If you’re a woman, chances are that mansplaining needs no introduction. For those unaware, it is the almost regular, casual event where a man assumes ignorance on a woman’s part and generously explains things to her. She might as well be an expert on the topic, but that becomes irrelevant. In fact, some women have had the pleasure of mansplaining mansplained.
To put it as succinctly as possible, mansplaining has become a part of female experience. This highly condescending behaviour exhibits deep rooted male assertiveness and authority over women. What makes it different from any other innocent act of explanation is that a man interrupts or talks over a woman to explain things she already knows a ton about. In her essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, Rebecca Solnit recounts an incident at a party where a man explained the contents of a book to her- a book that she had authored.
In some cases mansplaining takes on a whole new degree of condescension that it becomes flabbergasting. In one instance, a woman posted on twitter that a man had told her that she spells her name wrong. Cis women report that it is not uncommon for cis men to explain the female body to them. In fact, being mansplained is such a common experience for women that it often becomes prime content for a lot of casual discussion. The popular tumblr page named ‘Academic Men Explain Things to Me’ is proof enough.
With digitisation taking over our lives, mansplaining adopts a whole new avatar. Erica Dhawan, author of ‘Digital Body Language’ finds that digital mansplaining is more than just interrupting. It is also when a person espouses a dominant and unassailable style of conversation.
Mansplaining makes women feel undervalued and unappreciated. It disrupts a sense of belonging and makes women feel out of place. This could also ultimately affect their productivity. However, when women return the favour they are condemned as being bossy and aggressive. Besides, mansplaining does take a toll on women’s career growth. Being often interrupted makes a woman appear less knowledgeable. This becomes even more problematic in fields such as the STEMs where men drastically outnumber women. It heavily reinforces the stereotype that women aren’t cut-out for the ‘heavier’ subjects of the STEMs. The habit also translates to more grave feminist issues. Erica Dhawan in her essay ‘How to Spot Digital Mansplaining—and Stop It in Its Tracks’ points towards a study which found that ‘credit-taking mansplaining’ reaffirms the gender pay gap and strengthens the glass ceiling.
It is obvious now that mansplaining is no light issue. Its effect on women’s self-confidence and career track is hardly a matter to be ignored. In the pandemic where workspaces have largely migrated online, the chances of mansplaining also increase drastically. Counteracting can be a difficult task. In cases where men, who are open-minded, don’t realise their crime, it is best to explain it to them. All said, mansplaining must never go unchallenged. It comes down to following former VP of Twitter Nandini Ramani’s advice,
“Speak up, even when it’s hard.”