Madrid bans ‘manspreading’ on public transport after feminist campaign

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The Spanish capital’s state-owned public transport company, EMT Madrid, has introduced a new manspreading sign which forbids men from spreading their legs too wide while sitting on buses it operates.

“The mission of this new icon is to remember the need to maintain civic behavior and to respect the space of everyone on board the bus,” said the company, which operates over 200 bus lines, carrying more than 400 million passengers every year.

“This new information sign is similar to those that already exist in other transport systems around the world to stop people adopting a posture that makes others uncomfortable.”

EMT Madrid said that the decision had been made after consulting with the city equality office, and in response to a petition by a feminist collective Microcorrelatos Feministas who has petitioned to stop men from “invading personal space.”

“Just as women are taught to sit with our legs close together (as if we are holding something between our knees) manspreaders transmit an idea of power and territoriality, as if the space belongs to them,” read the petition, which gathered 11,000 virtual signatures.

New York was the first prominent city to campaign against manspreading on public transport in 2014, though the issue was reinvigorated in Spain this year when the left-wing CUP party demanded an end to what it called an “exhibition of machismo and a micro-aggression.”

Despite its triviality – or perhaps precisely because of it – manspreading has become a symbolic cultural debate, indicative of much wider issues.

READ MORE: Paris mayor calls for ban of black feminist festival ‘prohibited to white people’

The term ‘manspreading’ appeared on an illustrated Tumblr blog in 2013, but those campaigning against it say that the campaign against it seeks to address age-old issues of learned gender stereotypes, power structures and the role of women in public spaces.

Its opponents have labeled the term itself misandrist and the campaign petty, and have given biological explanations for why men prefer to sit in certain poses.

They have also put forward the female-targeting term bag spreading, addressing a common behavior when passengers lay their handbag or shopping on the adjacent seat as a buffer, taking up extra space.

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