Subway Ads Aren’t Enough to Stop Manspreading

Emma Rudd

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.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Emma Rudd at [email protected]



  1. Pleas seek professional help for your excessive paranoia. Sorry for whatever happened to you to make you such a paranoid misandric, but most guys just spread their legs open due to comfort level. It hurts to have your testicles squished together.

    Others who spread their legs open farther are just rude. Common sense will tell you that just a small percentage of men do this with any thoughts in mind of showing their “power”, but some aren’t blessed with the so-rare gift of logical thinking and common sense.

  2. I don’t think the MTA should be policing EVERYONE for how a tiny portion of men sit on the subway. Your article makes this sound like some kind of deliberate, daily occurrence, but I don’t see this “manspreading” as often as you make it out to be. Also, men aren’t the only ones that are rude on the subway. PEOPLE are rude. Some people are assholes, and I’ve seen people (despite what gender/lack of gender/fluidity they identify as) being rude and not giving up their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, mothers with little kids, etc.


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