Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NYC Subway "Manspreading" Double Standards

Big Sister Is Watching You
I am often glad that I live in a region where public transportation is all but considered an environmentalist plot to deprive every true blue red blooded American of his right to drive a vehicle of his choosing anywhere he wants to all by himself if he so desires. Okay that is obviously an exaggeration but not by all that much. People like their cars and trucks around here. What public transportation exists in southeast Michigan is modest and often doesn't go beyond municipal boundaries. Although downtown population densities are slightly increasing, suburban sprawl remains king. Even people who live and work within the same city usually drive to work instead of taking the bus. There isn't really any train or subway system. Outside of married people working at the same firm, carpooling isn't all that common. Single driver usage rules. This means of course that each driver is king or queen of their own vehicle and all that resides within it. They can listen to music as loudly as they wish, recline their seat as far back as they want, use the passenger's seat as a combination office desk/restaurant table and sit in their seat however they damn well please. This last consideration is under some attack in New York City. Apparently there are some women people who have decided that how some other men people sit on the subway is not only rude, gross and downright nasty but that it's also sexist, unchivalrous, in need of public shaming and likely eventual ticketing by police. Yes I am talking about that apparent scourge of New York City public transportation, men sitting with their legs wider apart than some women care to experience. The horror!!! The horror!!!  

It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter. And it has a name almost as distasteful as the practice itself. It is manspreading, the lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right. Now passengers who consider such inelegant male posture as infringing on their sensibilities — not to mention their share of subway space — have a new ally: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Taking on manspreading for the first time, the authority is set to unveil public service ads that encourage men to share a little less of themselves in the city’s ever-crowded subways cars. The targets of the campaign, those men who spread their legs wide, into a sort of V-shaped slouch, effectively occupying two, sometimes even three, seats are not hard to find. Whether they will heed the new ads is another question. Riding the F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan on a recent afternoon, Fabio Panceiro, 20, was unapologetic about sitting with his legs spread apart. “I’m not going to cross my legs like ladies do,” he said. “I’m going to sit how I want to sit.” And what if Mr. Panceiro, an administrative assistant from Los Angeles, saw posters on the train asking him to close his legs? “I’d just laugh at the ad and hope that someone graffitis over it,” he said.

For Kelley Rae O’Donnell, an actress who confronts manspreaders and tweets photos of them, her solitary shaming campaign now has the high-powered help of the transportation authority, whose ads will be plastered inside subway cars. “It drives me crazy,” she said of men who spread their legs. “I find myself glaring at them because it just seems so inconsiderate in this really crowded city.” When Ms. O’Donnell, who lives in Brooklyn and is in her 30s, asks men to move, she said, they rarely seem chastened: “I usually get grumbling or a complete refusal.”


Football Players Oppressing Women
I can't believe, well actually I can believe it so that wouldn't have been an accurate statement. I will say that I am more amused than annoyed by the extent to which some people, in this case feminists, will go to extremes to find something to be irritated about which just happens to be primarily done by the opposite gender. Honestly I think that if we were truthful with each other each gender could probably come up with what they think of as excellent reasons that or circumstances in which the opposite gender should be more like their own. I know I could. Generally though, those sorts of discussions are mostly held in single gender forums. Most people don't take them all that seriously. They are just ways to blow off steam. Most people left behind the "Oooh (boys/girls) are icky" stage of life when they were around twelve years old. The so-called "War of The Sexes" will never be lost or won because there's always too much fraternization with the enemy as Kissinger pointed out. Some differences are made to be enjoyed and sought after; others perhaps can be amusingly tolerated. But in any event certain differences are real. They aren't going anywhere. So people should just learn to deal with them. In the big picture I don't think the differences are that important. Making a brouhaha out of how men sit is from where I stand just incredibly narcissistic and entitled. It's also dare I say, more than a little bossy. It shouldn't need to be said but evidently some people need to understand that men by definition have different anatomy than women and are also generally larger than women. Men sitting a certain way doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being sexist or aggressive against women or anything like that. Most of them just need the room. If trying to bully men into sitting like women is the most important issue in New York City, then I congratulate New York City for having solved such issues as housing segregation, police brutality, gentrification, rising income inequality, bad schools and other evils that the rest of the the country is still battling.

The King of The North Is Inconsiderate
We talked about the decline of chivalry before. Although I was raised to be chivalrous the world has definitely changed since my youth during the Pleistocene Epoch. There are not as many women today as there were then who appreciate chivalry. But putting that aside I fail to see how sitting like a man is by definition unchivalrous. It sounds to me like some of the women complaining have less of a problem with ungracious men than they do with men period. That's a personal issue. I don't think it should be of concern to the state. Silliness aside this campaign really sounds like something that would take place in a nation like Singapore where individual rights and choices are considered far less important than rigidly enforced cultural conformity. If I were sitting on a bus or train and some woman wanted to sit next to me I would be polite and try to give her as much room as I could. Within limits. But if she starts to photograph me and harangue me about how I am sitting or how my supposed "male entitlement" offends her delicate sensibilities well she will get an entirely different response. Now just imagine if yours truly walked up to a young woman and explained that I was grossly offended because her skirt was too short or her purse was too large and taking up too much space or that she was too fat and blocking other people from using adjacent seats. I'm betting that wouldn't end well. It certainly wouldn't get a twitter campaign, a public transportation PR initiative or a supportive NYT article. It's funny to me that some women will try to deflate any criticism of their actions by calling it shaming but in this instance are trying to explicitly shame men for being men. Like I wrote above, I'm glad that I live where I do and avoid public transportation. The only busybodies I have to deal with are in the workplace. To be fair there are almost as many people in NYC as there are in the entirety of Michigan so perhaps I don't fully grok the concerns around space. Either way I thought this story was funny as can be.

What are your thoughts?

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