Columns, Opinion, Tough Love

Let me mansplain the issue with mansplaining to you | Tough Love

Behind every successful woman doing something correctly is a man whispering in her ear telling her there is a better way to do what she’s already doing correctly.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

“You’re doing it all wrong, here is actually how it should be done.”

“This is really advanced, you won’t understand. Let me explain.”

“Did you actually know that (insert very well-known concept here)?”

This phenomenon is what many like to call “mansplaining” ––  it happens when a man gives a condescending explanation of something to a woman, assuming she is ignorant of the subject. 

Discussion around the concept is rather quiet, given that most men assume that the term is meant to “shut them down” or “pick on them” when they’re just trying to be helpful and give advice.

That’s one of my favorite excuses, actually –– you’re trying to “help” me? By explaining something so simple? Do you really think I’m that dumb? I wonder.

Granted, it’s a harsh label to contend with, but recognizing its growing prevalence is what’s truly  frightening. It often seems like a mansplaining apocalypse is upon us. 

Many presume that this annoying little habit men seem to do so well is worth nothing more than a huff and an eyeroll. People also limit mansplaining to being an act of condescension, but I disagree. It can be made as easily conversational as it is snobby.

But as we continue to brush off these annoying little grievances, we begin to set a standard in society that men can just bulldoze over women and their ideas — with no consequences. What’s worse is that mansplaining, in effect, also erases the ideations and ambitions of women bit by bit.

Ideas are stolen, intelligence is questioned and sanity goes out the window. Mansplaining is no longer a silly little qualm to joke about with your friends, it’s a real problem invading the conscience of nearly every woman.

So let me help by explaining this nice and slow to you (and in a really condescending voice) to make sure you get what I’m saying –– I know it can be difficult to understand. Here is the issue with mansplaining:

Imagine you’ve been working in journalism for years –– writing stories, taking down interviews, editing for grammar –– and some man comes and explains to you how you should report. 

Because it’s totally not like you haven’t done that hundreds of times before.

Or picture yourself making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Suddenly, a man comes along and  grabs the knife out of your hands telling you that you’re doing it incorrectly –– after all, there is a right and wrong way to spread peanut butter. Now watch as he then picks up that same knife and starts spreading the peanut butter exactly as you were. 

Can you see how infuriating that might be? Well, I don’t have to imagine these examples, I lived them, and these are only the mild cases. But things quickly escalate when we start letting a few of these instances slide. 

According to a study conducted at Michigan State University by Caitlin Briggs, it was found that the short-term consequences of mansplaining in places like the office often make female workers feel “deflated” or undervalued. Subsequently, the long-term impact showed that women who are talked down to by men frequently internalize the criticism, leading to feelings of inadequacy.

The source of the issue was that the female volunteers who experienced “mansplaining” registered that their competence was being questioned more frequently than their male counterparts.

In turn, this led them to feel undervalued, resulting in an overall lack of confidence. What’s more is that some of the participants were more reluctant to speak up after the recurring incidents in the experiment. 

Continually being made to feel stupid, incompetent or unappreciated might hinder a woman’s belief in herself enough to not seek promotions or request a raise. According to Forbes, these feelings may even have a negative impact on productivity and sense of belonging in the workplace, resulting in women leaving the company.

Outside of the office, the simple fact is that mansplaining is really detrimental in the way that it reinforces gender stereotypes. There is this pervasive idea that women aren’t as smart as men because things like homemaking and raising children have historically been seen as a priority while education takes a backseat. 

This is even more ironic considering a report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2022, female students made up 58% of the total undergraduate enrollment of postsecondary institutions while only 42% were male. 

Facts aside, I would be remiss to argue that every man is fully at fault for mansplaining. Yes, the words are falling out of their mouths, but mansplaining is really rooted in how young boys are trained to form relationships. America’s masculinity culture demands that men display a sense of stoicism and unwavering confidence to become the true emblem of manhood. 

I’m also not saying every man has mansplained something to someone. But for those who don’t believe they have, it’s likely the person you mansplained to just didn’t speak up –– go figure.

Nonetheless, I think we can easily nip the problem in the bud if we all start being a little more conscious about how we speak to others. Are you being inquisitive? Or are you just being an overconfident know-it-all? Am I listening to women and letting them speak? Or am I just bulldozing right over them?

It continues to upset and frustrate me that there are millions of women out there who are repeatedly told they aren’t reliable observers of their own life, or that what they’re doing is always wrong. 

So I hope that was simple enough for you to understand. Did you get it? Or should I tell you one more time? I know this topic can be really complicated, but I can totally explain it to you again if you didn’t understand it the first time.

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