Can a woman ever be a 'mansplainer'?
The concept of mansplaining was born kicking and screaming and covered in mucus into this world because of the age-old injustice and downright piece of poppycock that men are superior to women in just about all ways apart from squeezing milk out of their udders. Everything else, physical strength, intelligence, building IKEA furniture, the fairer sex have just had to sit down and suck it up (with legs neatly crossed). We lose. Now, thankfully most (or at least a significantly large portion of humans) have realised that this idea is essentially bananas. But old habits die hard and unfortunately ‘mansplaining’ still exists alive and well.
I’ll come back to my original question in just a minute, but first I think it’s important to fill you in, dear readers, on my own experiences with ‘mansplaining’ in the traditional sense.
In her essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, Rebecca Solnit (whose recent article on the loneliness of Donald Trump is not to be missed) recalls an occasion where a smug and arrogant gentleman attempted to explain a VERY important new book to her that had recently been published. Turns out it was a book that she had written. As the cool kids say … #AWKS. Now unfortunately for the British public, I have never had a book published (but I am open to offers) so the likelihood of me being able to dramatically shut one of these mansplainers down is less likely. But it has happened.
Things that have been mansplained to me:
"What you don’t realise is that the cheese must be taken out of the fridge and left to get to room temperature"
I worked on a deli counter for six years … School me on ANYTHING but cheese.
"I saw that lad giving you a hard time over there, but that’s probably a great learning opportunity for you in how to stick up for yourself."
Probably the worst one.
"What you should be doing is thinking about how I speak and then trying to replicate that in the article."
WOW … I have never thought of that one before.
My collected reactions (interchangeable):
1) "Ah, right, OK … THANK YOU"
2) * stays silent and blinks in disbelief *
3) Occasionally … "I would like to wait for the dentist in silence please".
The battle I have with myself over this issue is the ratio of mansplaining to subservient reactions by me. Am I allowing the cycle to continue by not stopping the offender in his tracks and saying "Excuse me sir, I respect your opinion but I must point out that I fundamentally disagree". Or should we be alerting people to the act of mansplaining itself by carrying around some sort of comically large and unavoidable game show buzzer that we can sound any time we feel a mansplain coming on? None of these sounds particularly progressive and taking on the blame myself does seem a little bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now interestingly enough … That last one on my list was by a woman. And I think this is where we can evolve this too-often-hashtagged concept for the greater good. Yes, mansplaining started with inherent and stubborn roots in gender (a lot like dandelions on a patio, you can’t just pull the top off … you need to go deeper to completely gut the bugger), but if we leave it there we run the risk of not allowing a level playing field of conversational collaboration to develop. Fundamentally it comes down to respect. Don’t patronise people. Don’t assume that you know more or they know less until you’ve actually established it. And whatever you’ve got going on between your legs … Just treat people as you would want to be treated. That might sound like I’m going a bit Mary Poppins but I do think it’s that simple.