Alright, we’ve got our two buzzwords to play with; consider “fat shaming” with the following scenario: There is a larger bodied person boarding public transport, say a bus. This person is wider than the pre-molded seats. This person sits down and takes up the two-person row.
In one current Internet narrative, this person is doing nothing wrong, but merely taking up the space their body requires. You’re a jerk if you then get on the bus and find annoyance that the fat person is taking up more than one seat and you have to stand. To shame this person with mean words or glares or a passive-aggressive Facebook post would be to remove their bodily autonomy. Let’s please agree on this, okay?
To insist a fat person stand so two thin people might sit is wrong and rude. To suggest that the fat person’s body is at fault is appalling, and some might even claim it is discrimination.
And yet, if it was the same bus, with a passenger that is not obese but male-presenting, suddenly it’s fine to shame him online, to take his photo without permission, and even to come into nonconsensual, unprovoked physically contact with him.
This is part of a larger subculture that is more akin to a sickness than activism. It’s somehow okay to treat men as second class citizens and police their public actions while women should be allowed to do basically anything they want, including violating strangers by forcing them into contact with your behind. If we read a piece about a man on public transportation intentionally sitting on women’s purses/bags, or bigger people’s bodies, the collective internet would be in outrage.
There are actually a lot of good reasons a man might sit with his legs wide. One of these reasons is propagation of the human species. Namely, sitting down, especially in uniform pants/boilersuits or business casual slacks (a.k.a. the categories of workwear most men don), tend to bifurcate and cut into the man as he sits down. The inseam cuts into him as the fabric bunches and tightens over the quads, and cramming the legs towards each other amplifies the whole mess.
As well, men are more likely to take physically demanding jobs, participate in martial arts and high impact sports or activities, which all take an interesting toll on the body. For starters, let’s assume you don’t know how human joints work so I can pretend I’m smart.
Males have very narrow pelvises because they don’t need to pass a baby ever. These pelvises are also V-shaped, wider at the iliac crests and narrowing at the ischial tuberosities. The pelvic arrangement for the majority of men are narrow hips with very limited mobility and very little ability to externally rotate. Men tend to be taller, which means longer femurs and long femur necks, which also limit mobility of the hips.
Female femurs have a tapered shape on the other hand, wider at the hip joint and angling in at the knees. The sexual dimorphism of the pelvis is inarguable. Some things are simply going to be possible for the female pelvis and acetabula that are impossible or inaccessible to the male pelvis.
The lifestyle factors listed above coupled with the arrangement of the male pelvis and femurs have a common conclusion. I’ve known more men than I’d care to list who have “hip problems” or “tightnesss” that are actually severe injuries. They’d rather figure out accommodations on their own, like sitting with the legs wide, than do physio, yoga, or even see an ortho for surgical solutions. I’ve seen men blow out their knees trying to force hip mobility; restricted hips mean back problems and knee problems.
Coupled with the legs spread, notice that most creepshots of men sitting on public transpo are also slouching. This often is done with intent of relieving pain. Slouching rounds the lumbar spine into kyphosis rather than slight lordosis, its natural state. Manipulating the lower back is really common in men with hip issues, and spreading the knees wider is common in men with low back issues. Low back injuries, by the way, are more likely to be received on the job for men and are more likely to be chronic.
Unsurprisingly, all of this means sitting and standing, especially for long periods of time, is a painful process. Spreading the legs alleviates some of this distress. Still not buying it? Find a postnatal woman with sliding SI joints and ask her how sitting with her legs clamped for a long period of time together feels. Or a woman who needs labrum repair surgery.
It comes together to make sustained sitting with the thighs even close to parallel prohibitively uncomfortable for many men. In fact, depending on the pelvic construction and orthopedic history, it will be beyond painful but anatomically impossible for a large percentage of men to bring the knees together and to keep the knees held there without causing lasting damage and distressing pain.
This is not mansplaining, or any other derogatory portmanteau. This is the reality many men live with. Disclaimer: Yes, there are women with similar hip disorders, injuries, and construction, just as there are men with open hips and above average mobility. This doesn’t alter anything previously said, because the whole issue comes back to the policing of others’ bodily autonomy. If it’s inappropriate to sit on a fat person, a woman’s purse (or legs, for the women who put their feet up), why is it okay to strip anyone else’s autonomy and dictate their posture?
Now, not every man has a pelvic injury. No more so than every fat person has a socially acceptable ‘reason’ for fatness. Does this matter? No. It’s not your business to regulate anyone else’s body. Full. Stop. If a fat person taking up two or three seats on public transportation doesn’t bother you, you have no grounds for regulating how men sit.
If you’ve read this far and still think your comfort takes precedence over anyone else’s, for every manspreader you allegedly encounter, you must demand a fat person who is taking up more space than you think they deserve stand and give you their seat.