Mansplaining – where men explain things to women without acknowledging their intelligence, knowledge, or familiarity with subject matter with the implied certainty that they must know better than she does.
A lot of modern sexism is difficult and slippery. So much of it seems innocuous enough in the singular, and is often explained away as something you shouldn’t care that much about.
Oh some guy honked at you? He was just trying to show that he thought you were attractive and didn’t know any better. Really you should be flattered.
Oh some guy groped you on a busy bus? Are you sure? Well that’s awful and completely inappropriate, but it’s over right? You need to stop being upset about it.
Oh there aren’t any women in this movie? Well there is the love interest and hey, there’s that other movie with two female characters in it.
Oh some guy explained something to you like you were a slow three-year-old or a relatively smart dog? Don’t take it personally, that guy is a jerk to everyone. Why are you always so sensitive?
Mansplaining is one of those difficult slippery sexist things. At best everyone thinks it’s a funny story and leaves it at that. At worst, you’re over-reacting.
The problem is that it’s not. Being treated like you’re dumb and then told that you care too much about being treated like you’re dumb is infuriating. Infuriating. It’s also an example of a couple of different sexist themes: denying women’s experiences, the expectation that women should remain quiet, and that women are too sensitive.
First your experience is denied when you are mansplained to, and you’re expected to be quiet while you’re mansplained to.
Then your experience is denied when you’re told it’s not a big deal and/or you shouldn’t be upset, and you’re told to shut up about it. (You could almost argue that you’re almost being mansplained to again).
So women don’t talk about it and then people don’t talk about it and it keeps happening, an insidious little bit of sexist putting women “in their place” that can happen anytime and anywhere about anything.
That’s the brilliance of this tumbler. Seeing an almost never-ending list clearly shows how this isn’t simply a woman/you being too sensitive. It shows that it is a systematic sexist trend that does matter and that we should talk about.
I’ve been mansplained to often, but one of my “favorite” occurrences happened about six months ago. I wanted to write about it then but then I worried about being petty, and I could never get the tone right so it was just funny and not hurtful.
Because, you know, it was hurtful. It wasn’t just some random thing that happened to me, some guy who thought he was better than everyone else, but something worth talking about.
I have worked freelance for one company for a very long time. So I wasn’t all that surprised when I got asked for an informational interview by this guy who found me on LinkedIn. I know the ins and outs of how they work, I worked with a few of the VPs before they got promoted, I’ve even gotten someone hired there before.
So we meet for coffee. He mentions that he’s now been hired by the company but is still looking for advice and that he named dropped me in his introduction call.
After asking him a little bit about his background and learning many times that he had advanced schooling, I mention that the most useful thing that I’ve learned is how to take advantage of my smart phone, specifically photos. Sending a picture of a problem or observation is so much easier than trying to explain it verbally, especially if the fielding manager needs to talk to someone else about it. A phone makes it a lot easier to take a sly picture if you’re someplace without permission, or are dealing with a respondent who is shy about being photographed. Instead of making notes for shelf maps, I just take extensive pictures of the section to type out later.
He informs me that not only does he not have a smart phone; he doesn’t even have a normal cell. You see, you can get conditioned to it, always paying attention to any buzz or beep. He took expression of shock and confusion as a signal that I didn’t know what conditioning was.
Conditioning, you see, is when you become trained to have a certain reaction to a particular stimulus. There are very many interesting studies such as teaching rats how to –
I take that opportunity to explain that I did, in fact know what conditioning was and had even done one of those rat studies myself (as has anyone who ever took intro to psych).
…how to press a lever to get food. It’s really interesting, you should look into it, it would really help you understand consumer behavior.
I explain yet again that I do know about conditioning and, in fact, consumer behavior being that I worked in market research. And that I was confused how he was going to field without a cell phone.
See if you knew about conditioning and consumer behavior like I do – I learned about it in when I was in grad school, have you thought about going to school – well you’d know what a bad idea a cell phone is. I bet you always look at it when it makes a noise, which is bad. That’s conditioning, you’re like a rat….
Sadly I did not walk right out at that point.
I should have walked out at that point.
I should have told him how rude he was at that point.
At that point I should have clearly stated that I had gone to graduate school in social science at a place that had not one but TWO types of social science named after it.
At that point I should have told him that not only did I understand conditioning but probably every single person in America who had gone to college and/or seen a forensic TV show understood the basic concept of conditioning.
At that point I should have emailed my contacts and told them that this guy was an asshole and would therefore suck.
Instead I sat there until he changed the subject. I sat there while he said: “just between you and me, if people there looked like us, I would still be working there.” I sat there while he told me that he really understood people because he had nearly gotten a degree in therapy. I sat there while he told me that he understood business and had suggestions for the company because he had a MBA and everyone at the company were just “academics.” I sat there when I checked a text message from my husband and got a knowing look and a headshake from him, while he explained that I should try to learn how to ignore my phone.
I sat there, I sat there quietly, I sat there being polite, and I sat there without telling him that he was being an asshole.
And that’s not the only time I’ve sat being quiet, gritting my teeth, because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be polite. I’m not supposed to take it personally. I’m not supposed to make a fuss. I’m supposed to laugh it off. I’m conditioned to be mansplained to.
Much more problematic than a cell phone, don’t you think?