Manspreading: Are You Guilty Of This Crime? Could You Be Arrested?

Surely, you’ve seen manspreading before. You know, that guy sitting across from you on the bus or the subway — the one who’s sitting comfortably, but with his legs too far apart.

When that guy begins to encroach on the space of someone else, it’s called manspreading, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City is on a campaign to stop the epidemic. In fact, the issue is being taken so seriously that two men were recently arrested for manspreading, according to media reports.

On the MTA website, the rules do in fact state that passengers should not “occupy more than one seat… when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers.” OK, so that covers manspreading.

Admittedly, manspreading is a less-than-courteous practice, but is manspreading really something that someone should be arrested over?

Not if you ask a New York-based advocacy group called the Police Reform Organizing Project. In fact, the organization said the manspreading law was developed in order to help police arrest minority offenders.

The organization calls the practice “broken windows” policing and keeps track of arrests made by police for actions such as manspreading and other offenses that the organization finds to be outrageous. (You can read a full report of specific instances from PROP here.) Here’s what PROP had to say about the arrests for manspreading.

“On a recent visit to the arraignment part in Brooklyn’s criminal court, PROP volunteers observed that police officers had arrested two Latino men on the charge of ‘manspreading’ on the subway, presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders. Before issuing an [adjournment contemplating dismissal] for both men, the judge expressed her skepticism about the charge because of the time of the arrests: ’12:11AM, I can’t believe there were many people on the subway.'”

According to PROP, the instances of arrest were the first for manspreading in New York. And, according to The Huffington Post, both men had previous arrests for low-level offenses, and both men had failed to show up in court for the previous summonses. As such, each had a warrant out for his arrest — and manspreading was just enough to get them hauled in.

Nevertheless, the arrests have blogs and media outlets asking if the New York Police Department has taken arrests too far when it comes to manspreading. For example, Jezebel contributor Madeleine Davies, who has long been an outspoken opponent of manspreading, had this to say after the arrests.

“But now I have to ask myself: Is this too far? …Yes, this is too far. Basic rudeness isn’t exactly a criminal offense and if it was, the MTA would have the police arresting people for anything ranging from taking up a seat with their purse to playing music on their phone speakers to eating food that makes the entire subway car reek.”

“Let’s battle this the way we always have—by demanding that man-spreaders move to let you sit. Trust me. I did it this morning and it felt great.”

Now, it’s your turn to sound off. What do you think about manspreading? Is it a crime, or just an irritating and less-than-courteous habit?

[Photo credit: @ScottPiro on Instagram]