Last month, I was at a leading conference in my field. My friend and I were talking to students from another similar school when one of the students asks me where I go to school and what subfield I work in. I tell him and then he asks me if I know one of the most prominent researchers in my subfield as a honest question. I say that I do. After that, he brags about working with said researcher and starts explaining what exactly my subfield is….
My teenaged daughter (15) and her friend went to see the Men in Black 3 movie at the cinema. They enjoyed it for what it was, a light- hearted 90 mins of entertainment. That evening a male friend of hers asked her what she’d seen at the cinema that day and she told him. He told her the MIB was garbage and that she should see a real movie, and then proceeded to tell her that Promethius was a REAL movie, not a nonsense movie and she would have been better off seeing it instead.
She told him that his taste in movies was obviously different to hers, not more valid, not superior, just different and that she was entitled to enjoy whatever movie she wanted without him mansplaining her about it. He used to do it with her taste in music too. He had never heard of mansplaining, but he hasn’t spoken to her since his introduction to the term. Hardly a great loss.
In my first term of being a city-council woman there was a fellow council member,X, that continually talked down to me regarding everything from procedures to dress. I would just nod and when he asked if I was “OK” after he talked to me I would tell him I had put my big girl undies on that day and I should be fine.
It finally came to a head when we all attended a Chamber of Commerce dinner where the theme was music and the invitation said there would be a costume contest, and to please dress up.
I was the only one of my city’s attendees that dressed up, I was a mixtures of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. At the end of the night, after the awards, X took me aside and told me that I shouldn’t dress up for these things because, “no one else does.” I tried to explain to him that I thought it would be fun, but he stated it again, insinuating I should be ashamed for being in costume. This time I told him that others do dress up, because I had just won 3rd place…when once again he states that no one dresses up and I shouldn’t. Finally, I looked at him and said, “I only came to this dinner because I COULD come in costume.”
As I started to walk off I heard a confused, “Oh”
A few years ago, I was taking an English course at the local community college. Apparently a previous student had called [the teacher] out for being a sexist douchebag, so he did a lot of research about gender (mostly along pop psych/evo psych lines) and decided to theme the whole class around it. Clearly a brilliant move.
As mentioned, it’s been a while, so I’ve blocked a lot of the obnoxious things he said out of my mind. These are the incidents I do remember, however.
- Explaining that men and women can never be friends because the men will always inevitably want to have sex with the women.
- Explaining that women don’t play video games because they fulfill a man’s hunting instincts.
- I don’t remember the context for this one, and I guess it doesn’t really apply as mansplaining, but it’s remarkable in its own way. For some reason, he was going around to all of the men in the room, putting them on the spot and asking what they were looking for in a girlfriend/wife. He was totally shocked when one of the guys said he was gay, like the possibility had never occurred to him, and he floundered for a bit trying to figure out how to rephrase the question to prove his point before moving on.
I worked at an historical archives center this summer alongside other university students. At some point, I was talking to a colleague about how I often thread a thin line between being angry or being amused when I read articles about women in our 1910-1930s newspaper collection. One of my colleagues (currently pursuing a master’s degree in literature) jumped in the conversation. We pretty much had the following exchange:
Him: Ha, as long as you don’t become one of those crazy feminists!
Me: And what if I am already?
Him: Ah, well, that’s up to you really, you could put that energy to better use. It’s not like there’s still sexism to fight.
Me: Oh, I can assure you that sexism still exists, even if I agree that it’s less obvious than it was in the 1930s newspapers. Just look at sexual assault statistics, the wage gap, workplace discrimination, and all that jazz. That stuff is still happening as we speak.
Him: Well, you know, that’s just the way things are. Those things are hardly important problems in today’s world, if you compare them to racism, poverty in Africa and Latin America, pollution or human trafficking. Anyway, the sexism that we have today is just the leftovers of, like, two thousand years of patriarchy! It can’t just change overnight, you know! As a matter of fact, it’s probably going to take another two thousand years before mentalities completely change. So why bother?
I ran out of time to explain to him that the patriarchy had lasted so long exactly because of the people who supported the status quo. Some supported it with their ardent approval, and some with their indifference, just like he did. Why bother, he said? Because if he, a brilliant educated young man, is still lacking the historical perspective to understand the utility of feminism all the while manipulating century-old newspapers, then the world needs change more than ever.
