Anyone planning to visit Spain for a summer vacation should be aware that country’s capital city of Madrid has banned manspreading on public transportation.
Manspreading is the practice, usually by males, of sitting with their legs wide open and therefore hogging excessive seat space and encroaching on other passengers. The prestigious Oxford Dictionary added the term to its online compendium in 2015.
Madrid’s government-owned Municipal Transportation Company (known as the EMT) announced this week that manspreading is now prohibited. The agency is the process of deploying signage to discourage the practice next to posters that already contain no-smoking or no-littering warnings and other prohibited behaviors and activities such as putting feet up on seats.
“It’s to remind transport users to maintain civic responsibility and respect the personal space of everyone on board,” the EMT asserted in a statement about the information icon that discourages manspreading and that depicts a red stick figure with his legs spread next to a big red X.
A women’s group called Mujeres en Lucha previously petitioned city hall in Madrid with about 10,000 signatures to address the manspreading problem on public transportation following a social media effort known as ##MadridSinManspreading (#MadridWithoutManspreading).
“It’s not difficult to see women with their legs shut and very uncomfortable because there is a man next to them who is invading their space with his legs,” the petition stated, according to INews.
“[The] Madrid council, led by a coalition backed by the left-wing Podemos party, said the new rule was aimed specifically at ‘male transport users [who] open their legs and occupy two places,'” the London Telegraph explained.
Similar anti-manspreading campaigns are also underway in cities around the world.
Conde Nast Explorer notes that it has yet to be determined if authorities in Madrid will issue fines to manspreaders for failing to get the message or if the ban will be otherwise enforceable.
About a year ago, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART), the railway system serving the San Francisco Bay Area, proposed a penalty structure for passengers who take up more than one seat at a time: $100 for first-time offenders, $200 for a second violation, and $500 for repeat offenders.
In 2014, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched an initiative to sensitize passengers about taking up more than one seat with the “Dude, stop the spread, please” campaign, which Madrid has apparently modeled. In 2015, Seattle’s Sound Transit launched a campaign encouraging one seat per customer using an image of a many-tentacled octopus.
“A study of 5000 New Yorkers riding the subway in 2016 found 26 percent of men ‘manspread’ in their seats, compared to less than five percent of women,” Newshub recalled.
“Commutes on public transport are hard enough as it is, no matter where you live. Just, you know, keep your legs to yourself,” Conde Nast concluded about the announcement from Madrid about public transit etiquette.
While stopping manspreading has become an issue for feminists in particular who claim it is a form of male dominance, others say men sit that way for physiological reasons that has nothing to do with a territorial power play.
Complaints have also been raised by non-feminists about bag spreading, i.e., those public transit commuters who take up the seat next to them with shoppings bags, purses, and the like. “But really, no matter what your gender is or where you are in the world, you probably should only take up one space,” Newsweek observed.
Do you think that manspreading is a serious enough problem that it requires government intervention, whether in Madrid, in the U.S., or elsewhere around the world?
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