Washington’s Metro launches ad about manspreading

A debate about male behaviour on public transit is opening up around the world. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is the latest to roll out a PSA titled Metro Manners. It’s meant to remind manspreaders to think about the comfort of other passengers and close the gap between their knees when commuting.

The billboard about manspreading sits at NoMa-Gallaudet U. station and arrives with a humorously exaggerated photo of a woman grimacing as a man invades her personal space by spreading his legs and taking up nearly two seats. The ad, spotted by local news outlet WTOP, reads, “Why is this seat so uncomfortable? The answer is obvious. So is the solution.” 

Genders are divided over manspreading

Manspreading — when men sit on the subway with their legs spread wide enough to encroach on neighbouring seat space — has since been recognized on social media as a public transit issue in places like Toronto, London, and Madrid, where some riders have called for a ban on the seated stance. The debate over manspreading has often split gender lines, with some groups charging that manspreading is anti-feminist, while some men have complained of being unfairly targeted by the term when female passengers are also capable of taking up more than their fair share of space.

Metro Manners ad about manspreading

Regardless, commuters evidently resonate with the print. Regina Foshee of DC relates that she “[deals] with it every day,” but also understands why people might want to take up more than one seat manspreading. Others have expressed annoyance at the habit, but point out that culprits might not be aware of their behaviour. The average man might spread his legs more than women do, but most don’t infringe upon adjacent seats. In fact, one self-declared manspreader, Jacob Ramos of Orlando, Florida, describes that he sits this way for “comfortability’s sake, not to be a bad guy.” 

Manspreading, however, isn’t a modern-day practice. A 2016 New York Transit Museum exhibit entitled “Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned To Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages,” proved otherwise. The exhibit showed decades-old vintage posters from subway systems around the world that attempted to warn against littering or being a “seat monopolizer,” according to New York magazine.

What are your thoughts on manspreading? Is it becoming too common on public transit or is it simply for comfortability’s sake? Share your thoughts.