#womanspreading: How to Use a Trending Hashtag to Your Advantage

A few weeks ago, we wrote about #metoo and talked about how it was being used in the influencer space. Using the hashtag, women shared their experiences of having been sexually harassed or assaulted, which helped the world to see the magnitude of the problem.

Today, another trending feminist hashtag is #womanspreading. In part, it is coined after the term manspreading, the verb to describe the common phenomenon of men sitting with their legs wide open on public transport. Female celebrities and influencers have taken to uploading photographs of themselves in the pose.

Original photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Unlike #metoo, however, the use of #womanspreading has played out in quite a different manner. Although there are a number of influencers who are uploading photographs of themselves with their legs spread in the name of changing social norms, there are many others who seem to be doing so with other intentions in mind.

What is a “Lady”?

Stripper and model @valeriestunning uploaded a photograph of herself which included the hashtag. In her caption, she challenges the idea of what it means to be a “lady”, part of which is the idea that a lady ought to sit properly, with her legs closed.

Fuck your “lady-like” notions and the horse you road in on. ? #womanspreading #glamraunch ? @jacqthestripper

A post shared by Valerie Stunning (@valeriestunning) on

Small time model @elodie_de_zelac also did the same, asserting that her posture in the photograph was one of not “giv[ing] a f… anymore”.

Trending Hashtags Get You Places

Hashtags, when used well, increase visibility. And one cannot fault an individual for using a trending hashtag to get their opposing opinion out on a particular issue.

#womanspreading #menarenttheonlyones

A post shared by Matt Lodder (@instalodder) on

@instalodder, for an example, used the caption in conjunction with #menarenttheonlyones to suggest that manspreading is a misnomer and is not, as its name suggests, an action exclusively attributable to men. Such opposing opinions are in fact, welcome, as it brings debate into the issue.

There are, however, also instances of individuals using the heightened visibility that a trending hashtag affords for purposes that are little related to the meaning of the hashtag itself.

Instead of introducing a recent photograph of herself with her legs spread, influencer @leilanidowding posted a shot of herself doing so 18 years ago. However, she criticizes her past actions and labels it “tasteless s***”. While she denounces those who are doing it now, using the hashtag and posting a photograph from her past allows her to get in on the trend as well as to be found (on Instagram) by those who search with the hashtag.

Writer and Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon also uploaded a post of herself in the #womanspreading position. While she does present her audience with a photograph of herself with her legs spread, a much larger portion of her caption is dedicated to talking about a pair of boots that she received (featured in the post) and how much she loves them.

Of course, some say that using any hashtag at all serves the purpose of calling attention to one’s post. And doing so is not wrong, especially on social media where promotion (either of oneself or one’s brand) is key. Even some of the influencers who use #metoo may be doing so in order to boost their following, or to bring attention to their personal brand rather than to increase awareness of sexual harassment and assault.

What are your opinions on this issue? Tell us in the comments below.

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