A photo from the Tumblr site Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train might be said to exemplify man-spreading, now the subject of online disputes.
Spread the word — and not your legs. That’s what social media users are telling transit riders in the city.
Anyone who takes the TTC has seen it — some dude slumped in a seat, legs spread at a 90-degree angle (or more) with the fulcrum of their crotch there for all to see. Sure, it’s a comfortable way to ride. But some say it’s an inconsiderate waste of space and potentially distressing for other riders.
“It’s a metaphor for that larger space taking that happens,” says Lyndsay Kirkham, a professor of English at Humber College. “You don’t have to be a feminist to recognize and agree with the fact that men are given permission to take up more space in our society.”
Man-spreading, as it’s called, has raised the ire of transit users across the continent who have taken to social media to air their grievances about airing crotches.
With space at a premium on crowded transit systems, several cities have decided to act. Philadelphia already has signs on its transit system that read “Dude it’s rude . . . Two seats — really?” and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has just launched an etiquette ad campaign that includes cartoon posters of a spread-eagled transit rider that says “Dude . . . Stop the Spread, Please. It’s a space issue.”
People are now calling on the TTC to follow suit; others have thrown down the gauntlet in resistance. The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a men’s rights group, has launched an online petition urging the TTC to take a more gender-neutral approach to people hogging space.
“It’s physically painful for men to close their legs and we cannot be expected to do so, and it’s also a biological necessity for us to do so,” the campaign states. “We can’t force woman to stop breast feeding on busses (sic) or trains and we can’t force them to stop bringing strollers on, why should we force men to close their legs? This is sexism plain and simple and it cannot be passed.”
CAFE volunteer Mike Wood of London, Ont. created the petition on Wednesday. So far it has garnered nearly 900 signatures.
“I understand the concern about people taking up more than what’s necessary on the bus … but why we have to focus on one gender is beyond me.” Wood, an infrequent Toronto visitor, says.
While the TTC is aware of the spreading social media frenzy and the MTA’s etiquette move, it has no immediate plans to clamp down on men’s legs.
“Everybody that is riding the TTC is paying a fare, and if there’s an empty seat, they should have the opportunity to occupy it,” says TTC spokesperson Milly Bernal. “Transit is public space. We’re all sharing it. Just be kind.”
Rosalind Robertson is a daily TTC user and policy analyst. She finds CAFE’s reasoning absurd and told the Star: “If you’re a man and you can’t sit with your knees aligned to your shoulders without being in pain, you might want to see a doctor.
“On the list of bad behaviour on the TTC, it’s not up there with using a disabled seat . . . But it’s unnecessary and rude.”
“Whether you’re a man or a woman, the way you sit in public transit is all about respect for other people,” the etiquette expert says. “Slouchy body language and taking space up displays a lack of poise and an undesirable demeanour.”