As a graduate student nearing completion of both a master’s of sociology degree, as well as a graduate certificate in women’s and gender studies, I was unprepared for this exchange in my history course on Women in America to 1890.
"Where do we get gender?" the professor inquires. I look around at my 12 other classmates, who are a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students…when no one responds I offer, "Gender arises from a hierarchical social discourse constructed via all the major institutions of society—family, church, school, polity—and is inculcated through gender socialization. It’s socially constructed and regulated by a set of privileged norms."
Dude-Bro: ”But it’s innate…I mean, my wife was designed to hear the pitch of our son cry; I literally cannot hear him. You’re telling me that’s not from biology?”
Me: ”You’re not talking about gender.”
Dude-Bro: ”Yeah, well—you push out a baby, then maybe you’ll understand.”
P.S. Already a mother, and I ain’t got time to teach you nothing, son.
(Trigger warning for harassment, stalking, threats, and victim blaming.)
I’m a fresh computer-science grad. My major was web programming. The final semester, which happened just months ago, was rough.
One of my classes was reserved for people enrolled in one of two fields: web programming or computer programming. It was a course where the objective was to use all of our knowledge about writing, programming, the law, and ethics to create a real program or web site for a real client outside the school. This project was to be completed, as a team, by the entire class.
One of my classmates was an older man who knew nothing about web programming or web design and insisted that we were in a business class. How he got into the class in the first place, I have no idea.
He tried to mansplain dozens of things to me right off the bat, but the real trouble began when he insisted on stealing images from around the Internet to decorate our client’s web site. I told him we couldn’t do it.
Anyone who paid attention in the required freshman-level classes would have known that. Heck, tons of people who didn’t take any classes know that already because chances are they found out on the Internet. But he insisted that because I wasn’t a lawyer, I didn’t know anything about copyright law and I was not qualified to talk about it. He also said that if I was worried about the law I would have to drive to a faraway city to talk to a real lawyer and ask him to make sure we weren’t breaking any rules.
Then he told me to “stick to your programming and let the lawyers handle the law” — the equivalent of “get back in the kitchen”.
When I explained that I had taken my classes that addressed copyright law, and that the head of the department herself could confirm everything I told him, he brushed it off and said the she didn’t know what she was talking about either because she was “just a teacher”.
This is where it goes from mansplaining to something even worse, so I’ll understand if this one isn’t published.
After this he began harassing me. The verbal abuse, the on-campus stalking, the sexual harassment, and even some anti-LGBT harassment lasted for over a month. He continued challenging my knowledge of my own field, and every time he tried to assert that I knew absolutely nothing. Over and over again, he made his motive clear — that he considered telling him he couldn’t steal images a threat.
To cut a long and painful story short, it turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare with the Title IX coordinator telling me I was to blame, believing my harasser’s claims that I was the one harassing him, forcing me to attend mediation (in which my harasser threatened to stalk me off campus), and letting my harasser force terms on me to keep me completely silent and unheard in the class under threat of suspension.
I dropped the class to regain control, gained full credit elsewhere with help from the wonderful head of the department, and graduated on time as planned.
As for my harasser, by the time the semester ended he’d managed to drive away everyone but one sycophant. Together they ran the project into the ground and failed.
I later found out that my Title IX coordinator’s actions were illegal and that my harasser has a criminal record (violence, destruction of property, stalking, resisting arrest) and existing restraining orders against him. He had used his experience as an actual stalker and criminal to avoid disciplinary action when I made it clear I wasn’t going to take his abuse.
Abuse that was somehow “justified” because I corrected a man before I knew just how evil and creepy he was. And the Title IX coordinator fell for it. Wow.
A male (former) friend of mine was surprised to hear I hadn’t seen a movie that was popular during our childhoods. I explained that I grew up in a small town so I had missed a lot of movies. He scowled and said “If I lived in a small town, I would watch MORE movies.”
I tried to explain that it was difficult to get movies in a small town, since there was only one small movie rental place that had a poor selection and was far away. (This was before the internet.) Also, small-town culture sees movies as luxuries, treats to be had once in a while, and we weren’t super well off, so my parents weren’t in the habit of renting every movie that came out.
He was dismissive of these explanations, as if the conversation was already over after he’d declared his opinion on the subject. After all, what did I know, I had just lived the experience.
