Manspreading, or man-sitting, is the practice of sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat. Both this posture and usage of the term ‘manspreading’ have caused some internet criticism, and debates. The term first appeared in public debate when a feminist anti-manspreading campaign was started on Tumblr in 2013. The Oxford English Dictionary added it as a word in August 2015.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York and Sound Transit of Seattle instituted poster campaigns encouraging respectful posture when other passengers have to stand due to crowding on buses and trains. The MTA campaign carried slogans like ‘Dude, stop the spread please!’

The criticism and campaigns against manspreading have been counter-criticized for not addressing similar behavior by women, such as taking up adjacent seats with bags, or ‘she-bagging.’ The controversy surrounding manspreading have been described by libertarian Cathy Young as ‘pseudo feminism — preoccupied with male misbehavior, no matter how trivial.’ Twitter-campaigns with the hashtag #manspreading have also been accompanied by hashtags like #shebagging. The practice of posting pictures of manspreading taken on subways, buses, and other modes of transportation online has been described as a form of public shaming.

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a Canadian men’s rights group, has been critical of campaigns against manspreading by transit authorities. The CAFE has argued that it is ‘physically painful for men to close their legs’ and that campaigns against manspreading is comparable to ‘[forcing] women to stop breast feeding on busses or trains.’


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