In 2017, we’re edging ever nearer to George Orwell’s 1984. How we talk, tweet and by default how we think is being policed.
But we just went a stage further: how men sit down is now being monitored by the authorities.
This has actually happened in Madrid, where hare-brained lawmakers have introduced a ban on “manspreading” – the practice of men spreading their legs while sitting on public transport.
The law was demanded by hard-left feminist lobby group Women At War (who drummed up 10,000 signatures via an online protest), saying, “It’s a question of culture. We women have always been told to occupy the least amount of space possible, and men haven’t.”
Anybody who travels on public transport will know this to be baseless fantasy. Being antisocial on public transport isn’t a gender thing. It’s an idiot thing.
Women routinely take up seats with handbags and shopping – termed “shebagging” or “bagspreading” – and are just as guilty as men of putting their feet on seats, which Madrid’s men vocally highlighted following the new law.
Aunque hay que admitir que esto, el shebagging llega a tocar las narices también pic.twitter.com/17lJdYp3bk
— Luis Ruescas (@BreakFyre) June 5, 2017
The British Facebook group “Femspreading” goes further, picturing women even lying down across several Tube seats.
But don’t expect any convictions for these offences any time ever: the pointlessly sexist term “manspreading” makes it clear only men are being viewed as potential offenders.
Madrid is following New York’s Metro system, which outlawed manspreading in 2015, resulting in cops actually arresting two men.
There are three main reasons why laws like this are unremittingly stupid.
Firstly, such empty gesture politics does precisely nothing to end genuine misogyny.
Like Nottingham police making misogyny a new hate crime, this is another example of inventing new laws specifically designed to generate low-hanging fruit convictions against men, while doing nothing to end genuine misogynistic barbarism, such as prosecuting for FGM.
Secondly, such laws can make men actively hostile to feminism, which impacts all women even though the hardline feminists who call for these laws do not represent all women. These misandric zealots increase division between the genders.
Thirdly, it sets a dangerous precedent for tail-wagging-the-dog democracy. If a feminist lobby group can fabricate new laws on sitting down, where will it end? Farting? Don’t laugh: absurdly, farting has already been declared “a feminist issue”.
But could manspreading laws ever come to the UK?
In the current climate, don’t rule it out. In 2015 Jeremy Corbyn famously called for women-only Tube trains in London, a move that was slammed even by prominent feminists as taking segregation back 60 years.
While Transport for London distanced itself from the idea, the principle of an easy-win law against sexism could curry favour with London’s Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
In June last year, he vowed to crack down on scantily-clad “body shaming” ads on the Tube, a cover-up which led to widespread criticism, with one asking “is this feminism or Islamism?”
Khan adores well-meaning political gestures that protect minorities, even when they provably harm those very same communities.
When six London men were recently stabbed to death in one week, Khan didn’t pledge to increase police stop and search powers – a policy he’s pledged to end. He responded by investing £1.7m in an “online hate crime hub” to stamp out offensive tweets.
In the aftermath of the London Bridge terrorist massacre, when seven people in London were mown down and stabbed to death by Islamic terrorists, Khan repeated his “zero tolerance” to Islamophobic hate crimes, which he claimed had increased five-fold since the attack.
Looking down the wrong end of the telescope – and having blind spots for real crimes – is Khan’s forte.
This is why nobody would be in the least bit surprised if a manspreading ban came to London soon. This wrong-headed law has Britain’s name stamped all over it.