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

by Erika W. Smith


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.”

tumblr o8mt8mNVAL1qz8t7bo2 540
tumblr o8mt8mNVAL1qz8t7bo1 540





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.

More from BUST

Here’s What Happens When Women ‘Manspread’ On The Subway

Here’s A Genius Way To Take Down Manspreaders

These Ads From The 40s And 50s Prove Manspreading Has Always Existed

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.