Subway etiquette is a funny thing, isn’t it? Just the notion itself is so clearly oxymoronic as to defy the idea of a rational conversation centering around it. Like, where does one even begin when talking about a subway code of conduct? So many disgusting things happen on a daily basis on the subway—nails get clipped, nails get painted, faces get shaved—that it’s hard to get really outraged over one specific thing, right? Wrong! There’s a pretty major movement happening right now to single out a particularly pernicious subway scourge with the hopes of eradicating it for good! What is it, you ask? Does it have to do with groping or flashing or any number of ways in which people—particularly women—get harassed underground? Of course not! That would be too useful. No, the terrible blight on the subways that is being focused on right now is the dreaded… manspreading. Ugh! Even the word is terrible!
Manspreading, in case you were wondering, is, as the New York Times recently pointed out, “the lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right.” We’ve all seen it take place, right? Some dude just HAS to make room for his presumably gigantic balls and thus just can’t manage to close his legs enough to make sure that he doesn’t take up two seats instead of just one. This scourge has become such a problem that no less a force than the MTA is getting involved by launching a campaign to “encourage men to share a little less of themselves in the city’s ever-crowded subways cars.” What an awesome use of MTA funds! Totally worthwhile, right? Wrong!
Look, I hate men who take up more than there fair share of subway real estate as much as the next person. These guys are inconsiderate assholes, plain and simple. But you know what else I hate? Women who put all their shopping bags on the seats next to them. I hate people with bikes who sit down and position their bikes in such a way that they wind up blocking free seats. I hate people who do that with strollers too. I hate that woman pictured above who is blithely taking up three seats as she reads her paper. “But, Kristin!” you say, “That subway appears to be barely occupied!” So what? It still bothers me to think of people putting their dirty shoes on the seat I might be sitting on with my nice clean coat. Have some fucking consideration!
It’s undeniable that manspreading sucks, but so does just about every other person’s etiquette on the subway (not yours, of course! or mine!)—and it’s just not a male-female thing no matter how much some people might want to make it one. Men and women alike are terrible on the subway. If anything, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that all people—regardless of gender—manage to be as consistently inconsiderate to one another as possible as we get jettisoned around the city in a usually stiflingly uncomfortable metal tube. That’s, uh, progress people. So, you know, close your legs and stop clipping your nails and enjoy it. We’ve come a long way.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen