Tag Archives: body language

Spread ’em. Actually, don’t

8 Jan

you balls are not that bigInspired by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the move to ban “man-spreading”–men who sit on public transit with their knees spread so far apart that they actually take up seats next to them–has reached Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, and it’s caused some interesting gender chatter.

Globe and Mail article on the topic mentions the Canadian Association for Equality (CAE) who started a petition to stop the ban on man-spreading. The group says, “This sets a very bad precedent as men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology. It’s physically painful for men to close their legs and we cannot be expected to do so, and it’s also a biological necessity for us to do so.”

According to the petition, a ban on spreading one’s legs would “be a big blow to men’s rights.” Men’s rights to do what? Take up unnecessary space on public transit? To be discourteous to others?

Mike Wood, a volunteer advocacy officer with CAE argues that men should be able to take up as much space as women who board buses with strollers, but he fails to understand that when women bring strollers onto a bus, there is another person in the stroller, and the baby in the stroller needs space, just like any other person.

I wouldn’t agree that testicles have any independent rights and need their own seat on the subway.

 In Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behaviour, James Dabbs describes “panache” as a manner that seeks to get the attention and respect of others. “A person with panache,” he writes, “scores points by looking dominant. Bluffing often works just as well as fighting when it comes to getting attention and respect. Male animals bristle, puff, strut, preen, spread their tail feathers, control space, intimidate their opponents, and show off to get their way and impress the opposite sex.”

Is this not what man-spreading is? Puffing up to take up more space and display some form of power and superiority? Why else would a man would choose to sit in on public transit in a way that exposes his most vulnerable body parts, open to potential contact with knees and parcels at the sudden jolt of an unexpected brake. If I were a man, I would protect my fragile spheres, not make them targets.

Ball room

Subway behaviour has its own etiquette and etiquette is about respecting other people and making them comfortable. Man-spreading is the opposite of this. Mr. Wood mentions men’s biology a couple of times being the reason that men need to spread. Some men will need a little extra space for their tackle than others, yes, but how much space could comfort possibly require? Are your testicles so big that you need an extra foot to accommodate them? Perhaps it’s time to change your style of underwear instead of hogging transit seating.

The image used for this post is from a hilarious site about man-spreading. YOUR BALLS ARE NOT THAT BIG seeks to out man-spreaders on the New York subway by posting pictures of the culprits (world-wide submissions are welcome). The blogger makes it clear that man-spreading is about men concerned only with display and their own comfort, not the comfort of others.

Display includes body language, the expression of our self-confidence. Individual self-confidence and self-esteem speaks through the way we move and position ourselves in space, including the way we sit. A man who sits with crossed legs looks comfortable, a man sitting with knees 6″ apart also looks comfortable, but when men sit with knees wide apart, i.e. over 12″, he’s telling the world that a) he’s desperate for attention, b) he’s painfully insecure, and c) he wants to appear virile and by spreading his knees apart so far apart, he can show off those “big balls” of his. Testosterone likes to put on a good show, as Dabbs says.

Funny thing about virility: it’s often not what it seems. Like male animals, much of the virility is false but the display can be stunning.  I had a boyfriend with a huge set of testicles that hung heavily under his pinkie-sized penis which only ejaculated prematurely, so I wouldn’t say that large testicles necessarily indicate virility. The whole puffed-up, I-have-bigger-balls-than-you-and-that-makes-me-more-masculine mentality of man-spreaders is a delusion; mere posturing.

In the animal world as Dabbs mentions, panache works to look dominant and impress the opposite sex. I cannot imagine any woman being attracted to a man who tries so hard to show he’s masculine by exposing what he thinks are mammoth testicles to prove his manhood, while simultaneously imposing himself into other people’s space.

I’m not even sure that men are aware of how much space they take up because they haven’t been challenged on it until recently. Once men are called on it however, many will acknowledge their puffed-up, space-taking wrongdoing and change their position (at least this is what happens in polite Toronto). Several times I’ve been on public transit and saw the only seat available beside a wide-kneed man,  but instead of being intimidated, I said, excuse me, and lowered my bottom into the seat (while he scowled because I’ve messed up his space). If a man’s leg is in my space, I ask him to please give me some more leg room and I’ve never had an argument. Politeness and a kind smile can do wonders for personal comfort, so I recommend it.

Now that the New York subway system’s anti-spreading campaign is on and the messages are travelling to other large cities, it’s time for men (and women who take up more space than they need to) to pay attention and be more aware of the necessity to share space in our ever-increasingly populated cities. As subway posters in Philadelphia say, “Dude It’s Rude… Two Seats — Really?”

PS – Have a look at this site that features Japanese subway posters from the 1970s and 80s that even back then, tried to make people aware of how man-spreading negatively affects people.

 

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Resolve to have a better image in 2013

27 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions, make 2013 the year you take five simple steps to improve your image and make a better impression in the world.

1. Keep your shoes and boots clean and polished.2013 shoes It’s a cliche by now, but I say the same still rings true – in the old days, a man’s character was associated with how well he kept his shoes, and there is no reason to think differently now.  Freshly-polished footwear is the sign of a man who takes pride in himself, and people notice.

Shoes are the base of our daily wardrobe, and if they’re dirty, scuffed, and/or in need of repair, your footwear will negate any effort you’ve taken to dress well. On the other hand, wearing magnificently cared-for footwear can actually excuse an otherwise sloppy wardrobe – shoes are powerful!

