Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Subway & Turkey’s “Close Your Legs” Campaign

Since mid-2013, the Tumblr blog Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train has been posting pictures of men sitting with their legs spread wide on public transportation in condemnation of their lack of regard for the personal space of others. In recent news, Turkey has joined the backlash crowd in a newer Twitter campaign called “Close Your Legs,” in which women tweet images of men on the subway, often captioned with “Bacaklarini Topla” and “Yerimi Isgal Etme” (“stop spreading your legs” and “don’t occupy my space,” respectively). The campaign, kick started by the Istanbul Feminist Collective, involves women throughout Turkey (and other parts of the world) posting images of people, primarily men, sitting spread-eagle on public transportation vessels.

Immediately, some men lashed out, defending the spread-legged people in the photographs, claiming the reason that men can frequently be observed in this space-hogging position is purely the result of anatomy–that it is uncomfortable for males to sit with their legs closed, as it squeezes their genitals painfully.

a

This sounds like a complete cop-out, but I thought I’d ask a few men in my life for their opinions, and I heard a resounding chorus of, “That’s total bullshit, I cross my legs all the time; the balls just move up to sit on top of your crossed legs and don’t get squeezed in the process.” So at least that’s been addressed. Let it be known from here on out that this excuse is no longer valid, dudes!

When I first saw the pictures of spread-eagled subway folk, my initial thought was the rampant inefficiency inherent to such a posture. Take a look at a few images of two random men doing it next to each other and you’ll see there is just way too much space in between them not being used, despite the fact that they’re totally violating each other’s personal space. Seriously, how is this okay?

Sure, this is about a personal lack of consideration for spatial efficiency, but it is men who are frequently depicted taking up too much room on trains and subways, and I am convinced this is no coincidence. While counterexamples can be found everywhere–as a woman, I am sure I have done the same once or twice when tired–women are highly discouraged from sitting in positions like those highlighted in the “Close Your Legs” campaign, and as such, most of the culprits are likely to be male. That women are so frequently seen with their legs crossed and tightened while men often sit with their legs spread wide is not simply anatomy–as some comments imply, this is a matter of male privilege and dominance manifest in subtle ways.

While I am not sure if a man’s act of sitting with legs widespread necessarily constitutes sexual harassment, it is inconsiderate, vaguely domineering, and it is a symptom of a greater problem in many societies: Consciously or not, many men frequently feel entitled–entitled to others’ personal space, entitled to success, entitled to money, entitled to jobs, entitled to things that do not naturally belong to them. Men in most societies are socialized in entirely the wrong ways, and this isn’t always illustrated necessarily by overt sexism, but often by microaggression.

And while some may argue that it’s not sexual harassment per se, it’s definitely (oft-unconscious) sexual aggression, which may be where women are coming from when they label it as a form of harassment. One of the many reasons women are told to cross their legs when sitting, especially when wearing a skirt, is to remind them of their duty to exhibit modesty. When a man sits with his legs wide open, it brings male sexuality to the forefront of our attention, whether they mean for it to or not. While I hate to get all evo-bio on y’all, it can be thought of as a subtle sexual display, showing dominance and virility. And that’s just not something people on the subway (including the other presumably straight males on the train) necessarily care to see on their way to work.

b

The FDA has not yet approved testicular immersion therapy as a concentration/occupational productivity aid.

It may not be obvious, but the “Close Your Legs” campaign gives us a glimpse into the greater problems in our world as they relate to gender roles. It reminds us that men are constantly pressured to demonstrate their sexuality by being dominant and aggressive, and this manifests itself even when a man is not necessarily excessively dominant or aggressive himself. I’m sure most of the men doing this don’t even realize that they’re totally weirding out everyone around them, especially the people across from them, but also the people who have to sit next to them and have their knees nudged or be pushed aside by the open thighs of their neighbor. But whether they’re aware of it or not, it shouldn’t matter; it’s unacceptable behavior, and we need to remind people (male or female) that it’s not alright to take up more space than is needed for a reasonably comfortable seating position out of laziness or a desire to look casual (or whatever it is that is motivating people to sit like this).

Again, this might seem like a minor and somewhat silly bone to pick when compared to such things as rape or female genital mutilation, but it is important because of the greater problems it represents: male privilege and female submission to male privilege. Instead of passive-aggressively taking covert pictures of men with their legs spread wide–which is honestly almost as creepy and privacy-violating in my opinion as the act of sitting like that itself)–we need to confront jerks who do this in public and ask them to please be more considerate. But only if we feel comfortable doing so, which many people may not. More importantly, the onus is on those who commit the crime: We need to stop the problem at the source and raise men to understand that the personal space of others is as valuable as their own, that they are no more important than other people, even when it comes to something as simple as sitting on the subway. They must be raised to understand they are just as annoying as the few women who sit with their legs wide open, and that, further, they may intimidate women and make them feel unsafe with such a brazen display.

