If you have ever had someone talk to you about what you already know or about what made you an expert in a field, then you have probably experienced Mansplaining. And perhaps, you have been cut short while giving your opinion during a meeting, only for the person who stopped you from talking to give the same opinion as you did?
Then, you have been experiencing Mansplaining without you knowing it. With a continuous trend at almost every sector, it has probably become one of the most studied issue. At a point it became quite controversial but now, it’s clear.
So I thought, it would be best to look through the topic and see how we can stop it before it becomes a seed that is grown everywhere. Before the, let’s dig into explaining Mansplaining.
What is Mansplaining?
I would start with a story before explaining in details
'Lilian had been working in the construction company since she graduated from college. With her distinctive grades, she went ahead to practice what she had learnt all her life. With about 20years of experience in the field, she became the most-sought after constructor. Everyone wanted to have something to do with Lilian Jones. In one of her years of great achievements, she was invited as a guest speaker at the launch of a new construction company. She honoured the invitation and spoke at length about the industry and what everyone should know/expect from the industry. After the launch, people who had come from far and near went to her to compliment her. Some even requested for an autograph. Afterwards, a young man walked up to her, started off by complimenting her and moved on to telling her what she could have included in her speech, how she could have been better in explaining some things to the audience and what she shouldn’t miss out in her next event. Lilian stood still being surprised at how a man whom she had never met, walked up to her to tell her what she should have done without a prior knowledge of her agreement with the host or even her background'
Mansplaining means to directly and indirectly explain something to someone in a way that suggests that the person lacks full knowledge about that subject. In essence, it is explaining a known subject to someone who is known to be knowledgeable about the subject.
Most times, Mansplaining is from a man and a woman. Experts have considered it as a way of addressing a woman with a patronizing and superior tone thereby making her feel less of what she is. It can also be considered as a one-way gender biased mode of communication with an iota of patriarchal influence.
In terms of being gender biased, it means the concept affects the female gender. In terms of being patriarchal, it means the concept encourages power relation with emphasis on the domineering attitude of males and being a one-way communication means that the discussion is done by one person with an indirect demand placed on the listener. This video on Upworthy reveals Mansplaining.
Mansplaining has been in existence from time immemorial. It is not peculiar to a race, a class, religion, group or society but cuts across every sphere of human existence. Just as gender inequality has been an issue that has been on-going for some time now, Mansplaining has also become noticeable.
Mansplaining hides behind gender inequality to make women feel less than men. Irrespective of the age grade or age group, it is quite noticeable in most conversations. Especially conversations or events that makes a lady look more prospective than her male counterpart.
While most people have used religion and biology to argue that men are superior to women, the essential concept of the male figure can only be deduced from how the society had been scripted.
From time past, the society has been scripted in a way that men are required to take up arms and ammunitions to protect their society while women are required to provide food as well as take care of the children.
Though some have said that women do not have the ability to do as much as men can do, history has proved otherwise as notable women have been noted to break records. Most of these reports vividly shows that if women have not been restricted to certain activities they could have done exactly the same as a men would do.
The same scripts require men to go out to work since they shoulder the primary responsibility of the family while women should work but work less so as to take care of the children. Mansplaining is not born out of nature, it is largely based on how men have been taught to act and behave in the society.
The knowledge of Mansplaining is as old as time but was not widely known until Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay ‘Men Explain Things To me’. That essay was published in 2008 and since then Mansplaining became a part of the English Lexicon.
It is obvious that Rebecca Solnit noticed that Mansplaining had spread like a virus and the victims seemed to be unaware of the effect of the virus. Upon notice, she decided to write the book.
In her essay, she narrates how a man had tried to explain her own book to her in a dinner party even when he was not fully aware of the content neither had he read the book but only heard about it.
Imagine trying to explain a concept to the originator of the concept. Most times, during such conversation, the mansplainer ends up not having as much experience as the person he is trying to lecture. That should sound familiar already.
Mansplaining can happen anywhere and with anyone. It could have happened at your place of work. Perhaps from your boss to you. You know, a friend of mine told me how a competitor explained the concept of marketing to her during a seminar. What she had been involved in for over 15years of her life.
