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I think this theory conflates patriarchal structures and biology; meaning that yes, there is such a thing as manspreading due to huge male egos, but in many cases it’s just a natural pose due to the stuff that’s going on between those legs. I’ve definitely seen (primarily younger) men opening their legs as wide as possible and assuming a very dominant pose. But I don’t think that’s the norm, and I think the difference is difficult to evaluate or even measure. How would you evaluate if a man’s legs are opened for comfort or for (conscious or unconscious) display of male superiority? By measuring the opening angle? By measuring the space required for his junk compared to the space given by the opening angle of his legs? I also think it’s a crucial difference wether there’s enough space available in the surrounding area or not.

But in turn, I think the female pose is just as interesting to discuss. In the discussion about manspreading it always seems as if the female pose was the ideal pose. But if you look at cultures (or times) with more submissive women, often they press their legs together and even press their arms together. Why should that be the norm? If we have a discussion about manspreading, shouldn’t we also have a discussion about why women feel the need to make themselves smaller? Shouldn’t we embrace their personal space and say: don’t make yourself smaller than you are! And if the train is nearly empty, shouldn’t it be okay for women to laze about in their seats however they want? This discussion shouldn’t just focus around what men should not be allowed to do; it should also focus around what women should absolutely embrace to do and should not feel ashamed about.

And I think another important angle (pardon the pun) of this discussion is fashion. There might be differences in the need for “manspreading” depending on the tightness of a man’s pants. But more importantly, I wonder how much women’s behavior to press their legs together has historically been shaped by the restrictions of dresses and skirts. Of course they more or less had to do this if the opposite would have exposed their flowery parts. And that’s still true for today’s skirts. But more and more women wear pants. I’ve grown up surrounded by pants-wearing women, and not surprisingly I’ve seen them leisurely lounging in train seats with somewhat opened legs as well. It’s comfortable for everyone, after all! I think this topic is much more multi-faceted than the simple “men are entitled pigs” thinking suggests.

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