“How do you sit in a chair? On a bus? On a train?” I posed this question to some of my female friends and awaited a response. Some of them were confused. Some acted as if it was a trick question. Some responded immediately. Eventually, they all answered my odd question. More often than not, when they sit down, they cross their legs.

As women, we tend to sit with our arms close together, our hands folded in our laps (maybe we hold our phones, books, or other items), our feet point straight ahead, our legs are pressed together or crossed. We don’t really think about these actions when we sit in spaces. We just do it. Men sit with their arms away from their body, their feet point outward, and their legs are spread open (otherwise known as “man-spreading”). They are comfortable. They take up all the available space. While us women, well- We constrict ourselves. We make ourselves small. We take up little space. And, our movements are significant.

Society dictates how women should behave, appear, and occupy space. So, it becomes a natural movement for us. We sit down, and we end up squeezing our bodies into the tiniest space imaginable. This action confirms that we are feminine, and in society, we have to display femininity in order to be successful, well liked, and beautiful. So, being small, and in turn, being feminine- is what we all want, right?

Adult women aren’t the only ones that take up little space. I noticed that the little girls I teach also perform these movements. They walk into my classroom, sit in their chairs, and make themselves small. When little boys come into my classroom, the little girls react. They make themselves even smaller by moving their bodies to one side of their chair. It’s as if they are making more space for the boys to occupy. These little girls do this without discussion, and without stopping their work. It’s natural.

There are also times when we are reprimanded for the ways we sit. If we show any sign of woman spreading, we are scolded. Do not sit like that. That’s not ladylike. Close your legs. Cross your legs. You are a lady. This scolding implies that when we do not make ourselves small, we aren’t ladies. And we can’t have that!

Women are gladly challenging women’s space now. They “woman-spread.” They sit for comfort. They’ve done away with crossing their legs. We should all begin to challenge this age-old concept that still makes its presence known in society. We need to stop constricting ourselves and our bodies. We need to stop squeezing ourselves into the tiniest spaces and ignoring how uncomfortable we may be. We need to change our movements for good. We need to make ourselves mighty. We need to visibly take up space. All. The. Space.