There’s a reason why men take up extra room when they sit down.
For those still reeling from the arrival of “mansplaining” into our lexicon (regularly exhibited by Piers Morgan, according to the Twittersphere), fear not, this isn’t just another catchy portmanteau intended to scathe the male ego.
A recent study showed that 82 per cent of British women have been subjected to “mansplaining”, whereby a man “talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of”, according to Merriam Webster.
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.
FYI, according to the online Oxford dictionary, “manspreading” describes “the practice whereby a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat’. It is a behaviour that is commonly spotted on public transport.
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, the women attracted more stares and glares then the men.
Then, last year, the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York even released an official anti-“manspreading” campaign, encouraging subway riders to exemplify “courtesy on public transport”.
Whilst it’s most certainly not the politest of ways to sit oneself, does the act of “manspreading” really legitimise anybody to define space as “inherently gendered”, as Mic subsequently did? Is it actually a case of men monopolising a woman’s space out of intrinsic entitlement? Or does science play a bigger part than we might think?
Spinal neurosurgeon John Sutcliffe explains that the art of “manspreading” could in fact be a matter of physicality, rather than sheer egotism.
“The overall width of the pelvis is relatively greater in females and the angle of the femoral neck is more acute. These factors could play a role in making a position of sitting with the knees close together less comfortable in men,” he told The Independent.
“I suspect most men would suggest the reason for adopting the more spread posture in sitting would be the avoidance of testicular compression from the thigh muscles. The pelvic rotation goes some way to improve compression in both aspects,” Sutcliffe continued.
Anatomical distinctions aren’t the only thing that might make women and men sit differently.
A recent Vice article points out that the way we sit might be down to something as simple as geography.
Poland is one of the most common countries where people experience hip dysplasia, were one’s hips come out of the socket i.e. many a Polish “manspreader”.
Similarly those with Celtic hips are more likely to suffer from hip impingement, where range of motion is limited by deeper hip sockets. In other words, it’s good news for squatters (the exercise kind, not the homeless kind) but bad for perpetual “manspreaders”.
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!”
Whilst us wide-hipped females empathise that sitting with your legs crossed isn’t the most comfortable of positions for menfolk, basic physiology doesn’t automatically grant every Tom, Dick and Harry a warrant to go spread-eagled on the tube every morning.
Seating is limited and carriages are jam-packed. To leg-spreaders everywhere, keep your hands (and your hips) to yourself.