The Brief: An artist's concept piece about manspreading has sparked significant backlash online from upset men.
What Is Manspreading?
Manspreading is a term for when a man takes up an unnecessary amount of space in public, often making it so people near him have significantly less space. The term usually refers to manspreading that occurs on public transportation.
Anti-Manspreading Chair Wins Award
Laila Laurel, an art and design student at the University of Brighton in the UK recently won an award: the Belmond Award from New Designers in London for her chair designed to prevent manspreading. The idea behind this project: “A Solution To Man-Spreading” is that the anti-manspreading chair would force men to sit with their legs together and its counterpart designed for women would allow them to experience spreading out.
Inspired by The Everyday Sexism Project, Laila Laurel’s chair designs explore the concept of manspreading and the role design can play in how people occupy spaces. In her artist statement, Laurel specifically notes that the project is not meant as a completely serious design to be implemented IRL:
“While my technical investigation is not necessarily intended to be serious or hard-hitting, I think these chairs do give a physicality to an issue women face in quite a fun yet literal way which is my overall main objective in this project.”
Laila’s bold, purpose-driven design stood out to our judging panel as it explores the important role of design in informing space, a person’s behaviour and societal issues of today#TheArtOfBelmond #ND19 #NewDesigners pic.twitter.com/DVnFqtiEBh
— Belmond (@belmond) July 16, 2019
Since several articles have been published about Laurel’s design, she has faced significant backlash online: in the form of both public posts and private messages. Much of this trolling and outcry comes from men who see this project as an attack on their entire gender.
While some comments merely express disagreement with the concept, many go much further, calling the designer a “man-hating feminist” and worse.
Men losing their damn minds over a concept chair is really something. https://t.co/oQyYPXhs3d
— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) July 19, 2019
Many tweets seem to ignore the fact that this chair is a conceptual project, a commentary about manspreading, rather than a piece of furniture to be manufactured and sold. As with many angry internet commenters, it seems that few have actually read beyond these articles’ headlines before sharing their opinions and hate.
Some men have taken this as an opportunity to defend manspreading, explaining that their anatomy makes it so they must sit with their legs spread out, thus taking up more space than women do.
@LailaLaurel I saw your anti man spreading chair. I can’t believe you got an award for it. Have you ever taken a biology class? Men have equipment down there, it’s physically uncomfortable/painful to sit with closed legs. I doubt you’ve ever had a guy friend
— James L. Mayle (@JamesLMayle1) July 18, 2019
Other men have argued that the amount of space that women sometimes take up by putting their bag next to them is an unfair form of “womanspreading.”
— Josh Earls (@JoshEarls2) July 17, 2019
A man vs. woman microphone meme:
A “ducking under a flyer” meme from The Regular Show: