Madrid has moved to ban ‘manspreading’ on its public transport system after feminists convinced the city’s left-wing council that men invading the space of others with their splayed legs was a problem that needed to be tackled.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Madrid’s EMT transport corporation has unveiled a new set of stickers to be placed on all city buses including one of a male figure with his knees spread wide apart, accompanied by the slogan “Respect others’ space”.
The change comes about after a group called Mujeres en Lucha (Women at War) launched a social network campaign against ‘manspreading’ and presented a petition signed by 10,000 people to Madrid city hall.
“It’s a question of culture. We women have always been told to occupy the least amount of space possible, and men haven’t,” said a leader of the anti-manspreading campaign, Alejandra de la Fuente.
Madrid council, led by a coalition backed by the left-wing Podemos party, said the new rule was aimed specifically at “male transport users [who] open their legs and occupy two places”.
The council also pointed out that other anti-social behaviour was being targeted in the new notices, including putting feet on seats and listening to loud music on headphones.
But some men took to social networks to denounce what they feel is sexist persecution of the male gender.
“The MAN part of the word is out of order. I have seen women with handbags on other seats, lying back and spreading their legs like men…” Jesús Herraiz from Madrid said on Twitter.
Madrid council said that other cities around the world had also mounted campaigns against ‘manspreading’, and Podemos announced that it had tabled a motion in the Madrid regional parliament to extend the ban to the capital’s Metro underground network.
“We believe that putting a name to and making visible these kinds of daily sexist behaviour that go unnoticed is the way ahead to become more aware, seeing what we used not to see and leaving inequality and machismo behind,” said Clara Serra of Podemos in presenting the motion.
But Madrid’s regional transport chief, Ángel Garrido of the conservative Popular Party, said there was no need to ban ‘manspreading’ as “current rules state that it is one seat per passenger”.
Madrid is not the first city to intervene in sexist behaviour on public transport.
Two years ago New York launched a campaign against the prickly issue of ‘manspreading’ on the city’s subway.
First posters were put up urging “dudes” to “stop the spread”, followed by reported arrests for taking up more than one seat.
Authorities in Mexico City took an unusual approach to teaching men a lesson about misogynist behaviour in March by installing a ‘penis seat’ on an underground train.
The seat, moulded to mimic the bumpy shape of a man’s body, was labelled for men only and accompanied by a sign that said: “It is annoying to travel this way, but not compared to the sexual violence women suffer in their daily commutes.”