Caroline VanSickle, a biological anthropologist studying human evolution, recently read an article related to our piece on the science behind manspreading (when guys take up space in public transportation by sitting with their legs wide open). She literally called the explanation “bullshit.”
The article we published basically said that some guys manspread because men have narrower pelvises than women. Sitting with their legs closed can cause the head of their thigh bones to pinch uncomfortably against the outer edge of their hip sockets.
But VanSickle literally wrote her doctoral dissertation on pelvic sexual dimorphism, that is, the differences between men and women’s pelvic shapes. Her research covered Neanderthals, a subspecies of archaic humans that went extinct about 40,000 years ago, but still … she’s got informed opinions on modern manspreading.
“As an anthropologist,” she says, “I luckily know that biology is not quite so simple as ‘have this skeleton = do this behavior.’”
She first points to a 1950s article that explains how manspreading occurs at different frequencies throughout different world cultures. She considers this proof that one can choose not to manspread, no matter their anatomy.
She then cites a physiological rule known as Wolff’s Law which basically says that the body’s bones and muscles change in response to repeated behaviors. For example, the bones of a tennis player’s dominant arm will be thicker than that of their non-dominant arm because of repeated use.
Thus, she says the same applies to men’s pelvises and leg bones: Even if their narrow pelvises make it uncomfortable to sit closed legged, men can gradually train their muscles and bones to sit comfortably through repeated practice.
While she may be right about Wolff’s law, VanSickle never actually denies that men’s different pelvic structure makes it less comfortable to sit with their legs closed, she just says that evolutionary biology is no excuse for rudeness, something that was stated in the article she’s refuting.
Featured image by AlexanderImage via iStock