I’m waging war.
Well, it’s currently a silent war and the army currently consists of exactly one person: me.
My enemy? The manspreaders.
(Manspreaders are the worst. For verification just watch the video above.)
You’ve seen them everywhere, but they’re most rife on public transport. Spreading their legs on trains. Commandeering the arm rests on planes. Taking up all their seat and half of yours on the bus just because they can.
Nice bit of manspreading on the bus (majority of my right buttock is bobbing about in the aisle) pic.twitter.com/GWv3PafzYA
— Samantha Rea (@Samantha_J_Rea) August 9, 2015Advertisement
For years, like many women I’ve fitted in with them.
Stood up because of three available seats on the bus, only half a seat a small child would struggle to fit into is actually free. Clung on for dear life as half my body hangs off a seat. APOLOGISED when a body part accidentally touches theirs as they encroach ON MY SIDE.
It’s a largely female trait that slam poet Lily Myers dubbed “Shrinking Women”, where women are socialised to grow inwards rather than men who are encouraged to grow outwards.
Aware that I was a textbook example, I’ve recently been making it my active mission to claim back my space. My success rate is mixed.
I haven't gone quite as far as sitting on people who refuse to budge (although isn't it tempting?) but I'm doing my best.
My first battle was over an armchair rest on an aeroplane. I marked my territory early, planting my forearm firmly on the rest on the seat between us. He had a window seat, so it was only fair. As he sat down, he gave me a slightly bemused look. Maybe the army warpaint was too much.
As the hour or so flight began, I saw his arm begin to twitch with confusion.
As I removed my arm to take something out of my bag, he pounced. The last half an hour was spent engaging in a reverse arm wrestle as we both tried to nudge each other off the arm rest. As the flight landed, it was I who had my arm on the promised land. It was tiring, but worth it.
Listen: That public transport altercation we all have nightmares about. Post continues after audio.
It's the bus that is proving to be the real battle ground.
As I squeezed myself on to a crowded bus the other week, I noticed towards the back. A vacant seat. I pushed through (after offering it to the people nearby, of course) when I realised why no-one had yet sat down.
One of the pair was occupied by a serious manspreader in a well-cut suit, knees splayed over the boundary. Determined, I perched on the few centimetres of chair unoccupied. I nestled in further, in a silent indication that he should maybe move over a little. He did not.
As the bus turned the corner, a bum cheek slipped off the seat and I had to quickly grab the chair in front to prevent myself from ending up an embarrassed heap on the ground. One to the manspreaders.
Still I've persisted. Last night, I purposefully marched to a set of three seats, with the middle one vacant next to two men in the midst of a spread. I plopped myself in between and exchanged a smile with the one on the right who dutifully moved over back into his allotted space.
In the grand scheme of things, complaing about manspreading may seem petty but it's no trivial matter.
While many cities have followed New York City's lead in introducing warning signs on public transport against the practise, the good folks in Madrid have gone one step further by banning the invasive act all together. Yes, it's now the law.
The decision by the transport authority came after months of campaigning by women's groups.
???? No smoking
???? No littering
???? No manspreading
— CNN (@CNN) June 10, 2017
"This new icon's mission is to remind people of the need to keep a civil behavior and respect the space of everyone on the bus," they said.
"This new icon is similar to those already existing in other transport systems around the world to indicate the barring of body posture that bothers other people."
When it comes to the reasons why manspreading occurs, I GET that there's an, ahem, package that can get mightily uncomfortable when squished together.
Please, don't do yourself any medical harm. I don't doubt that many people might not even realise that they're doing it.
But all I'm asking for is - if you can - to just scoot on over a few milimetres and stay within the confines of your seat so I don't end up sprawled on the floor should the bus take a sharp turn. I - and my bruised bum - beg of you.
And for other manspreading victims? Elbows out and join me.