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Becoming what they hate? Swedish ad celebrates ‘womanspreading’, years after feminists raged against uncouth male sitting posture

Becoming what they hate? Swedish ad celebrates ‘womanspreading’, years after feminists raged against uncouth male sitting posture
A provocative advertisement produced by a Swedish marketing firm has tipped its hat to “womanspreading” — purportedly a female-empowering knock-off of the much-derided male sitting position. The gimmick was not well received.

Swedish department store Hansa, which sells fashion items as well as food and drinks, enlisted Malmo Advertising Agency to stir up its brand image — and it seems the stunt worked. The agency rolled out a video showing a woman in a pink pantsuit spreading her legs wide as she sits on what appears to be a bus or train.

“Celebrate the womanspread,” the ad reads.

Malmo Advertising Agency told Swedish media that the idea was inspired by the apparent lack of “woman-spreaders” — apparently paying tribute to the handful of courageous females who bravely spread their legs while sitting in public places.

A marketing manager for Hansa praised the ad, describing it as “just right for us and how we want to position ourselves.”

But Swedes appeared to be less receptive to the somewhat contradictory message of women embracing something that men are regularly shamed for.

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“Imagine constantly pointing out 'oppression' and 'problematic' behaviors in men, only to copy those behaviors and highlight them as cool and empowering. The irony is lost on them,”noted one unimpressed comment.

Others scratched their heads at the idea that mimicking what feminists have labeled rude and sexist behavior was now somehow a cause for feminist celebration. What happened to ’genuine’ feminists who fought for child care and other social issues that actually benefit women? asked a skeptical social media observer.

The ‘manspreading’ phenomenon dates back some five years, when feminist activists began a campaign to shame men who sit with spread legs on public transport. The movement was particularly successful in New York City, where police reportedly even began prowling the subway for men who took up took much space.

The sitting posture soon became synonymous with ’toxic masculinity,’ which also includes behavior such as ‘mansplaining’ — when a man condescendingly explains something to a woman.

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‘Manspreading’ still makes regular appearances in pop culture and public discourse. A recent Taylor Swift music video features a rather two-dimensional male caricature who proudly manspreads on the subway, much to the disgust of everyone around him.

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