The word “mansplain” can been traced to Rebecca Solnit, a writer whose 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me” laid out the mansplaining fundamentals (though the actual term only began croppping up on feminist blogs months later). In its early incarnation, it had a straightforward definition: when a man condescendingly lectures a woman on the basics of a topic about which he knows very little, under the mistaken assumption that she knows even less.
I am a relatively intelligent woman and have knowledge of many things. I have been mansplianed to quite a bit recently. One of my best examples of this happened last year. I had engaged in a heated conversation with a member of my Toastmasters club. This member, a man and older than me, had for years bypassed the education system and done speeches without using our education materials. This is a practice that I abhor and do not provide feedback to those members who do not “play by the rules”. I mentioned this fact in my evaluation of the meeting. He did not like that. The mansplaining part came in to play when he tried to tell me how Toastmasters works. Now, not to sound like a pompous ass, but I was the Director for the State of Arizona for Toastmasters for a year, appointed as an Region Advisor and before that I was in leadership roles for almost 4 years . I have read our policies, protocol many, many times, so I am thinking I have a really good working knowledge of the organization. Yet, this man, was trying to tell me how it all worked as if I had no clue and then stated “I know more about Toastmasters than you ever will.” BULLSHIT! And I told him so.
That was mansplaining.
It happens to me professionally too. I have often spent time talking to my team going over things only to have a male team member step in and explain it again. I have gotten in to the habit of asking if I was not clear and did we need to have it explained again. You can guess what the answer was.
I don’t mean to say or imply that all men do this. Most of the men that I know are cool with me knowing more than them on certain things and I know when they know more than me. I certainly wouldn’t mind Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the universe to me because he in fact knows more than I do. I would be ok with that. It is the men that talk down to me as if I am a moron that I have a BIG problem with. I am not a moron. And another thing that comes in this whole dynamic is the “emotional” issue. The same colleague that mansplains to me on my team calls has used the “why are you so emotional about this” line on me not in private but in public.
When this happens, how does it affect women and girls? It makes me want to punch the guy in the face, but does it keep women from speaking up? From being heard when they dare to stand up for themselves? Does it crush us in to silence because it is not worth argument? How many times have we kept silent because it was not worth the fight? Is it the verbal harassment on the street that all women have heard in their lives and keeps them silent? It trains us to self-doubt and self-limit our verbal and intellectual abilities. And it supports the unjustified over confidence of assholes. We need to stop fearing the sound our own voices. When we know more, let them know. Who cares if they call you a bitch for being smarter than them? Mansplainers don’t get to silence us any longer.
Men can mansplain all they want but this woman is going to womansplain it right back at you.