Mansplaining. What a stupid-ass, annoying term. We hear this word all the time now since it became such a cultural buzzword, and it rubs a lot of guys the wrong way.
But if I’m being honest, I think I hate it because I know I’m guilty of it. That age-old, “if you spot it, you got it” thing. You know, like if something gets to you, it’s probably because it hits on a nerve of truth you don’t want to acknowledge. But why is that? What does it even mean anyway?
Here, let me explain.
The term “mansplaining” was originally inspired by an essay by author Rebecca Solnit called ‘Men Explain Things To Me.’ It bubbled up through the dense comment forums by other women immediately relating to Solnit’s story: “Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean.” She tells a story about how some dude at a party was so wrapped up in explaining to her an essay he’d read that he failed to realize—even through being told multiple times— that she was the person who’d written it.
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Damn. That truth stings. I don’t know if I’m necessarily “that guy” all the time, but I also know I could never count the number of times I’ve interrupted a woman to explain something she most likely already knows (or knows better than me).
Why do we (men) do that? Is it just arrogance? Is it because we grew up in a culture where it is generally assumed that men have the answers, whether we do or not? Many of society’s leaders have been men, but couldn’t we say that’s more because throughout history men have forcefully held onto the power to establish themselves as the top authorities—not because they actually are?
If I look closely at the men and women in my life, it’s safe to say that the guys I know do not definitively know more than the women. I know I don’t. I’m wrong all the time! Even when I think I’m right, I find myself digging in to try and hold on to some sense of rightness. But it weirdly hurts to confront and admit that. It’s sort of scary to just say “I don’t know” and ask someone else, because it leaves me feeling vulnerable like I have no control. No firm ground to stand on. If I’m not an authority on (fill in subject here), am I still a man?
Whoa, sorry. I didn’t mean to make this all about me.
Anyway, it might not even matter why. Many of us men are probably totally oblivious to this phenomenon (like me), but it’s good for us to see it clearly and honestly. If we don’t want to be “that guy”—thinking anyone needs to be unnecessarily explained to —we can begin to let go of that ignorant conditioning. How? By asking questions and just listening more.
Which is exactly what this series is about: mansplaining. This series is a place for men to explain things to other men to genuinely learn from one another. Where we can listen and learn from some actual experts and other experienced male-identifying individuals. So stay tuned, it’s gonna be fun.
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