Now that we’re venturing into brave new worlds where folks are finally acknowledging the existence of things like rape culture, widespread sexism, and systemic racism, I find it useful to nail down precisely what is meant by certain terms that are thrown around rather often nowadays. This is especially important considering that those holding opposing views will repeatedly try to pervert the meaning of these terms in order to diminish the point being made by a member of a marginalized group who has recently called them on their shit.
We’ve all heard the term mansplaining before. But what exactly does it mean? Many men are quick to argue that it appears to refer to any situation in which a man expresses an opinion to a female interlocutor, no matter the context. That’s not it. At all. And, honestly, fellas, y’all know that. But by pretending you just can’t say anything to a woman without getting bitched out is a BIG part of the problem. So, let’s dispel the rumors, shall we?
Mansplaining occurs when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending manner.
Sometimes it involves explaining a subject in which a woman has already shown mastery or, at the very least, a workable understanding. Other times it involves classic re-centering. A woman makes a statement about her own life experience and a man appears out of nowhere to let her know:
1. What really happened in her own life (since she wasn’t smart enough to understand when it was happening).
2. How wrong she is and why.
In every case, the explanation is unsolicited, unnecessary, and disrespectful.
Would an example help? I think so. It certainly couldn’t hurt. And this shit just happened the other day.
I recently attended a board meeting for a group I’ve worked with for well over a year. I arrived to find the rest of the board, as well as a man I’d never seen before. These meetings are open to the public, but, normally, it’s just us board members handling board business and discussing what has happened in the group during the last month. It’s important to mention that, besides myself, there is only one other woman sitting on this board. Every single time one of us said something, random dude had to burst in to either explain why we were wrong or how we could be running our initiatives (some of which we’d been working on for all of 2016) more efficiently. Of course, he didn’t understand what our organization actually did or why we were working on these initiatives. Every time I pressed him on facts or pointed out his complete lack of experience with the subject matter being discussed, he attempted to deflect the comment or ignore me outright. Y’all know I didn’t let that slide, but it was all kinds of frustrating. I serve on this board as its vice president and we were discussing initiatives that I’d spearheaded for nearly twelve months, and yet this man felt confident enough to simply waltz into a meeting for a group he wasn’t a part of that had a mission he didn’t appear to comprehend and attempt to take over.
Gents, if you’re still with me, you might be thinking one of three things about the above example:
1. Nothing to see here. This all checks out. Absolutely no problem.
2. Wow, this guy is a jerk and this is an isolated incident that definitely doesn’t happen ALL THE DAMNED TIME.
Well, I wish we could all just laugh in relief over the second option being true. But the fact of the matter is, mansplaining happens constantly. It arises from a culture in which men are taught to be confident no matter what and women are taught to always question themselves. In order to put a stop to this crap, we have to call it by name whenever we see it and challenge men to do better, even when they think they know better.
Guys, having a penis isn’t magic. It doesn’t bestow upon you any extra intelligence. I think you’ll find that the actual thinking happens much further north, and women are outfitted with all the necessary equipment, same as you.