Recently, the word “mansplaining” has entered my head to a degree where most of my thoughts revolve around it. According to a dictionary: Mansplaining is to explain something to another person (typically a woman, but everyone can be submitted to mansplaining) in a condescending or patronising manner. In layman’s terms it’s basically a person explaining something to you that you already have ample knowledge of as if you were completely oblivious.
Now this behaviour obviously gets on the nerves of many. It gets on my nerves and the reason behind that is because I sometimes mansplain things. Albeit very rarely now- I, like many others, slip up too. Just like with all my posts, I’m writing this to remind myself how to be a better person. We all find it annoying when someone talks to us like we haven’t a clue of what we’re doing. What could possibly be the reason behind a person explaining someone to somebody in a condescending and patronizing manner? The answer seems obvious. Insecurity. The need to know better than others. That was one of my biggest insecurities. Days could be completely ruined if I gave out a wrong answer in class or if somebody actually knew better than me. My ego would be hurt (good on him!) and I would end up feeling like an idiot because I didn’t know something. Reality check though, there is so much that we don’t know and that’s a great thing. It leaves more opportunity to experience and learn.
Women are unfortunately a big target of this kind of behaviour and I just can’t wrap my head around why that is. Many of us have somehow painted this image in our heads that a woman can’t possibly be more knowledgeable about certain topics than a man could ever be. How in the world could we actually think that? If you honestly read it and think about it- it sounds incredibly silly don’t you think? How many of us have witnessed some blunder-head try and explain a topic he/she has no knowledge about to a pretty young woman who has a bachelor’s, masters or even a Ph.D in? I’ve seen it a countless amount of times. The patronising tone, and condescending behaviour. I just honestly can’t understand it. The worst is when the person submitted to the mansplaining announces his/her knowledge and the mansplainer answers with doubt or a sarcastic, “Sure you do”. I know it boils my blood.
How is it thought that I have not been told to stop mansplaining things? From my honest experience, no woman has ever told me that they felt like I was being patronising towards them, and if I have, then I just want to take the opportunity to apologise now.
Back on topic though. There is another thought that has lingered in my conscious for the past few years and a rule of mine that has been there for my whole life. The thought being, “We can learn from everyone” and the rule being “We are all the same”. When we talk to a person, we should exercise the ability to talk to them as if they have the same capacity for knowledge as we do. The person opposite you might be a dimwit in your eyes, solely because of his/her appearance, but how are we so certain that he/she doesn’t have a vast knowledge of the latest studies in the sociological aspect of the sciences? How can we be absolutely sure that the new guy at work doesn’t have experience in the field of expertise required for said job? The only way to be certain is to ask. There are obviously nuances between people, some may answer honestly and others will lie due to insecurity. The insecurity comes more often than not from the fear of being patronised. If we can get rid of that behaviour, then we can create a safer environment for people of all kinds to be able to teach and learn.
So do me this favour. We’ll do it together. The next time that we find the opportunity to explain something to someone. Let’s take a couple of things into account. Do we know this person’s current knowledge of the topic? Do we know this person’s capacity for learning and understanding? Are we capable of swallowing our ego and listening if said person actually has more knowledge than us in said field, and therefore use the opportunity to learn regardless of the other person’s appearance? If we’re capable of all of the above then we can almost totally eradicate the term “mansplaining” and all the insecurity that comes with it, replacing it with compassion and knowledge for all.