The campaign was inspired by an online petition promoted by a women’s rights collective, Microrrelatos Feministas, that had garnered more than 13,000 signatures as of Monday.
“All means of transportation have a sticker explaining that we must make room for pregnant women, people with a baby carriage, seniors and people with disabilities,” the petition said. “But there is something else that affects us practically every day we ride on public transport: manspreading.”
“It is not difficult to spot women with their legs closed and very uncomfortable because there is a man next to her who is invading her space,” it said. “It is not a question of bad education, but just as women have been taught to sit with our legs close together (as if we had to hold something between our knees) men have conveyed hierarchy and territoriality, as if the space belonged to them.”
The campaign picked up traction on social media with the hashtag #MadridSinManspreading, or Madrid without manspreading, with people sharing cartoons of the social phenomenon.
With the campaign, Madrid, a city of more than 3 million people, joins others around the world trying to tackle the posture, the bane of many commuters. In 2014, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a series of public service advertisements to stop once and for all the “lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right,” according to a Times report on the campaign.
“Dude … Stop the Spread, Please” reads the caption of one of the posters, showing an image of riders forced to stand as a man nearby takes up two seats.
Worldwide campaigns aim to stop it
Cities over the years have promoted campaigns trying to curtail the behavior. In Japan, the Tokyo Metro’s illustrated subway posters suggest manspreading is an etiquette breach. But in Toronto, a petition said banning manspreading was sexist. “This sets a very bad precedent as men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology,” it said.
The competition for space is often handled not by the police or transit officials, but on the spot between commuters who speak up to those perceived to be lacking in common courtesy.
Stuart Green, a spokesman for the Toronto Transit Commission, said in a telephone interview that the commission has not detected any trend in official complaints in its customer service logs. “Our bylaws cover general interference in a seat, like putting a bag or feet on the seat,” he said.
Despite the word “manspreading,” some authorities have made their campaigns less specific about the gender of those perpetrating it. In Pennsylvania, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority started a “Dude It’s Rude” passenger etiquette campaign that aimed to reform customer travel habits in general, including an emphasis on taking up space on only one seat for riders of any gender.
In Seattle, the Sound Transit system tackled the problem not with an image of a man, but a purple octopus with eight long tentacles draped over neighboring seats.
After the M.T.A.’s campaign, the phenomenon prompted discussion in Australia, where frustrated commuters regularly document their experiences with the phenomenon on crowded trains, trams and buses, ABC News in Australia reported. They brought in a body language expert to try to make sense of it all.
“Manspreaders are known to be confident,” said the expert, David Alssema. “Confident people take up more space in a room. If you see a popular person on the couch they are in usually in the middle — arms out, legs spread. They are trying to show their persona of confidence and lot of people see confidence as a winning quality,” he told the station.
Continue reading the main story