Student creates chair to put an end to manspreading

Manspreading is deeply annoying.

But for all us irritated women on public transport, it’s felt like the only way to tackle this maddening act is through deep sighs and passive-aggressive leg nudges.

No more – a student has come up with a proper solution to put an end to manspreading forever.

Laila Laurel, 23, is a student at the University of Brighton. She’s just won the Belmond Award at New Designs in London for her creation: a chair that trains men to stop manspreading.

Laila’s also made a chair to encourage women to take up more space.

Here’s how the chairs work. The anti-manspreading chair has legs that narrow in width, forcing the sitter’s legs to press into each other. The women’s chair does the opposite, forcing their legs to be spread widely.

Each chair is made from sycamore and cherry wood, and genuinely looks visually pleasing – so it’s great design for the aesthetics as well as the purpose.

Laila tells she was inspired by her own encounters with manspreading and other women’s experiences.

‘I was also hugely inspired by Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project where I read about the struggles and frustrations of women around the world pertaining to men infringing on their space,’ Laila tells us.

‘I think encouraging women to consider the way in which they move through the world or the space they take up in relation to men is powerful because it is such an intrinsic and huge issue, and yet one that perhaps is not always considered.

‘I think men have a tendency to command space and require women to move for them far more than vice versa.

‘In order to achieve gender equality it is imperative to consider many different aspects of sexism, and so that is why I thought it would interesting it try to explore political gendered issues around seating.’

As with any woman speaking publicly about women’s experiences in the world, Laila has been blasted with horrible messages from strangers who are angry about her designs.

‘The reaction of the people that I spoke to at the show and those that sat in the chair has been brilliant and interesting, and people seem to have found them funny and engaging which is all I could have hoped for,’ Laila explains. ‘The online backlash however has been quite unpleasant.

‘I have received a lot of explicit messages nearly entirely from men who seem to be under the impression I am trying to castrate them and that I hate all men – which couldn’t be further from the truth.’

Manspreaders of the world really don’t need to worry, as there are currently no plans to roll the chairs out to all public spaces and force men to sit in them.

The chairs are more of a concept design, created to get a conversation going about how men and women take up space in the world.

Although wouldn’t it be nice if every manspreader did have a go in the chair, just so they could get used to sitting in a considerate way?

Thankfully Laila isn’t taking the backlash too seriously, and has no plans to stop sparking conversation.

‘I don’t take myself too seriously, because for my work I really want it to be both important and thought provoking, whilst also being engaging and funny,’ Laila says. ‘I think humour is a really interesting tool in order to tackle social issues.

‘I hope the message my current and future works send is that of a young woman that is using her design practice in order to create fun, powerful and interesting work surrounding equality and feminism.’

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