2. Keep your hands clean. hand illustrationWe meet a lot of people and we shake a lot of hands, and keeping yours clean, like wearing well-kept shoes, sends a positive message about your self esteem and your respect for others. Clean hands also reduce the spread of germs, important  especially in winter – so respect your health and the health of others and wash often!

Unfortunately, washing germs away will dry out your hands, making skin tight and uncomfortable (to the point of cracking, for some of you). The way around this is to apply moisturizer. I hear your complaints already, but  moisturizing your skin is no different than using oil to keep your baseball glove supple. To avoid the discomfort of dry hands, gents, try to apply at least once a day, preferably after your morning shower.

3. Keep scent to a minimum. cologneKeep the smell volume down low, because you may be the only one enjoying the fragrant symphony hanging around you.

Remember that most, if not all of your grooming products, from shampoo to shaving cream, are scented. If you wear aftershave or cologne, this is another fragrance on top of these scents, which  gets to be overpowering quickly.

To make things worse, I just read an article about the fragrance industry using human and animal feces in their products – yuck!

4. Wear well-fitting clothing.  When dressing for business or casual, if you’re not paying attention to the fit of your clothes, you’re doing yourself a 2013 fitdisservice. It doesn’t matter how big or small a man is, ill-fitting clothes visually change your body shape.

Wearing too-small clothing makes bodies bulge and pushes us out of proportion. Too-big clothing (left) gives visual obesity while making us look insignificant as we swim in excess fabric. A correct fit (right) accentuates the positive and makes us more confident. Wearing well-fit clothing feels great!

5. Stand straighter. Want to lose a visual 5 pounds and feel more confident? Inhale, straighten your spine, lift your eyes, and square your shoulders.

People often don’t pay attention to the way they stand, but posture speaks loudly; it can diminish us in the eyes of others or boost our presence and mood. People notice confident people, and confident people stand straight.

I encourage you to watch this 20-minute TED talk with social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, who explains body language and how to turn up your testosterone and your confidence by assuming 2-minute “power positions”:

Without spending extra money, you can sharpen your image by following these simple steps, making for a more confident and memorable 2013. Happy New Year!

Note – In the Key of He is taking January off – see you in February!

What are your hands doing?

23 Dec

If you don’t know by now, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Design with a specialization in costume. In Theatre school, we learned from all different areas so that we could understand and appreciate all of the jobs that make up a working theatre – stage management, lighting and sound, scenic painting, stage carpentry, and acting, for example.

While in my performance class, I developed an appreciation of acting and how difficult it is. One of the most challenging parts of acting for me at least, was to sync up the movements – genuine movements – to the genuinely delivered but memorized words – it’s all so fabricated that only great actors can do this well. (Next time you’re watching TV or a film, watch the hands of the actor – if he / she is focused, their hands will be one with their emotions and words.)

Throughout the class, we worked on monologues and performed our speeches to the whole department at the end of the semester. I chose a piece from a Eugene O’Neill play, A Touch of the Poet.

I was prepared, I researched the play and my character, I memorized and internalized the work, I knew all of my lines cold. The night came. It was my turn. I walked into the center of the floor in the studio theatre and began my monologue. I delivered my lines flawlessly. Then, while reaching out in gesture as I continued, I was so focused on getting the words right, that my hands froze in mid-air until my brain realized that there was absolutely no connection between my outstretched hands and the words I was speaking.

From this experience, I learned many things. I realized how important and how strong the connection between the mind and the body is, and I realized how out of touch we are with ourselves when we are not conscious of our physical body.

I know from acting studies that our hands give much away about our emotional state and when I’m working with my clients, I like to draw their attention to this idea. I like to take them through a mental journey of their own bodies when we do body work. This helps them to become aware of their bodies, how they hold themselves,  their posture, and their movements because not only does it feel good to be alive, our physical presence sends messages to the people around us to be interpreted accordingly.

Hand movements and gestures can speak at high volumes and can punctuate our words and give away our state of mind, even if we’re not conscious of it, so being able to identify what our bodies or hands are doing is a great way to learn to be in control of oneself.

If you read my Multi-tasking blog post from earlier this year, I discussed the difficulty men often have with doing more than one task at a time due to the amount of testosterone in their bodies which likes to focus on one thing at a time. The challenge for the fellas is becoming aware of the body and its parts at any given time while remaining present in the current situation. If you are up to it gents, try the following experiment.

Experiment

At different points during your day, try asking yourself, what are my hands doing? to become more conscious of your appendages while your brain concentrates on other things. You may be surprised to find that your hands are the physical manifestation of what you’re thinking about / feeling / in the midst of.

Try this experiment if you’re interested and ask yourself what your hands are doing when you are in different situations:

  • If you’re relaxed, your hands may be hanging relaxed at your sides
  • If you’re speaking to someone who is giving you information that you don’t like, ask what your hands are doing and you may find that your fists are clenched
  • If you’re bored or in a situation that makes you nervous, you may become aware that your hands are fidgeting in some way or have gone to your mouth

These are simple examples that most people can read. The trick is to make yourself conscious of them so that you can control yourself, if you so choose. I believe this knowledge will help you if you don’t want everyone to know how you are feeling at that particular moment.  So when you’re in a meeting and not agreeing with what is being discussed and you notice that you’re roughly rubbing your hands, take a breath, realize that other people can see and read you, then consciously relax your hands. Undoubtedly you’ll feel better and being controlled / conscious, you may be in a better position than if people read you as an aggressive member at the table.