Serious Question: So…Who Should Give Up Their Seat On Public Transportation For The Elderly And Pregnant?

November 14, 2012  |  



So I was just asked this the other day, but before I answer the question, let me set a scene for you.

Picture this:

So it’s 6 p.m. and the post-work rush is still going pretty hard on your preferred mode of transportation. You’ve had a pretty long day, and after clinging on to a high bar for dear life because the jerk in front of you has their body wrapped around the convenient long bar like they’re about to put on a Magic City show, you get excited when the seat in front of you opens up. You plop down and get ready to pull out a book/magazine/whatever and enjoy the ride home. That is until you notice a woman with a belly the size of a beach ball waddle on the train looking tired and in need of a seat. So what do you do?

I can’t tell you how many times this scenario has played out in my everyday life. The moment I reach into my bag and grab my book of the moment, someone pregnant, with a bunch of tiny kids, or seasoned (aka, OLD) comes on the train with a helpless look in their eye that is searching the car for relief in the form of a seat. When this happens, I often look around my damn self, hoping someone else will for once step up and help this passenger out. Instead, the Oscar contenders come out. Just the other day this happened and a man with his eyes glued to his iPhone kept his head down so he didn’t have to be bothered, people pretended to be asleep or too glued to their books, newspapers and magazines to notice, and another man looked straight ahead, not giving a damn. Sometimes a guy will hop up quickly and ask the woman to sit, but these days, and in this particular story, that’s not the case. So there I was, bags on my forearm and a book in my hand, taking a deep sigh, standing up, and motioning for this particular person (an elderly woman) to take my seat. With a “thank you” and a “no problem” exchanged,  I was back to the high bar, waiting impatiently for my stop so I could sit my behind down at home.

When this scene comes to life in front of you, how do you respond? Are you the first to jump out of your seat, the last to reluctantly do so, or the mug who plays crazy in the hopes that someone else will step up? I can often look in the faces of many women and see that they hope that a man will pull a chivalrous one and offer his seat, but these days, you’ll be lucky to get a seat before a man boxes your a**  out for it like you’re on the court together playing basketball. I’ve seen a man viciously brush past a woman looking to get to the same seat, so hard that a back and forth of snark and vitrol ensued. And I’ve also heard some people talk about how irritated they get at teenagers with two good legs and young lungs taking seats from those who could use them. The test to see who will be the one to do something nice for someone else now been narrowed down to gender, age, and whoever can be made to feel bad enough to stand up first by stares from strangers.

But that’s not to say that the answer to the question I posed in the title is “Men,” or “Teenagers.”  They aren’t the only ones who should be helping folks out who need a seat because they might be more physically fit to do so. In the same vein as being charitable, if you want to give up your seat, you should, because in reality, it’s more about doing what’s right for you as opposed to doing what others expect you to. And if you want to give up your seat, more power to you, and if you always fail to do so, I hope people are more giving to you when you get pregnant, have kids, age, or get hurt than you were to those before you. I just know for myself, as a woman, I often feel for those carrying a child and having to deal with all the horrid smells and attitudes on public transportation, so I’ll give up my seat. Seeing an elderly person hunched over and looking like they might fall over at the next stop always makes me sad, so if no one has done so already, I’ll give up my seat. And the sight of a child with their parent licking the public poles just grosses me out, so I’ll give up my seat (uh, but that baby has to be three years old and under, and barely three feet tall or they’re just going to have to stand like everybody else). But hey, like everyone else, there are days when I just don’t feel like being the good Samaritan and I’d rather sit because a headache is on its way or my feet are just tired. So I try my best not to fault other people for feeling the same way and staying put. So I guess, when asked who should give up their seat on public transportation for others, I’d say, “whoever wants to.” If it’s not you voluntarily, then you probably shouldn’t start pointing fingers, because you shouldn’t be expecting anybody else to do what you’re not even willing to yourself.

