Manspreading – when a seated person, usually a man, opens his legs incredibly wide because he either grossly overestimates the size of, and therefore the space needed for, his genitals, or because he’s a selfish prat – makes commuting hugely annoying for anyone who has the audacity to want some personal space when they’re on the train.
Two years ago, New York launched a series of posters which encouraged men to “Stop the spread, please. It’s a space issue". Now, Madrid is doing something similar by implementing anti-manspreading signage on their trains and buses. Along with signs saying things like “No smoking” and “Do not eat or drink”, there will be ones asking passengers to “Respeta el espacio de los demás” – respect the space of others – next to a stick figure with their legs spread wide.
It’s notable that there are no similar movements to combat manspreading in the UK
This comes after months of work by Mujeres en Lucha (in English, “Women Fighting”), who created a petition called #MadridSinManspreading (#MadridWithoutManspreading) and sent it to Madrid’s mayor, Manuela Carmena, and regional president Cristina Cifuentes. Earlier this year, the political party Candidatura d'Unitat Popular took the issue to the government and asked for a national campaign to combat manspeading, describing it as “an exhibition of machismo and a micro-aggression that can make the person suffering it uncomfortable".
It’s notable that there are no similar movements to combat manspreading in the UK, despite complaints about it regularly appearing online and on platforms such as @everydaysexism. Hopefully, this campaign will be a success and more countries will take Madrid’s lead. By treating the issue of manspreading as one of respect – or lack thereof – for other people, and including it along with other basic train-etiquette rules, they have gone a long way towards eradicating a behaviour that is rude, unpleasant for others and generally completely unnecessary.