Thanks to a Globe and Mail article, I discovered the newly coined term “manspreading”, indicating men who sit on public transit with their legs far enough apart to occupy multiple seats. I note that by writing about this new phenomenon, I am ironically further validating its undeserved entry into popular nomenclature.
Issues of social impropriety and discourteousness on public transit are sadly not new. For years, a small number of passengers have inconvenienced or offended their fellow riders by taking up more than a single seat – using their legs, personal belongings or otherwise ( whether male or female). Manspreading is equally aggravating, but it falls under the same umbrella of disrespectful public behaviour. We should no more draw attention to it than to other issues of public discourtesy, such as eating on transit, listening to loud music, or having poor personal hygiene.
Moreover, while discourteous behaviour has always been problematic for transit riders, undue attention to manspreading distracts from much larger and more pertinent issues affecting riders (stable funding for public transit, for one).
Why all the fuss? It may be that issues of social indiscretion are smaller and perceptively easier to solve (and certainly cheaper) than more complex issues such as determining funding mechanisms for transit (i.e. “close your damn legs!” vs. “congestion pricing, vehicle levies, or carbon taxes?”).
So can we all agree to just be more courteous to our fellow passengers, and focus on the issues that really matter? I leave you with this gem:
Spread when you can
Retract when you must
Make space for others
On subway or bus
(Credit: The Grateful Auk; Globe and Mail forum)