A man sits with his legs apart on a Berlin train, he is blocking two seats, and he doesn't seem to care about the people around him.
Until the two women sitting across from him suddenly spread their legs and reveal a lettering on the inside of their pants: “Stop Spreading” is their message - in German “Stop spreading”.
The feminist activists Elena Buscaino and Mina Bonakdar have declared war on so-called manspreading.
This is the habit of some men in public transport to use their adjacent seats by sitting with their legs apart - and that usually without any consideration for the next man or woman.
"It is absolutely possible to sit comfortably on transport without taking two seats by spreading your legs," said 25-year-old Bonakdar.
The provocative action of the two feminist activists is part of a broad initiative called the “Riot Pant Project”.
The idea of the campaign is to print slogans in the crotch of second-hand pants to draw attention to the problem of man spreading.
The two design students Bonakdar and Buscaino started the initiative to help women and members of the LGBTQ community to reclaim public space that is often used by men.
"Only by imitating does the other understand the effect of his behavior," said Buscaino.
However, she admits that very few men change their behavior immediately.
“They are often amazed that women can stand in front of them like this,” says the 26-year-old.
They want women to "feel stronger and gain confidence"
Source: pa / dpa / Jörg Carstensen
Buscaino also hopes that the project will at least give men something to think about.
Her co-activist Bonakdar is convinced that just wearing the pants with the slogans makes women “feel stronger and gain self-confidence”.
In Madrid there is a penalty for man spreading
The problem of man spreading has been around since the beginning of public transport.
"Sit with your limbs straight and don't keep your legs at a 45-degree angle, which would take up the space of two people," wrote the Times of London in an article about good behavior on the bus like the one in 1836 Author Clive DW Feather writes in his book "The History of Bakerloo Line".
The term manspreading dates back to 2013, when people in New York City began sharing photos on social media showing men with their legs apart and their troubled-looking fellow travelers.
The US metropolis was also one of the first cities to try to put a stop to behavior.
In 2014, the New York public transport company launched a campaign against it.
Since then, there have been similar campaigns in South Korea, Japan and Istanbul.
In Madrid, manspreading has even been penalized since 2017.
The contradiction on the Internet was not long in coming.
Men cited biological differences to justify their increased footprint and the need to sit with their legs apart.
There is no scientific evidence for this.
Instead, the phenomenon has more to do with gender roles in society, says Bettina Hannover, a psychologist from the Free University of Berlin.
"Men sit more possessively and signal dominance with their seating position, while women are expected to take up less space - and, above all, to behave cautiously."