If this is the first time you've ever wondered what manscusing means, that's probably because I just made that word up. What I didn't make up, though, is the very real phenomenon behind it: namely, when a man deliberately gets in a woman's way, forcing the woman to react in some way to it, and then acts like a hero for correcting the problem as if the woman was the one who got in the way in the first place. Sound familiar yet?
If not, allow me illustrate it with an example: the other day I was in line at a bar, when a man cut in front of me. It was too crowded for me to call him out or move very much, so I stuck one of my feet in front of him and made deliberate eye contact — both which he ignored. He moved up with the line, and only when we got up to the front and it was clear I was about to interrupt the woman taking his order first that he turned around to acknowledge me for the first time.
"No, no, she was in line before me," he said magnanimously, even as he still refused to yield the place in line he had stolen in front of me. And then as the woman finally started to take my order doubtfully, he was trying to catch my eye — See what a good person I am? See how you misjudged me? — and when I very pointedly did not meet it, anyone could sense the annoyance in his posture. He wasted this moment of ~manscusing~ on me. I was supposed to be docile and polite, supposed to validate his gesture of goodwill with my grateful acknowledgement. But instead, I was ordering a beer and shoving myself past him, up to the front of the bar where I belonged. Cue the record scratch.
I mean, this behavior isn't news to anyone. The truth is, we have all probably noticed this pattern in our own lives — particularly in crowded areas — where men set themselves up to manscuse. Manscusers will cut you in line; they start walking diagonally on the sidewalk and almost collide with you when you’re walking on the right side; they do things to deliberately put themselves in your way, so of course you will be annoyed, so of course you will have to do something to avoid them, so they can then recover and look like a hero when they make some sweeping, obvious gesture to “let” you pass by.
What makes the act of manscusing even more frustrating is that men most likely aren't doing it on any conscious level. In fact, from the way they react in the aftermath of it, it seems like they manage to erase the part of the narrative where they have done anything disruptive — they genuinely do think that they're being gentlemen. Its their total unawareness of it that speaks to the much broader issue of men unconsciously exerting male privilege in other run-of-the-mill, everyday moments.
Walking in New York, for instance, if you refuse to yield to a guy who stepped into your way, a good half of the time he will stop with an “Only just noticed you there,” and sweep his arms out like he is laying the red carpet out for you as you pass. I am a gentlemen, he is saying, look at me respecting you like the lady you are. When really what you’re hearing is, I got in your way because you’re a girl and I assumed you’d move, and when you didn’t, I didn’t want to look like an tool. So instead he makes you look like the jerk if you choose to ignore his “kindness”.
This may seem like a relatively minor thing to interrupt your day, but when you think of it as just one of the many micro-aggressions women deal with on a day-to-day basis, it is really an important piece of a much larger whole. Manscusing is the brother of manspreading (when men take up more than their fair share of space on public transport for no reason), the cousin of the more blatant act of mansplaining (when men explain something to women in a patronizing or condescending way) — and when you add all of those up, it's no wonder if you feel manspent.
Yes, manscusing is a small inconvenience. Yes, odds are men don't even realize they're doing it a lot of the time. But add together all the small inconveniences — all the times men unconsciously prioritize their own space and comfort over a woman's ability to walk uninterrupted on a sidewalk, or sit comfortably in a subway chair, or even to speak knowledgeably on a subject without being undermined — and it isn't so "small" anymore.
So fellow world-weary pedestrians, line defenders, and grocery cart wranglers, let this not just be a PSA about the existence of manscusing — let it be a call to action. I'm not saying you should barrel into everyone you see all HULK-SMASH, but I am saying that if you were there first, you gotta act like it. Sometimes it's an honest mistake and the person will get out of your groove. But in the circumstances you are manscused? Do not feed them with your thank yous or your gratitude. Ignore their manscusing the same way you ignored them getting in your way in the first place. And get your beer from the bar when it's your damn turn.
Images: Pixabay; Giphy