Who knew that the term manspreading is considered deeply sexist? I didn't

A nameless user proposed to delete the term from an answer of mine. His explanation was “remove misandry”. I had written

[someone] who spreads their legs and invades your space (AKA manspreading)

The comment got me thinking. At first, I was quite flabbergasted and speechless. Agreed, the term is not complimentary, but I had considered it mainly to be a humorous term that was basically stating a truth. Men often do sit with their legs apart. It can show swagger, confidence, and suggest dominance. It can be due to their height, the taller the man, the more difficult it is for him to close his legs when seated in public transport.

That's what I thought

But according to one spinal neurosurgeon, John Sutcliffe, the reason is two-fold

“The overall width of the pelvis is relatively greater in females and the angle of the femoral neck is more acute. These factors could play a role in making a position of sitting with the knees close together less comfortable in men,” he told The Independent.


“I suspect most men would suggest the reason for adopting the more spread posture in sitting would be the avoidance of testicular compression from the thigh muscles. The pelvic rotation goes some way to improve compression in both aspects,” Sutcliffe continued.

The Independent

I suppose that makes sense. The phenomenon is dictated by physiological differences that are inherent in men and women's bodies.

I turned to Wikipedia. It confirmed the user's standpoint, and why he suggested its removal

Both this posture and the use of the neologism "manspreading" have occasioned some internet criticism and debates in the US, UK, Turkey, and Canada. The public debate began when an anti-manspreading campaign started on the social media website Tumblr in 2013; the term appeared a year later. OxfordDictionaries.com added the word "manspreading" in August 2015. Use of the term has been criticized as "a caricature of feminism" and the practice has been juxtaposed with examples of women taking up excessive space in public spaces with bags.

Further on, it supplies a female equivalent of the term

The criticism and campaigns against manspreading have been counter-criticized for not addressing similar behavior by women, such as taking up adjacent seats with bags, or "she-bagging".

So much controversy over a non-vulgar term, living in Italy I had no idea about the heated debate this term has sparked. So to make some sort of amends, I edited my answer and now it reads

[someone] who spreads their legs and/or invades your space (AKA “manspreading” or “she-bagging”)

But it's not a perfect fit. And she-bagging doesn't work if you're talking about an airplane seat, does it?

  • What would be a gender-neutral equivalent of manspreading. A term that would not offend men, but could be applied to both sexes?
  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. If you have something to say, put it in an answer. Any further discursive comments will be deleted without notice and with prejudice.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 1:33

7 Answers 7


Seat hog

Without having an example sentence, it's hard to suggest a perfect fit, but I would suggest "seat hog" or "seat hogging."

There's even a whole blog dedicated to posting pictures of this sort of people. (I tried to pick a photo with a non-obvious gender) From that blog:

SeatHog – noun – \ˈsēt-hog\ – a selfish or clueless individual who deprives another individual of any reasonable or unimpeded opportunity to sit down.

(In my dialect in regular IPA: /ˈsi:tˌhɑg/)

The sort of picture they share:

A seat hog seen lounging back taking up two seats while another subway ride is forced to stand

Washington state's Sound Transit* uses "seat hog" to teach people how to ride the train. (Included the other ones because they're cute too.)

Sound Transit seat graphics showing animals in correct and incorrect seated posture

For readers unfamiliar with this use of "hog," it follows this OED definition:

[6] b. orig. U.S. Chiefly with modifying word: a person who appropriates or monopolizes something in a greedy and selfish manner. Cf. hog v.1 7b.

  • Seattle metro area, the "Sound" refers to the Puget Sound, which lies directly west of Seattle.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 19:39
  • The sample sentence is [someone] who spreads their legs and/or invades your space (AKA “manspreading” or "she-bagging") The word I'm looking for goes in the parenthesis. Sorry if it wasn't clear.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 8:07
  • @MariLou Oh, okay, I guess I was looking for a complete sentence Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 16:42
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    Seat hog is something I have heard in the UK since I was quite young. Some nice reference material, thank you. Now I am tempted to go ask if there is a gender-neutral term for "acting like a big girl's blouse".
    – TafT
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 8:07
  • @TafT Ask away; as a US native, I have never heard that phrase before.
    – chif-ii
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 20:54

To avoid the accusation of being biased and the ire of those who may be offended; a passenger who takes up too much room or invades their co-passenger's space could be termed a

‘Worse, they're also tremendous space hogs, gobbling up dozens of precious square feet in useless aisle area.’

