Comment: On Manspreading
[GIF via Studio Originals]
Laura Hayward Alfia is starting to lose her patience with manspreading. Aren't we all? And sometimes it's hard to complain about something so seemingly innocuous, everyday and (to some people) unpolitical. Laura breaks down for us why it's not just a matter of biology...
For anyone who may have been living in a cave, has one of those really annoying jobs where they can just 'walk to work', or has their own private driver and therefore never has to get the tube or train to work, or in fact anywhere – manspreading, FYI, is where men (typically) sit on public transport with their legs spread, widely, therefore making the unlucky person sitting next to them feel that they have to curl up in to the foetal position in order to be able to squeeze themselves into and onto their seat.
Before I delve a bit deeper into why this is pretty much mostly a male issue, I want to clarify that I am completely aware that yes, some women, occasionally, have been known to 'spread their legs', (on public transport you donut, not in 'that way') and that most men do not feel the need to spread their legs in a way that says 'yeah I'm a King actually', whilst sitting down. Unfortunately however, it has become and continues to be enough of a problem for numerous articles to have been written about it, the term 'manspreading'; making it onto the list of Collins English Dictionary's top words and it became so topical, that last year two men were arrested for manspreading on the New York metro.
I am one of those lucky, livin' the dream type of Londoners who gets to travel to and from work, for around 45 minutes twice a day, in rush hour, where you get to see, hear and almost definitely smell a rather wide range of, um, different situations by very different people. Just last week, in the space of 12 minutes, I saw a man sitting on the seat next to me start the day by snorting a bag of something white and powdery with the casualness of the way that most people sip their morning cappuccino, and then 5 minutes later a lady got on to the carriage who started preaching about how Jesus would save us all. But the most consistent issue I seem to face is manspreading.
And to be honest, I am just about done...
So why? Why is it that men feel that they have the right, or the need to take up all this extra space? If tumblr is to be believed, they're just saving room for cats...
But why is it that almost always, whenever I sit next to a woman, I don't feel the need to squish all of my limbs so close to my torso that I feel like I am undertaking a kind of contortionist act? Cos quite frankly mate, I am over having to make more room for you than you already have because you know what? Y'all are no more important than me or anyone else in this carriage so please close your legs, straighten yourself up and move the heck out of my way. Thanks.
Recently some research has been done to suggest that the reason men need to take up WAY TOO MUCH SPACE on public transport is because of their height or body proportions or somethang like that, where it's being claimed that it's actually, supposedly, more to do with it being a biological issue than a social one. The fact that there's people out there trying to tell us that manspreading has a scientific reason behind it, to justify it, is straight up frustrating at best, and completely and utterly ridiculous and insulting, at worst. It can, basically, be summed in one word: bull****.
To add insult to injury, the Science Editor at the Guardian recently published an article discussing how researchers have found that people who stretched themselves out, aka took up more than their fair share of public space, have been deemed more attractive by potential partners. I understand that when someone holds themselves in a confident way, carrying themselves in a way that says 'I know who I am and so watch me strut it hunni' you automatically think 'dang' because seeing someone who looks like they actually like themselves in this day and age makes you think, well maybe then, I could like them too. But what I don't get is why men have this idea that they are entitled to more public space. Just like men grow up believing that they are entitled to, for example, more money, better jobs and the right to have sex as and when they want, they also believe that they are entitled to spread their legs, and their arms, as though they want to say 'guess what, I’m sitting next to you and you better know it, baby'.
Well guess what? Enough is enough. Just as men (just a reminder that I'm not talking about all men here, but unfortunately, again, it often seems like the majority) feel that they have the right to carry themselves with this kind of swagger, in and around the workplace and the clubs and the shops, bars and restaurants we visit, they are no longer going to do this on public transport, or at least not when they're sitting next to me anyway.
So what to do about it? Recently, when it happened to me last week, and a man was trying to take up the entire arm rest (those things are to share don't you know?) I pushed back. I kept my arm right there, on the part of the arm rest that was equally as much mine as it was his. I pushed my legs out into the area of space that was also mine. And I didn't give in when he tried to push back. When I was walking down the aisle inside another tube carriage and a man had his legs crossed, pretty much taking up the whole pathway so that I would have had to squeeze myself and my three bags around him in order to get past, I instead just kind of walked into them. Not in an aggressive 'get out of my way you pig cos I ain't got time for this s**', but more in a 'oh hello legs, I don't want to be rude or anything but you really need to tuck yourselves out of the way, don't you.'
Manspreading can be, and should be, beaten and overcome in the way that we are starting to beat, and overcome a number of other much more important and incredibly complicated issues that are affecting, again not exclusively but most often always women – rape, sexual abuse, physical, emotional and mental harassment: talking about it, not backing down, not ever being quiet and not ever, ever being pushed out of the way. Owning our bodies, our lives and our experiences. And so let's continue and encourage this by owning a little bit more space on public transport.
So close your legs mate, you've got nothing to offer me that I ain't seen before so please, kindly, move those legs right outta of my way. Oh and didn't I say? Many thanks in advance.