People who take public transportation in cities around the world are familiar with a certain kind of annoying problem: “manspreading.”
For whatever reason, men who sit on public trains and buses are accustomed to spreading out their legs as far as they can go, leaving little room to sit for any other passengers.
Tumblr blogs dedicated to the issue, like “Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train,” and another, “Saving Room For Cats” which imagines felines in the huge gaps of space between the men’s legs, have brought manspreading into the mainstream.
Even The New York Times got on board, putting a story about the blight on the front page of its Sunday paper.
To combat this this growing problem, New York City’s MTA has unveiled a new courtesy campaign targeting the dreaded manspreading with a polite, but firm, request: “Dude… Stop the spread, please.”
The friendly reminder, along with a list of other dos and don’ts (“It’s a subway car not a dining car” and “Don’t be a pole hog”) are part of the “Courtesy Counts, Manners Make a Better Ride” campaign and will appear inside MTA buses and subway cars starting in January.
They will then expand to the MTA’s commuter rail in February. Plans are also underway to include the reminder in the vocal courtesy announcements inside train cars.
Paul Fleuranges, the MTA’s senior director for communications, told The New York Times that while he didn’t want the message to be too snarky, he had to speak directly to the offending passengers.
“I had them add the dude part, because I think, ‘Dude, really?'” he said.
The Times also interviewed admitted manspreaders, one of whom simply claimed “It’s more comfortable,” while another said he would gladly move if someone asked to sit. However, the paper also interviewed a woman on the same train who claimed she would be “uncomfortable” asking the man to close his legs.
NYC-interest blog Gothamist also took to the New York City subway where they interviewed manspreaders engaging in the act.They confronted them, and then asked what an appropriate amount of space was to set their legs apart.
All the Gothamist interviewees were not even aware of their etiquette problem, and all had wildly different answers on how much was space was appropriate.
Some defended their wide open legs as “necessary,” claiming men have a factor that keeps their legs open women lack. The evidence of other men sitting with their legs together, and the fact that there is no biological reason not to sit with your legs closed, however, seems to contradict this.
It’s unclear whether this etiquette campaign will actually change New Yorker’s spreading behaviour. But, for all of our sakes, it’s worth a shot.
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