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  • kierah

    I have always given up my seat for elderly, disabled, or pregnant passengers.
    It’s not about “entitlement,” but about common courtesy and decency.

  • Phanie Ebene

    The world is changing, tendind to erase differences, we womenwanted to be treated equally with men, there you go! No more chivalry or genlemen.

    But I think that leaving your seat for a disabled, older, pregnant person is about good sense.

    I remember just a few das ago a man pushed me to get the seat in front of me, that is the society we leave in now.

    I think these considerations are the beginning of civic-mindedness

  • chanela

    not to be messed up, but why is a woman 8 or 9 mons pregnant on the bus alone anyway?? id be pissed the hell off if i was pregnant and on a bus/train! ESPECIALLY alonne. too many crazy people on public transportation. not only that but pregnant women get horrible back aches,id never talk to any of my family members or husband again if they had me standing on a corner alone waiting for a damn bus!

  • sabrina

    I WAS WEAK at the “Oscar contenders” bit!!!! That’s so true though!!!!! lololololololol

    I would definitely get up for a pregnant lady, elderly, or people with young kids. (3 years and under!)

  • can’t fit

    i hate standing but will give up my seat if need be. of course i’m hoping a man will jump to it first. i’ve been in situation where i did not give up my seat because i couldn’t. i didn’t look ill, not elderly nor pregnant but had been in the hospital for 11 days and needed to sit. i know people looked at me judging me eventhough i’m a woman but they had no idea how i was feeling. also, you never know other peoples condition even if they weren’t in the hospital. one time i was on the bus (unrelated to the hospital stay) and two teenage men/boys were discussing giving up my seat but one said “she can’t fit here”, which i couldn’t …lol but i didn’t want to hear their not so quiet convo.

  • hollyw

    I automatically get up and offer. Don’t look around, don’t ignore. The ONE time I was salty was when I wasn’t even sitting in the front designated seats, which were available, but a side seat that I suppose a 60ish looking lady preferred, and she asked me to get up… 😐 Real talk, I had to turn all the way around to make sure the seat actually had a handicap sign on it. She was dead-wrong, not “in need”, and set the elderly back bout a generation in my mind, as everybody behind us just shook their head in shock. Never again!

  • This happened to me in the ATL airport. I am 6 months pregnant and I was dragging my bag onto the train and there are nowhere to sit and I almost fell when the train took off because I was standing trying to hold on to the rail. Finally a black man asked the people who were sitting there to make room for me.

  • t_99

    Having been in this situation, I have had all types offer their seat. I had no issues with my pregnancy, but I truly appreciated their kindness. I even experienced instances with other subway riders would chide men who wouldn’t give me their seat, and shame them to act. I will say this – good luck getting these ratched teenagers to give up a seat. Where I live, people actually avoid riding the subway when school lets out.

    • sabrina

      I don’t blame them. Even when I was in high school, I tried to avoid riding the subway when school let out lol

  • anonymous

    When I tell you I was just thinking about this today! I’m studying abroad in London right now and for the most part, people (young to middle-aged men and women) will give up their seat for the elderly and pregnant. But, sometimes teenagers don’t. I think people who fail to do so in these circumstances weren’t raised to do so. They don’t know any better. The issue I sometimes struggle with is when I’m the only black person on the train and an elderly white person gets on and I’m the only one to make a move. I wonder if they think I did so because the person was white or not. I know it’s petty, but sometimes I wonder if people still harbor those old beliefs. I don’t let it deter me from doing what I was raised to do, but it has given me pause on occasion.

  • realadulttalk

    I’ve been the pregnant woman and never expected anything–but I did often find it funny that elderly women were generally the first to offer their seats. Thankfully I no longer work downtown and drive to work–but when I did I gave my seat up for pregnant women, elderly people (male or female), anyone with a disability and anyone with a small child. I am an able-bodied person who does not need to be seated and therefore I don’t care that we all paid for the same ride I’m giving my seat to those who need it more than I do.

