Stop the man from mansplaining
Mansplaining is very much in use these days and is a self-explanatory concept, which simply means that moment when a man tries to explain something to a woman, typically in a manner that is either condescending or patronizing or both. Author Rebecca Solnit, who has written at length about this term in her book “Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way,” was a victim of mansplaining herself, when a man explained about her own book to her, without acknowledging that she had written it! And boy, doesn’t that sound familiar!
While there is nothing wrong with someone explaining something new, but when it is done in a disdainful manner, by a haughty male, with a view to exert superiority and dominance, that’s where the problem lies. To be clear, mansplaining is problematic, only because many a times, the issue being explained is something that a woman already knows about or this information was repeated to her, in a way that is different than her own.
Why Do Men Mansplain?
The gender breakdown can happen in any fashion, like a woman explaining something to a man, but what makes mansplaining different than any other form of condescension, is that it usually occurs in this power dynamic, where men are more likely to interrupt a woman speaking about something that she is well aware of! The term ‘mansplain’ has stuck and women, sometimes, even those with a mastery in their field, have found themselves being subjected to this by men, who are unwilling to bend their ways when they see a woman in charge.
Is this because of male chauvinism and misogyny, due to which, men refuse to acknowledge a woman’s intellect? Perhaps. Or, it can also be attributed to the junction between overconfidence and cluelessness, where men don’t realize that the women in front of them, already know what is being explained to them. It is this mindset, that has led men to interrupt women, more often and unlike us, they seldom yield the floor when the opposite happens.
Women’s issues with Mansplaining
The recent US vice presidential debate saw VP candidate, Kamala Harris take precedence over mansplaining, when her opponent Mike Spence, interrupted her in her allotted time. She calmly turned to him and said, “Mr. Vice President, I am speaking.” Since then, myriad women have talked about how they encountered mansplaining in offices, dining rooms, parties, politics and more.
The reason for this surge of support and outcry towards this concept, is the idea that it is uncommon for women to ask men to not interrupt them, because often times, we are worried about starting a backlash or inducing any tension in the environment. But this simple example of a woman on national television, asking a man to let her speak is the prime example and encouragement that women have needed for years, to stand up for themselves and not render them voiceless.
The problem is that women are tired of men wanting to have a say in everything, right from the shape of their bodies to their work schedules. Even today, as we hear men remark on how a woman’s attire must be the reason why she was assaulted or that women need to get home early to be safe, we have basically given the autonomy to decide our choices to men and that’s hugely problematic.
What can be done to ‘Stop the Man from Mansplaining’?
While it’s difficult to assess the line that divides mansplaining from “hey, I was merely giving you some information”, the one thing that helps clear the confusion, is to ask the question: Did she ask for it? While you, as a man, were in the process of correcting a woman, ask yourself: Did she ask for it? If no, then perhaps it’s wise to not say anything and just listen, what’s the harm in that anyway. And, if you are smarter than her or if she is indeed wrong, maybe, do it politely and not in a haughty manner.
Organizations too, can do a lot to level the playing field, like rewarding employees to listen and then build on ideas of their fellows. Women shouldn’t just be advised on how they can be the force of change, because even organizations need to adapt to tactics that boost their morale by changing work dynamics and rewarding appropriate gender-neutral behavior. Most of the women are simply just asked to “ignore” or “handle” mansplaining, which is where the organization needs to take over, to end this form of bullying. To say it’s a man’s world isn’t wide off the mark but the least we ask is to be heard, acknowledged and given the option of decision making.