If you’ve ridden public transportation more than once or twice in your life, you know there are a few key things you’re looking for to ensure a pleasant ride.
In a perfect world you’d want transportation to be clean, well-lit, tolerably quiet, and comfortable.
Having said all that, if you’ve ridden public transportation more than once or twice in your life you know that a clean, well-lit, quiet ride can be very easily ruined by people who don’t seem to understand the concept of boundaries.
We’re talking about the close-standers and the people who think every single one of their belongings deserves its own seat, sure. (No, your bag 100% does not need its own seat. Stop it.)
But more than that, we’re talking about the casual everyday menace of … The Manspreader.
For those who aren’t familiar with manspreading, it’s the name given to men’s tendency to sit with their knees widely apart, infringing well into the seats on either side of them.
It’s fine at home or in your car or even on an uncrowded bus or train, but many many men don’t seem to realize when to just close their knees a bit and make some space for others.
It’s such a pervasively annoying habit that even other men hate it. Have you ever had the joy of riding the subway with two manspreaders sitting next to one another and gotten to witness the passive-aggressive knee fight that happens?
Look, we’re not suggesting that all men cross their legs and squish their bits, but we are absolutely telling you that, barring a medical condition, there is no reason you can’t close your legs a bit and stay in your own space.
Enter design student Laila Laurel from the University of Brighton.
After countless instances of having to scrunch up smaller in her seat to make room for a man who insisted on taking up too much space, plus hearing other people talk about it and seeing it happen over and over, she decided to make an artistic statement about it.
Since her artistic medium of choice is design, she created two chairs that speak to the topic of manspreading.
One chair is narrower at the back and places a block in the center of the edge of the seat. This chair, she says, would encourage women to take up more space by forcing them to sit with their knees apart.
The second chair has two rails along the sides and narrows as it gets closer to the edge.
The design of this chair would force men to sit with their knees together.
Laila and her artistic statement chairs.
The pieces in use.
Laila’s designs caught some serious attention, eventually winning her the Belmond Award. The prize was a commission to create a product for the Belmond hotel and leisure company.
While the chairs were never intended to be a functional thing that went into use or production, they were intended to spark conversation. According to Laila, that was all she really wanted in the first place.
The judges praised the design for the simple way that it showcased the way design can change a person’s behavior and how that can be used to address social issues.
Congratulations Laila! And men, if you’re not the only person on the train/plane/bus, close up shop.