Herizons Commentary

The Scourge of Manspreading  by Lyn Cockburn
The Scourge of Manspreading

I’m supposedly a funny feminist. Even my psychiatrist said, “You are really funny. Why don’t you do stand-up comedy?”

“Anxiety,” I said, omitting the “that’s bloody well why I’m here” part. This week especially, I do not feel funny. I feel cowardly. I blame it on the man on the bus. I don’t know his name, but maybe I can out him by naming the Vancouver bus and time: Davie Street, rush hour, on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

A 50-something man is sitting near me on one of the front seats reserved for the disabled and elderly. He is well-dressed and coiffed, his beard neatly trimmed. He is manspreading onto the empty seat beside him, rendering it uninhabitable. He has obviously passed a How to Manspread course. He is working on a newspaper crossword between his legs, a feat that allows him to spread himself further into the next seat than a beginner or intermediate manspreader could.
So far, the bus is not overly crowded, so Crossword Dude, who occasionally looks up and around, receives only a couple of quizzical stares.


Everything changes at the next stop. A woman of middle age slowly gets on the bus, one leg obviously shorter than the other, and her balance, even with a walker, is a trifle precarious. Three passengers immediately offer her a seat. Manspreader merely looks up, gazes briefly at the woman, and returns to the crossword between his legs.

I open my mouth to say something—and then I shut it again, an action that those who don’t like feminists say I ought to do more often. Take, for example, the comments section of one of our newspapers. A swarm of male trolls were on about Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle because he had the temerity to appoint yet more women—a fact that evidently proves the PM doesn’t care about merit or competence.

I swear, I had no intention of replying—and what was I doing in the cesspool of a comments section, anyway. Before I could stop myself, I’d posted, “Interesting how there’s an 800 percent increase in concern about merit when women get appointed to positions of power.” And, “There is medication for delusion.” Soon, my iPad fairly exploded with words that start with the second and third letters of the alphabet, (followed, of course, by “xx” or “dotdot- dot” to bypass the restrictions on online swearing).

I send more glares at Crossword Boy, but he is, of course, oblivious. Two stops later, a frail elderly man leaning on his walker gets on, and many of us collectively hold our breaths, lest the exhalations knock him over. At this point, a kind of folk dance occurs with most of the people in the front seats getting up, two stepping around each other in the hopes of seating this man before he expires right in front of us.

The manspreader remains seated in two seats. I glare at him again as I get off at my stop, feeling unfunny and somewhat cowardly.

A few days later, I am picking up a prescription at the drugstore, vaguely aware of a man standing rather close behind me. The pharmacist chooses this moment to ask me some questions about my medication. The man behind me is almost touching me, and I am uncomfortable. I turn my head. I glare. He keeps his eyes glued to his iPhone 7 (I know it is a 7 because I want one). Do I take a leaf from Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, in which she comments on the infamous debate in which Donald Trump stalked her onstage. Hillary asks, “Do you stay calm … or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly, ‘Back off you creep.’”

She didn’t and I didn’t, either.

Finally, my meds in hand, I turn to leave and iPhone guy slides right in, brushing against me. Now I’ve had it. My mouth opens.

“Excuse me sir,” I hear myself saying, all Canadian-like. “May I direct your attention to the sign right here?” I say, my grammar impeccable as I point to the sign that tells customers to keep a respectful distance while waiting. He removes his eyes from his iPhone and affixes them to the sign. No response. Not even a grunt.

“You were really crowding me,” I say.

“Whaaa?” is his response.

I leave, mildly pleased with myself and even more prepared for the next time.