After the Presidential Debates the other night, the Internet was flooded with the term “mansplain” — and for good reason. Aside from Mr. Trump’s special brand of incoherent mouth noises, he took any chance he got to talk over Secretary Clinton, to tell her she’s wrong (usually by just shouting “nope!”), to jab at her looks or stamina, which — let’s face it — is his way of saying, “you’re a lady and you’re weak.” So, he’s a mansplainer on top of being a complete lunatic. Not a surprise.
So now that we all have a cultural reference point of mansplaining, how can we look out for micro-mansplaining in our own lives? Because sometimes we’re not at a podium arguing with a megalomaniac. Sometimes we’re talking to our friends, our bosses or even our boyfriends…while being mansplained (which has gotten so bad that this huge media company even banned it.) It’s not cool. I call these incidents micro-mansplaining (coined it!) because they’re sometimes done by those closest to us and may even present as playful, casual or complimentary. And they’re so normalized you might not ever catch them.
1. You find that the conversation is largely dominated by their point of view, even if it is agreement with your own.
If you are having a casual conversation with a guy, and he is consistently talking over you — albeit politely, or maybe even enthusiastically as to support what you are saying — you may think to yourself, “I already said that.” That’s a micro-mansplain situation. He may be agreeing with you or even emphatically supporting an idea that means something to you (like feminism! Or voting for a female president!) but if you can’t get a word in, or the fact that his opinion of your opinion dominates the convo, you’ve been subtly mansplained.
You could try saying: “Hey now, can I get a word in?” or “You are repeating what I just said, buddy!”
2. You find yourself trying to re-explain things to your guy boss that you don’t see other male employees explaining or justifying.
The workplace is notorious for being toxic to women. If you put a woman in a room with a handful of men, they will naturally veer toward one another’s opinions. Men tend to say this sounds like horseshoe and women who aren’t feminist tend to get defensive and say it’s a personality thing…and this is because we’ve been taught to ignore these behaviors and idly accept them. Do not accept them. You might say something (and it might go unacknowledged) while a man might say the same things and it’s like unicorns just fell out of the goddamned glittery sky.
You could: check out this list of fantastic responses and follow-up behaviors. You could also try having other women amplify your ideas so that you always have people who will advocate for you early on — before someone tries to take credit for your ideas. In the end, it’s not about credit. It’s about equality and fairness.
3. You find yourself being told that you look great today — by your dude collegue or boss at work. When you tell them it’s inappropriate, they cut you off and explain how it’s not.
Here’s the thing: being complimented is lovely, and one day we’ll all be complimented and think nothing of it. But for now, sexism is alive and well in the workplace and a compliment based on a woman’s image just isn’t going to work. This is because women have long been reduced to their looks. This isn’t the ramblings of a bra-burning man-hater (as anti-feminists are want to say). This is a suggestion to all men: don’t make women feel objectified — no matter how innocuous and polite your compliment might be. Our looks shouldn’t mean anything at work. And when men put women in the position of accepting a compliment (which, let’s be honest — it’s usually mildly creepy), it forces a delineation in power structure.
You could say: “It’s inappropriate… because I said it is, and because I feel uncomfortable. Nothing you say can change my mind.”
4. You find your boyfriend constantly re-explaining stories you tell — either by stopping your story or talking over you.
If your boyfriend says something like, “God, she remembers things all wrong! Let me tell the story…” there’s a line between that being cute and him just bull-dozing you. He may love you, but he’s a dude who probably hasn’t thought deeply about power structure and gender. That may sound academic, but it causes it problems in society down to the smallest degree (being taken seriously at work, being confident enough to stick up for yourself, feeling valued in society) — and that’s why this matters. Women are silenced all the time for being “annoying,” “emotional,” “rambly” — aka not “direct,” like a man. So, don’t let it happen, even if it’s from someone you love. You really don’t need him to explain your own memory or perspective. Shut that shit down.
You could say: “Babe, lemme talk!” or “Well, this is how I remember it. You can tell your version when I’m done.” [Insert smile — with fangs].
5. You find your boyfriend, male friends or male family members tell you you’re ‘crazy’ or ‘too emotional’ when you say something; this may be a subconscious way of cutting you off from sharing ideas or having valid points of view simply because you’re a woman.
Women have been bleeding every single month for most of their lives since the dawn of time. Sometimes, women deal with hormonal shifts too, which is 100% normal. To be told that our natural state is bad, unwanted, crazy or uncool is not just annoying and rude — and it’s SO old. What if we told men that something natural that happened inside their bodies wasn’t cool? When a guy cuts you off and says that your point of view is stupid because you have your period, or whatever [female] reason, this is an act of oppression. That may sound intense, but think about it. If it always happens, and if periods are always synonymous with “crazy,” then how are we ever going to break out of that? That means we are simply “crazy” for a week out of the month. Don’t accept that. This happens to women the world over — and if it’s considered normal or reduced to comical — how can that affect women in society? We learn to silence ourselves. It’s an issue.
You could say: “My period doesn’t negate my reasoning or point of view. I’d appreciate you hearing me out before using my natural body processes against me.”
Note: All of the above responses may be replaced with a simple,”Fuck off, thank you.”