Ever been mansplained to? Probably. If you have, it might go something like this: you’re at work having some trouble with the printer because your boss got a new one in for no particular reason other than that the last one didn’t have a fast enough Wifi setting, which is important enough to spend £430 on a new one apparently.
So you’re just trying to scan something into it, and you’re going through the instructions just fine, it’s taking a little longer than you’d like but you know what you’re doing. Then Tim comes over, that guy from the desk a couple seats over you who only joined a week ago and seems pleasant enough. You figure he’s come over to wait to copy or scan something himself, or even just say hi. It’s hard making friends in a new job, you’ve got to make an effort, after all.
But no, Tim walks up and gently pulls your arm away from the printer saying, “Here, love, let me do it for you”. You politely say thanks, but insist you’ve got it down and don’t need help. You’re only one step away according to the little screen, you tell him. “Oh no let me do it sweetheart, I know how to work these.”
What? You told him you’ve got it. Can’t he do the decent thing and let you get on with your job? What’s he trying to prove? Still, it’s 9.15 and too early to attempt to fight off a man’s ego right now, so you sigh let him help. He jams the printer.
A lot of people, particularly men, may say to themselves: “Well, he was just trying to help, what’s the issue with that?” The issue, is not that he offered to help, it’s the way that he did it. First of all, he didn’t ask her if she needed help, he just assumed she did. Secondly, the way he said it was patronising (don’t say “love” and “sweetheart” to women when trying to explain something – it’s gross). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, he ignored her when she declined his offer.
Earlier this year the Independent wrote an article listing some of the worst encounters of mansplaining that women have experienced and expressed over Twitter. Highlights, (if you can call it that), of what men have tried to mansplain to women include:
Mansplaining happens everywhere, at work, at home, at school. Boyfriends, teachers, work colleagues all do it and the unfortunate reality is that women more often than not just take it. Can you really blame them? If you’re in the middle of doing something the last thing you probably want to do is try to teach some idiot guy that it’s kind of condescending to explain to a woman how her period works when she never asked you in the first place.
These instances of mansplaining so often resemble an adult talking to a child. A parent will often help a child without necessarily asking first, because children don’t know any better. Mansplaining is offensive to women because it perpetuates the notion that women are less intelligent than men and need to have things explained to them in the simplest terms.
Even though it sucks, everyone needs to start calling out instances of mansplaining, which is why Twitter threads such as those above are really important. Once more visibility of mansplaining becomes greater, the guys who do it will (hopefully) take a step back and consider not talking to a women like they are 5 years old.