I am a technical editor. We recently got a new VP for our division, who took my department out for dinner to get acquainted with us. He is an MBA kind of guy, not an English or journalism or technical/business communications guy. I’m sure he’s very good at what he does, but it’s not what I do.
We were lightly chatting, and he mentioned something about editors correcting other people’s grammar and usage in casual conversation. I said, “Professionals never do that. You have to pay me to correct errors,” which he found amusing. Then I mentioned one of my pet peeves, which is the use of the word “utilize” when just plain old “use” is almost always better and more correct. Our engineers do this all the time.
He whipped out his smartphone and looked up “utilize” in the dictionary and read me the definition - as though that should settle things, as though the dictionary weren’t a compendium of how words are used, not how they should be used, as though it would never occur to me (the editor, remember?) to use a dictionary.
I’m sure he still has no idea how presumptuous he was.
I was invited to a friend’s large family gathering for Thanksgiving. She introduced me to her brother, who is an air traffic controller, and (I don’t remember how it came up) mentioned that I work for a raw milk dairy on weekends. Naturally, I know a lot about raw milk, why they had to start pasteurizing it early in the last century, the difference between milk from industrial dairies and milk from grass-fed organic dairies, and why the raw milk I distribute is safe and healthful. I have to know, because it’s my job.
The first words out of his mouth were, “You distribute raw milk? They pasteurize milk for a reason, you know. Let me tell you about raw milk.”
I smirked. He (thankfully) did not go on.
I just wonder what the reaction would have been if I had said, “You’re an air traffic controller? Let me tell you about radar.”
I am a doctoral student in engineering at a prestigious university. I’ve been experiencing migraines which make it difficult to stare at computer screens or other bright lights for extended periods of time. For group meeting we have a power point presentation every week. To combat my migraines, I’ve been knitting during group meeting so that I can listen and participate while not having to stare at the screen the whole time.
One time, before group meeting, the post-doc that I work with asked me how many needles I was knitting with. I showed him that I was knitting in the round on double-pointed needles, which meant that there were five needles total, but I only work with two at a time.
"You should only knit with three. It will be much smoother that way."
Well, thanks. I didn’t know that! Never mind that the sock is half-finished, and that I’ve knit a hundred other projects (which I wear on a regular basis), or that the number of stitches that I currently have would never fit on three needles (and that number is going to increase). I definitely needed you to tell me how to knit my sock.
This is only the most minor of problems that I have with him, sadly.
Today at work (restaurant) this bartender told me he’s been to Turkey five times, and that I said “hello” wrong in Turkish. I’m Turkish, I know Turkish. My dad doesn’t speak English….
I was the only woman on a team of Unix sysadmins at a previous workplace. I had to move my desk away from my boss, because almost everyone who visited our room thought I was his secretary or PA. (They never assumed that about the other team members).
At yet a different workplace I was the first sysadmin to work in the mornings. At least four different men would knock on the door, see me, and ask “When is one of the sysadmins going to get here?”
I’m part of a university club executive, and we recently held a general meeting for all our members. The executive members sat at the front to moderate the discussion with our president, Trisha*, directing the proceedings.
Unfortunately, the one male member of our executive had a hard time letting her take charge.
He consistently talked over her, picked who would speak next, and answered questions directed at her. Often the information he provided was incorrect, and Trisha was better able to answer the questions.
Not only did his behaviour undermine our presence as an executive and make the meeting harder to run, it was incredibly disrespectful to Trisha, and the rest of the female voices of the executive who knew when to keep our mouths shut.
He’s a friend of mine. I’m sure he would be embarrassed and ashamed if his behaviour were brought to his attention (and trust me, if this happens again it will be.) But the fact that these actions felt natural to him - the fact that he didn’t stop and consider the way he was silencing Trisha - speaks to how often boys find themselves the sole speaker in a group and don’t consider what part they’ve played in creating that dynamic.
*not our real names
This is not really a true account of mansplaining but I thought it was something that people would definitely appreciate.
I am a junior in college and a Women and Gender Studies major. I was in my Feminist Theory class and we were talking about different ways of discourse. My male professor brought up the idea of mansplaining and asked if anyone could explain it. I rose my hand being an avid follower of this blog. I got no more than three words out before he started talking over me and saying I wasn’t explaining it right. I started to get mad and he laughed before apologizing but he said he couldn’t help but give every one a good example of it.