Watch Your Step, Mansplainer
MANSPLAINING IS PRETTY TOXIC IN ITS MANLIEST FORM – IT’S NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF. FIND OUT THE LANDMINES MEN ARE TRIGGERING BUT DON’T REALISE THEY’RE SETTING OFF.
I“It’s a guy thing – you won’t understand,” we both answered her, without hesitation. Dead silence.
My friend (let’s call him Dan) and I continued having a two-way conversation around the coffee table about video games while his girlfriend just sat there being left out.
We were completely oblivious to it. So when she asked again what we were talking about, we cut her off again.
Needless to say, she got pretty miffed. That’s when we both learned we were being really rude towards her. We were “mansplaining,” as we call it today.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mansplaining occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.
Sounds ridiculously pretentious, I know – but it’s unfortunately a growing problem many women (including Dan’s girlfriend) out there face.
Joshua Luke, an award-winning International Master Trainer and Chief Consultant of Signature Image Academy International, further explains: “Mansplaining does presuppose the ‘men are more superior than women’ mentality to a certain extent.
“Such perceived impression will also cause women to dread speaking to or asking men questions. More importantly, mansplaining may also imply that men doubt the credibility and any other contributions women have done.” So how do we, as men, know when we’re mansplaining, and how do we stop ourselves from doing it? We ask Joshua and Jolene Tan, the Head of Advocacy and Research at Aware, about this.
“Unless we really listen to women and take what they have to say seriously, women’s rights cannot be achieved in Singapore,” says Jolene. “This is reflected not just in who occupies formal positions of power but also how we interact with others around us everyday. ‘Mansplaining’ is just a colourful term for one way that inequality can manifest in ordinary interactions.”
Joshua adds: “Ultimately, the root cause is that these men think they are more superior than others, especially towards the female gender.”
So without further ado, let’s analyse the mansplaining bombs that many men obliviously set off – and why each one is as dangerous as the next.
WE MANSPLAIN WHEN WE… …SAY “NOTHING.”
As obvious as this sounds, we still do it, annoyingly enough. Heartlessly cutting someone off when she asks you questions about a topic or when she’s explaining herself is pretty condescending (and just outright rude), no matter how you see it.
“Any word, phrase or statement that leads to an end of a discussion, and when the man refuses to explain more, [would] render the other party unable to understand or grasp it fully,” says Joshua, which, ultimately, could be perceived as mansplaining.
Sure, you may find it a tad bit frustrating to explain a topic to someone who’s completely new to it, but try to find nicer alternatives to divert the topic than stinging her with a stone-cold “nothing.”
…LOOK LIKE WE’RE MANSPLAINING
This problem doesn’t just manifest in verbal forms. Your body language – one of the most expressive communication tools out there – can also cause you to mansplain, be it subconsciously or not.
“We can mansplain both verbally and non-
Mansplaining does presuppose the ‘men are more superior than women’ mentality to a certain extent.
verbally. Condescending body language such as folding arms, putting both hands in your pockets, tilting your head up while conversing could be perceived as mansplaining,” says Joshua. Best keep a close eye on where you’re putting those hands of yours.
…ASSUME SHE KNOWS NOTHING
Constructive assumptions can be an extremely powerful, predictive tool. Baseless assumptions, however, just make you unbelievably irritating.
Assuming that she’s a rookie on the subject and, subsequently, start to condescend her as you continue the conversation, without any knowledge about her background (that you didn’t even bother to ask), is a blatant red light and warning signal for you to change course – fast. “Men may condescend women, assume they’re are ignorant, talk down to women, or constantly interrupt, due to a belief, consciously or subconsciously. [That can give the impression] that women are not worth listening to,” says Jolene.
Guys mansplain when they find the other party incompetent to understand his point of view, or find it frustrating to explain further to her. He finds that there is no need to explain more to the other party, or think that it’s a waste of time, says Joshua.
So, as long as you’re willing to hear them out and understand where they’re coming from, you’ll stay clear (and far away) from this red zone.
If there’s one thing that hurts women (or anyone, really) as much as foul language directed at her, it’s saying nothing at all. In an office setting, this hurts more than just her feelings.
“When women feel silenced or ignored by their male colleagues, it may affect how they are perceived by their bosses or the team, how they participate, the credit they receive for work, and, eventually, the career opportunities they enjoy,” says Jolene.
The next time you see a female colleague at the pantry, it wouldn’t hurt to wave at and greet her with a “good day” as you get your morning java.