You may have been in this for some time and you may not know. Well, you know now.
No matter how popular you are, no matter how knowledgeable you are, no matter how much achievement you have recorded, there is someone out there that thinks he is better than you or thinks you could have done a thing better than you actually did.
- 0.1 Well, you may ask ‘Can it happen between women’
- 0.2 What is embedded in Mansplaining?
- 0.3 But why do people mansplain?
- 0.4 Do people who mansplain know that they do?
- 0.5 Here are 17 ways to stop Mansplaining
- 0.6 What if I encounter a Mansplainer?
- 0.7 Here are 5 ways to avoid a Mansplainer
- 1 Conclusion
Well, you may ask ‘Can it happen between women’
Well, it may. Women who perform this act tend to act out what they experience from their male counterparts. However, this happens in rare cases. At the end, we came to the realization that the real struggle is in gender.
With the kind of growth they experienced, men feel they are stronger and can easily overpower, so they take advantage of every opportunity. According to the recent surveys, about 70% men are liable to talking over their female colleagues because they think they know about the idea they projected.
A well-grounded study has also shown that men has higher tendency to interrupt conversations than women and when this happens, women are known to just nod, smile, or laugh in agreement.
Overtime, during cases of Mansplaining, tend to patiently smile and move on. The idea has always been to listen and even appreciate the mansplainer for his opinion. In the example I gave about my friend, I asked her what she did and she told me that she smiled and walked away so the man would not feel offended.
This may not be likened to all women but majority of women are polite. Politeness in almost everything that is being done. Even when a lady wants to sound rude, she makes it polite only to get back to the corner of her room to fuse and lament on how she wished she had done better than the polite insult.
Many men have come up with the opinion that they are actually trying to help. You know ‘I heard you speak really well up there, but you should have added this to enhance clarity’
It could be during business meeting and the Mansplaining can be done when a partner tries to conclude a woman’s idea because he feels she may not explain it as she should to the clients. Well, that is totally rude. Whether she would say it clearly or not, as long as it is her opinion, leave her to defend it.
In fact, I would say that Mansplaining may not be Mansplaining if it comes from a supervisor or the manager of the company as everyone expects to get a review from their superiors.
However, Mansplaining is basically addressing opinions that aim to educate what the speaker already knows or cutting off her conversation when she least expects because the listener feel he knows better.
Mansplaining is not only limited to face-face interaction but can even occur when you only know about someone or a thing from what you heard and not from what you experienced. For instance, the host of the party judged Rebecca’s book without even reading it.
There is wide margin between reading something and reading about it. Check out Jimmy Kimmel’s video on Mansplaining
What is embedded in Mansplaining?
Beyond the fact that he cuts you short while talking or he tells you what you know already about a concept in order to prove an unnecessary point, the following represent other things involved in Mansplaining:
- He thinks he has something you do not have. In this case, it may be knowledge or expertise. To him, he knows more and would like to educate you.
- He behaves and talks as if that wisdom, knowledge or expertise you do not have is beyond skills and quality but more of human virtue. Even if he thinks you have this ‘human virtue’ he tries to tell you that you haven’t nurtured it.
- While conversing with you, he makes it seem like what you lack is not only related to you but related to everyone in your grade, group, and qualification with emphasis on gender.
- At this point, you unknowingly try to reason from his view point. In no time, you see brilliancy rather than Mansplaining and that makes it hard to see and understand his intentions
- This reaction makes you think his opinion is brilliant. You may begin to think you could have done better. At the end, others may blame you for not trying to accept what he says. In a meeting related situation, his reaction shifts others attention from your side to his side and everybody continues like nothing happened.
- These activities make him look and sound better than you
- As his soundness is ‘supposedly’ clear, you are required to acknowledge just as he will be acknowledged by everyone around
- And that automatically requires you to internalize all he has said as well as promote them in subsequent social functions thereby satisfying the desires of the mansplainer.
