Mansplaining: The art of men explaining things we already know

Mansplain: the act of a man explaining something to a woman purely on the basis of her gender. Usually happens when the woman knows far more on the subject than the man in question. Portmanteau of the words man and explaining.

One of the key components to mansplaining is to delight in condescending inaccurate explanations that are delivered with rock-solid confidence.

I am all for learning new things, and appreciate anyone who can impart great wisdom upon me but there are times when social interactions cross from being mind-blowing to mind-numbing. It was not until recently I had the words to explain the phenomenon I’ve encountered over the years.

There are many men who think this does not apply to them thus an example would be best served here in order to alert men to possible instances of mansplaining.

Dr Woman Scientist has spent a great number of years studying to be a neuroscientist and you sir, Mr Male Car Mechanic have spent a great number of years becoming familiar with automobiles. If for some reason you find the urge to explain to her about the advancements in molecular and cellular studies, do not, as this will be mansplaining.

She will, in turn, not spew of wisdoms she has heard on <em>Top Gear</em>.

I recently had my own mansplaining episode. A friend visited and I decided to be the ladies-who-lunch and catch drinks and wings at the waterfront. Our waiter was nice and did the quintessential thing male waiters do where they become increasingly friendly and flirty, but seeing as it was a sunny afternoon coupled with a good hair day we were not mad at the situation.

Eventually the interaction progressed to the point where he felt comfortable enough to ask personal questions leading him to enquire as to our professions. Upon telling him that I was a writer he proceeded to say “write about me, write something about me right now”.

Taken a little aback I tried to explain that people have different writing processes and that was not exactly how it worked. But, alas, him being the waiter and me actually writing, what did I know?

He said this was not how writing worked countering my argument by beginning with the words “I am not a writer but writing is about psychology and being able to read people instantly and write about them, especially interesting people like myself”.

I’m sorry, what?

Let us pause for a minute here. I must emphasise he prefaced his argument with the words “I am not a writer”.

My question was: Did you just tell me how to do what I do and then admit that you do not even do the same thing? Worse still you are not even aspiring to do the same thing nor have you ever tried?

And with that, in one foul swoop I was mansplained.

Furthermore why did I have to prove I was a writer? If I had said I was a brain surgeon would I have had to slice his head open to showcase my skills?

My guess is that had a man told him that he was a writer he would have asked questions such as “what have you written?”. I was merely told “prove it to me woman”.

I was not even asked to provide any evidence of my writing (as all written material before this mansplaining was irrelevant) I was merely that I told I must prove that I can do it right at that moment and I must prove it in the way he thought.

And I took it.

I should have told him to push off and get me some more wine or napkins, but I didn’t.

Instead I stumbled over myself to further try and explain how I write and what I write about (namely not random men who come and request it during lunch). How the interaction ended was he explained to me that although he could string three sentences together on a page he was a man of “big ideas”.

Apparently once his big ideas come to fruition he shall need someone to write about it.

My friend could barely contain her laughter. Everything we’d spent the afternoon talking about had just happened to me. I learned the phrase and 20 minutes later it had happened to me.

A testament to how often it happens and how much we miss it, feeling instead that someone is being helpful.

Mansplaining shows the confidence and gall of men, which will forever inspire awe in me.

There is something to be commended and learnt from the phenomenon of mansplaining, it takes a degree of confidence that cannot be faked. Women could learn a lot from this.

As women we experience mansplaining a great deal more than we think. Sometimes it comes in the form of “debate”, sometimes in an off-handed comment, quick and hard to catch.

It has also now promptly been added to my shovel list (things I want to hit in the face with a shovel, a nifty tool learned from Marian Keyes).

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