Women taking up space: “power posing”–men taking up space: “manspreading”
From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:
Why is it called “power posing” when you’re a woman and you stand or sit so that you take up as much space as possible—but called “manspreading” when you’re a man and do exactly the same thing?
The former earns kudos as enabling women to exude them the self-confidence that will win them a pay raise at the office or speeded-up service at the dry cleaner. As Slate’s Katy Waldman puts it : “Think a cobra rearing and spreading its hood to the sun, or Wonder Woman with her legs apart and her hands on her hips.”
The latter is…a crime, at least in New York City, where two men were arrested in June 2015 for taking up too much seating space on a Gotham subway, even though the alleged offense occurred at 12:11 a.m., a time that made it unlikely that many other passengers were even riding the subway.
In 2010 Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at the Harvard Business School, published a paper with some research collaborators asserting: “Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures…[R]results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.”
Cuddy’s paper morphed into an ultra-popular TED talk and then, at the end of 2015, a book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. The book garnered a rave review in the New York Times. Google “power pose image,” and you’ll see dozens of photos of men and women with their elbows akimbo, their legs propped up on the conference table, and their knees and ankles spread as far apart as the Colossus of Rhodes’s.