Well, you may not have known that all these are embedded in Mansplaining but while you are there trying to listen to him, he is there trying to achieve all this. This video by Sydney Morning Herald reveals the problem with Mansplaining.
Much more than the indirect and direct verbal communication involved in Mansplaining, there are whole lot of non-verbal communication to corroborate what is being indirectly said.
In communication, non-verbal gestures are as important as verbal. In some cases, non-verbal overrides verbal communication.
For instance, how do you know you should be discreet with what you eat out even when your superior says you should eat in order not to make the host feel bad? It’s only through non-verbal communication.
Most times, you know a person is lying when their actions betray what they say. In Mansplaining also, his non-verbal communication also contribute to an end point of you listening because he is ‘better’.
But why do people mansplain?
Well, the effect of Mansplaining vividly shows that there is no positive reason behind it. It’s someone going out there to make you feel less of what you are, to damage your reputation, and even to limit your career. In essence, it is a kind of conversation that makes the mansplainer feel achieved at the expense of the listener.
So if you ever meet yourself in another situation of this type, do not feel like he is helping. He is not! He is only using you and your time with him to make him feel better.
If you can remember, I started explaining Mansplaining with Lilian’s story but I didn’t finish it. Well, the end is, the man who walked up to her trying to sound better in a bid to reduce her to nothing was actually an option considered for the speech but Lilian was chosen.
At the end, Lilian was able to deduce that he planned to boost his self-esteem by shattering hers. Mansplain can wreak a lot of havoc which may not only affect the present but also the future. Check BBC interview that reveals why people mansplain.
Do people who mansplain know that they do?
You can know a mansplainer by what he does but a mansplainer knows what he is doing but may deny that he is actually doing what he is doing. Usually, he is not ignorant of what he is doing but he acts mischievously to hide his attentions.
Like I would always say, issues pop up so we can provide solutions to them. While Mansplaining may have become a part of some people there are ways to help correct it so it will not be passed unto children or even the unborn ones as well as to eradicate its effect in terms of power dynamics, social effect and its psychological effect.
Here are 17 ways to stop Mansplaining
- Anyone can be influenced by bias, gender sensitivity and prejudice. So, start by studying and widening your horizon on these concepts
- Irrespective of what you grew with, avoid seeing women or anyone as a symbol of a particular group. Avoid being bias, never reflect on it and resist acting on it
- Do not feel bad about having bias but make it a responsibility to seeing the better part of everything
- No one is perfect but in a case where you feel you have been bias towards an issue or your bias has been revealed to others, never try to conceal it. Make necessary adjustments immediately with the mind that such would never happen again
- If you are having difficulty interacting without being authoritative learn how to be a collected knower.
- If you think you know than the speaker, scrutinize yourself before engaging. Ask yourself if you actually know as much as you think you do on the subject matter, ask yourself if you are the best person to make the review/comment, ask if that place is the best place to say such and if your timing is accurate. You are your own best friend, so be truthful to yourself. The answers to these questions is first known to you
- Determine the mode of communication that will be best for you depending on what you want to say. While Mansplaining is more of monologue compared to dialogue, some monologue directed conversation can be as respectful as dialogue. Take cognisance of the words you use also.
- Have more than a single way of explaining. If you think there is something you want to say, explain in a non-controversial way.
- Think about the effect of your mode of explanation. If someone had said that to you in that manner, how would you have felt? Upon determining the effect, make necessary adjustment
- Give room for feedback. Never dismiss a person’s opinion probably because you are not from their school of thought
- Does the knowledge you are about to give makes you feel better while it affects the receiver?
- Ask yourself if the information is to show off, if it will help the person to be better or if it will bring the person down. If by mistake, your information brought in an aura of negativity, apologize immediately.
- While conversing, ensure you point out the clear line between judging that the person is wrong and the person’s position is wrong. Avoid statements like ‘You are wrong’
- Never see yourself above the other person and avoid condemning a person’s standpoint
- Do not make the conversation cause trouble between you and the interlocutor. In cases where it seems like there is a misunderstanding, opt out. It is better to keep the relationship than maintain the communication
- After giving your opinion, do not accept ‘thank you, bye’. Be as flexible as you can. Let the person know that you do not mean to be rude. When the interlocutor is ready to talk, be ready to listen well. Never cut short their view point towards the matter that is being discussed. If you think you will forget, you can jot some things down and make clarifications afterwards.
