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Manspreading, Mansplaining, And Manslamming - An Assertion of Male Dominance

Chemmalar. S

26 Jun 2023

The notion of what constitutes ‘gender equality’ is subjective and depends upon the individual perception. In common parlance, it refers to the equal right of women to participate and enjoy the same opportunities on an equal footing with men, free from discrimination. This includes right to pursue the profession, equal chances to develop, right to free movement etc. At the outset, women need to venture out into public places to have access to these rights. Thus. ‘Gender mobility’ is the prerequisite for achieving gender equality. It is strongly correlated with women’s asset ownership and labour force participation.

Do women enjoy equal access to public spaces? Public places serve as a stage for the more widespread manifestation of gender imbalances. Public spaces in India are not gender-neutral. Men occupy public spaces is so pervasive. Rather, it would be correct to say “public spaces are too masculine which needs to be feminised”. There are still women both in rural and urban settings who do not venture out citing difficulties in commuting and to avoid uncomfortable encounters, discrimination and silent harassment.

In India, Public places are littered with men who occupy spaces for dysfunctional purposes in casual ways like smoking, chit chatting in tea shops, bus stops, markets etc. This is not something bad but it suppresses the women space in public that is already congested.

Gender inequality need not be extremely severe to impede women rights. Even micro-aggressive behaviours like judgmental gazing, low level intimidation, creating fear and discomfort in the minds of women or make them believe that they are strayed into the men’s territory, etc are severe nature of gender disparities. Awfully, this 'regular' and ‘normal’ state of affairs is unnoticed and has developed into an accepted part of life. Overtime, a lot of women have learnt to accept and have developed their own ways of dealing with it. Women have become adept at hiding them and being hypervigilant when navigating crowded areas.  If violence were to be defined more broadly, then structural violence would also include the denial of equal opportunity in public spaces. Denial of equal access to public space is infrastructural in nature since women are said to be disadvantaged by design.

Women are allowed to exist in public only for assigned purposes like work, education, shopping). They are subjected to judgmental gaze if stand alone in roadsides or step to restaurant without male companion. If the situation compels a woman to stand in public place she has to pretend as if she is there for purpose.  Men's behaviour maintaining the focus on women is another form of policing which constrains women movement in public places. When a woman walks down the streets, even autos stop. This indicates that the conception of a female flaneur is unsuitable in our cultural context. So, she must sit in a vehicle and reach her destination. This excessive sense of entitlement is transmitted through generations. A woman’s mobility may be curtailed from childhood, and this disempowerment will follow her throughout the life. Freedom of movement is not only a human right―emphasized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 13) ―but is also an economic imperative.

Male domination in public spaces continue to exist in various pretexts. The concepts of mansplaining, manspreading, and manslamming are forms of male domination falls within the realm of problematic and sexist behavior. In recent years, these phenomena have drawn greater attention in media and public discourse.

Manspreading" or "man-sitting

Manspreading is the practice in which a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat. Manspreading is an infrastructural issue that jeopardized the women’s mobility. Manspreading in public transport is annoying. This behavior – most commonly spotted on public transportation – is often attributed to a man’s “intrinsic need” to assert his authority and subsequently undermine a woman’s space. The prominence of manspreading on transportation in big cities poses a daily struggle for professional women on their way to and from work.

The practice of men sitting in public transport with their legs wide apart, taking up more than one seat, has long been an irritant and the term 'manspreading' appeared in 2014 in New York following a campaign against it. Thus, it has become a global issue and Spain’s capital has taken a stand against manspreading – banning men from indulging in the rude leg extending move on its trains and buses. Along with other restrictions, such as not putting feet on seats, using headphones, or smoking, a sign is posted that asks passengers to respect other people's personal space.

A chair with a triangular seat that encourages men to sit with their legs closed has been designed by University of Brighton graduate Laila Laurel as a possible remedy for manspreading. A Belmond Award for emerging talent has been given to Laurel's work. Two pieces of wood are skilfully placed on the seat in the design so that anyone seated cannot physically spread their legs apart.


The term "mansplaining," which combines the terms "man" and "explain," describes when a man gives a woman an unwanted explanation. "When a man instructs a woman in an insulting way on the fundamentals of a subject that he knows very little about, assuming that she knows even less." It is distinguished by the speaker's confidence, a sense of condescension, an interruption or interjection, and the underlying presumption that the target is ignorant of the issue. To teach anything to a lady in a condescending manner while assuming she is ignorant of the subject. Assume that you are in a group discussion and a male colleague stops you, describes something patronisingly because he feels he understands something more about it, and then keeps dominating the conversation. Another gathering had another male colleague who keeps talking and talking and controls the conversation. solely male colleagues are taken into consideration, and any insight from female coworkers is ignored.

It is difficult to find a woman who hasn't gone through such instances. Mansplaining is therefore regarded as an endorsement of institutionalised sexism which blocks and marginalises the opinions of women.


Manslamming, which is allegedly committed by males running into women on the sidewalk if they don't get out of the way, is not a sexist behaviour.  A woman walks substantially differently than a male does when walking on a pavement. On a busy pavement, men are not as inclined to budge and make place for their female counterparts. Jessica Roy, a writer for the New York magazine, has coined the phrase after a small experiment in a small city in Belarus. She discovered that while walking in public space, she noticed that if she did not move to give way to the men walking by, they crashed into them. Men hardly ever stepped aside to prevent collapse. The phrase describes the exploitation of public spaces by men to the extent where they collide with women who cross their path.


Though gender inequality persists in various forms, denial of equal access to public places is worst form of gender inequality which is not visible have negative impact on economic development of women. Silent harassment persists either through words or through expressive eyes that controls women from access to public space. Our public spaces are exclusively masculine. Feminising public areas is necessary to make them safer for women. 


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