Watch Your Step, Mansplainer


Men's Health (Singapore) - - NEWS -

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.


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.”


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.


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.

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