Sunday, 31 May 2015

New York police have started arresting subway manspreaders - and I applaud them

One of the many things that exacerbated my hypertension when commuting on the tube to and from work every day was manspreading. If you don't know the term, it refers to the habit of men - usually of short stature - of spreading their legs as wide as wide as possible while seated, thereby invading the space of the passengers unfortunate enough to be sitting next to them.

Big deal, I hear you say. Commuters face worse problems every day - halitosis, couple indulging in open-mouthed kissing at 8 o'clock in the morning, pickpockets, noise leakage from digital devices, body odour, etc. But of all of them, manspreading was the one that really got my goat. Why? Well, as a wide 6' 5" man, I always make a huge effort not to impinge on the people on either side: if my neighbours are leaning back, I'll hunch forward, and, if they're hunched forward, I'll lean back. That's common courtesy, surely.

As someone who has to scrunch themselves up a quite a bit in order to fit into the space available to them, it drives me wild when someone who is nine or ten inches shorter than I am feels it necessary to spread their stumpy little legs out as far as they'll reach. I've always presumed they do this in order to signal that their legs are too unfeasibly well-muscled to be pressed together, or that their genitals are so mind-bogglingly enormous that they'd be irreparably damaged if the owner didn't sit as if they were posing for an extreme beaver shot. Whatever the reason, it is fantastically annoying, and thoroughly unBritish. Men sitting with their legs closed is (I believe) considered a sign of effeminacy in some countries, but, deliberately displaying one's crotch to strangers has always been frowned on here.

My way of dealing with this was simply to spread my bulk as awkwardly as possible, while simultaneously using my legs to force my neighbour back into the space he was entitled to - and then some: if our social spaces are to be mannerless jungles, the large man is going to win most skirmishes.

Of course, the same goes for theatre, cinema and aiplane seats.

I've probably written about this phenomenon before, and only mention it again because the New York police recently arrested two subway passengers for manspreading (here). This has attracted complaints about feminists waging war on men. Well, I'm a man, and not a particularly feminine one, and I'm all for it: I can see little difference between aggressively invading a female subway passenger's space, and groping her. They're both thoroughly nasty activities, born of male insecurity. Whereas someone of my size can make their point physically, most women would have to ask the inconsiderate jerk to shift his pins - and I just don't see why they should have to.

On the other hand, I'll admit it would be nice if women passengers didn't wait until they'd been loomed over before shifting their bags from the seat next to them onto the floor - and if they didn't wait until the very last moment at the till to start scrambling in their purses for the correct change, as if having to pay for the goods has come as a complete surprise.


  1. This is why I drive everywhere. I hang my left leg out the window...nobody can say a word.

    1. That'd get you arrested here - guarantee it! We keep our legs shut.

    2. I saw a kid...a goodun in his truck doing that on the interstate around Slidell. I guess it'd be the right food on your side.

      We have a very hard time keeping our legs shut around here.

    3. Our roads are so narrow in comparison, he'd get his leg sliced off by passing traffic, whichever one he stuck out of the window.

      Here, men have even been known to cross their legs at the knee. I even do it myself. I suspect this would get us beaten up in your neck of the woods. Or just scorned for being testosterone-deficient.

  2. If I were a female, I think I would take my chance sitting next to a wide open Buster Gonad on the Tube rather than brave the Paris or Brussels Metro where groping, bag snatching and all round oikishness are prevalent, with not a uniformed person in sight.

  3. with not a uniformed person in sight...

    apart from the heavily-armed jihadists, of course.