Why all the furor over manspreading?

Dear Woman, 

Why all the furor over manspreading? I understand that it can look weird and that it takes up a lot of space, but guys have delicate parts between their legs, and it doesn’t feel that great to have them smashed. They need a little room to breathe. What am I missing?


A Feminist Manspreader

Dear Feminist Manspreader,

First of all, Feminist Manspreader is a great handle and you should change your e-mail to that, or at the very least use it as your memoir title. Secondly, where do I begin? The issue is not really that you do it, it’s where you do it. I’m not saying you can’t sit comfortably in your own home or on a seat that’s not shared. It only becomes rude when you do it on public transportation, park benches, movie theater seats, basically anywhere where someone has to sit next to you and is inconvenienced or made to feel uncomfortable by your eagle spread.

I understand that sitting like that is probably more comfortable for your massive but delicate parts but that’s not a great argument. If we all did what was more comfortable for us we’d be lounging around wearing mohair versions of that Dr. Suess thneed onesie, eating fried chicken out of a feedbag and picking our noses. The air would be a constant fog of farts, people would pee freely into bags attached to their leg and women would be unconsciously removing their bras and tossing them out of the nearest open window, all day long. You get the picture.

Some people may have a problem with manspreading across the board, arguing that it’s an assertion of dominance, sexual harassment or that you’re crudely insinuating that you’re hung like a horse. But I don’t think that’s what the majority of men who manspread are doing. I think, like you implied, they’re probably just sitting how they feel most comfortable and not even thinking about it that deeply. But therein lies the problem. They’re not thinking that deeply…about the person who’s sitting next to them, trying to take up as little space as possible lest they bother you or God forbid arouse you with their touch. Or the person who’s choosing to stand, even though their feet hurt, instead of sitting next to you because you’re intimidating them with your body language.

If you are aware of all of that and still do it, it becomes kind of an asshole move, especially on a crowded train. You may argue that you only sit that way until someone asks you to move or sits down next to you, at which point you politely give them room, but why should someone have to ask you to move? Why should someone feel awkward about sitting next to you or fear that you won’t move and they’ll have to curl up in a fetal position to avoid touching you? It’s the implication that you don’t care about others that’s troubling.

Compared to a lot of other toxic male behavior, I can understand why it seems trivial. In comparison to some things, it is. I think it initially got attention because it was so easy to get photographic evidence of this phenomenon. It’s such a simple, yet perfect, example of male privilege. Google the term manspreading and you will see photo after photo of men, usually on public transportation, spread eagle, without a care in the world. Right next to him you’ll usually see a woman, her legs swiveled around each other like a candy cane, a nervous, pinched expression on her face, trying to nonchalantly curl in on herself like one of those armored, roly poly insects.

When you’re at home, I encourage you to spread away! Hell, get one of those gynecological chairs with the metal stirrups and work on your flexibility. I’d even go so far as to say that if you’re sitting in public somewhere where no-one has to sit down next to you, it’s a spread friendly zone, provided your junk is not hanging out. I’d also like to add that it does not make you look effeminate to sit with your legs together or to cross them. A man who is comfortable enough with himself to sit with crossed legs, looks quite manly and dapper, if you ask me.

Now, I can’t, in good conscience, talk about manspreading and not mention the (often) female equivalent on public transportation: bag-spreading. I’ve been guilty of this and though I usually do it because I don’t want some creepy dude to sit next to me, it’s still incredibly rude. So, we promise to put our bags in our laps if you promise to put your balls away. Deal?


A Woman