The verb hog (hogged, hogging) is used indiscriminately, M-W says

to take in excess of one's due
hog the credit

In fact, the term was already in use during the 1940s-50s

enter image description here (1953)

A whimsical, illustrated ad from the Tube (shown above) […] admonishing riders who are hogging seats. Even though the time, place, and design are very different, the message—it's really not cool to take up seats that should go to others who need them more—is crystal clear. Curbed

enter image description here (1947)

Designed by Amelia Opdyke Jones for the New York City Subway, these posters were in use for over 40 years beginning in 1918.

This answer, edited, was being composed when @Azor Ahai posted his answer "seat hog". My comments, first and foremost, thanking him and then apologising for posting a similar answer were deleted.

  • Nice references. A handy way to show the longevity of the phrase and problem. I wonder if I can dig out some old British railroad pamphlets that mention something similar. I know there were things published and short articles in newspapers explaining expected behaviour.
    – TafT
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 8:09

sprawl [sprawl] verb (used without object)

1) to be stretched or spread out in an unnatural or ungraceful manner:

Source: Dictionary.com

Example 1

  • ”I suppose only a man can man-spread their legs.”

  • ”Both a man or a woman can sit with their legs sprawled out.”

Example 2

  • ”Can you give me some room on the bench. You are man-spreading, I can’t sit.”

  • “Can you give me some room on the bench. You are sprawled out, I can’t sit.”

  • 1
    This answer (sprawler) deserves more credit for being a completely gender and tone neutral non-colloquial descriptive term. By comparison, the accepted answer is less specific, derogatory, colloquial, and a phrase rather than a word. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 13:54
  • You can simply remove "man", too: ”Can you give me some room on the bench. You are spreading, I can’t sit.”
    – Pedro
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:55
  • 1
    @PedroTamaroff That's not really idiomatic English, at least in the US. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 20:56
  • @AzorAhai Perhaps adding "out" after spreading helps a bit.
    – Pedro
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 20:58
  • @PedroTamaroff It would, but I try not to assume it's bad in your dialect (I saw on your profile you were based in Ireland, and I know little about Hiberno English) Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 20:59

Legs akimbo: knees bent and protruding from the trunk.

 a tailor sitting with legs akimbo

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    Though technically accurate, this particular phrase is probably usually associated with women and in a sexual context that isn't meant here. Examples: google image search, urban dictionary.
    – Danica
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 0:56
  • 49
    @Dougal Oh gimme a break. UD always has its head in the gutter. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:10
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    Sure, UD is maybe a bad source, but it's not like that's the only one. It's definitely a nontrivial portion of the general Google results, and I think is generally not going to be as immediately-understood in context as the other answers anyway.
    – Danica
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 13:35
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    I'd say that Urban Dictionary is far too community driven and unmoderated to be considered a useful source. While it does include actual useful terms, they're so swamped in dross that it's nearly impossible to distinguish them from the background noise. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 15:50
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    I always thought "akimbo" meant more like "Indian style" cross-legged/lotus/butterfly sitting...not like "manspread" sitting. (Realistically, most of the guys I know who sit "manspread" don't have the hip flexibility to comfortably sit in "Indian style".) Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 16:11


While there are words that carry the meaning of sitting in a way that takes up too much space, an essential part of the meaning of manspreading is the connection to a culture of male entitlement and the power dynamics of gender and personal space. If this is the meaning you intended to convey, you should keep it. It is not "misandry", and claims of "misandry" should be treated as highly suspect of being misogynist in nature (denying the reality of gendered power dynamics). There are cases where the word "misandry" is a meaningful criticism (e.g. denying that a man could be the victim of sexual assault or claims that men are not suitable as single parents) but this is not one of them.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 0:45

How about "knee-spreading"? It doesn't cover the case where someone has excess bags but it could refer to any person of either gender who is sitting with their legs spread far apart.


When discussing the issue as a comparative between the sexes on public transportation, one Slate writer used the term legroom-encroaching jerk

So it seems that men and women alike prefer to travel with women, generally perceived as less likely to be loudmouthed, legroom-encroaching jerks. Do you disagree? You can tell me all about it when you sit next to me on the train.


  • Oh, I like that. That's quite good, very gender neutral!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 16:39
  • Oh, dear. The quotation is kinda harking back to the stereotype of man = uncouth/inconsiderate.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 16:54
  • Yeah, it wasn't exactly unbiased. But she did find a suitable phrase there in the conclusion. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 16:55
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    Perhaps one could usefully observe that both men and women prefer to travel with women because they are smaller and therefore take up less space. An airline once did some research on traveler complaints and found a correlation between how full a flight was and the number of complaints received about lack of space. (Who'd a thunk it?)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:40
  • @BobRodes I'm not seeing how your comment is relevant to my answer. Perhaps it would be better made in chat Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 18:49

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