Mansplain Monday: Men Mansplain Mansplaining to Me

Welcome to the second installment of Mansplain Monday. Last time I wrote about men who mansplain statistics to me. Of course, as any woman on the internet knows, if you mention the word “mansplaining” inevitably men will respond by mansplaining mansplaining to you. This week I’d like to go a little bit meta and discuss some of the common responses to my last post about mansplaining. 

All of the following are actual comments on a post about the last Mansplain Monday on the Skepchick Facebook page.

This happens to men too so why are you making it about gender? You are the one being sexist! I don’t even see gender!

Doug: Although I am positive mansplaining happens ( I have witnessed this phenomenon), so does womansplaining (which I have personally experienced). I do not actually believe it is a gender specific form of prejudice so much as it is a combination of ignorance and the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Trey: I'm sorry you are so upset. People of all genders ignore my credentials from time to time. (Master's in applied mathematics focus on stats). Does this have to be about gender? Can't it just be that some people are insecure about the accomplishments of others? I liked your article about the 98%, BTW.

Cuan: Buuut what did the first guy's criticism have to do with her gender? If I find what i perceive as bogus facts or stats I will question them regardless of who said it.

Einar: I do not understand feminism, why are feminists so fixed on gender? why does gender matter so much? why the "us" and "them" thinking all the time? why use gender when arguing and giving critic? why focus on gender when we rather can focus on not having focus on gender?

This was by far the most common complaint about the term mansplaining and these are just a couple of the many examples in this same vein. This is also the most common complaint that comes from well-meaning men who are not typically the ones going around being misogynistic assholes to every woman they see. They just honestly don’t understand why women use the term “mansplaining” for something that seems to happen to everyone regardless of gender. Of course any person with opinions that they put out into the world will sometimes come across another person who criticizes them in a condescending manner, often with personal insults rather than tackling the content of what they said. So what does gender have to do with it?

What these men don’t seem to understand is that even though “splaining,” which I’ll define here as a person condescendingly explaining something to another person who already knows quite a bit about the topic and therefore doesn’t need an explanation, is something that happens to both men and women by both men and women, it is far more common for men to “splain” to women than any other gender combination. But don’t worry, you don’t even have to rely on women’s word that this is true because science backs it up.

For example, even though men tend to dominate talking in conversations and meetings, everyone still perceives women as talking more than they actually do. Additionally, even though women talk less, when they do talk men tend to interrupt them at much higher rates than they do other men. On top of all this, women are often perceived as less competent than they actually are while men are often seen as more competent than they are. In fact, in studies where people give performance evaluations to fake people with either male or female names, when asked to specifically focus on merit they were more likely to rate men as more qualified than women. Even outside the lab environment, there is ample evidence that women are more often than not underrated in their abilities.

All of these things together leads to a world where men talk more than women, interrupt women, and believe they are more qualified than women to be speaking. Is it any wonder that this leads to an epidemic of men “splaining” things to women? So yes, sometimes men are “splained” to, but women have to deal with this phenomenon much more often in their daily lives and the perpetrator is almost always a man. Just because men don’t always mention gender in their “splaining” doesn’t mean it has nothing to do with gender. Many men may say they don’t see gender when criticizing another human being, but the science shows that they are likely seeing women as less qualified and more likely to talk over them. In other words, they may not be consciously aware of it, but they are sometimes treating women differently than they do men. Women use the term “mansplaining” to make it clear that men “splaining” things to women is a gendered phenomenon that we experience at rates higher than do men, to the point where it’s tiring to always have to intellectually defend ourselves against men. Hey men, instead of insisting that someone once did the same thing to you, maybe just listen to women and trust us when we say that this is happening to us all the time.

So now everything that men say to women is automatically mansplaining? I bet you’re going to call this comment mansplaining now JUST BECAUSE I’M A MAN!

Doug: it seems any comment made by a male on this subject will be dismissed as mansplaining or whining so I will just leave you to your self-indulgent, misandristic, martyrdom ...

Yes Doug, any comments you make claiming that mansplaining doesn’t exist do actually fall into the realm of mansplaining because you as a man are trying to explain to women what their own experiences as women consist of. In other words, you are assuming you are more qualified and knowledgable to speak on the subject of women’s own life experience better than actual women are. What could possibly make you think that?

I’m not mansplaining! It’s just that you are unqualified to be speaking!

In the last Mansplain Monday, I wrote about how men are always questioning my qualifications to be writing on statistical topics even though both my academic and career background make me more than qualified in that area. Specifically, I posted a screenshot of a comment from Willis. Willis saw my Mansplain Monday post on facebook and jumped into the conversation to defend himself.

Mansplaining 6

My favorite part of this exchange is that Willis started by criticizing my post and writing style then 30 minutes later actually bothered to read my post and learned that it was written about him. Apparently he didn’t need to actually read my post to mansplain to me everything I did wrong in it.

