Women around the world groaned in recognition when a Twitter campaign against men who violate women's personal space on public transport took off in Turkey last week.
The 'Close Your Legs' campaign was an initiative of the Istanbul Feminist Collective (IFK) to highlight harassment in public places. In response, countless women shared photos of leg-spreading offenders on buses and trains and the hashtags #bacaklarinitopla (“Close Your Legs”) and #yerimisgaletme (“Don’t Occupy My Space”) started trending on Twitter, according to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
The New York Times noted that the campaign poster uses a picture from the New York subway, highlighting that men who spread out in public live everywhere. In fact, there's a whole "Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Subway" Tumblr account documenting worldwide offenders.
While some of the women participating in the campaign described harassers deliberately violating their personal space, sociologists note that even on a subconscious level, gender stereotypes impact men and women's body language in public places.
As one Turkish activist from IFK told the website Bianet: "This situation is just men ignoring women and believing they own all public spaces. Trying to have the majority space is completely related to desire of power."
The outpouring of "Close Your Legs" tweets last week also served as a pointed reminder of the futility of Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to block Twitter in the country. After briefly disrupting the service last month, a Turkish court ordered it back online on April 3, saying the ban breached constitutional guarantees on free speech.
— Feyza Baran (@Mavicileek1) April 24, 2014