How To Stop A Manspreader On A Plane In Three Easy Steps

Ladies, this is mainly for you, but guys, this actually could potentially help you, too, if you have a manspreader next to you while on a plane.

Manspreading. It’s been happening for eons, but only in the past couple of years did it get a name and even its own Wikipedia page. By definition, “manspreading” is, ‘the practice whereby a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat.’ Although manspreading can happen anywhere, it’s a behavior that’s commonly spotted on public transportation.

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Why people believe men (and occasionally women) spread is up for debate and hypotheses vary between simple pelvis shape (a man’s pelvis is narrower, which makes spreading more comfortable than keeping his knees closer together), a subconscious sense of wanting empowerment, and just wanting shall we say, to air things out, not squish things, or show things off. By the way, studies show that our subconscious reactions to manspreading vs. womanspreading are also very different. When males do it [especially when they spread, feet splayed outward and forearms leaning on their thighs], it’s seen as an attempt to look more powerful, manly or macho. For females, it’s considered rude and unladylike.

But whatever the case, when it’s done on a bus or subway, it’s easy enough for people to move or simply just not sit next to the spreader. In fact, some transit authorities have had ad campaigns to “stop the spread” on public transportation:

La Empresa Municipal de Transportes (EMT), Madrid
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), New York City

But if it happens on a plane, the seat mates next to the offending spreader are the ones who have no choice but to grin and bear it.

Or do they?

I think I’ve figured out the best way to stop a spreader from “plane spreading.” Now granted, you could simply ask the offending spreader to move his knees out of your space. If he’s considerate, he will. But if he’s in the habit of manspreading, it’s probably only a matter of time before his legs go apart and you’ve lost a third of your leg space again. And if he has earbuds, or is sleeping, asking him might not be a comfortable proposition because then you have to poke him or otherwise somehow get his attention.

Now, my technique won’t work on a bus or subway because there’s simply too much room there ;-). But on a plane, where it’s such close quarters I think I’ve got you covered. And all it takes is 3 steps:

1. Be the victim of manspreading.

This one is easy enough. He’s next to you, his knees are spread and suddenly you have to move your legs to one side to accommodate his encroaching your space.

Photo Jun 17, 8 27 49 PM

2. Suddenly need to get something out of your bag that’s under the seat in front of you.

The only way you’re going to be able to reach your bag is if he moves his leg. A simple “excuse me, I need to get to my bag” should do the trick. And if he’s sleeping or has ear buds in, you at least have a valid excuse to get his attention, as opposed to, “Hey, wake up! Your leg is in my space. MOVE IT!” 😉

Photo Jun 17, 8 29 27 PM

3. Fiddle in your bag, return to sitting position and move your leg to the invisible line between your space and his.

Since his leg is out of the way for the moment, it’s the best time to reclaim your space.

Photo Jun 17, 10 45 40 PM

And once you have your leg space back, don’t even consider giving it up again. If he starts pushing against your leg, HOLD YOUR GROUND!

Sure it’s passive-aggressive. But you know what? It’ll work. And when you’re stuck in the uncomfortableness of a teeny tiny plane seat for hours on end, all’s fair in love, war and legroom. 😉

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


11 thoughts on “How To Stop A Manspreader On A Plane In Three Easy Steps”

  1. If I anticipate a new seat mate is a manspreader. I will stake out my territory quickly. Arms and legs at the edge of my space. Usually they don’t move and their leg presses against mine for the entire flight. The primary reason I choose aisle seats anymore.

    1. LOL! That’s great! But if you don’t anticipate it happening (unless you use your technique with every person who sits next to you LOL), then my technique might work as a backup 😉

  2. Fight fire with fire. Be prepared to threaten the person, that you’ll report it to the FA and, if nothing done, you will take matters into your own hands. This may escalate things but the chance of the plane diverting and you getting arrested is very, very low. So you may even say, “if you don’t move your leg, I will stab you and cut your leg. I am not afriad to have a bloody fistfight to the death. Back off!” But first ask nicely once or twice.

    1. Hi LaShondra. What can I say…different strokes for different folks. If that’s what floats your boat, go for it and you be you ;-). Me, I’ll keep on using my recommended technique 😉

  3. Resting your laptop on the interior side of the arm rest will usually get the person’s attention. It is especially useful when someone’s arm continuously finds its way into your space. If your laptop becomes an issue, you can always mention that you want to have it handy to possibly get some work done.

  4. The problem with “Staking out your own space” ahead of time is: I’d rather not touch his leg with my leg, dig?

    1. Totally understood. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it, if it’ll keep him out of my space. But different strokes for different folks.

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