So, today when I was mansplained…

Woman-power symbol (clenched fist in Venus sig...… I alternated between frustrated, angry, and amused every couple of seconds. Eventually I settled on ignoring him until he gave up.

Mansplaining is an Internet slang term used to describe condescending and inaccurate explanations that are given under the assumption that the audience is entirely ignorant on the subject matter or topic. The name stems from an online behavior commonly exhibited by male newbies on female-oriented discussion forums.

The thing about mansplaining is that you can see it coming from 20 paces. In person, he generally interrupts a member of his female audience, lowers his voice so that it is gentle enough for lady ears, makes eye contact with all members of the group so that he is sure that everyone is listening to him, and then starts.Today was no different.

I was at a feminist meet and enjoying some idea-sharing and good-humoured chat. Then he started. He’s been reading a few feminist news feeds apparently, he’s been assessing the state of feminism in the US, he’s been concluding that there is very little feminism happening in the UK, and he’s been closely following the impact of the female vote in the recent US election. He explained that, what happened was (“you see”) that Romney (“you see”) was making moves to illegalise abortion and that’s what mobilised the female vote for Obama (“you see”).

It was at that point that I interrupted him. To see his genuine shock and discontent that he was lecturing someone who was clearly more informed than him, yet had no apparent need to demonstrate her knowledge as he had only moments earlier, made me chuckle and roll my eyes (inwardly, natch, I’m not a savage). That didn’t stop him, though. He went on to discuss the various waves of feminism (wrongly), state that he would not enter in a conversation about said waves when he was challenged about his inaccuracies, and tell us that one thing he thinks he should do is talk to our wider group about the feminist labour movement. By this stage, we were all ignoring him and getting on with our thing. When he was questioned on his political “involvement”, he became tight-lipped and refused to reveal anything. His confusion about the turn of events was palpable. This was not what he expected, and in his own head, not what he deserved. He stared at the women he was trying to educate and he could not believe their ingratitude. He didn’t know how to start again.

At this stage the rest of us were discussing how we would put together some flyers and other materials for our group. He was overruled on his colour choice. That was clearly the last straw. He was largely silent for the rest of the meeting. He wasn’t missed.

6 responses to “So, today when I was mansplained…

  1. I think it’s time for me to go sit in a bath and examine the reasons behind my initial response. My first thought was “what the hell was he doing there?” followed by “this is why we don’t allow men in the meetings in London”. Not really acceptable but y totally honest response. I think I need to check my privilege.

    • It’s such a tough one, Emm, because I think that male feminists/ feminist allies are very important to the movement. There are problems around this notion of the “male feminist” though and, alas, today we had one of them. He came to the meeting to mansplain, I have no doubt, and he couldn’t believe it when that didn’t work out for him. It was sickening.

  2. How do you help someone like that, or someone like me, to understand the issues at hand? I mean that many feminist issues really don’t have much of a day to day impact on us chaps even though we may well think that they are important if we just had that awareness.

    • Hover, it’s all about the listening, I think. A lot of the issues that feminists discuss are not on the male radar because they don’t have to be. That is all caught up with the issue of privilege, acknowledged or otherwise. So it’s about listening to what is important, and, crucially, not dismissing those issues because they’re not important to YOU or trying to displace those issues with something that IS important to you (and, therefore, more important overall). That’s mansplaining.

      Hope that helps. (Sorry for the delay in replying by the way. Been ill and away and ill again.) Good to see you, though. (Oh, and I’m about to email you.)

  3. Pingback: Awful Assumptions-Feminists have it Too Good to Complain? « Confessions of a Latte Liberal·

  4. Pingback: Awful Assumptions-Feminists « Confessions of a Latte Liberal·

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