When you were a kid, were you ever scolded for sitting like a man?
No wonder, whichever part of the world you are in, the society couldn’t see a girl sitting with their legs wide apart. Sadly, this world only accepts men to sit with their legs posture and no wonder it is called “manspreading”.
But, now an orthopedic surgeon, Barbara Bergin, shares how societal expectation from women to sit cross legs is the reason behind joints related diseases in women. She shares why it is the high time women start emulating men’s posture in the name of joint health.
Barbara started the movement, S.L.A.M – Sit Like A Man, after she experienced pain in her hips.
Around 2010, Bergin started experiencing symptoms of bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion between joints and soft tissue. Like many of us, she held her age accountable for it.
But, later she realized that the pain went away when she was driving her big truck instead of the compact car, which led her to conclude that the bucket seats of the smaller vehicle forced her knees closer together, causing hip pain.
Bergin shares as women have a wider pelvis than men, it makes the thighbone rotates internally from the hip joint. This rotation can cause the knees to line up inside the hips, leading to a knock-kneed stance, that causes pain in the knees or hips.
With her own realization, Barbara started sharing with her patients how women’s genetic predisposition to be knock-kneed is only intensified by “sitting ladylike”, with knees together or legs or ankles crossed.
It is sad to know how this societal expectation of sitting ladylike goes back centuries. According to antique etiquette manuals, women in the 1300s were coached to keep their knees pressed together to signal virginity.
Even when hemlines began to rise in the 1960s, the idea that a respectable woman sat with her knees pressed together stuck. Crossed legs and ankles remain a social expectation and postural norm today.
Bergin’s goal is to make women realize that sitting habits can be a risk factor for many musculoskeletal health issues. And to avoid particular pain and conditions, women should stop sitting with their legs pressed together, crossed or crunched. While sharing how one should sit, Bergin shares:
“Observe men: They’re usually sitting with their legs slightly apart and pressed slightly outward. Be mindful of inward rotation. Let the outer thigh relax. When you stand up, don’t let your knees collapse inward – it puts pressure on the joints in a way that can contribute to wear and tear over time.”
As per Charla Fischer, another orthopedic surgeon at New York University shares how the particular postures among women can also be problematic when they’re on their feet. She shares:
“The way men stand is with equal weight on both legs, so there’s no hip curvature. 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.”
Bergin also shares how high heels are another gender-specific culprit of musculoskeletal problems.
“If you see 100 people with painful bunions or hammer toes, 95 of them are women, and it’s from jamming [their toes] down into tight, pointy shoes. We are definitely better off not wearing heels or wearing them as little as possible.”
Meier, the etiquette expert, shares an interesting aspect of sitting with cross legs,
“When you take one leg and cross it over, you naturally start to lean back and you lose that power pose.” By sitting with crossed legs, “I think we’re putting ourselves back in a position we fought so hard to get out of.”
At IFORHER, we request every woman to prioritize their health over any societal expectations.