One of the most demoralizing and frustrating aspects of being a woman has to do with the phenomenon of the male propensity to extend their physical presence to validate their own masculinity. A woman named Beth Breslaw had evidently had enough of that, reports The Cut, and took to the streets to imitate the practice of manslamming, or walking like a man, i.e. in any particular direction she chooses without having to accommodate the moving trajectory of the people around her. The Cut’s Jessica Roy describes it as “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” Roy writes:
Think of manslamming as a cousin of manspreading, the subway scourge that’s become so pernicious, the MTA recently launched a campaign to combat it. Both involve questions of personal space that have vexed feminists for years — arguably, both are symptoms of a culture that teaches men to self-assuredly occupy any and all space available to them, regardless of who’s nearby.
During her experiment in spatial assertiveness, Breslaw found that she was still regularly body checked my men who were either aloof or unwilling to move. For women who bumped into her, there was at least some audible cognizance (versus little or none from male bumpers), reaffirming her suspicion that the occurrence was primarily a gendered microaggression.
Last year, Bustle’s Gabrielle Moss conducted a similar experiment in manspreading, which has since been banned by the MTA. For her part, she found that people primarily left her alone rather than confront the absurdity of taking up twice her body mass in space.
But she also posed an important point:
“I now believe that some of those men I had raged against had probably genuinely not noticed how much space they were taking up. That’s the thing about privilege: It can be mighty blind.”
Breslaw seemed to echo a similar sentiment: “I never fell down,” she told The Cut. “I never got hit so far that I actually got knocked on my ass."
Well, we have that going for us.