Public transport in our cities seems to grow more crowded all the time. It therefore came as no surprise to learn this week that the transport authorities in Madrid have sought to remind passengers of the importance of respecting their fellow passengers’ personal space. What is slightly surprising is that they have chosen to do so by using an English word. In response to a campaign from a women’s group using the hashtag ‘MadridSinManspreading’, the capital’s Municipal Transport Company has agreed to put up signs on city buses and trains to discourage ‘el manspreading.’ The signs show a faceless male figure with legs – and arms – spread wide to invade the neighbouring seat.
The term manspreading, which appeared in the early years of the present century, describes the way in which some men sit on public transport, with their legs wide apart and feet planted firmly on the floor. Explanations for the practice range from the anatomical through the sociological to the practical: if you spread your legs wide you deter other people from sitting next to you, thus gaining extra space. And if they do sit next to you and you fail to withdraw, they face a choice between having your splayed limbs clamped against theirs for the duration of the journey and shrinking into the smallest space possible to avoid them.
It remains to be seen whether this campaign, like others around the world, will have any impact at all on passengers’ behaviour.Email this Post