Pregnant? Who cares? (A social experiment)

 

When Charlotte Ashton of the BBC ran a story about uncaring Singaporeans on the train, we at FSaaM thought that it might perhaps be a one off experience.

Until we asked a heavily pregnant friend for her opinion.

Everyone meet Dorthy Sng, a young mother at 29.

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“She’s not entirely wrong lah, I’m obviously pregnant and in my experience 70% of commuters won’t give up their seats for me”, said Dorthy.

Unconvinced, we boarded a train together with Dorthy on a journey of discovery. For a tinge of drama, we asked her to carry two bags that looked like heavy loads.

The time: 1230hrs

The place: Raffles Place – Queenstown MRT

Would anyone help Dorthy with her bags? Would anyone offer her a seat? Would anyone help her to get a seat?

Nope.. we noticed fellow commuters looking into their phones or looking away. This is what we call “The thousand mile stare“.

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This chap should have spotted her by now… or maybe not, let us give the benefit of the doubt…

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Yes! A seat was free!

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…but not for long…

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Here’s the full video:

Turns out that was not a one off occurrence.

We spotted another senior citizen who looked like he could do with a seat. We did not know this uncle and this was all natural.

For a good minute and a station, nothing happened. No one batted an eyelid, everyone had their eyes on their phones.

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Finally a seat! But taken the split second it becomes available…

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Another seat, but also taken instantaneously…

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Here’s the full video, with not much action until  00:39 when his seat gets taken.

 

I’ve seen this behaviour happen at carparks also.

Charlotte of the BBC said that she felt unhappy at her experience and that Singaporeans had “let her down”. After we did this little social experiment, we personally felt let down ourselves. Does this point to a deficit of compassion in our island?

Is it little wonder that with all the policies and funding by the Government, some of us feel that this country is not a place to have a baby? Could it not be a problem with policy, but a problem with society? I watch these videos and I think to myself: If I had a wife and she was pregnant, I would be dead worried should she take the trains.

In my experiences travelling overseas, I have seen people openly chiding those who sit in reserved seats. I have seen people publicly telling off those who dared take an available seat when someone who needs it more is nearby. I rarely see such practices here. We’ve been taught at a young age to “mind your own business”, but this is everybody’s business so that society get their act together.

We can ask government for all the freebies we want. We can ask MPs to push for all the family friendly policies we want. We can laugh all we want at foreign journalists for criticising us.

Yet if society doesn’t reflect upon itself, all these freebies and policies will do nothing but encourage more self-entitlement.

Our social immune system is weak. It takes more people to speak up to strengthen it.

For those of us who are men, or who are aloof about pregnancy, here are a few facts:

  • Her tummy weighs a bomb. Imagine carrying your Full Battle Order in-front of you for 24 hours
  • It is a challenge to balance
  • You really, really, REALLY don’t want to fall down for fear of the risk of miscarriage
  • For the same reason, you’ll be very upset if people bump into you. All it takes is for the placenta to be dislodged from the baby and the consequences are frightful

 

Are you a mother? Do you have stories to share about your social experiences whilst pregnant? Write to us at: [email protected]

 

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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17 Comments

  • Personally I’ve experienced the opposite. I get offered seats 70 to 80% of the time I take the mrt when pregnant (twice already).
    People have even made space for my daughter so that she didn’t have to sit against my baby bump. people seated in the middle have also offered their seats to me.

    I think it might have helped if your friend had stood in front of the seats if she had wanted then and had not been using her mobile. Smiling and making eye contact does make it harder for people to ignore you.

    I’ve personally asked people for seats on behalf of others and most people give up their seats readily. Don’t be too disappointed in Singaporeans yet!

    • Fully agree. Being pregnant does not mean everyone comes and serve you.

      From the video clip, the lady does not seem to even want a seat.

      As for the elderly man, he does not look very elderly to me.

    • No, you fool. It is not about owing one another a living but about the amount of thoughtfulness present.

      It is about people thinking for those who are less abled than them.

      It is obvious pregnant women with a heavy load would always need a seat, those who do not realize this on the trains are either without compassion/thoughtfulness, distracted or just retarded.

  • I dreaded taking public transport during my pregnancy. 80 to 90% did not offered seats to me (even if they do, it is another pregnant lady or the senior citizens offering their seats) and when I asked politely, unnecessary arguments arises as to how they needed the seat more than I do (they are men btw!) Fine!

