Poor men. It was already difficult enough for them to accomodate their fellow subway riders, ostensibly because their balls need space (or something). Now they can't even spread their legs on public transit without being shamed for manspreading — by the transit authority, no less.
Well, one data scientist wants to put a stop to all the ladies nagging men for simply doing what they need to do for a comfortable train ride (i.e. sit with their knees as far apart from one another as possible, thereby ensuring strangers can't fit more than a single butt-cheek on the seat next to them).
According to Mark Skinner, an analyst at Roubini Global Economics, there's a very good reason why men manspread on public transit — and it actually has less to do with men being dicks, and more to do with the ratios of the average male body.
In short, it's about proportions, not privilege!
Here's the "fancy science-y" explanation Skinner wrote on EcoMonitor:
Based on our multivariate analysis of anthropometric parameters across multiple data sets, manspreading appears to be an adaptive strategy that men employ due to innate morphological characteristics. One of the data sets that we studied show that the average man's shoulders were far wider — 28% wider, in fact, than his hips. By contrast, the average woman's shoulders were only 3% wider than her hips.
Skinner argues that if a male human were to sit with his legs together, "his torso likely won't fit on the top half of the seat" because his knees aren't at least shoulder-width apart.
The findings included another possible explanation for men taking up too much space on the train, which is that they're actually just trying to take up less room. Skinner claims that because men's knees tend to protrude more on average than women's, manspreading allows them to "avoid collisions in the aisles on crowded trains." (Skinner failed to mention the most likely reason why the trains are crowded in the first place: People are standing because there's not enough room to sit down.)
Geometry might partially explain the manspreading phenomenon, but it doesn't tell the whole story. We already know people respond differently to women taking up too much space in public, and it has absolutely nothing to do with data science.
As Mic's Elizabeth Plank has written, when women take up too much space on the subway, they're often treated with derision — yet when men do it, it's perceived as normal. That's because women are "subconsciously taught that they are meant to take up less space at an early age."
"The way women and men interact is guided by norms and scripts that steer our behavior in a way that is so powerful that it is often unconscious," Plank wrote.
Indeed, researchers have found that women tend to occupy less space in public places by keeping their arms closer to their bodies and their legs together, while men tend to spread their legs at wider angles.
That said, it seems everyone has two options: Either we can sit however makes us most comfortable, regardless of whether or not we're considering the needs of other people; or we can keep our legs together so as not to be disruptive. And considering that women have been doing the latter for quite some time, maybe it's time for men to give it a shot, "fancy science" be damned.