'Manspreading' as a term may have just entered the lexicon in the past couple of years, but the concept—of someone (typically, yes, a dude) who spreads their legs apart on a crowded train—is nearly as old as the subways themselves. Don't believe us? The image above, of a poster shaming commuters for taking up more than their fair share of space on the train, is from 1947.
And it's a problem that transcends place as well as time: a number of subway systems around the world have implemented campaigns similar to the MTA's that discourage manspreading, along with other transit no-no's like pole hogging, littering, and bum-rushing a door before people have a chance to exit a train. (Seriously, don't do that.) Many of these will go on view this weekend at the New York Transit Museum's annex at Grand Central Terminal, as the museum opens "Transit Etiquette or: How I Learned To Stop Spitting and Step Aside in 25 Languages." (The title is pretty self-explanatory.)
The exhibit focuses on several different "transit etiquette sins," including littering, blocking the train doors, and, of course, the dreaded manspreading. Advertisements from a bunch of different subway systems—including London's Underground, Chicago's 'L' trains, and Tokyo's Metro, in addition to the New York City subway—show how these decorum issues are illustrated for commuters.
And it's as much a show about design as it is good manners: A whimsical, illustrated ad from the Tube (shown above) will sit alongside a more modern one from Vancouver, both admonishing riders who are hogging seats. Even though the time, place, and design are very different, the message—it's really not cool to take up seats that should go to others who need them more—is crystal clear.