Feminist wins award for chair designed to stop ‘manspreading’

Chair encourages men to sit with their legs closed

Student designs a chair that could put an end to manspreading

We’ve all been there: having successfully bagged a seat on the tube against all odds, we find ourselves squished between two men, both sitting with knees so far apart that our own could not get closer together to avoid being knocked.

Yes, manspreading is possibly one of the biggest bug bears for women on public transport – and now a feminist designer has come to the rescue.

Laila Laurel, a 3D Design & Craft graduate from the University of Brighton, has designed a chair that features a triangular seat which encourages men to sit with their legs closed, creating a potential solution to the scourge of manspreading.

Created as part of her final-year project entitled “A Solution for Manspreading”, Laurel also created a second chair intended for women which uses a small piece of wood in the centre of the seat to encourage female sitters to rest with her legs parted, allowing them to take up more space.

The graduate says that her design is not to be taken too seriously but admits that the chairs do give a “physicality to an issue women face in quite a fun yet literal way”.

According to the online Oxford dictionary, manspreading describes “the practice whereby a man adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat”.

Speaking to The Independent, Laurel says: “My design practice is contextualised within fourth wave feminism and another huge inspiration for these pieces was Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project, a platform in which women can testify about the sexism they have experienced.

“I designed and created these chairs in order to identify and challenge problems surrounding the act of sitting that might potentially be more gender specific, such as ‘man-spreading’.”

Laurel added that she is delighted with the response her design has received, saying: “The reaction of the people who engaged and interacted with my pieces at my Graduate show was really encouraging and exciting as it seemed to spark interesting conversations and also make them laugh, which is something I really value in my work.”

As well as receiving plenty of praise for her design, Laurel’s work has been presented with the Belmond Award for emerging talent.

The luxury hotel and leisure company says it looks for designs that show “imaginative and cleverly presented ideas with a considered overall look and feel along with the quality of work displayed”.

Following the announcement, the judging panel said that Laurel’s chair was “a bold, purpose-driven design that explores the important role of design in informing space, a person’s behaviour and society issues of today”.

(Laila Laurel)

Reacting to the award, Laurel said: “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.”

As part of her prize, Laurel will be commissioned to create a product for the hotel and leisure company and receive a £1,000 bursary.

(Laila Laurel)

In 2017, Madrid took a stand against manspreading by banning men from indulging in the leg extending move on its trains and buses.

The city’s Municipal Transportation Company (EMT) installed a series of new signs in all its carriages and vehicles, showing an illustrated man spreading his legs wide apart on a metro seat with a giant red “X” indicating that it is unacceptable.

(Laila Laurel)

Madrid followed in the footsteps of New York, which was one of the first cities to reject manspreading on public transport back in 2014.

Its “Dude, please stop the spreading” campaign on the city’s metro network won widespread support with some NYPD officers even going as far as arresting offenders who did not comply.

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