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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Manspreading: the shrivelling of feminism

Henry Jacobson

Something has gone badly wrong with modern feminism. What was once an admirable quest to expand women’s freedom is rapidly morphing into something very different.

This was clear for all to see in Channel 4’s much-hyped feminist comedy show, Riot Girls. In one heavily promoted sketch, the comedian and activist, Grace Campbell (daughter of Alastair), pranked unsuspecting London commuters by using duct-tape to mark designated ‘anti-manspreading’ zones on a tube train. 

For those lucky enough to have avoided it, ‘manspreading’ describes the tendency for some men to sit with their legs wide apart. Over the past two years, the term has spread like wildfire. For confused millennials, this minor annoyance has come to symbolise patriarchal oppression. Search for manspreading on Twitter and you will inevitably be confronted by hourly dispatches from horrified female commuters, often attaching photos of the latest offender (inevitably posted without their consent). Once it was women who were unfairly castigated for not keeping their legs shut – in the world of the new feminists, it’s men.

And it’s not just manspreading: ever since this childish grumble went mainstream, feminists have raced to coin new words describing the worst excesses of male behaviour. Other examples include ‘he-peating’ (when a man seeks credit by copying what a woman has just said), ‘man-terrupting’ (interrupting a woman, as a man), and ‘bro-propriating’ (when a bloke passes off a woman’s idea as his own).

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