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An example of "manspreading" on the Stockholm metro

Manspreading or man-sitting is the practice of men sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat.[1][2] Both this posture and the use of the neologism "manspreading" have occasioned some internet criticism and debates in the US, UK, Turkey, and Canada.[3][4] The public debate began when an anti-manspreading campaign started on the social media website Tumblr in 2013; the term appeared a year later.[5] added the word "manspreading" in August 2015.[6][7] Use of the term has been criticized as "a caricature of feminism" and the practice has been juxtaposed with examples of women taking up excessive space in public spaces with bags.[2][8]

Transit authority responses

Campaign encouraging respectful posture by Madrid Municipal Transport Company in 2017.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in the New York metropolitan area and Sound Transit of Seattle instituted poster campaigns encouraging respectful posture when other passengers have to stand due to crowding on buses and trains. Transport officials in Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington D.C. have not noted complaints against manspreading in particular.[1] A representative of the Toronto Transit Commission stated they were unaware of complaints against manspreading, but did cite complaints against other etiquette problems, including taking up extra seats with handbags.[9] The MTA campaign, which criticised many behaviors such as leaning on poles and applying make-up, used the slogan "Dude, stop the spread please!"[10] Since 2017 taking more than one seat is forbidden by Madrid Municipal Transport Company.[11] In some cases, people who find manspreading offensive have taken to photographing manspreading, and posting those images on the Internet.[1]


Woman on London Underground, "she-bagging" by taking up the adjacent seat

The criticism and campaigns against manspreading have been counter-criticized for not addressing similar behavior by women, such as taking up adjacent seats with bags, or "she-bagging." The controversy surrounding manspreading has been described by equity feminist Cathy Young as "pseudo feminism – preoccupied with male misbehavior, no matter how trivial."[2] Twitter-campaigns with the hashtag #manspreading have also been accompanied by hashtags like #shebagging.[8] The practice of posting pictures of manspreading taken on subways, buses, and other modes of transportation online has been described as a form of public shaming.[12] As an example, in New York, actor Tom Hanks was photographed on the subway, taking up two seats and criticized for it. He responded on a talk show, "Hey Internet, you idiot! The train was half empty! It was scattered – there was plenty of room!"[13][14]

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a Canadian men's rights group, has been critical of campaigns against manspreading by transit authorities. The CAFE has argued that it is "physically painful for men to close their legs" and that campaigns against manspreading is comparable to "[forcing] women to stop breast feeding on busses (sic) or trains...".[15] Commentators in media have made similar arguments regarding the need for men to spread their legs to properly accommodate their testicles.[16]

In 2016, the word appeared on Lake Superior State University's list of "banished" words and phrases.[17]

In 2019, two women received criticism for a "womanspreading" banner that they displayed on a feminist march in Pakistan.[18]

Social signalling

Sitting more expansively may signal dominance and sexual attractiveness for males. Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, a UC Berkeley post-doctorate researcher recently published studies that found spreading out legs and arms is more sexually attractive when males do it. Using photographs, she found that images of men spreading out got 87% of interest among female viewers. Expansive poses were not as effective for women, who appeared "vulnerable" and "starfish-like" according to other researchers.[19] On the other hand, some analysts have found that women sitting cross-legged may be perceived positively as an expression of femininity.[20] The opposite seating posture to manspreading, leg-crossing, is often viewed as effeminate.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Fitzsimmons, Emma G. (20 December 2014). "A Scourge Is Spreading. M.T.A.'s Cure? Dude, Close Your Legs". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c Cathy Young, "'Manspreading'? But women hog subway space, too", Newsday, 5 January 2015.
  3. ^ Radhika Sanghani, "'Ban manspreading': Londoners want men to sit with their legs together on the Tube", The Telegraph, 23 December 2014.
  4. ^ Johnson, Eric M. (16 January 2015). "One body, one seat: Seattle's campaign against the 'manspreading' scourge". Reuters.
  5. ^ Katherine Connor Martin (2015). "Manspreading: how New York City's MTA popularized a word without actually saying it". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Manspreading, hangry, Grexit join Oxford online dictionary". Reuters. 27 August 2015.
  7. ^ "New words in oxforddictionaries". Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b Crane, Emily (3 June 2015). "Are you a man-spreader or a she-bagger? As the U.S. makes selfish behaviour on public transport a criminal offence – Australian commuters think it might be time to follow suit". Australia: Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  9. ^ Yuen, Jenny (5 December 2015). "Anti-'manspreading' campaign called sexist". The Toronto Sun. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  10. ^ Tahseen, Ismat (23 December 2014). "Mumbai's got its own 'man-spreaders'". The Times of India.
  11. ^ CNN, Julia Jones. "'Manspreading' is now a no-no on Madrid's public buses". CNN. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  12. ^ Devon, Natasha (16 January 2015). "The rise of stranger shaming: How humiliating others became acceptable". The Independent.
  13. ^ Brown, Laurel (24 March 2015). "Tom Hanks defends his 'manspreading' subway style on James Corden's Late Late Show debut". UK: The Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  14. ^ Friedman, Megan. "Tom Hanks Defends His "Manspreading" Subway Habit". Hearst Publishing. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  15. ^ Otis, Daniel (28 December 2014). "Man-spreading, a transit controversy with legs". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  16. ^ May, Gareth (30 January 2015). "Is the 'manspreading' campaign just prejudice against big guys?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  17. ^ Hauser, Christine (31 December 2015). "'Manspreading', 'Vape' and 'So': Hated words for 2016". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  18. ^ Ebrahim, Ammar (6 April 2019). "The 'womanspreading' placard that caused fury in Pakistan". BBC News. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  19. ^ Khazan, Olga (29 March 2016). "Does Manspreading Work?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  20. ^ Burns‐Ardolino, Wendy A. (2003). "Reading woman: Displacing the foundations of femininity." Hypatia 18.3 (2003): 42–59.
  21. ^ Barlow, David H., E. Joyce Reynolds, and W. Stewart Agras. "Gender identity change in a transsexual." Archives of General Psychiatry 28.4 (1973): 569–76.

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