How To Fight Back Against Manspreaders

How To Fight Back Against Manspreaders

Mechanical problems, a lack of funding, and inconsistent schedules can make public transport a nightmare. What’s worse, on the off chance you’re blessed with a seat, you’re probably running into more manspreaders, people (guess what kind) who decide their self-confidence requires more seat than they paid for. If you’re sick of it, there are a few ways to combat the problem with panache.

Image credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

Ask Politely

Often overlooked in favour of silent brooding and introspection, a simple request to move will most likely reap the results you’re looking for. A polite “excuse me” and “thank you” is enough to get me to notice I’m taking up a little too much room, apologise, and adjust my posture accordingly. (And in the anecdotal experience of other Lifehacker editors, is often enough to get someone to scoot in and make space.) In a charitable view, the average manspreader suffers from a lack of self-awareness above all else.

Ask Less Than Politely

If the carrot didn’t work, it might be time to use the stick. Trying to sit in a manspread-adjacent seat? Strongly indicate your intent to sit, give ’em a good stare, make your voice heard with a strong “pardon me”, and fill your allotted space. It’s definitely uncomfortable, but less uncomfortable than shrinking away. If their bag is in your chair and they’re unresponsive to your requests, don’t be shy about moving it yourself. It’s your seat, too.

Make a Scene

Got a bag with you? Pop a squat, open it up, and dig around. A lot. “Where is that comically large feather duster I own?” You should mutter to yourself while your arms and legs shift about, letting you widen your personal space under the guise of looking for your props.

Don’t forget to use your arms to your advantage! You might have to throw a few elbows to get the offending manspreader to adjust his posture. If they move, you’ve won. If not, you’ve easily gotten a few “accidental” blows in while trying to reclaim your space. Consider it a taste of justice.

Manspread First

Sometimes the best defence is a good offence. When the opportunity to live like a king and flex those hip abductors comes around, why not indulge? Being the first to manspread won’t win you any friends, but often a preemptive strike is required to secure the resources bestowed by your $4.94 ticket. The burly guy eyeing the seat next to you probably won’t be crossing his legs, that’s for sure. That being said, when the train starts to populate you might want to reign it in.

Some manspreaders are just arseholes, so your mileage may vary. If you’re uncomfortable with confrontation, or feel your ride might take a turn for the worse, extricate yourself immediately. No seat is worth a fight, and no manspreader is worth the threat of violence. Besides, there’s probably no room to swing your arms anyway.

If none of these tactics work, you can always just sit on them.


  • Here’s another suggestion. If one is carrying a heavy object, such as a sledge hammer or the next Song of Ice and Fire book, park said object right on the bread basket.

    Should take care of man spreading not just for one’s own trip but others for a while.

  • This is a kinda terrible article. For one, using gendered terms like that is sexist. If it’s wrong to use them against women, it’s wrong to use them against men too. But even that aside, there’s no real advice here, just snark.

    Asking a person taking up too much space to move is really the only thing you can do. You don’t have a right to move their belongings, and making a scene just makes you look bad.

    • If there are no other seats you do have a right to move an item from a seat you paid for.

      On a totally unrelated note, can I dump my old fridge outside your front door? I don’t want it anymore but please don’t move it, it isn’t yours.

      • You don’t pay for a seat on public transport, you pay for entry. It’s definitely rude if someone takes up more than a seat but it’s down to the rules of the service whether that’s permitted, not you. Touching someone else’s belongings like that is liable to get you punched. Taking someone’s property without their consent, even if briefly, is a really bad idea.

        You can’t dump your fridge on my property because to get it there would be trespassing. You can’t dump it on the nature strip outside because that constitutes illegal dumping since it belongs to the council. There’s no comparison at all to a bag sitting next to its owner on a bus or train.

  • so what do we do about the females who lay down over a seat, since obviously this advice is only applicable to males?

  • If you just sat down on the miscreant’s legs or made a motion in that direction, I’m sure they would close the gap, so to speak. Having said that, if the person you are trying to sit next to is wearing a singlet or flanno shirt and is covered in tattoos that they clearly didn’t pay for, maybe just grab the hand strap on the ceiling. It’s not worth the excrement that I’m sure would ensue from the cretin’s mouth.

  • Well, there’s person-spreading (men tend to use legs, women tend to use handbags) and then there’s poorly designed public transport where those of us with a naturally wider chassis take up more space than the designer allocated for one person.

    As a person with a wider chassis, I tend to just avoid the issue, if the train / bus looks particularly full I just stand. I sit on my arse all day at the office anyway so an hour of standing on public transport isn’t going to kill me.

  • Manspread first. Of course! Fixing a problem by creating the same problem for others and adding to the frustration, why didn’t I think of that. The seating on transport in this country is a joke, as they expect everyone to be a fit healthy skinny specimen of a human with an athlete’s body and not taller than 6ft. I am quite tall so I don’t like my legs being jammed against the hull. I always try to take the 2 seaters as it’s less likely someone will sit next to me but I do keep the seat available for anyone else to sit at all times. This strategy works until you get the overconfident wider and taller person than yourself who thinks he can squeeze into the 2 seater squashing both you and himself and smiles at you like an asshat.

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