A friend told me about the time a guy mansplained to her about how corporate tax works and went on to tell her why she didn’t understand it because she was “too young to be an accountant”. She’s been working at PWC for two years, but by all means, go ahead, o wise “man”.
This conversation, by the way, took place on a dating app. They’d been talking for a total of one and a half days. The point is, mansplainers don’t care who they’re talking to, where they are, or what they’re talking about. They’re here to boast some Wikipedia knowledge in your face, on something you know more about.
Let’s not question why my friend was talking about tax with a guy on a dating app (I guess that’s just how accountants flirt). Let’s talk a bit more about mansplainers. What makes their testosterone-fueled brains want to flaunt their very limited knowledge with you?
What Is Mansplaining?
Mansplaining, simply put, is when a man explains something (typically to a woman) in a very condescending or patronizing way, assuming she doesn’t know anything about the subject they are speaking on.
A Reddit user said that the worst incident of mansplaining they experienced was “being told how to do my job I’ve done for 5 years by a teenager we hired a week before”.
Ever introduce a topic to someone, only for them to say something like, “No, I don’t think it means that. Here’s what I think it means..” Excuse me, I’m pretty sure I know a bit more about it, considering you just heard about it.
No, it’s not something that only the most boisterously outspoken men do. If you’re a man reading this, we’re sorry to say this, but you might have just done it in the past (possibly unknowingly). Be it a man trying to flirt at the gym by telling someone (who didn’t ask for help) about what the “proper form” is, or at the workplace when men feel the need to explain the tiniest of things at great length. Have you ever talked about sports at length, explaining a particular rule with great interest before the girl you were talking to went, “Yeah, I know”?
Another Reddit user told us, “I’ve had a guy try to explain the airbags on my own truck, then proceeded to brag that his dad’s truck was bigger than mine. His dad’s truck was leveled, mine’s on a 4-inch lift. He tried to brag about it being leveled because he thought that meant it was taller than a truck with a lift.”
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Why Do Men Mansplain?
Why they do it is a whole different ball game. Do men assume that women’s heads are filled with tales of makeup and reality TV, hence they must know more at all times?
Or is it more a case of societal conditioning, where men are often expected to have knowledge of everything? Is it a label that basically signifies the transactional nature of relationships between men and the people around them, instead of respectful ones?
Though the term is new, the behavior is not. The gender roles we’ve established as a society are proven in the way the genders approach communication with each other. According to studies, men are more likely to interrupt someone who is talking and women are more likely to be interrupted while conversing.
In her invigorating essay, “Men explain things to me”, Rebecca Solnit talks about the time she told a male she was having a conversation with that her latest book was about photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Immediately, he interrupted her, told her about an “important book” on the photographer that she must read.
Turns out, it was her book he was talking about. He hadn’t read it. In her essay, Rebecca says, “So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it.”
In a nutshell, the reason why men mansplain is pretty much the same reason why they don’t ask for directions. Some believe that as men, they’re expected to know everything and to admit not having knowledge about something signifies weakness, something for which they’ve probably been bullied for in their football teams while growing up.
Others don’t think the person they’re with will have knowledge of the topic they’re conversing about. Be it a heightened sense of entitlement (a narcissistic boyfriend, perhaps?) or a condescending way of looking at the people they’re with, it all stems from “not so nice” emotions.
Is mansplaining sexist? Why do men talk down to women? Can women mansplain?! Let’s not turn this article into a snooze-fest technicalities, and instead take a look at the things you can do the next time a man tries to interrupt and school you on your hobby that you’ve been mastering since before he even knew about it.
How To Shut Down A Mansplainer
Remember that time the waiter came around to ask how the food was, and despite the sogginess of the bread that came with your pasta you didn’t bring it up? You probably thought the trouble wasn’t worth it, and it’s not something that’s ruining your day. “Let it be,” right?
But if you’re looking to shut down a mansplainer, you’ve kind of got to be the person who sends food back. You paid for it, you’re eating it. Why must you settle for soggy bread? Similarly, you didn’t ask for his advice, you probably know more about it than he does, you don’t need it. Why must you settle for his condescending tone?
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Be it mansplaining in the workplace or when he just won’t stop trying to school you about your master’s degree while on your first date, here’s how you can shut down a mansplainer:
1. Ask insightful questions
If you’re looking to tactfully shut down a mansplainer while also being cunning about it, ask them questions about their knowledge. If you’ve been playing chess since before they even knew what each piece did, the knowledge you have will be enough of a “please shut up”.
Without you asking for it, are they telling you how periods work and what you should do during them? A simple, “Are you a doctor?” should do the trick. Are they trying to make it seem like they know more about something you’ve been doing since long before? “What qualifications do you have and how long have you been researching this subject?” should be good.
Ask them what they hope to achieve by giving you their unsolicited advice. Ask them why they’re talking, or just ask them what experience they have.
2. Tell them what mansplaining is
Though it’s hard to, you may just want to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who otherwise isn’t as obnoxious. It’s possible he has never Googled, “What is mansplaining?” and doesn’t know he’s currently indulging. Tell him.
“Do you know what mansplaining is? You should look it up” should be good enough. Another dollar, another day.
3. Call them out
If someone’s mansplaining in the workplace or if you’d just like this person to be more aware of their behavior, call them out on it. It’ll require a confrontation, perhaps a slightly awkward conversation at work, but it’s something that must be done. There’s no room for condescension at the workplace, and even a few body language mistakes at work can end up coming off as disrespectful.
Tell them what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and that you’d like them to stop. Add in the facts and figures and your experience on the subject (that most probably triumphs theirs) and they’re probably going to see your point.
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If it’s someone on a Reddit question thread or some random uncle you never talk to, you can disengage and move on. You’re not obligated to educate them, you’re not obligated to school them on what they’re doing.
Getting through to a mansplainer may not always be easy, and when it’s with someone who doesn’t mean too much to you, it’s probably not a bad idea to disengage. Your mental health will thank you for it.
Answering questions like why do men talk down to women will probably require a bit more than a blog post about mansplaining. In the meantime, knowing how to address it is probably going to reap benefits in the short run. Hopefully, now that you know how to shut the mansplainer down, you won’t have to take it when he’s giving you advice you absolutely did not ask for.