Poyer: Let’s talk about mansplaining

Columnist Sarah Poyer explains the concept and effects of “mansplaining.”

Sarah Poyer

Recently, I was working on homework while a good friend of mine was in a Zoom meeting. I couldn’t help but notice that almost every time one of the women on the call would express an opinion (which they were asked to do), one guy, in particular, would interrupt and interject as if he was trying to explain. This guy was trying to reexplain what these women had already explained for themselves.

My friend and I were having a conversation after her meeting and I expressed concern over this, to which she said, “Yeah, he does it every meeting.” I was then having a conversation with a different friend a while later, and she expressed to me that while this kind of “mansplaining” upset her, it’s just normal and has always happened. Why aren’t we taking a stand against mansplaining and holding these men accountable for it? 

Unfortunately, we see sexism in our everyday lives but are hesitant to speak out about it, or maybe we are blatantly ignoring it. Merriam-Webster defines mansplaining as “explaining something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she does not know about the topic.” This behavior automatically assumes that women are less knowledgeable than men, so they need things explained to them.

In my experience, the men doing the mansplaining have not waited for me to ask a question, but instead have just jumped in to explain the concept to and for me. This has often led to me either zoning out or not listening because he started explaining things I already knew or talked down to me, both of which lose my interest pretty quickly. In preparing to write this, I spoke with many friends, and everyone recognized specific times where they distinctly remembered experiencing mansplaining. This left me wondering, do men know that they’re mansplaining, or is it just second nature to explain things to women? 

To be clear, I am not saying every man does this, nor am I saying this is an occurrence that women experience daily (although it happens more than we are aware of). However, I am saying that we need to recognize that your gender does not make you inherently smarter than someone else, just as one person’s gender does not make them less competent. As a whole, we should do better to make women feel safer in their environment. Women cannot express their opinions or ask questions without fear of being talked down to. How can we fix this, or at least try to? 

First off, let’s educate people on the effects of mansplaining. Just being aware of the harm that mansplaining can cause is pretty essential. The Chicago Tribune published an article titled “The harm of mansplaining at work,” wherein many women discussed how mansplaining at work affected them.

Recognizing how impactful mansplaining is can hopefully put a sliver of doubt in someone’s mind before they go and do it. BBC also published an article regarding mansplaining titled “Mansplaining, explained in one simple chart.” The writer shares how you can decipher whether what you are saying would be characterized as mansplaining. Having helpful information like this may help us cut down on the mansplaining happening in our daily lives.

Let’s get educated and tackle the sexism that is lurking in our daily lives.