Why should ‘manspreading’ be stamped ‘just for men’?

photo credit: www.nytimes.com

By NewsGram Staff Writer

The term “manspreading” has been added to the online Oxford Dictionary and it made news. Every time women can be counted participating in fine examples of “manspreading”. Why is it that sitting with your legs open is seen to be the preserve of men. It seems to be based on the outmoded assumption that women always wear skirts and that even in trousers they should be making themselves small and polite in public spaces.

photo credit: www.citymetric.com
photo credit: www.citymetric.com

No one should ever stop someone else from sitting on a train because he needs space for his own knees, but frankly when there’s room, it’s pretty comfortable to sit with your legs open. Just be good-mannered about it. The win for the term “manspreading” asserts that even when a man or woman is doing it in an irritating way, when the body language isn’t exactly endearing, the word describing this seated position becomes unnecessarily gendered.

If someone’s leg spreading annoys you, then tell him that person for what it is, whether male or female.

A few people cite the scourge of “mandermining” when men refuse to move out of the way on a crowded pavement. These terms are a useful and often funny way to point out behaviors that have become the norm for men in our working and social lives, shutting out women’s voices and their physical presence, often aggressively. You just need to look at the language of internet trolls for an example of all this. Women occasionally explain things patronizingly, but men do it more often and they think it’s more acceptable too.

photo credit: www.newyorker.com
photo credit: www.newyorker.com

In the end, though, it seems that the man prefix compounds the idea that men are aggressive and women are always pleasing, always good, never in the way, and that they can’t act up sometimes themselves. Their knees always remain where they are meant to be, while assertive behavior is still only associated with men.

If as a woman you indulge in “manspreading”, “mansplaining” or any other type of “man” action, you’re not just doing something irritating, you’re doing something unfeminine too. These terms have a really important function to point out acts which silence women, but they risk reinforcing the supposed differences between men and women. There’s a danger that, though helpful now, in the long run they could start to shame women as well as the men they are aimed at.