So please, men, cross your legs. Or at least sit with them closer together in consideration of those sitting next to you. Your balls can probably handle it.

 

Duni Arnold
Duni Arnold is the Junior Editor of Issues for The Flounce and lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her subjects of specialty include women’s issues, race, social justice and policy. On a typical day she can be found oil painting, scribbling music, studying economics and browsing the interwebs on her laptop with her dog Star at her feet.
  • Millie Hayes
  • Shar
  • Lex

    Oh man i KNOW! Seriously is it REALLY necessary for you to go all spread eagle while i try to take up as little room as possible? Thanks jerkface.

  • botenana

    Thank you! I love this. I try to use public transport when I’m out and about places. Recently the Viking and I were in Atlanta and used the MARTA for one of our destinations. The Viking is 6’5″. And yet, he was able to sit, close legged, on the MARTA without experiencing any discomfort whatsoever in his testicular region.

    For science purposes, I did an examination and can confirm his findings: No negative effect after 90 minutes on the MARTA with closed legs.

    Men just use the testicle line because it’s not a shared experience. “Well, I would never presume to tell a woman how she feels going through childbirth, how dare you tell me that my balls adjust when my posture does!”

    • Joe Raypen

      Does the Viking eat your pussy?

    • bergmcj

      So how exactly do you know that it’s not uncomfortable for a man to sit with his legs together when you don’t have testicles?

    • the_mouse_

      No one is offended at your claim to knowledge of the trials and tribulations of adjusting one’s testicles, you simply don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about and physically, anatomically, cannot. What a guy is wearing (boxers? briefs? jeans? slacks?), ambient temperature, arousal or lack of it, and the size of his balls all play into the equation, but let me assure you that you can only imagine. After all, you don’t have testicles. Thanks for having such a strong opinion on something you are inherently ignorant of, though.

      • botenana

        Thanks for trying to fit me in a nice little cis box, troll.

        • the_mouse_

          You use second hand knowledge of another person’s body to claim expertise on anatomy you imply you don’t have. Not sure how that has anything to do with cis/trans/martian identity, nor do I see how pointing out the ridiculousness of your stated expertise makes me a troll.

  • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

    Dude, that last guy with the short-shorts. What in the fuck? His face shouldn’t have been cropped out, he needs shamed big time.

  • http://twitter.com/ashliejefferson Ashlie

    I click on every one of these just to see if someone took a picture of my boyfriend on the N. It’s one of my weirdly specific fears.

  • http://twitter.com/ashliejefferson Ashlie

    So today I was standing, and this other guy was standing but then moved himself to be right in front of me, facing me, maybe 6 inches away. There was room. I did the thing where I step back but leave my foot there and it didn’t stop him. Every time I looked at him, he started right at me and gave me the creepy eyebrows. I saw he was getting out at my stop, so I pretended to hang back but got out at the last minute so he was already ahead of me. I hate not being able to feel safe/relaxed on my way to work.

    • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

      WTF!

    • bergmcj

      Oh no, another poor female victim of an evil man! I’m sure it will take months of therapy to get over such a traumatic experience. If you actually had REAL problems in your life you would understand how completely ridiculous you sound. For most women the incident you described would have been a minor and temporary annoyance but for a feminist it’s further proof of how women are constantly oppressed. Give me a break.

      • http://twitter.com/ashliejefferson Ashlie

        eh.. it was just annoying. I was less upset by the incident than you were by my comment.

        • AutomEng

          Right, because “I hate not being able to feel safe/relaxed on my way to work” easily translates to “just annoying”. This is ridiculous…

  • A horse, of course

    Women are not supposed to take up space, physically or mentally. If you do, you’re Too Much, and we obviously can’t stand for that.

  • http://fathers4fairness.blogspot.ca/ Abel Dada

    YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY BUGS ME ON THE SUBWAY DURING TEH HOT WEATHER? WOMEN WHO DONT WEAR BRAS AND OFFEND ME WITH THEIR SAGGY BOOBS. SERIOUSLY LADIES – COVER UP! THIS IS NOT SLUTWALK.

  • fasdasdf

    We spread our legs apart because we don’t have the hippo butt and hip women have, as we don’t bear children. We need more area to be stable while we sit.

  • Joe Raypen

    I spread my legs on the subway all the time just to air my balls out.

  • MrImmoli

    Look, it’s a wild cunt.

  • thatdogguy

    Another article condemning men and attempting to turning sitting positions into sexual harassment against women. If you hate men so much, then move to another planet.

