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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

"Man-splaining" "Manspread"

Women don't have it easy in our society. On average, female employees are paid less than their male counterparts—an utterly unacceptable disparity. There's an ongoing battle for civil rights. They're sometimes treated with far less than adequate respect. And they're often overlooked for positions for which they're immensely qualified. But by all means, let's focus on how men sit.

"Manspread," for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is a recently coined descriptor for being male and sitting with one's legs open. The complaint is that the position can take up more than the allotted space in shared seating areas. Clearly, it's a complaint that has some validity. We'll deal with that in a moment.

But to point to manspread as a sign of flagrant sexism and male selfishness is to overlook a simple matter of anatomy. Men have stuff in there. It's stuff that takes up more space than what women have. As a result, the default position for many men is one that accommodates our particular design. Over years of sitting, we not only get accustomed to this position, we may also develop less strength in the muscles that pull our thighs inward. Women, conversely (particularly those who wear skirts or dresses) become accustomed to pulling their knees closer together, a position that, again, is helped by their anatomy. We can sound the alarm and say these leg arrangements reflect serious issues of socialized gender identity, but . . . men have stuff in there. And our physical differences have to be acknowledged as at least part of the explanation for why we sit the way we do.

Now, people should feel free to ask men to gather themselves into a single seating space, but (and now we come around to the other side of the discussion) no one should ever have to ask. Comfortable or not, men should recognize when they're encroaching and de-spread themselves. Not to do so creates a situation in which anyone wanting to occupy a neighboring seat must make an awkward request, "Excuse me. Would you mind closing your legs?" Putting the onus on others is just bad manners. And men, you should all be very interested in avoiding bad manners because, as The Curmudgeon often repeats, there are other people in the world besides you. This statement has been backed up by science.

Even if you have empty seats around you, there's sitting comfortably and then there's sitting like a pompous fool, with your knees as wide as possible, presumably to show everyone how important you are. You're in public, man. May we have a little elegance?

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