The subway is a microcosm of New York City, in which all personalities are packed into a confined space with no exit readily available. The conflicts generally experienced out in the open and on the street are now fixed four inches away from you. Among these conflicts is the clash between genders, which often manifests itself in inappropriate conduct by men towards women. This takes various forms within the subway car, but the most typical is manspreading. In 2014, the MTA launched a train etiquette campaign in which this was openly condemned. Yet the addition of a few subway ads has failed to attack this behavioral problem in its entirety and has left a collective of women uncomfortable while their perpetrators remain indifferent.
If you’re a woman, your experiences on the subway are frequently impacted by the actions of a nearby man. He forces himself two inches from you despite the considerable amount of empty space elsewhere; he takes your two seconds of accidental eye-contact as an invitation to stare for the remainder of the ride; he leaves you toppling around at each bump as he contentedly wraps his arms and body around the center pole; he spreads his legs across the seat until you’re squeezed and cramped into your smallest self. Whatever form they may take, his actions have ruined your ride.
The motive is authority and the desired end result is power over the space that the perpetrators feel they are entitled to. Whether whether the desire is conscious or not done with intent or subconsciously, the consequences are disrespectful behaviors that primarily target women. While the issue of manspreading has become a common topic of discussion, the MTA has responded with only a half-hearted plea to men, asking them to “stop the spread, please.” The MTA has also neglected to explicitly mention the many other disrespectful behaviors that are so frequently perpetrated by men.
The limited efforts made by the MTA have clearly failed to give this behavioral issue the attention that it deserves. Women should not have to feel hesitant entering a subway car, be made uncomfortable while simply riding alongside others or be forced to take precautions for their own commutes. The oppressive nature of these actions and the common identity of their perpetrators needs to be widely considered and completely addressed when creating new subway etiquette campaigns. Until this occurs, women will continue to ride in discomfort while men remain blissfully unaware.
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Email Emma Rudd at [email protected]