  • bustya

    still not asking you how I should sit

  • bd1143bc

    First world feminist problems.

  • Anonymouse

    “That’s total bullshit, I cross my legs all the time; the balls just move up to sit on top of your crossed legs and don’t get squeezed in the process.”

    I don’t know what man in the world said this, but he must either have tiny balls, or balls attached waaaay forward/high on his pelvis, like above his penis or something, or balls that haven’t dropped outside of his body yet (i.e. prepubescent) because I can guarantee you that it is NOT normal for the balls to sit ABOVE crossed legs without discomfort. Especially while wearing clothes, like jeans or fitted dress pants. That’s just not how the laws of physics work.

    What the literal f*** is this feminist nonsense? I get it too how sometimes we can take up maybe more than our fair share of space, I do, I get it – but just ask nicely and most guys are happy to make room for other passengers, jesus christ we’re built different you don’t need to shame people, or expect everyone else in the entire world to think the same way you do, or sit however you proclaim is appropriate, or magically know and anticipate your needs and wants (you, a stranger, who has not said a word to these men before taking pictures to put on Tumblr, and I doubt asked politely if you can sit – try it, just as an experiment, and see what happens.)

    If it was men posting pictures of random women on subway cars and critiquing how they sit all the time, you feminazi’s would lose your shit. Figure it out already.

    • bergmcj

      Well stated. So feminists, when women in other parts of the world are treated like slaves and having their genitals mutilated, this is the cause you choose to support? And yet you still wonder why more and more people are completely turned off and repulsed by the feminist movement. It doesn’t take any courage at all to go to protests and slut walks and be a keyboard warrior for “the cause” in America. There is very little chance that you will face any serious consequences for expressing your opinion. If the day ever comes when feminists stop focusing on these utterly ridiculous first world problems and go protest in Afghanistan, then they will start earning my respect. Doubt that will ever happen.

      • the_mouse_

        He is replying to this exact article. What exactly are YOU on about?

        • bergmcj

          What I’m on about is the general premise that modern day feminists screech and complain about trivial “issues” and ignore serious abuses of women in other parts of the world. I thought I made that pretty clear.

  • BCarbaugh

    I am sitting this way in my home computer chair. It’s not an overt “look at my genitals!” thing. It really is just a comfortable posture for us.

  • Sheila Connolly

    Especially as a kid and teenager, I’ve always been disturbed by having men’s genitals so obvious and kind of shoved forward like that. But no one talks about that as being indecent, they’re just “being comfortable.” Whereas I’m more comfortable without a bra, but I’m told this is inconsiderate or indecent. Lesson: men’s comfort beats women’s discomfort; women’s comfort is always overruled by men’s discomfort.

    • the_mouse_

      >Whereas I’m more comfortable without a bra, but I’m told this is inconsiderate or indecent.
      By whom? Has anyone told this to you in person while you were sans bra?

      >Especially as a kid and teenager, I’ve always been disturbed by having
      men’s genitals so obvious and kind of shoved forward like that.
      You could, you know, just look away. I believe this is the same response women give to men about their protruding breasts. I’ll make you a deal: you wear a burqa to cover your mammaries, and I’ll wear clown pants so that my crotch isn’t shoved forward at you so obviously. Or you could just not stare. Whichever is easier of:

      A) Returning common courtesy
      B) Expecting people’s genitals to conform to your convenience.

      I wonder which you’ll find easier…

      • Sheila Connolly

        Because I’m a woman of average politeness, I look away without saying anything … and I wear a bra in public. Don’t want to offend anyone, either way. But it does strike me as a double standard.

  • the_mouse_

    >“That’s total bullshit, I cross my legs all the time; the balls just
    move up to sit on top of your crossed legs and don’t get squeezed in the
    process.”
    I hope you realize that this is like generalizing about the discomfort women get from their breasts when running: Not exactly a perfectly homogenous experience, even for those with the required anatomy. For the record, there is an exactly 0% chance of me being able to get my balls over my thighs if I’m wearing tight jeans, it’s hot about, and I’ve already taken a seat. Unless I shove my hands down my pants and physically pull my scrotum, testicles in tow, up from their dwelling place between the undersides of my thighs and the seat. Of course, I do this all the time in private, and even in office/classroom environments if no one can see me. But something tells me that few of the women here care about inherently male discomforts and would be less than accepting of my need to adjust my testicles while riding public transit. So pardon me if I couldn’t care less about offending your delicate sensibilities as I spread my legs the minimum necessary to keep myself from coughing or retching in discomfort. I’m not sure what’s the impetus for all this hostility towards male genital discomfort, but I wonder how all these hostile posters would react to dismissive comments about menstrual pains and inconveniences. Stay classy, ladies.