Last year, there were several reports that sought to examine the circumstances around and reasons why men casually hog space in public settings (particularly on the subway). But these were far from the first studies of the manspreading phenomenon—the most exhaustive one may have come in the 1970s, long before anyone had even coined the term "manspread."
As Pacific Standard Magazine uncovered, German feminist photographer Marianne Wex published Let’s Take Back Our Space: Female and Male Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures in 1979, which examines the body language of men and women through the prism of gender and the subconscious to understand the unequal treatment of women. The book is organized around nearly 5,000 photos, which includes advertisements, reportage, fashion magazines, studio portraits, the history of art, and photos that Wex herself took of people between 1972 and 1977.
As David Campany explained, Wex proposed that "our smallest, most unconscious gestures speak volumes about the power relations of gender in daily life." He added that though the project cannot be considered a scientific study, it is instead "an intervention, and its claims to authority come less from the presentation of facts than from the flashes of recognition we may have in response to what she presents. Decades on, it’s impossible not to see aspects of ourselves and of present society in these images."
Randomly, you can peruse the entire book on YouTube below.
You can also revisit our own confrontations with manspreaders below.