Manspreading… It’s A Thing

by

Manspreading

It’s not easy keeping track of what’s trending in the world. In fact, even keeping a shallow pulse on all the social phenomena out there could easily be a full-time job. But I try my best. Occasionally, though, stuff gets by me—stuff that’s maybe been out in the mainstream for a while, but just hasn’t made it onto my News Feed or general radar.

Manspreading is one of those things.

I know, just the word itself sounds totally ridiculous and more or less made up. But I promise you, it’s a thing—a very real, very worldwide issue that’s getting a lot of attention from both women and men everywhere. And, in a few select places in the world, it’s actually banned. But we’ll get to those places in a sec.

Right now, you need to be educated on what manspreading is, if you don’t already know. According to the Macmillan Dictionary definition, manspreading is when a man sits on public transport with his legs spread wide in order to take up as much space as possible and prevent others from sitting next to him. No, seriously, that’s what it says.

Now, how something this goofy, yet totally serious, managed to slip by me all this time, I don’t know. And more upsetting is how it ended up in an actual dictionary, with an actual definition, totally under my nose. But it did. And while it makes me question my credentials as an English Major, it also reaffirms the reality that we live in a humongous world, with lots of moving parts, and I don’t know nearly as much as I like to think I do.

The truth is, I’d never even heard the term until my twenty-year-old daughter playfully accused my father-in-law of committing the act in the car last week. (Which, for the record, made everyone in the car, including my in-laws, wet their pants.) But now that I know it’s an actual thing, I’m reading everything I can find about it online. And I’m doing that not to weigh in on one side or the other, but more just to try and understand how society has evolved to the point where manspreading exists.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Since last Thursday, manspreading is now banned on buses in Madrid. According to the Irish News website, TheJournal.ie, thousands of stickers have been put on busses all over the city to “dissuade passengers from opening their legs.” And the crazy thing is, it’s not just relegated to Spain. After doing a deep dive into how the issue is trending around the world, I’ve also learned that, back in 2014, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out an anti-manspreading campaign in the city subway system, with posters that read, Dude… Stop The Spread, Please. It’s a space issue. And the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia launched their own campaign against manspreading called, “Dude It’s Rude.” Oh, and in 2015, the Sound Transit in Seattle rolled out a similar movement, posting that passengers have “one body, one seat.” And apparently, according to The New York Times, Japan and Australia are also drinking the Kool-Aid and spearheading campaigns of their own.

Now I honestly don’t know where I weigh in on the issue just yet, mainly because it’s just too new to me to have a real opinion. But, I will agree that, as women, we’ve all been taught, from a very young age, to cross our legs and be ladylike, whatever that means nowadays. While guys, on the other hand (and to the best of my knowledge), have never been schooled on how to sit. And a New York Post article I found cited a 2016 study by New York’s Hunter College that revealed that more than 26 percent of men comfortably separated their legs—or manspread—in their seats, compared to less than 5 percent of women. Hmmmmm. Telling.

Look, I get it, men are anatomically bigger, in most cases, than women; so some guys may need a little more room to spread out. Plus, you boys have some “attributes” that make it sorta challenging to fully cross your legs and still be comfortable. Duly noted. But I mean, come on, there’s a huge difference between keeping your legs uncrossed in your own personal space and splaying out and encroaching on everyone’s space around you. Because encroaching is absolutely not ok. And I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, there’s no excuse to infringe on someone else’s spot when you have a perfectly good spot of your own.

Now it’s called manspreading for a reason. And that’s because the majority of the offenders are guys. But to me, the whole thing just seems like a gigantic respect issue.

I mean, if you’re in a seat on a train or a bus, that’s your seat. And the woman or man sitting next to you temporarily owns their seat. It’s just common courtesy. Possession is nine tenths and all that. So as far as I’m concerned, sit in your seat any way you want. Sit on your head if that’s how you roll. But do not spread your entire thigh and/or butt cheek onto the seat next to you. Because that’s not your seat. It belongs to someone else. And violating someone else’s personal space, well, that’s just rude.

So in the interest of being bipartisan and trying to figure out a solution that works for everybody, why don’t we all just cross our legs at the ankles, fold our hands in our laps, and pay a little more attention to spatial relations? That sounds reasonable, right? Because even though the world seems like it’s getting smaller and smaller since there are so damn many of us, I’m confident there’s still enough room for everybody to fit. In  theory anyway.

About the Author

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at www.lisasugarman.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available on Amazon.com and at select bookstores.Visit lisasugarman.com
 
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