The term “manspreading” is relatively new., and in fact it didn’t become popular until well into 2014, according to Google search data. However, the problem he refers to has been known for years: a certain tendency on the part of many men to occupy much more seats than necessary on public transport by opening or stretching their legs too much.
In fact, already in the 70s a feminist photographer named Marianne Wex dedicated herself to documenting this phenomenon, and the result was a widely documented book called Let’s Take Back Our Space: Female and Male Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures.
However, when it comes to explaining why manspreading exists, the gender and feminist perspective is not the only one, and today The cause of this trend in male behavior is debated.. Now… What do we know so far about manspreading?
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To what extent is it a widespread problem?
As far as is known, manspreading is very common, so much so that it is normal to find at least one case in each train car. A recent study carried out with a sample of more than 5,000 people who used public transport during different days of the week and times of the day, more than a quarter of the men (26%) exercised manspreading, while this percentage fell to less than 5% in the case of women.
Furthermore, that same research concluded that even those men who stretched their legs in the absence of other passengers sitting next to them tended not to correct their posture when the carriage filled up with people and the free seats disappeared.
Interestingly, the age group in which men were most likely to fall into manspreading is the one who goes from 30 to 49 years old. At younger ages the percentage was somewhat lower, and much lower in age groups of people over 50 years of age.
The campaigns against manspreading and the increasingly widespread use of this term do not seem to have served to eliminate this behavior. What could be the reason for this resistance to change? Is it a cultural problem, or a biological one that will not go away no matter how many propaganda civility campaigns are used in the form of disciplinary posters?
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The possible causes of manspreading
Evidently, many of the proposals that attempt to offer an explanation for manspreading have a more or less clear political background. For example, as we have seen, feminist authors such as Marianne Wex indicate that manspreading could be another of those small privileges reserved for men; in this case, being able to claim more space for themselves in certain situations, for their own comfort and to the detriment of the well-being of others.
Thus, this behavior would be at the same time a way of expressing their power, which from a feminist perspective would be linked to patriarchyand a privilege that allows you to feel greater comfort.
On the other hand, entities critical of feminism, such as the Canadian Association for Equality (an organization linked to the Men’s Rights Movement) have even argued that it is potentially painful for men to sit with their legs parallel.
In a less politicized way (although equally politicizing), researchers Ash Bennington and Mark Skinner suggest that manspreading is a biological issue that has to do with men having much wider shoulders than hips compared to women.
According to this reasoning, The space left between the knees must correspond to the space left between the shoulders, which means that, by default, the minimum angle that the legs maintain between each other is much greater. Furthermore, opening the legs would be a way to prevent them from taking up a lot of space right in front, where the carriage aisle often runs.
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Biology or cultural phenomenon?
In short, there is still no clear cause that explains the phenomenon of manspreading, although it is known that it exists, It is very present in the daily lives of those who use public transportand that is something significantly generalized in men.
Now, whether it is something caused only by the biology of the bodies themselves or by cultural norms and behaviors learned over generations is something that we will probably know more about in a few years, as more research is done about it. of this recently baptized behavior. Probably, at its origin we will find a mix of biology and cultural learning normalized over centuries and centuries. In the end, it is very difficult to find a clear space between sex and gender.