The Internet Is Rightly Fuming at 'Manspreading' Arrests

This was no blow for transit justice.

Let us now praise the grown-ups on the Internet, the ones who took to Twitter and comment sections to decry what could have been whipped into buzz-fluff: This business that Gothamist highlighted from a police reform report, about New Yorkers getting arrested for, ahem, "manspreading" on the subway.

Manspreading is a real thing, and it's worth calling out. Men on transit often sit with their knees at maximum splittage, or lounge with their arms out, or generally convey through body language that you can go ahead and keep standing, while they take up the whole sofa. (Women pull this stunt as well, but owing perhaps to their dimensions or demeanors, men have elevated it to a high art.) The Internet has decided to hate on manspreaders and right for. They're easy, deserving targets: jerks who are taking more than their share of a common good. Point, laugh, shame, repeat.

Except when the Police Reform Organizing Project released its report on New York City's ticky-tack "broken windows" or "quality of life" arrests, which included perhaps the first mention of manspreading in a summons hearing, we found that two Latino men were arrested on a train after midnight and charged with a misdemeanor for taking up more than one seat on a train that likely was nearly vacant. And many people gave it a moment's thought said: No, actually, that's not what we were looking for on this deal at all.

Even at Jezebel, no friend to the manspread, the reaction was tempered. "Great," reads the top comment on the story. "Another way for the police to selectively arrest minorities." Realistically it's hard to see this as a "manspreading" arrest until it starts happening to white people, and/or on trains that aren't after-midnight empty.

New York police use many of the so-called quality of life policing statutes as ways to stop people they might suspect vaguely of whatever. Our two supposed manspreading perps fit that category. They also had outstanding warrants for menacing society by peeing in public and going into a park after-hours. Now these dudes have arrests on their records, ostensibly for making themselves comfortable on a late-night train ride. For all the commenters and tweeters who didn't take the ha-ha-what'll-they-think-of-next bait, congrats. This stuff is only funny until you're the one getting selectively policed.

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