  • Ladybug94

    There’s just no level of basic respect anymore. A man should offer first, then anyone else who has some couth. Back in the day people were just more mindful and respectful than they are now. It’s very sad, the state of the world now. No one is concerned about the elderly or woman with child.

  • Meyaka

    Anyone who isn’t an elderly or a pregnant woman should give up their seats period,no questions asked.

  • ANTMilf

    I give up my seat for both seniors and pregnant women. I even gave my seat up for disabled people as well. When I was pregnant with my daughter (like in my 2nd and 3rd trimester), people gave me their seats.

  • RJA

    I’m a woman and I will get up for the elderly but I’m not getting up for the pregnant lady. It’s not the old persons fault. Y’all may thumbs this down but if I didn’t knock you up, I’m not getting up

    • ANTMilf

      What if your pregnant baby mama or wife, your sister, your mother or friend was on a crowded bus and no one got up to give her a seat, you would be mad wouldn’t you?

    • realadulttalk

      That was the most ridiculous thing I read this week. I’d like to be the first to blame your parents for the creation of you since it’s someone’s “fault” that humans reproduce.

      • ANTMilf

        And ignorant people like him are why the world sux a$$ right now, people have no respect for others.

        • RJA

          Take some reading comprehension classes firstly. Secondly, my pregnant friends and fam wouldn’t be on a crowded bus. Thirdly if they were, they would fully understand the consequences of choosing to get pregnant before they were ready i.e. not having a car

      • RJA

        Good for u and keep my parents out of it. They did nothing to u idiot

        • realadulttalk

          They created the fool that is you–and by doing so they offended me. So I put them in it…now what? Since you’re heading towards net thuggery let me help you out. Lmao FOOL BYE!

    • Kay

      Lol I can’t with you this is plain ridiculous

      • RJA

        And u don’t have to

    • Pivyque

      I actually agree with you. I just feel like old or disabled people should be given the seat. A young, able, pregnant woman?…she can stand up. When I went to visit some family, I was pregnant and I stood up the whole ride. Some people offered their seats and it was nice, but I didn’t accept because I figured they were just as tired as I was. Being pregnant warrants no special treatment.

      • kierah

        So I didn’t make the passenger old or disabled, but I still have compassion for the fact that they are dealing with something that I’m not facing.
        Carrying an extra 30 pounds of moving human and fluids puts strain on your body. It is a disability. At least that’s what most people call it when they collect disability and have maternity leave.
        I’m sure you didn’t take any leave though, because you didn’t need the special treatment.

        • Pivyque

          Well, I don’t know anything about it being a disability. I could still do everything I was doing prior to being pregnant. As I said, that is nice of people to offer, but just because someone is pregnant doesn’t mean that they are entitled to my seat. But you are right about one thing, I didn’t take leave. I was able to work from home.

      • RJA

        Thank you!! And this, people is coming from a woman who has been pregnant

    • U sound stupid!!! Youre not getting up because you didnt knock the person up??? Really?? Thats’ your final answer??? STFU.

      • RJA

        Yes that is my final answer, no i will not STFU

  • Candacey Doris

    If they are older, pregnant, or with a small child i get up. Anyone should do the same. Where has the respect gone? I haven’t had to do this since moving down south, but it was sort of a programmed response when i lived in NYC.


    A man should offer first. If the sleazeball dont than any kind hearted person. Obviously we are not talking about early pregnancy because most you cant tell. If she is 7-9 mths then you should. She can easily fall plus tired. Its a lot to carry around. Ask yourself, if you were pregnant, wont you want someone to do the kind gesture?!?

  • SheBe

    I would give up my seat. I’ve been the pregnant woman standing up but never expected anyone to jump up and offer. I just read an article the other day written by a pregnant woman who completely went off about how people wouldn’t give up their seat for her. Although I understand her point, I never had a sense of “entitlement” due to my preggerness.

  • Miyo K.

    Who should give up their seat? Anyone who can comfortably stand up for the ride.