I was young and determined, seated at my office desk when I hear my boss say, “Do you know how to refresh your account?” As a digital marketer, I was under the impression that I should know that much. “Way to mansplain!” someone else lamented.
I was confused though. What I thought was an offer to help or a way for my boss to clarify if I was confident enough, was in other words mansplaining. So what exactly is mansplaining?
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, mansplaining is when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending way, that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic. Other times a mansplainer mansplains by the fact that they are addressing a woman.
Case in point. When a man comes up to you and tries to elaborate why you should dress in a certain way or wear certain outfits just because of your skin colour or notions they have about you, that’s mansplaining. When someone tries to correct how you should spell or pronounce your name that mansplaining.
Mansplaining is alive and kicking when a colleague/coworker tries to question another’s credibility or contribution in a particular subject or field just because they are female. It is highly highlighted in the corporate world, especially when a woman tries to explain something in a meeting then a man interrupts and dominates the conversation.
Research indicates that women get interrupted by both genders than men do.
So where does the line draw between mansplaining and giving advice/wanting to voice your opinion on a matter or simply offering a helping hand?
BBC outlines these very simple rules to avoid mansplaining.
Ask yourself does she need your explanation?
This is a good way to establish consent in a conversation.
Do you have preconceived notions about someone’s competence?
This is to avoid embarrassing yourself, lest you come across as overconfident when in actuality you know nothing about the topic in discussion.
Overall, through bad assumptions, you risk wasting people’s time unintentionally or implying that they are not intelligent or capable enough, which in actuality is a lasting impression you would rather not cast.
What formulated beliefs do you have, that affect your interpretation of the above 2 aspects?
This roots from gender bias and sexism. Sometimes even colourism and racism. For instance when you believe that a woman is unlikely to possess a higher level of skill or competence than a man you are likely to end up mansplaining. Another common scenario is the belief that a woman who is light-skinned is dumb and therefore when speaking to her you need to get down to the ABC and 123s of a matter.
In term of race, it occurs when a white person assumes that a black person isn’t as intelligent due to bias or stereotypes they have about them.
So what is the essence of learning the art of mansplaining? Well aside from getting enlightened to avoid it, it is a good way to learn what is and what’s not considered polite behaviour for any gender.
In the words of Rebecca Solnit, who authored Men Explain Things To Me, “Presumption is what makes it hard and especially for women in any field. It keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare. It crushes young women into silence by indicating – the way harassment on the street does- that this is not their world. Unfortunately, presumption trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported evidence.”
This particular video featuring comedian Amanda Seals and Santagati, authour of the book Man of Honour speaks for itself.
In isolation, mansplaining may not be a big issue. However, how we communicate with other people tells them how much/little we value them.
From my experience, I believe that in any setting or any corporate world, people work more effectively, productively and behave positively when they feel valued.
In essence, mansplaining is not about blaming men. It is about questioning how different genders get raised in different societies. More importantly, it is about interrogating the way women are raised to feel smaller and take the back seat while men take the lead with this incredible hyper-confidence. In hindsight, it points to a systemic problem related to how we are conditioned to think about gender and how we treat women in general.
I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.