Mexican men give up seats in metro to pregnant and old women and women with children — but not to other men
MEXICO CITY, Mexico- Throughout our five months of traveling in Mexico, a pattern has emerged where men more than willingly stand up and offer my wife and baby their seats on crowded buses and metro cars. This event is so regular that all my wife needs to do is look a man with a seat in the eye and he will jump right up automatically so she can sit down. But more often than not, she does not need to even look at them — at first sight of a woman and child these Mexican men are programed to respond with chivalry. It is not only my obviously foreign wife that the men give up their seats to, but also to the elderly, women with babies, and pregnant women of their own culture as well.
This may seem like a simple gesture, as this is also standard cultural protocol in the USA and a few other Western countries, but this is truly not a very common behavior across this planet as a whole. This simple action shows a society that is taught to be aware of itself: these men in Mexico are told from the time they are little kids that they should give up their seats to people who need them most, to be gentlemen. This route action is ingrained into the men here, they were successfully acculturated.
I wrote the above piece upon entering Mexico City a few weeks ago, when I had yet to test whether people here will give up a seat to a man holding a baby. I quickly found, upon going out and riding the metro with my one and a half year old daughter without my wife, that they don’t.
The seats that are so automatically given to my wife because she has a baby (seats are not offered to young women unburdened with small children) are not offered to me. Though a strange feeling emits from many men sitting in seats when I enter the car holding my baby. The men sitting near me often refuse to make eye contact, it seems as if they are debating within themselves as to if a MAN with a baby should be offered the same social graces of chivalry as a woman. I stare these men down, curiously wondering what they will decide: 95% of the time they continue staring at their toes, comfortably seated.
I bounce around standing in the crowd with a squirmy kid in my arms.
The dividing factor here is sex — obviously — but a person holding a baby on a crowded metro train is still a person holding a baby. Few cultures in this world are yet optimized to make amends for men with babies.