This Woman Won a Design Award for a Chair That Prevents “Manspreading”

Laila Laurel

“Manspreading,” in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is what happens when men in the cramped quarters of public transit choose to take up more than their quota of space by spreading out their legs.

Seen by feminists as an unwanted exhibition of male social dominance and by sensible, polite people as just plain rude, the practice has gotten more and more attention as people post their rage on social media.

Enter 23-year-old Laila Laurel, a 3D Design & Craft graduate from the University of Brighton.

Image Credit: Laila Laurel

Her final-year project is called “A Solution for Manspreading,” and features two wooden chairs – one for men, and another for women.

“I designed and created these chairs in order to identify and challenge problems surrounding the act of sitting that might potentially be more gender-specific, such as manspreading.”

Image Credit: Laila Laurel

The male version is shaped to force him to sit with his legs closed, while the female version comes with a small piece of wood in the middle that encourages sitting with her legs parted.

She told The Independent that of course the chairs weren’t meant for serious implementation, but to “give physicality to an issue women face in quite a fun yet literal way.”

Image Credit: Laila Laurel

“My design practice is contextualized within fourth-wave feminism and another huge inspiration for these pieces was Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project, a platform in which women can testify about the sexism they have experienced.”

Laurel ended up winning a Belmond Award, which recognizes emerging talent, for her work. The luxury hotel and leisure company called the chairs a “bold, purpose-driven design that explores the important role of design in informing space, a person’s behavior and societal issues of today.”

Image Credit: Laila Laurel

Though the chairs were a big hit at her graduate show, she was surprised – and thrilled – to be recognized beyond that scope.

“The reaction of the people who engaged and interacted with my pieces at my graduate show was really encouraging and exciting as it seemed to spark interesting conversations and also make them laugh, which is something I really value in my work.”

Image Credit: Laila Laurel

It just goes to show that people really enjoy a good piece of art, and that goes double for one that makes you uncomfortable while you experience it.