We've probably all ended up sitting next to that guy on the train. You know, the man who insists on resting his elbow basically on your body, or takes up one-and-a-half seats in order to keep his legs spread or stands unnecessarily close to you even when the car is mostly empty.
That's why the "Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Subway" Tumblr is so great. It shows photographs of what the curator calls "a classic among public assertions of privilege" -- men taking up much more space than their size calls for.
Of course, the men photographed in this Tumblr aren't doing anything malicious, but it's an interesting visual representation of the way that men feel totally empowered to take up a lot of public space -- and women often do not.
On a similar Tumblr, "Move The F*ck Over, Bro," the curator has responded to a number of questions and criticisms. Other users have written in to argue that men take up more space because they are larger and have longer legs, because they need to sit with their legs wide open to protect their balls, or because women have a lower center of gravity. One of our favorite responses from the blog's curator is this very important observation: "Your balls are not that big."
The issue of men taking up more space than seems reasonable isn't just limited to the subway. A November 2012 Wall Street Journal article investigated gender differences in air travel preferences, and reported that women often find male passengers taking over their personal space:
"I think men just feel entitled and don't notice. They are oblivious,'' said Asya Kamsky, a San Francisco software executive who flies about 200,000 miles a year. Ms. Kamsky said she defends her space against encroaching elbows and legs. "I don't have a problem kicking if I need to,'' she said.
Back in March 2012, Vice's Natalie Rothschild wrote a post about a Swedish website which brings up similar issues, called "Macho In Public," asking:
Do Swedish women really feel threatened by men who slouch on the subway? Can this seriously be construed as a feminist issue? Do feminists today really view women as weaklings who are traumatized by straddle-legged passengers and who don't have the guts to tell men to scooch over?
The issue here isn't that women feel physically threatened or fear asking someone to move over. It's just interesting to observe the very clear difference between men and women when it comes to how much space they feel comfortable taking up in public -- especially when they are inadvertently inconveniencing someone else.
In a Sept. 11 blog post for The Society Pages, sociology professor Lisa Wade wrote about how gender can impact body language:
A feminine person keeps her body small and contained; she makes sure that it doesn’t take up to much space or impose itself. She walks and sits in tightly packaged ways. She doesn’t cover the breadth of the sidewalk or expand herself beyond the chair she occupies.
That sounds familiar to us. And while we're not suggesting that women start taking up huge amounts of space on the train or start yelling at my who they observe doing so, we think it's probably OK to call out a guy for being ridiculous with a simple "excuse me, could you move over?"