‘The Roomy Dodge’ Was The Manspreading Of The Victorian Era

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Can we talk about this image that I saw going around on Tumblr?


In case you can’t read it, here’s what it says:

“Oh, if you please, Sir, you’re treading on my toes!”

Of Sitting Square

“Sitting square,” or “sitting wide,” otherwise known as the roomy dodge, is an elegant method of sticking out the elbows, and widening the space between the knees, so as to occupy as much room as possible, and to make the unfortunate persons who sit next, on either side, wretchedly uncomfortable and close — jammed, if not half suffocated. Reasoning would be lost upon anybody who could do such a thing: the best remedy (next to a dig in the side) is to call the attention of the whole omnibus to the fact.”

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That’s right — manspreading has been around since the Victorian era, if not longer.


It looks like this photo was originally posted on Twitter by Lee Jackson, an author who writes about the social history of Victorian London on victorianlondon.com. Jackson has published quite a few books about that era, so although I can’t find the original source for the photo, I’m trusting Jackson’s post.

Next time you see a dude taking up five seats on the subway instead of two, call out his “roomy dodge” so the whole subway car can hear — or at least do what proper Victorian ladies would have done, and elbow him in the ribs.

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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