Is there a woman that has not experienced mansplaining in her life? If there is, could you please introduce her to me?
Reading female authors against mansplaining
Few weeks ago, I hesitantly picked up a book written by a male writer. I stood with it in my hand and I was staring at its covers. My husband asked me if I was ok. I explained: ‘’The author is a man’’. ‘’So?’’, he asked. ‘’It’s been over a year that I have not read a male author’’, I replied. It felt weird to, all of a sudden, read man’s thoughts, a man’s point of view. As if I was betraying something or someone. Yes, I am aware of the facts that it might sound ridiculous, but that’s how I felt. A male author’s book got into my hands, because the book was recommended by a person in whose taste I trusted. The book was excellent, but after that one, I went back to female authors.
Female authors open new doors for you
By reading female authors, along with all the research that I am doing for this feminist blog, I became much more aware and awake. I see the same situations in completely different ways. More attentive, I question differently what men say, I am more cautious and vigilant. Because let me tell you… Mansplaining is all around us and this patriarchal system did not teach us how to recognize it. On the contrary! Patriarchy makes us interiorize mansplaining as something normal, so much a part of our everyday lives that we don’t even notice.
What is mansplaining?
Mansplaining is an explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. It also implies that a man does not know if a woman already knows what he is talking about. He thinks that, since she is a woman, because of her sex, she does know what something means or how something is done. Very often it happens at work and male coworkers tend to explain certain things even when it is not their expertise to a woman whose expertise this matter actually is.
We also asked the dictionary
According to Merriam-Webster here are the definitions of mansplain and mansplaining:
mansplain, verb: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic
My least favorite player was Donnie, who tried to mansplain Scrabble because he didn’t recognize me and took me for a neophyte.
Maybe a friend mansplains to you when they’re commenting on the outfit you’re wearing (and what you could’ve done differently), giving you dating advice regarding your current partner, or telling you how to care for your home—issues that, very likely, you know more about than they do.
In many cases, the men that are doing the mansplaining are doing so not because they think someone needs to be talked down to, but because they themselves are insecure.
Mansplaining that I experienced
All of the female authors that I am currently reading influence the way I perceive the world. And let me tell you, I am not as naïve as I used to be. Not long time ago, I was supposed to finish a project on a website that had topics around women’s health. A colleague I was doing it with was a male, in charge of a technical part of the job, I knew nothing about. We needed to work together, support each other, because each one of us had skills the other one didn’t.
This man was supposed to create few different programs for me to work in. Each time he would not know something, he would try to convince me to do it differently and the solutions that he offered were not very convenient for me. At first I was accepting his proposals. I really believed that certain things could not be changed, as a shortcoming of a program he was working in. But as time passed by and as obstacles became bigger and bigger, I started doubting. Is he really telling the truth? Is that not possible, or is it that he cannot be bothered to look for an answer and solution?
As we stumbled upon one bigger difficulty, I wanted to continue and find the solution, I was sure existed. He wanted to stop where we were. He started his mansplaining by convincing me that one thing is better than the other one. All along, I thought that he believed that these topics were not worth writing about. But I didn’t care, because the job was well done. Until that moment.
Gender equality is social justice
A man that must be in his thirties in the XXI century should know better! But, why was I so surprised? Wasn’t this one of the reasons why I had started this feminist blog? I wanted to write about gender inequality issues completely aware of the fact that they are omnipresent even in the societies that consider themselves advanced! As my level of consciousness is getting higher, my tolerance is getting lower, I can’t but notice.
Giving you answers even when he doesn’t know
As we were working and spending time together, I would ask him different questions in relations to my website, you know, general stuff, making a conversation. It stroke me how confidentially he was giving answers. I was commenting on things I needed to change, things that he certainly had an idea of, but was not directly his job. Like SEO, commenting on the keywords, etc. Not only that he never admitted he didn’t know something, but he was also giving me advice. Not his expertise, but he felt entitled to tell me how I should do something.
It is about trying to impose an opinion, about his tone, about the way something is said and the certainty of it.
I wondered… How come many men do not leave a space for doubt?
