What is manspreading?

How does sitting like a guy signify? If you live in a metro city, your mind may jump to the scourge of “manspreading,” where men sit wide apart with their legs, taking up more than one seat. Yet Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, suggests that sitting as a man implies emulating the pose of men in the name of joint health.

The movement to encourage women to sit like a man — or S.L.A.M., as Bergin calls it — began with an ache in the hips of the doctor himself. Around 2010, Bergin, now 65, began experiencing bursitis symptoms, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that acts as a cushion between joints and soft tissue. At first she chalked it down to her generation. Soon she remembered that the pain had gone away on weekends because she was driving her big truck instead of the compact car that she had brought to work during the week. Her hypothesis: The smaller vehicle’s bucket seats pulled her knees together, causing hip pain.

Whilst lesser known, the act of “manspreading” is arguably a far more offensive crime – so much so that it was recently banned in Madrid. Now, experts are justifying the abominable act, attributing a man’s intrinsic need to spread himself on the physiological differences between men and women.

According to the online dictionary of Oxford, FYI’s “manspreading” describes “the action by which a man takes a sitting posture with his legs far apart so as to invade an adjacent seat.” It’s a phenomenon often seen on public transportation.

Many were quick to condemn that “practice” when it first came onto the rhetorical scene in 2014, as representative of a misogynistic patriarchy i.e. a man takes up as much space as possible on public transport in order to assert his authority and subsequently undermine a woman’s right to space.

In 2015, Mic released a video showing what happens when a woman “manspreads” (“ladyspreads”?) on the subway in New York, in comparison to when a man does it.

Interestingly, more stars and glares attracted the women than the guys. Then, last year, New York ‘s Metropolitan Transit Authority even launched an official anti-“manspreading “campaign, encouraging subway riders to exemplify” public transport courtesy.

While it’s definitely not the most polite way to sit down, does the “manspreading” act really legitimize anyone to define space as “inherently gendered,” as Mic did later? Is it indeed a case of men monopolizing the space of a woman out of intrinsic entitlement? Or does science play a greater role than we would imagine?

That being said, at the risk of adding “mansplaining” fuel to the “manspreading” fire, let us consider basic etiquette before “mansplaining” commuters everywhere unanimously cry “it’s science, woman!”

Seating is limited, and jam-packed carriages. Keep your hands (and hips) all over to leg-spreaders. People would say that this is yet another subtle way in which men are reinforcing their dominance. Anatomical differences are not the only thing that might make men and women sit in a different place.

Check out my related post: Why do shoes have the extra eyelet?

Interesting reads:











  1. One of the most interesting reads on manspreading I’ve seen. I remember being told as a little girl to sit “like a lady” because I should be taking up a lot of space. Sigh. By the way, if this sitting all spread out is healthy, can’t these guys just wait until they get home and sprawl out on the coach or recliner?

    Liked by 1 person

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