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Could Manspreading Be Good for Women?

This Orthopedic Surgeon Is Making the Case For Women to Sit More Like Men

There are plenty of examples of women being told to do things more like men in order to succeed in a male-dominated world — just consider the number of times you've heard women be told to be more confident, be less shrill, or apologize less. Why is it we never hear folks telling men that they should apologize more or perhaps be less confident?


It's normally women who are expected to change their behaviors to better align with the male default and status quo. So when I read the headline "Why Women Should Sit Like Men," in the Washington Post earlier this week, my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. Surely this would be the latest of several examples of well-intentioned authors telling women that if they'd just assert themselves a bit more, all their problems would be solved (with no mention of the societal norms that make it so hard for women to assert themselves in the first place).

Once I finally clicked the article and read the piece itself, I realized that my initial assumptions were wrong. The case for women sitting like men isn't about power poses — it's about joint health.

As the article explains:

  • Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon, started S.L.A.M (Sit Like a Man) after she started experiencing hip pain and realized her seated stance might be to blame
  • "Sit Like a Man is a call to action for women to change their sitting behavior to prevent pain."

As Bergin explains on her website, "Sitting with knees and legs together and/or ankles and legs crossed is a modern learned behavior... In the early 1900s, when skirt lengths crept up above the ankle it was considered more lady-like to have the ankles crossed. As skirt lengths rose, the practice turned into leg crossing."

So why does this learned behavior pose a threat to women's health? "Sitting with the legs on the floor and slightly apart," Bergin says, "takes the tension off of the iliotibial band, the longest tendon in the body, and the greater trochanter, the tendon that stretches across the big bone at the side of the hip." Sitting cross legged puts more tension on these tendons, which can contribute to hip and kneecap pain later in life.

And to be clear, Bergin's not actually advocating that women start "manspreading," just that women place their feet flat on the floor, with their legs at 11 and 1 in order to reduce tension.

So what do you think?

  • How do you like to sit? If you tend to cross your legs, will you give sitting "like a man" a try?
  • Are there other potentially harmful gendered social norms/learned behaviors that you think we should do away with? (High heels, anyone?)
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