I usually write articles or blogs designed for both men and women. Many problems are common to both sexes, and relationships always take two people. This one is different; it is written for the men out there. Many of you—and some of you are great guys—make this simple mistake and piss off the women in your life. You probably do it to your men friends too, but they don’t seem to mind. Let me tell you that when you do it to a woman, you have just taken a bad turn. This thing is called “mansplaining.”
Urban Dictionary defines “mansplaining”:
When a man speaks condescendingly to a woman on a matter he believes her to be ignorant of,
when in fact his own knowledge of the subject is materially incomplete.
The possibility that she may know more about the subject
than he does is one that the mansplainer cannot fathom.”
Here is how it goes. Have you ever been talking to female coworker about something that matters when all of a sudden the conversation turns into a monologue, a lecture? Ever done it? You know what I mean; when you push back your chair or yourself back into the seat and dive in, giving instructions about how to do something that they likely damn well already know about, or how to do it? Or maybe you got into a political conversation (dangerous territory in any situation) where the topic of healthcare comes up? You know the facts and figures, right? You think (proudly) that you have a better than average grasp on the subject…right? Well guess what…odd are she does, too. Pretty soon, you are giving her definitions and statistics about Medicaid without even bothering to assess her level of knowledge. Sound familiar?
If you are in this situation, you are in deep trouble. Whether you are thinking your female partner is in need of instruction, or education, you are most likely mistaken. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are used to women not having particular expertise in policy “numbers” in an area that only policy geeks understand. You are “mansplaining” and you’re on the path to increasingly alienate her with each sentence. And don’t think that it only happens with “wonky” topics. As with your men friends, sometimes it is better to keep your “unique” insights to yourself.
Whether you are thinking your female
partner is in need of
education, you are most likely mistaken.
I read an article the other day where a woman related over 15 examples of this sort of treatment. These are the kinds of situations where men assume that women need some sort of education to succeed in the world. One went so far as to actually explain the correct pronunciation of the lady’s name because he thought she was saying it wrong. In another case, a female racetrack worker recounted how while taking their bets for 14 years, one of her male customers tried to “explain how gambling works.”
I want you to know that this type of behavior isn’t new even though the term that refers to it, mansplaining, has only appeared in recent years. There isn’t a lot of research on the subject, but there was an article from one university (by Joseph Reagle of Northeastern University), that sheds a bit of light on the subject. It is from the “geek” culture but I think it can be applied here as well.
In that culture, there is this obligation to know what you can learn online or through manuals rather than taking the time to ask about it. Don’t ask someone to explain something that is in the FAQs or can be found in the operation manual. You should find that stuff out for yourself.
Geek Feminism, research indicated, grew in the world because geeks are typically seen as white men. When women try to enforce the obligation to know, they’re “accused of having PMS.” In online communities, incidentally, it is recorded that women are more likely to experience “aggression and harassment from trolls and haters” than men are. When engaging in “e-bile” against women, those individuals use “flame bait” to piss off the women, in turn disrupting the online conversation. All of this leads to “an environment more embattled than ordinary geek contexts.”
Reagle’s study of geek culture also identified another concern, the Unicorn Law:
“Technical women, like unicorns, are rare and invisible until they choose to show themselves.”
It appeared that women who responded to these online hecklings from the trolls and haters “show themselves” not in response to a technical issue, but on the grounds of having to be the “online etiquette schoolmarm.” A related problem for women in this culture is the feeling that they are impostors in this alpha geek world. Male geeks have no problem bragging about their technical abilities, but the women in that culture are more likely to feel that their accomplishments aren’t worthy of note.
Mansplaining happens when men become overly confident of their abilities and think the women are less knowledgeable and thus need to be “educated.” Making things even worse, if women manage to confront the behavior and challenge the mansplainer, they take the risk of being accused of having PMS.
In an even more unpleasant manner, mansplaining can occur when men assume that they’re naturally superior to women based on an area of expertise populated largely by men, such as the computer programming community.
I get it guys, men mansplain to each other all the time, but without the element of gender, the phenomenon simply becomes one of condescension at worst and instruction at best. In general, men who are the target of mansplaining have little to no trouble confronting the person trying to outdo them.
Is there something you can do if a mansplainer is a part of your life? The answer is first realize it’s happening to you in the first place. The most annoying thing about mansplaining is the unspoken supposition that you don’t know what you’re talking about, when in fact you know you do. If you let this go on for too long, you will start to wonder whether are not you yourself are lacking knowledge. Once you have done a gut check, and know your position is sound, you can then decide that the offensive behavior is someone else’s problem, not yours. Backing off only reinforces the mansplainer’s impression that you are in need of being “educated.”
The most annoying thing about
mansplaining is the unspoken
supposition that you don’t
know what you’re talking
about, when in fact you know you do.
Mansplaining is easy to fix as long as you know to look out for it, regardless of whether you’re the target or the offender. Rewarding connections depend on each person in the relationship showing respect for the beliefs, attitudes, and—in this case—knowledge possessed by the other individual in all of our relationships.
So if someone is mansplaining to you, give your position some thought and have them stop. You know what you know and it should be respected. If you are, on the other hand, a mansplainer, then just stop.
You look like a jerk when you do it and what you look like, you soon become.
SPEAK WITH A LIFE COACH IN BATON ROUGE
Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.