When the New York Transit authority rolled out a courtesy campaign targeting manspreading last year, Men’s Rights Activists and angry netizens accused “anti-spread” crusaders of being whiny “pseudo-feminists.” More debate followed when the word “manspreading” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But though the word itself is new, the practice of manspreading — whereby a man spreads his legs while sitting on public transit, taking up too much space — has apparently been pissing people off since around the time public transit became a thing.
In the New York Transit Museum’s current exhibit, Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned to Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages, courtesy campaigns spanning decades and continents reveal a nearly universal anti-manspreading sentiment. A poster on the New York City subway in 1947, featuring cartoons of flagrant manspreaders in fedoras, implored commuters not to be “space hogs” or “leg pests.” Another ad simply labels manspreaders “BAD!”. Both these designs were by cartoonist Amelia Opdyke Jones, who signed her work “Oppy.” From 1946 to 1966, Jones illustrated etiquette posters with Monopoly-like characters for the “Subway Sun,” a faux-newspaper plastered in train cars. The term “litterbug” is said to have originated from one of Oppy’s subway posters. The New York MTA’s current “Dude… Stop the Spread” campaign, which caused so much internet kerfuffle when installed, is only a watered-down rehash of these earlier designs, with boring pictograms instead of Oppy’s retro comic book flair.
And manspreading is an international plague, according to the designs on view: A disturbing poster on the Japan Metro in 1976 depicted Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator as “The Seat Monopolizer,” squishing smaller Charlie Chaplins seated next to him. An ad from Tokyo trains in 2012 featured a cartoon manspreader encroaching on the space of a child inexplicably wearing a bear suit. “I’d like to sit too. There should be enough room,” she says.
If you’re a Men’s Rights Activist and these ads hurt your feelings, please get some help and don’t freak out at the New York Transit Museum: The exhibition also features retro ads scolding “Birdy Big Bags,” discouraging what’s now called “she-bagging,” whereby people (according to some, mostly women) hog seats with their bags. There’s also a poster from the London Underground in 1986, depicting a rare example of womanspreading: A female punk with a rainbow mohawk splays her legs on a bus seat while an elderly gentleman stands and waits for a chance to sit.
The rest of the exhibit, with posters from Barcelona, Brussels, Chicago, London, Madrid, New York, Philadelphia, Rio de Janiero, Taipei, and Tokyo, colorfully illustrates the laws of how not to be an asshole on public transit, laws that apparently transcend time and place.
Transit Etiquette Or: How I Learned To Stop Spitting And Step Aside In 25 Languages continues at the New York Transit Museum in the Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal (89 E 42nd St, Midtown East, Manhattan) through October 20.
Now playing the Cannes Film Festival, the new film from the director of The Square embarks on a luxury cruise that goes to hell.
By enshrining her memories into sculptural form, Juárez celebrates her emotional pilgrimage through the growing pains of childhood to adulthood.
A journey spanning three continents over 1,500 years comes to the National Mall in Washington, DC. On view at the Smithsonian’s NMAA through September 18.
These university museum leaders are bridging cultural chasms through elaborate and generative work with their students.
Curators at the Maidan Museum in Kyiv are sifting through the rubble for items that “tell the story of ordinary people’s lives, of their deaths.”
Graduate student work representing 19 disciplines is featured in a digital publication and returns as an in-person exhibition at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
The cube, which has fallen into disrepair, was strapped in place by supportive metal implements at its base.
Inigo Philbrick misrepresented the ownership of and fraudulently traded in works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, and others.
Installations by Jessica Campbell, Yasmine K. Kasem, Suchitra Mattai, Haleigh Nickerson, and Nyugen E. Smith are now on view at JMKAC in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Author M. T. Anderson walks us through a sonic gallery of Vasily Kandinsky’s musical influences, which guided the painter’s pursuit of art that reveals a mystical, inner truth.
In yet another horror movie that’s actually about trauma, writer-director Alex Garland makes his points bluntly, having one actor play many facets of misogyny.
Time is itself a recycling process for Cole, whose freewheeling spirit transcends linearity in his excavations of art and music history.