But don’t worry, Willis just dug his hole deeper from there. In the first edition of Mansplain Monday, I actually listed many of my qualifications in statistics in order to show men like Willis, who constantly tell me I shouldn’t dare to speak about anything quantitative, that I am in fact an expert on the topic and have a right to speak on it as an expert. Willis responded by insinuating that I’m lying about any qualifications I claim to have and then simultaneously dismissing any of my claimed qualifications as not qualified enough.

Willis: Her qualifications are suspect, her columns are a joke, and she's completely irrational

Willis: Jamie, please link to any published articles you have in actual scientific peer reviewed journals where you aren't taking on the heavyweights at the New York post but actual scientists. Thanks

His second comment was particularly confusing because in the post he was talking about I was criticizing a model created by a political science professor at Stony Brook University, but apparently that’s the “New York Post” and not an “actual scientist.”

Also, I’m now not allowed to speak unless I have multiple published peer reviewed articles that I must then list to my audience before speaking so that they know I’m worth listening to. Willis though is free to declare that I’m not qualified enough to speak without the need to submit a resume proving his own qualifications.

The thing that really gets me about all this is that at no point did Willis ever actually point out anything I got wrong or indeed any point in which he disagreed with my analysis. He’s disparaging me not because of anything in the content of my writing but merely because I’m a woman writing about it and women can only speak after they’ve proven their worth via years of academic research and published studies.

Go make me a sandwich!

Lelsie Marshall: Absolute garbage. This poor woman should just make her husband a sandwich.

But no, all these men are right. Mansplaining definitely doesn’t exist. This has nothing to do with gender.

Special thanks to @TheCogitoBlog for sending me screenshots of some of the comments that had since been deleted.

Jamie Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein is a data, stats, policy and economics nerd who sometimes pretends she is a photographer. She is @uajamie on Twitter and Instagram. If you like my work here at Skepchick & Mad Art Lab, consider sending me a little sumthin' in my TipJar: @uajamie

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  1. Explaining this stuff over and over and getting the same pat replies from people who refuse to listen is just exhausting. It’s probably about 7/10 of the reason women don’t visibly participate in a lot of things like online debate and politics is we just get so sick to death of hearing “are you sure it’s sexism?”

  2. Thank you for your insight on this, and for putting yourself out there against the hateful comments you seem to be getting in response. When I first heard the term “mansplain” and its definition, I wanted to get defensive, but upon reflection I knew that I had been guilty of this in the past. I think my problem was that I was poor at noting how context changes the conversation. I would jump in on things that I knew something about, and not realize that interrupting a woman specifically added additional cultural context to our interaction that included everything you mentioned about men dominating conversation. I won’t say I’m perfect now, but I try and be more aware of that context when getting into a discussion.

    Hearing about the responses you have received to your initial article is disappointing, and I’d like to ask how I can help communicate to other men that the problem exists even in conversations that don’t seem to be about gender. I’m not the greatest communicator, but I have male friends in the 18-30 age bracket who I see making some of these errors, and if you (or anyone else) has advice on breaking through on this, I would be glad to hear it.

    1. In my experience, start small. Don’t jump into big discussions. If they say something stupid, like the examples mrmisconception gives, counter it. It doesn’t have to be a big argument, just “Hey, man, don’t say that stuff. It’s rude.” Call it out every time. You’ll get some pushback, stay calm and state that it’s sexist to talk that way.

      Once they’re on board with small things like that, you can begin to move onto bigger things, like mansplaining. They won’t understand if they don’t have the foundation of knowing what kind of sexist ways women are treated. Unfortunately, mansplaining is kind of a 201 level feminism, whereas educating about sexism and feminism is 101 level.

      1. Thanks for the response. It always feels like that slow build won’t work, but you’re right. There have been some things that I have called out with this particular group (another in the group and I shut down kitchen jokes) and it seems to have stuck. Most of them are young enough that they haven’t had to face consequences for their behavior in the world outside academics, so they seem teachable.

        It is frustrating that this sort of intervention is needed, as it speaks to the way our culture raises men. I never felt like my parents raised me wrong, but I ended up with a lot of the same issues for a long while. Unfortunately, I know it is far more frustrating for the women they will end up disrespecting or harassing if the re-education isn’t done.

  3. Oh my sweet babby jeebus. I had this conversation with my spouse, who is normally a pretty en-point kind of guy, this weekend.

  4. So these guys can’t stand it that mansplaining can refer to any sex but only calls out men?

    They shouldn’t get so hysterical or get their panties in a knot.
    They need quit crying like a girl and grow a pair.
    Maybe if they weren’t being little bitches all the time they wouldn’t be such pussies.

    Oh, wait. It seems that there is a linguistic double standard.

  5. I have no special insight into women’s side of the experience, but I definitely feel that as a man I was socialized to explain things all the time. I think this aspect of masculinity tends to go under the radar because we’re always talking about “jock” masculinity as if it were the only kind.