How women do it
SEO is not an exact science, many say. Things change absolutely all the time, it’s like a danse, you need to figure out your own steps and also how your hips move. There are instructions about how it should be done, but you need to test it and see what works for you. Women would tell me that it can be done like this or that, women whose profession this is, women whose opinion I appreciate, trust and cherish.
And then there is this man whose profession is not SEO, but gives me advice as if that was something true, set in stone and as if there was no other way. He tells it with such a certainty, as if that was something that cannot be doubted.
There is, for sure, a difference between how sure of what they are saying men and women are. And it is not about the knowledge… No, it is about that confidence that we grow up with that is colored with society’s expectations from your gender.
How can you recognize mansplaining?
Did he get tired of speaking and reading words on the website such as: mansplaining, menstrual cycle, clitoris, ecofeminism, body positivity, I wondered. First, I thought I was exaggerating, not right and just. That I was influenced by many articles that I read about men’s behaviors and that those made me not see clearly.
But seriously, how can you know if a man is taking you seriously or not?
Based on his tone when he would read certain titles or articles, he was condescending but nice, which made me doubt the very first feeling I had about him. Their pleasantness makes it more difficult for us to detect the problem.
However, I was sure that he would find very quickly a solution for a businessman. I was sure he would find it for any man. He just could not be bothered with me and my small project that was very lady like, that included feminism, that included him as accountable for the unjust world.
And then I got in touch with someone else, to double check, to see if we could overcome the difficulties we were experienced. I was not surprised at all when I was told that I was right. The problems in question could be solved, we did not have to stop!
Are women’s projects taken seriously?
After my fears that this man was not doing his job well enough only because I was a woman and that gut feeling were confirmed, I wondered… How many projects were not taken seriously and did not succeed only because, at some stage of the project, a man, that does not believe in women’s capacities, was involved?
Because, let me tell you… Mansplaining makes a woman doubt and not go forward. It can be very damaging because, traditionally, we are taught that we should and have to listen to men. And we, unconsciously do it… Luckily, not always…
That is exactly why a lot of feminist projects include mainly women. Not only because of some kind of positive racism, or trying to lower the gap by employing more women, but really, simply because women tend to work differently.
Women on positions of power
This is exactly why it is important for women to be on positions of power. Women’s projects need to be supported, financed, approved, believed in. Traditionally it is a man that brings money, so we believe that it will always be only a man. Women work almost equally as men, at least in the Western world, and when are we going to start giving them the power and importance that they really have?
We need to understand that women already have the power, it just needs to be recognized, more visible and things will move forward much quicker for the whole society.
We need to be able to recognize
We, women, are thought to be ok with everything, not to question a man, specially the one that has officially more power than us. Are we programmed unconsciously to believe that men probably know better? Even when we know that he doesn’t, we still do not say anything. It is also because we do not feel empowered enough and we let mansplaining take a part in our lives.
How does it feel
For me, honestly, it is sometimes so difficult to recognize mansplaining because I am so used to it, its omnipresence in my life, that I don’t even notice it. I am learning to recognize at least that feeling in my belly. Feeling belittled, all of a sudden smaller, something like a little girl at school to whom teacher is explaining something very important. That is what mansplaining feels like. If we are not able to detect it from the outside, we surely can from the inside.
So, the next time a man tells you that something is not possible, when you experience mansplaining at work:
1. Don’t care about the fact that he might be offended when you do something despite the fact he said it should not be done
2. If you are not sure, check with someone else
3. Double check it with a woman and see another woman’s point of view
I even heard an amazing TV reporter describe his interview for a job. He said that he had met all the needed criteria, they had no one else for the job, but he still did not get it. When he asked why, they explained that most of the population is more likely to believe a middle-aged man, preferably tall, with grey hair. If this example does not explain how we are programmed to believe rather a white middle-aged men, I don’t know what will.
And then, not everything is mansplaining of course. But how can you know if a man is saying something because he really knows it or because he simply feels confident because he is a man? Saying something with confidence can be quiet confusing, specially when it comes from a man. That is why double checking is the key, as well as the power to recognize it!
I hope this chart will also help you discern it in an easier way mansplaining.