A British student won a national prize for designing chairs that force men to sit with their legs closed, thereby preventing the practice commonly known as manspreading.
Laila Laurel, a 2019 graduate of the University of Brighton, won the Belmond Award this week for her work entitled, “A Solution for Man Spreading.”
The Belmond Award is a national prize granted at the New Designers event in London, which showcases university students’ work.
“I am completely shocked but very happy and honoured to have won the Belmond Award – and I am looking forward to designing with them this year,” Laurel told U.K. outlet The Argus.
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‘A Solution for Man-Spreading.’ A pair of chairs from Sycamore and Cherry wood. Thanks to all the girls and boys for coming and having a good old sit on them this week, it’s been silly! #eveydaysexism #furniture #design #craft #comingtond19 #newdesigners19 #newmakers #craftgrad
According to the New Designers website, the competition’s judges found Laurel’s work to be a “bold, purpose-driven design that explores the important role of design in informing space, a person’s behavior and societal issues of today.”
In recent years, feminists and women’s rights advocates have railed against the manspreading phenomenon. Women complain that manspreaders, especially on public transport, sit with their legs wide apart and take up more space than needed. According to feminists, what may appear to be an innocuous practice, is actually a problematic assertion of patriarchal power.
Progressive journalist Liz Plank, writing for Mic in 2015, outlined the various ways the purportedly sexist phenomenon harmed society.
“By virtue of being occupied by both men and women, space is inherently gendered. The way women and men interact is guided by norms and scripts that steer our behavior in a way that is so powerful that it is often unconscious. Research shows that when in public, women tend to occupy less space, holding legs closer together and keeping their arms closer to their bodies. Men on the other hand are more likely to have their legs spread at a 10- to 15-degree angle and keep their arms 5 to 10 degrees away from their bodies,” she wrote.
“But this isn’t just about space. Researchers have found that taking expansive body postures doesn’t just make people feel more entitled, it also makes them more likely to steal, cheat and fail to respect traffic laws. So manspreading can breed bigger problems than just crowded subway cars: It reinforces attitudes and behaviors that are harmful for society as a whole,” Plank added.
And women’s rights activists have made some major inroads in their campaign to eradicate manspreading.