Manspreading: An Issue of Courtesy

By: Anna Sophia Vollmerhausen

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The current social movement du jour is manspreading — when a man sits with his legs spread apart on public transit. By doing so, he often takes up more than one seat.

Manspreading has received considerable attention on social media, with both Twitter and Tumblr being used to post pictures of those engaging in the act.

The popularity of the issue has also resulted in various transit organizations launching campaigns centered around manspreading.

In December 2014, New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority rolled out a campaign featuring the slogan, “Dude…Stop the Spread, Please,” in an effort to address the issue.

Around the same time, there was also growing support in Toronto from those who felt the city should have a similar campaign targeting manspreaders.

In response to that, a petition sponsored by the Canadian Association for Equality was created, which called manspreading a “sexist term.”

The petition claimed “men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology,” adding that “it’s physically painful for men to close their legs.”

The petition also went on to ask the question if “we can’t force woman to stop breast feeding on buses or trains and we can’t force men or women to stop bringing strollers on, why should we force men to close their legs?”

The answer to that question is simple: because only one of those things is actually rude and inconveniences your fellow passengers (and it isn’t women breastfeeding in public).

As a university student who regularly uses public transit, I can attest to the fact that, more often than not, men do seem to sit with their legs further apart than women.

It’s not uncommon to see a guy slouched down with his legs spread wide open, while a girl is perched on the seat next to him, trying to avoid taking up too much space.

That’s not to say that all men engage in manspreading, or even that they are the only ones guilty of this.

However, men need to stop viewing manspreading as something that they are entitled to do. Just because I can use an empty seat to hold my bag, doesn’t mean that I’m entitled to do so.

The same goes for taking up as much space as you can on the bus with your widespread legs.

While it’s true that people should be able to sit however they want on public transit, it does not mean that you have the right to deliberately occupy the largest possible amount of space.

At its heart, manspreading is an issue of common courtesy — something that is often lacking on public transit.

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