  6. In these discussions and posts I think it’s great to always add discussion of the other variants so that people cannot perseverate on one binary issue (men/women)(black/white)(able/disabled)

    I like to add in there is whitesplaining – there is ablesplaining… so it is NOT actually just about gender. It’s about presumption and condescension from people who should know better not to be an ass but don’t. It is about expertise and experience on one end – and on the other end a privileged person insisting on throwing his limited experience and expertise into the discussion as if it’s needed , wanted, = or if his (generally) victim is even remotely interested in his half baked internet fuckery (or worse – in person fuckery.)

    The thing is it is a CONSTANT experience for women, POC, trans people, disabled people…and it is NOT the same because of — VOLUME…ie the number of times we deal with it in a lifetime.

    It is not an occassional self important person talking down to us…it is a verified trend we all experience.

    We don’t need ‘splaining explained to us by people who DO NOT GET IT.

    But of course….they will. Because they hold themselves in such high regard that no one should ever be free from their opineing.

  7. Also – who the fuck is “Willis” and what are his qualifications? Oh wait… I don’t give a shit who Willis is or what his qualifications are….

  8. I cannot conceive of how anyone who reads anything from this site would question your qualifications for something that pretty soundly falls under the purview of your qualifications whilst having seemingly no qualifications of their own. What a ridiculous person.

  9. @Siggy — that’s a valid insight, and clearly it’s true that boys are socialized to explain more, because they’re called on more often in class, and probably their parents give them a longer leash to get out of trouble than their sisters, and probably they find themselves in more math classes and physics classes later on where they must “show your work” that girls have been psychosocially squeezed out of….you see where I’m going here? That the very heart of the reason why men may feel more obliged to explain (which, agreed, might not be their fault per se, but the fault of their socialization), is due to the exclusion of women from the dialogue since, oh, the cradle.

    But here’s the other thing. Even if we grant your premise, that men don’t necessarily explain out of a will to dominate and dismiss, but rather out of a lifelong expectation that they explain, well that still leaves us with the gender disparity in whom they choose to exercise that impulse toward! Why are men more likely to explain to Hillary Clinton than they are to Donald Trump?

    And, as a corollary, in my experience the people most likely to Splain to me are (with the exception of girlfriends, of course), almost always men. And it pisses me the fuck off. They’ll apologize with little faux-self-deprecation lines, like, “oh, I’m a PROBLEM-solver”. But no, they’re snot-nosed know-it-alls who lord it over others any time they get the chance. But I always push back, don’t you try to solve my problems, motherfucker, and who even said it was a problem??? So all he needs now is to splain to a woman who has been socialized not to be so contrary.

    See how it works. The male social instinct may be to Splain, and he may be blameless in that social instinct, but that instinct is derived from the subjugation of women throughout his social life, and the Splainin’ instinct is invariably directed far more frequently at women than at other men.

    So anyway you slice it, it’s still a Mansplainin’ Problem.

    1. “(which, agreed, might not be their fault per se, but the fault of their socialization)”

      You are agreeing with a point that I would not make. Blaming male socialization does not mean that men are not at fault.

  10. Rebecca Solnit’s description of “mansplaining” is clear, precise, and painfully accurate. It’s also incredibly funny (in a sad and pathetic way; you know, the way dark comedies are funny). For instance, I once watched two clueless dudes take it upon themselves to school my wife in the intricacies of climate change politics at a dinner party. These guys—whose entire knowledge of the subject was, we later on discovered, based upon one TED Talk and last Sunday’s New York Times—continued to tell her “what’s what” even after I told them that she was an expert on the subject! Even after she’d made it abundantly clear to everyone within earshot that she was indeed an expert on the subject! Even after she’d also made it abundantly clear that these guys had no idea what the fuck they were talking about! So yeah, I get it: mansplaining is a real thing. And it is indeed obnoxious. But you’ve gotta demonstrate that you’re being mansplained, you’ve gotta demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about; you can’t just assert it. As my friend Jed Trott puts it: “There is no problem with the idea of mansplaining but it requires an argument. You can’t just drop it and walk away from it like a fart in an elevator.” Dropping the mansplaining bomb in Social Media Land has become sort of like saying: “Hmm, that sounds just like something Hitler would say.” Those who wield this weapon no longer feel the need to justify their claims. What they want, what they’ve come to expect, is automatic deference. And that’s precisely why calling people out for “mansplaining” has become little more than a schoolyard bullying technique, yet another convenient way to silence critics and shut down debate.

  11. Since you’re commenting on economics and statistics where an academic and work background makes a difference, have the courtesy to put those credentials in your bio so readers know ahead of time whether they should even bother considering your views to be credible or not.

    1. I’d love to take your advice, but I typically don’t listen to anything random internet men say. If you could please provide you C.V., I will go over it when I get a chance and determine whether your comment is worth reading or not.

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