    It came to a point when I get frustrated when I was on the train with my husband and no one offered their seats to me (even after 5 stations and my hubby is keeping a lookout for available seats), I simply said to my husband out loud, “their fat asses weighs a tonne! Therefore they needed the seat more than I do or they are blind without the need of a blind stick! ” Right after I made that sarcastic comment, then 2 commuters offered their seat to me which I declined and told them that it seems that they needed it more than I do.

    I am extremely disappointed with my fellow singaporeans! Not only they are ungracious, they also have no sense of empathy nor initiative.

    I guess they don’t know how it feels like being pregnant, carrying that precious gem in us all day long.

  • I was pregnant last year and frankly whenever I’m on the train during weekends, I’m being offered a seat 90% of the times

  • There is need not use sarcastism. It is true that they do not understand your discomfort. Just go to the priority seat and ask. Most people are ok. Their minds are somewhere else.
    Once, I was in a train when an elder boarded. When the train moved, the old man nearly lost his balance. Many commuters jumped up instantly to give up their seats because we could see that he was in difficult. One went up to help him to his seat.

  • My experience on this is quite mixed. By stats, probably 80% of the time no seats are offered, even when your bump is just right in front of their faces. But for those who do give up their seats, I am so touched by the fact that some of them did it with genuine smiles and in such a readily and willingly manner.
    On the other hand, I think pregnant women also got to manage their expectation and set the perspective right. Nobody really owes you anything, and sometimes people are really engrossed on their phones and fail to realize it. (At least for me, when I was not pregnant, I found it requires conscious efforts to remind myself to keep looking up and looking out for someone who may need my seat more than I do. And sometimes judging someone’s age or figure can be quite tricky. :p ) Offering seats is a kind act out of goodwill. So ask if we really need it, or arrange another transportation mode, like taking a cab, if not feeling up to taking a train that day. Really no need to feel disappointed or even hold grudges, our babies don’t like that kind of negative feelings from us :)

  • I don’t get a seat even on bus n trains so what we have to resort to request for a seat as if yhey we are beggars. It other countries no one dare to sit on the blue seats meant for needy. Look at sg they think the u pampered with the seats. They still act like can’t be bothered to give up the seat.

  • When i was preggy last year, 90% of the time people offered seat to me, whether i was in the first, second or third trimester. This sounds good right? In actual fact the times that i got seats, those seats are given up by foreign labors 80% of the time, 10% by uncles/aunties looking like they are in their 50s or 60s, 5% of the time due to my husband’s stare down or when i ask, and the last 5% are fellow Singaporeans who are fit and healthy enuff and can do without the seats. It is greatly disturbing that the foreign labors who does thankless jobs for us cared more for preggers than fellow Singaporeans. A few times the foreign worker was actually aslp when i boarded, and when he jolted up awake, saw me and immediately let the seat up. Or the group of two or three all stood up to let their seats up for other preggers. What with all the high education level attained, when one fails to care for other humans. Yes no one owes the preggers anything, but it is the very disgusting act of acknowledging the presence of the preggers, and yet chooses to turn a blind eye to the oblivious need of the preggers: that is a seat to rest the exhausted body, a seat to stay safe during commuting on public transport. Pls do not even go on to say preggers shld just take cab then. It will only show the disgusting side anyone ever had.

    • Very true. Even I observed the same phenomenon during my wife’s pregnancy. It is the healthy youngish to middleage-ish population that seem to have some kind of a sense of entitlement to the seats since they sat there first despite the fact that other people may be around who may need the seat more than them. Whereas other less heavily pregnant or elderly folk or foreign workers are the ones who readily offered their seats to my wife. Once one aunty very promptly took up the seat that one of the commuters actually offered my heavily pregnant wife, how inconsiderate! For the first time I felt like this is only a first world by external appearance but the mind-set of the majority is truly “third-rate” worse than the third world. I will be off to USA or Europe at the first available opportunity…

  • 90% I wasn’t offer a seat even if I stand in front of the commuters with my discomfort expression. 10% was when other commuters (older in age) helped me get a seat by demanding seat from others.

    Tried asking for seat before but was being told off. Well what’s more to ask.

  • I don’t know who is right or wrong. If it was me, i will definitely give up the seat. But some of them just look at you as if i own them a living. By giving up my seat, i made your day, by smiling back at me and saying thanks, you made my day. It’s a 2 way traffic. Nobody own you a living.

    Do you know that some preggy just give you the look that you should have stand up earlier and offer the seat…i was fuming mad..

    Don’t talk about social gracefulness when you don’t even appreciate little thing that people do….

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