- If you find yourself in a situation where you are beginning to lose your self- esteem because someone sounds better than you, the best you can do is work on yourself to be better. If not, work towards having a good relationship with the person. You will get the help you need.
No one is born with Mansplaining but there is the tendency to be mansplainer. There is no excuse to it, a mansplainer decides to be a mansplainer
What if I encounter a Mansplainer?
Well, you would have encountered a mansplainer at one point in your life. And if you think you have not, you should begin to look out for one, such people are not far-fetched. Now, it takes courage and breaking out of being too nice.
Here are 5 ways to avoid a Mansplainer
Speak Up: Mansplaining comes when we are not prepared. Like, who gets prepared for being undermined? However, women are used to waving it off when it comes because the society raised women to be polite
So, even when it’s so obvious that he cuts you off while communicating, even if it will affect your career, you keep your cool because you have to maintain a particular public figure. One thing about Mansplaining is that the mansplainer will continue to if there is no one to step up to confront him.
So if the mansplainer is your colleague, you find yourself trying to give an opinion when the he is not around or when he is not paying attention. You do not have to wait to get to this point and if you are here already, there is a solution. Examples of speaking up
- ‘Let me continue with what I was saying, we will sort other questions when I am through’
- Lawrence, thanks for your opinion but I can handle this’
Redirect: In meetings and conversations, reports have stated that men tend to speak more than women. Even so, women who try to speak get interrupted. With the knowledge of Mansplaining spreading wide, research has shown that women are beginning to form alliances to help themselves
When you get mansplained, redirect allows you to direct the conversation to another woman who is conversant with what is happening. An example of Redirect:
- Mike, we will get there later, let’s have Rose now’
Call him out: At times, it is good to give people a benefit of doubt. What if he is not intentional? Some men can be so egoistic that they may not know that their action is actually affecting others. Even if he does it intentionally, calling him out will serve as a warning and a reminder.
Unlike the above two, calling him out will have to be private. Probably after the meeting or event, you can set up a meeting where you tell the person about your ability in the field, as well as give the person a piece of your mind. Tell him how distracting his comments are and how much you can handle the situation.
Ask questions: Asking questions is one way of sounding extra firm in your approach. Don’t give in to this approach if you are not sure what of the subject matter but if you actually do, throw questions. Some of the questions you may consider are;
- Ask about their knowledge of the subject matter
- Ask them their aim in teaching you what you know
- Ask them to think through before giving responses
- Ask them how qualified they are to share such ‘knowledge’
Educate and Re-educate: As state earlier, it is good to give people the benefit of doubt as some may not actually know that they are mansplainer. Now, this tactic should be used for a mansplainer that is open to corrections. Coach Susan Hyatt also explained how educating a mansplainer can really work if such person is willing to learn.
Though this may not be your style of conversing but this will be useful;
Speaker A: Have you heard of Mansplaining?
Speaker B: No
Speaker C: You should really read about it. It’s simple you know. Because I can’t imagine you coming from nowhere to tell me how I should have trained my people better than I did. Like you are saying that what I have been doing all my life that has worked for thousands of people is wrong? It’s just you assuming that you know more of my field while I know less. If you need more clarifications, check Mansplaining out.
Well, if he is actually remorseful he would apologize, but if he is not he might even take it as a joke. So while offering to educate him might be a very good idea, it may not be successful with some mansplainers
Mansplaining has been in existence from the dawn of time but it was not widely known and understood until Rebecca took it upon herself to inform everyone. As it is not an inborn feature, a mansplainer can decide to stop that act at any time.
Much more, you can get that mansplainer back to his right attitude by being tactical in your approach. Give no room to fear, be determined, optimistic and firm in your approach. Drop your comments and questions in the comment session. Share this article, someone needs it.
You are the only one that can save yourself from Mansplaining.