GenderWars: The Omnipresent Menace of Mansplaining
Have you been in a situation where you’re talking to your girlfriends about your irregular menstrual cycles and suddenly your male friend jumps in to add his two cents? And goes on to explain why, how, what and so on. And in your head, you keep thinking, “Duh, you’re telling us something that we’ve been living with for years now!”
The recent advertisement from the fashion brand Baggit whatever you gotta say #PutItontheTable tries to throw light on a point that each woman has definitely faced in her life: being cut into when speaking, by a man.
The term Mansplaining originated after a 2008 essay by Rebecca Solnit titled ‘Men Explain Things to Me’. It spread like fire on the Internet with videos explaining the term in a savage and sarcastic manner.
So, What is Mansplaining All About?
Mansplaining is a combination of the words ‘man’ and ‘explaining.’ It simply means when a person (a man) tries to explain something to another person (a woman) in a condescending and patronizing manner, without acknowledging the fact that the woman could possibly be better informed about the subject.
It comes from the space where men assume that women can only hold legitimate opinions on subjects that are considered frou-frou, namely, makeup, clothes and fashion. But when it comes to science, politics, computers and technology, women won’t really have an informed opinion. Which then, the men, riding up like knights in rusted armour, will come in to explain to her.
For instance, women in the IT sector are assumed to be good when dealing with clients but not when it comes to handling the technical aspects. Likewise, women in the banking industry are disregarded when it comes to number crunching. According to a research by YouGov Omnibus, 80 per cent of women in India have experienced mansplaining. The same research says that 31 per cent women said their male colleagues indulge in mansplaining.
Bollywood and Mansplaining
Bollywood isn’t exempt from mansplaining either. The most notable instance was perhaps during the promotions of the movie Jagga Jasoos, where, in a joint interview, Ranbir Kapoor stepped in to answer a question posed to Katrina Kaif. The question? It was about the character Katrina played in the movie.
Author Twinkle Khanna also spoke about the mansplaining she experienced in a blog. She wrote about how a reception boy at a hotel she visited, insistent that she was typing her own surname incorrectly.
Mansplaining Cuts Across Geographical Boundaries
The Prime Minister of Norway talks about her experience of mansplaining. “I have met a lot of people who have maybe underestimated you because you were a young girl in politics at the time,” she said. “I remember I was at a committee of finance in parliament, and one of the CEOs of a large banking organisation was trying to tell me, like a child, in a very child-like way, how the interest rate market functions, and then the leader of the committee leaned over and said, she’s got the highest-level education in the committee.”
Back in 2009 Kayne West at the MTV Video Music Awards jumped on the stage, grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift’s hand and interrupted her acceptance speech. Though he apologized for interrupting her, but was the drama even necessary?
In another instance, in 2014, Fox News in a special segment ‘Girls Gone Mild’ advised women not to raise their voices and not to talk much if they want to succeed in business. While this by itself was rather absurd advice, it escalated further, when the host Steve Doocy interrupted the female guest author while she was speaking about her newly released book.
A panel moderator at the annual World Science Festival in New York mansplained physics to a woman scientist during the panel discussion. She was the only woman panellist there, who barely got a chance to speak, at the end when she was finally asked a question, the moderator took the floor himself after asking her the question and proceeded to answer it for her, regardless of the fact that she was the authority on the subject here. This quite outraged the audience with one woman in the audience standing up to object, and insisting that the moderator shut up and let the woman speak.
Social Media and Mansplaining
Social media is another space where mansplaining is an epidemic. Twitter has been filled with instances where women have been spoken down to for merely sharing their opinions on a subject of their interest/experience. The costume designer of Indiana Jones found herself being explained Harrison Ford’s costume by a random man on Twitter.
Another instance saw a man explain how things work in space to NASA astronaut and comparative physiologist, Jessica Meir.
Closer home, Author Kiran Manral, who is a mother, got mansplained about giving birth by a man.
Here’s a handy guide on Mansplaining posted by @kimgoodwin on Twitter that most men would do good to read:
Megha Thadani is an Intern with Shethepeople.tv