Mansplaining is defined as “to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.”
The other day, my young activist friend, Madison Kimrey, messaged me to commiserate about a “progressive” man who often messages her and tells her how to behave, what she should read and so on. Fortunately, Madison’s reaction is similar to mine; which is to say we don’t really care what these mansplainers have to say to us. It’s not that we’re resistant to new ideas, and it’s not that we don’t like learning new information. We just have no time for silly men who treat us as if we need them to guide us.
Madison and I have another thing in common. We have both worked hard, and we’ve carved out a significant amount of space on the internet where we have the ability to reach millions of people. Yes, millions. Some men are intimidated by our power and feel the need to diminish our voices.
There are also a lot of folks who disagree with our points-of-view, and when they’re interested in having productive conversations, their input often leads to lively debate. That aspect of having a far-reaching voice on social media is really cool. As I’ve said repeatedly, there have been occasions when my mind has been opened or changed when I’ve engaged in an online debate.
Progressives evolve and are supposed to be open-minded. They often pride themselves on fighting for equality of the sexes. This is why I am not even trying to address conservative mansplainers. They’re a lost cause. (Note: I didn’t say conservative men. I said “conservative mansplainers.”) It’s best to mock and block them. But to the progressive men who feel the need to offer unsolicited advice, here are some helpful hints to tell if you’re guilty of “explaining” things to women.
You might be a progressive mansplainer if . . .
You tell women you don’t know on social media what they should read, how they should feel and how they should behave. The key word here is “should.”
You see, Mansplainers, you don’t get to dictate how women conduct themselves online – or anywhere else. It really is that simple. I realize it’s difficult to let go of your control issues, but if you want to call yourself a “progressive,” you might want to examine your need to control the behavior of women. Perhaps this stems from a dysfunctional home life; or maybe you have or had an overbearing mother. Maybe you’re in desperate need of a good lay. A therapist might be able to help you more with that. Look into it.
You shorten or change a woman’s name when you feel the need to correct her. For instance, my name is Kimberley, and when mansplainers want to “put me in my place,” they’ll call me Kim or Kimmy.
This is a condescending tactic used only by weak men who believe if they treat women as if they’re confused little girls, they’ll be perceived as strong men. They think that by calling me Kimmy, somehow I’ll become insecure and fold. They’ll say things like: “Oh c’mon, Kimmy.” And when called out, the mansplainers will come back with something childish like, “I’m not being condescending. You just don’t like hearing the truth.”
Instead of making comments on a public thread, you send unsolicited private messages to women you don’t know and tell them why you think they’re wrong and/or what you believe they should say about any given topic.
Almost every day I get messages from “progressive” men on social media who feel the need to explain things to me as if I’m not capable of thinking for myself. The most pathetic part of this is that they actually believe they’re providing me with some kind of beneficial service. If I ask their permission to make said message public, they balk and they become irritated as if I’ve shit all over their benevolence and unsolicited pearls of wisdom. They never tell me that I can to put their mansplaining on public display for all to see – which tells me that most of them really do understand exactly what they’re doing. And what they’re doing – or attempting to do – is exert control. Period.
This doesn’t mean that when a man is debating with a woman, he’s automatically ‘splaining. It’s all about tone and how the man addresses the woman. A mansplainer always tries to control what the woman says, thinks or does. A secure man will debate using facts and never uses condescending terminology when met with a differing opinion. I’ve debated many men who have different perspectives. As long the conversation remains respectful – even when it’s a heated debate – he isn’t a mansplaining mansplainer.
In short, these four points make for a respectable debate:
- Be courteous, even when you disagree with someone else’s opinions, and always address them the way you would like to be addressed.
- When debating someone, use their name (don’t shorten it unless they have), and avoid terms like “sweetie” or “honey.”
- When disagreeing with someone, make your point by using facts and back them up with solid sources.
- Lastly, recognize that you may not convince the other person to think the way you do, and do not take it personally if and when they don’t agree with you.
Women who have far-reaching voices are not the only ones who are ‘splained to. Women deal with this behavior all the time — in the workplace and at home. Friends, relatives, boyfriends and husbands can be guilty; and it’s not always easy to confront them. They usually become bristled and defensive; and they turn everything around to make you look hysterical or irrational.
Each woman must decide how she will respond to the mansplainers in her life. I find sarcasm is helpful; and mirroring his terminology and his tactics can be a useful approach. In other words, womansplain right back to them. When they whine (and they will), point out that they are whining. Granted, you’ll probably be met with angry stompy-feet and denial, but just keep doing it until they get the clue. As for the strangers online who offer unsolicited advice, have a little fun with them. Treat them as if they’re a wounded bird and you’re a bored cat. Mess with them a little. Once you’re satisfied, send them the links to the books, Men Explain Things To Me, or How to Win Friends & Influence People. If none of that works, block them. It’s easy, fun and they hate it! Just don’t allow them to get away with it, and don’t let them believe they can keep doing it.
The bottom line is that some men can’t deal with women who hold and voice strong opinions. There will always be some men who feel the need to control others because they’re insecure. However, their shortcomings are not usually your problem, and there’s no reason to put up with their crap.
If you’re a “progressive” man who does any of the above, you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you feel a need to control women. It’s not always easy to face and overcome your insecurities, but it is the progressive way.
***Quick note to the men offended by the term “mansplainer:” If you don’t give unsolicited advice to women – especially women you don’t know personally – you’re not a mansplainer. So don’t worry about it.