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Why Madrid is Asking Men to Close Their Legs

The Spanish capital has had it with manspreading

A man with long hair sitting on the subway with his legs spread open wide

(Photo: Getty)

Even if you don’t speak Spanish (cough Justin Bieber), chances are you’ll understand this: El manspreading.

It’s the subject of a recent Madrid public transit initiative. The Spanish city is aiming to combat the annoying behaviour of men who excessively open their legs when they sit—invading the space of neighbouring passengers—through a new campaign that prohibits “maintaining a body posture that bothers other people.”

EMT Madrid, the city’s transportation system, has put signage on buses and subways that depicts a red faceless body sitting with its legs spread open wide, with a red line cutting through the graphic—the universal symbol for “no.” EMT tweeted out the updated signage last week with the translated caption, “Starting today you will see new panels in the interior of the buses intended to a civic and respectful use of the space, what do you think?”

As the New York Times reported, the move was inspired by a petition created by the activist group Microrrelatos Feministas, which noted that while there are initiatives that ask riders to leave room for pregnant and elderly passengers, there are currently none that target manspreading.

“It is not difficult to see women with their legs closed and very uncomfortable because there is a man next to her who is invading her space with her legs,” the petition said. “Placing some posters can be the starting point to raise awareness and to begin to respect our spaces.”

Indeed manspreading is a behaviour that’s gotten attention around the world. In 2014, New York’s subway system launched an ad campaign targeting the etiquette issue, with posters that said, “Dude…stop the spread, please.” On Twitter, under the hashtag #manspreading, there’s endless tweets and photos from across the globe of public transit riders real annoyed by a dude’s v-shaped spread. The word “manspreading” is even in the English Oxford dictionary.

For women, being forced to squeeze into seats because a man has taken up more than his fair share of space is real annoying—and rude. It also makes a lot of women feel like their personal space is being infringed upon, which can spike anxiety. When men spread their legs across seats, they’re disrespecting others and send a message that their comfort is more important than the comfort of those around them. It’s not.

So men, if you’re going to take public transit, make the ride more enjoyable for everyone and keep your legs together. If that’s too much to ask, walk.

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