A sign of weakness?

In class last night, my professor spoke to us about social studies done by scholars in the communications field. One such study focused on why women cross their legs while they sit, and why men do not.

Apparently, scholars have been studying this for more than 50 years. Their conclusion? "Sitting with your legs open is a symbol of power because you take up more space in doing so. I.e. Men are more powerful than women."

My professor then started pointing at those of us (many, myself included) who had our legs crossed, somehow insinuating our lack of power. For whatever reason, it got our blood boiling. (He kept saying how much he agreed with the study...)

Now, I can understand that, perhaps a century ago, women were taught to be subserviant to men and "take up less space." They weren't allowed to vote and weren't respected in society as men were. "Proper etiquette" was introduced and enforced.

Had the study in question been completed, say, 50 years ago, I would have no problem.

In today's society, however, the fact that women cross their legs when sitting is now a sign of culture and tradition. Our mother was taught by her mother. Her mother was taught by her mother (back when, perhaps, she learned to be "less-powerful" than men). Now, it's engrained in our society as being proper.

To say that it's simply a sign of power, in my opinion, is bogus. It's a cultural norm that was introduced during an (unfortunate) period of history and is not representative of gender roles in the U.S. today.

(Can I get an Amen, women?!)

Perhaps I'll start my own research tomorrow.


A. said...


Very interesting discussion. Offensive, too, on the instructor's part. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

Quite honestly, it's just more comfortable to sit with legs crossed. I thought it was because it's more lady-like to sit with legs crossed. (A certain childhood rhyme is coming to mind.)

This man's argument is garbage. Sounds like he was trying to spark a debate. I hope.


TLC said...

i don't think it has anything to do w/ power. therefore, i'm going to have to conclude that your professor is, well, an idiot for agreeing with the study.

i think it's more lady-like to sit w/ one's leg crossed. i'm quite certain the Queen of England never sits witout her's crossed...and last I checked, she was mighty powerful, even if mostly a figurehead -- I wonder what your prof would say to that?

Anonymous said...

Women generally have better posture than women, and crossing your legs helps maintain this. Also, women wear skirts and cross their legs as a result.

I don't think that a woman crossing her legs means she is any less powerful than a man in 2007. It may have been the case 100 years ago, but that is not how people perceive eachother now. Taking up more space doesn't equal power.

If anything, a man is weaker than a women if they sit with their legs open, having their "manhood" exposed and unprotected!

Mz Benz said...

I just thought it was uncomfortable for men to sit with their legs crossed because it squished their, um, paraphenalia. Apparently I have been misled.