It happens everywhere: on the park bench, in the subway and even in the front row of the New York Fashion Week – “Manspreading” surrounds us in so many ways that the term was lately added to the Online Oxford Dictionary.
But why do men need so much physical space in public spaces? This question was also tackled by the New York transport company MTA earlier this year with a campaign in order to ban “manspreading” from public transport.
Some say that it is due to their biology and that they practically don’t have another choice – being very concerned about the ban, they even started a petition. Others point out that it is only about socialisation and what they have been taught. The latter might be more true: different sitting positions have mostly to do with social norms and very rarely with anatomy.
So, coming back to the initial question: Why do men need so much space in public spaces if it is not due to anatomical reasons?
These men, because of whom you are forced to stare out of the window as the sitting position of your vis-à-vis seatneigbour is not only irritating but also obscene. These men, because of whom you are forced to wobble back and forth for 30 minutes on the subway, asking yourself what’s the matter of course for men still taking so much space and women don’t (regardless of whether they wear skirts or jeans). Asking yourself why this anatomic argument is still working when men, on the other hand, can also cross their legs and ride a bicycle – legs together.
Also, sitting like that is not only unsexy, it’s sexist. It implies that these men claim to have the right to take all the space they want – so, in a way, it is also about power and oppression.
Being a bit less radical, it is first and foremost a question of good manners: If there is enough space, people can basically take whichever sitting position they want. Also for women it can be comfortable to take two seats. Still, it seems that men just do it more often and they often think it is more acceptable, too. And of course, women can tell men to close their legs in the metro, but nothing will change until men decide to accept to change their perspective on that, too.
Regardless of gender, everyone should be aware of how much space he or she is taking. And if you see others „manspreading“ just tell them to do the same – especially when the metro is packed with people. It is a matter of courtesy and maybe a way of making „manspreading“ only a trending topic on social media instead of a permanent annoyance.