte approach to women's rights and civil equality". I have also been in the same situations on buses and trains, and as I am an even younger male than Paul, (24), some women look to me first to give up my seat as I am both male and young! If women truly want equal rights in situations like this then surely this whole 'gentlemanly act' thing is something that we can do if we choose to do it, but not something that should be imposed on us by frustrated ladies who cannot be bothered to stand with all the other people who were not able to find a seat.
Paul, Edinburgh

Yes, Paul I totally agree with you. Someone who needs the seat, because of age or health reasons, should be given consideration. However, a fit & healthy female should not expect a seat as part of good manners. You have paid for your seat and it is first come first served.
Brian Fyles

I think that's pretty fair. I wouldn't expect a man to give up his seat for me just because I'm female, never mind harassing him about it. Maybe it was because she was wearing silly sized heels that she couldn't actually stand in :P
Scottish Girl, near Glasgow

I wholeheartedly agree with this writer. Far too often we, the silent majority, are being bullied by groups simply using the choice of the moment to suit themselves. Far too often nowadays I see young women who want it all and are very ill-mannered themselves, opinionated and selfish. How often would these very same women give up their seat on the train for an elderly gentleman. By the way, I am not a grumpy old man.
George, Wishaw

Paul's views make perfect logical sense... but that's where it stops. I am married to an independent and professional woman. My female friends and work colleagues are independent and professional and my male friends are 'blokey' and confident. I suppose we live in a world where equality is mostly 'getting there'. However, equality should not supplant good grace and confidence in the respective social roles we've become accustomed to. I really don't think that being a teeny bit chivalrous or generous to our female partners on this earth should be seen as compromising equality or displaying hypocrisy. A little bit of courtesy is usually reciprocated and I don't feel that I'm either demeaning women or denigrating men by either offering a seat or opening a door. If a woman does not want to respond then that's her right but generally, women are confident enough in themselves to live with the dichotomy. Women making minor stands on issues such as door opening or men making equally pedantic points of order over these trivial issues simply serves to perpetuate hostility and reduces good grace between the sexes. Sometimes, despite our 'equality' it's nice to indulge (a little) in some chivalry and good natured 'between-sexes' courtesy. I still feel like a man and I know that my friends, wife and female work colleagues still enjoy my respect, support and at times, some good natured man/woman banter. The day I start getting hung up on things like that is the day I deserve every bit of contempt from the (hopefully) 'equal' and diverse world we live in. As a confident, professional and witty female colleague commented on reading Paul's rant, "I wonder if this is 'little man' syndrome"
KJ, Fife

Totally agree with Paul.
John Thomson, Haddington

I think fair enough. If you get to the train early enough and you get a seat then you're entitled to it the whole journey. I'm a female and would never ask a guy to give up his seat for me. I'd just try to be earlier the next time
Jane, Glasgow

What has a woman's right to vote got to do with a 'gentleman' giving up his seat on a train? Paul Anderson's behaviour is evidence of what is wrong with today's society. You only get when you give me! Giving up your seat, whether it be for a woman, old or young, or a person with a disability shows respect and respect is what is sadly lacking in our society today. Young people learn by example so if more people started showing respect to each other maybe the world would be a better place!
Izzy, Preston

I totally agree with Paul's comments, I travel on an extremely busy train (0736 Troon to Glasgow), and come the later stops nearer Glasgow people (all people, not just women) do give you dirty looks simply because you have a seat and they don't. Sorry, but at 143 every four weeks for travel, I am keeping a hold of my seat unless someone GENUINELY has a need for it.
Ian McMillan, Troon

I agree there seems to be a flow in women's thinking that they are the be all and end all of everything. I must state I am in no way lambasting women. My opinions will be dismissed as male chauvinist claptrap.
Ryan Leddie, Dundee

As a female passenger travelling on the train also from Fife to Edinburgh I have to agree with Paul. I don't believe he needed to bring in the issue of women having the right to vote as his whole argument seems to stand on equal rights. I very rarely get a seat on the train and would never expect a man to give up his seat for me. I do however believe that more people should take note of Paul's comment that he would give up his seat for people that need it. I was pregnant last year and only once (when I fainted) was a seat offered to me - by a female. The majority of all passengers pretended not to have seen my whale-like body heaving through the carriage way. The rule on the train "If you're not fast you stand".
Colleen Reid, Dunfermline

Great article Paul and quite right. I have also been arguing the case that the white heterosexual male has no laws/rights protecting them from the over-pc world we live in.
Scott, Bathgate

I agree totally, if women want equal rights why should they expect a guy to give up his seat?
Alice, Port Glasgow

That's fine - assuming you do your full 50% share of housecleaning, laundry (including ironing), cooking, shopping, and - assuming you have children - childcare, help with homework, and nursing them at home when they're ill... and don't slump on the sofa when you get home waiting for your meal to be put on the table? In which case you're a man in a million. But you could have pointed it out politely. Or offered your seat to an elderly male.
Jennie, Inverness

J. Maddock, Glasgow

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