Many pregnant women are familiar with the need to sit down in public and the frustrating realization that no one is offering up a seat.
Yvonne Lin, a New York City designer who’s eight months pregnant, can relate. The 38-year-old is expecting her second child, and after two pregnancies, during which only women willingly volunteered their seats on public transit, she decided to launch an experiment: She would carry around a 7-inch bronze statue inside her work bag and award it to the first man who made the sacrifice. The statue portrays the Incredible Hulk tearing off his shirt, and on the base are the words “#1 Decent Dude. First Man to Offer Subway Seat to Pregnant Woman throughout Two Pregnancies.”
“I wanted to do something fun and symbolic and make someone genuinely happy [for doing the right thing],” Lin tells Yahoo Beauty. She bought the custom trophy for $12.99 on Amazon and was delighted to find the perfect prize for her mission.
This wasn’t Lin’s first attempt at rewarding men for their seats. During the third trimester of her first pregnancy, she carried a little card around but never had the opportunity to reward anyone. “I used to stand next to men and cough loudly to get their attention,” she says. “That sort of public shaming worked, but it also pissed me off, and I wanted a more genuine gesture.”
That’s just what Lin got on Feb. 24 on a crowded subway during rush hour. “A guy noticed me there and stood to give me his seat,” says Lin. “It turned out he’s a real-life superhero — his name is Ricky Barksdale, and he’s a 34-year-old father of two, an Army vet, and a mixed martial artist.” And he was a body double in John Wick: Chapter 2. While Lin didn’t catch the man’s name at the time, on Monday, Barksdale reached out over Instagram, and the two are now friends.
Pregnancy causes weight gain, fatigue, swollen limbs, shortness of breath, and back pain. As a result, many women are encouraged to rest as much as possible in their third trimesters. While offering a seat to a pregnant person may seem like a no-brainer, research has shown that people are less empathetic toward strangers, due to a spike in cortisol, the “stress hormone,” when around unfamiliar people.
Pregnant celebrities don’t get special treatment, either. In 2014, while expecting her second child, Olivia Wilde vented on Twitter after riding the New York City subway, where no one gave up his or her seat. “NBD, able-bodied riders who won’t give your seat to a GIANT preggo. I’ll just stand riiiiight next to your head and pray I go into labor,” she wrote.
As for Lin, who teaches a product design class at Parsons University, she’s turning the experience into a teachable moment, saying, “I’m challenging my students to create a product that makes life bearable for pregnant women in big cities.”