Please close your legs.
No, it’s not what you think… You’ve heard of mansplaining, manflu and all those other deeply annoying habits or behaviour attributed to men, right?
On the whole I don’t hate men, but to make a sweeping statement, they are problematic. You know, patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, etc - and I do know that there are women who advance these ideologies and yes, yes, yes #notallmen.
At the end of last year, after manspreading became one of the heated topics of the time, women were feeling increasingly unsafe using cab services and I was working on an anti-sexual harassment campaign, it left me feeling incredibly hemmed in, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t shrink.
But it happened anyway and I was reminded of it when Slate.com recently wrote about a 1979 German photobook called Let’s Take Back Our Space: Female and Male Body Language as a result of Patriarchal Structures (a slideshow of the pages is available on Youtube).
For those who don’t know what manspreading is, think about the last time you used public transport and had to rethink your seating plan because a man had splayed his legs invading your (or someone else’s) personal space.
Pontsho Pilane wrote a poignant opinion piece for a local newspaper – Spreading Men and Shrinking Women in case you need further clarification.
Photographer Marianne Wex’s photobook has around 5000 images that document men and women in different contexts and the differences between their body language – women have for decades, actually centuries, sat or stood to make themselves take up less space.
Why? Because men have a long history of social conditioning to sprawl out across as large an expanse as their testicles need ventilation.
It seems like women continue to have to shrink, to accept having our rights encroached on and generally change our behaviour to suit men’s proclivities.
Like not wearing short skirts to prevent being raped or requesting cab services to employ more women drivers so we feel safer getting around.
Or tucking in or twisting our limbs around us to accommodate others.
But we don’t.
We need to take back our spaces. Men, join us, by closing your legs.