I’m not sure who first told me that ladies always sit with their legs together. It could be that I just picked it up from the herd, since I’m not sure I saw a single woman sit with her legs open until I left my tiny Southern hometown for college. But now sitting like a lady is so deeply ingrained that my legs automatically lock together at the knee every time I take a seat. According to at least one doctor, the odd shooting pain I sometimes feel in my hips for seemingly no reason is a direct result of three decades of sitting politely.
Orthopedic surgeon Barbara Bergin realized her bursitis symptoms—hip pains caused by an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs cushioning joints and soft tissue—eased when she opened her legs while seated. As a result, she began recommending “sit like a man” or S.L.A.M. to her patients. She says that no matter what your granny tells you about real ladies keeping their legs closed, women’s bodies weren’t made to be constantly crossed at the knee or the ankle:
“‘Developmentally, women have a wider pelvis than men,’ Bergin told the Washington Post, which means the femur, or the thighbone, rotates internally from the hip joint. That rotation can cause the knees to line up inside the hips (the medical term is genu valgum) and result in a knock-kneed stance, and such misalignment can lead to pain in the knees or hips.”
To correct this misalignment, Bergin recommends manspreading just a bit, what she calls an “11 and 1 o’clock” spread, rather than the take-up-two-seats on-the-subway, full-Chad sprawl so many men believe their nut sacks require.
Charla Fischer, an orthopedic surgeon at New York University’s Langone Spine Center, also believes additional aches and pains might come from the way women stand: “The way men stand is with equal weight on both legs, so there’s no hip curvature,” she says. “The way women often stand, with their weight on one side and one foot forward, [can] put undue stress on both the leg you’re standing on and also the leg you’re not standing on because it’s working really hard to hold the pelvis up.”
No word from the doctors on what women should do once we’ve embraced standing John Wayne-style in all our wide-legged glory, legs and pelvises feeling first rate, only to have some man put his hand on the smalls of our backs so he can “scoot by real quick.”