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Mansplaining: How To Shut It Down

Mansplainers are everywhere. 

There’s Matt Damon, when he interrupted black filmmaker Effie Brown to explain to her that having more people of colour working in film is unnecessary, because he, as a white male actor, totally understands diversity.  On Twitter, there’s the male user who is determined to explain to a woman how she is doing science wrong, even though she’s a qualified astronaut and works for NASA. 

There’s your landlord, who, when you email him a picture of the frayed and exposed wires in your ceiling light and let him know how seriously dangerous that is, responds with a simple: “That’s not dangerous, the lights are supposed to be that way.” Your brother, when you say you don’t like Pulp Fiction and he promptly spends fourty-five minutes lecturing you on how it’s “actually the greatest movie of all time”, and you’ve just not understood it properly. There’s even your boyfriend, when he tries to tell you that the real cure for period cramps isn’t a hot water bottle, some chocolate, and a good, long crying session, but is instead a nice jog around the park. (Dump him.) 

And, by far the most ironic of all, there are the Mansplainers who Mansplain what sexism is (“You don’t *really* need to be afraid to walk outside alone at night, you’re just being paranoid! Not all men are rapists! Feminism isn’t needed, we have equality, everything is fine!”).

If you’re not familiar with the term, Mansplaining comes down to this: it’s when a male identifying person explains something, usually to a woman, in a condescending or patronising manner – because women obviously don’t have the mental capacity to understand what men do, right? Coined by Rebecca Sonlit in her essay Men Explain Things To Me, Mansplaining is an example of everyday sexism that women everywhere have to deal with. And it is extremely frustrating. 

A Mansplainer can attack at a moment’s notice, sometimes in the disguise of a man that you might think is relatively nice. It can happen at home, in the workplace, at uni: anywhere at all, and so it’s important to be prepared. Here are a few tips for dealing with any mansplanations that you may find yourself dealing with. 

1. Explain “Mansplaining” to them.

Give the Mansplainer the benefit of the doubt: after all, we’ve all been raised in a society steeped in patriarchal values, so maybe he just doesn’t realise what Mansplaining is. You don’t even have to be mean. e.g. “You might not realise, but right now you’re using a condescending tone and it’s really insulting. This is called “Mansplaining”; it’s in the dictionary, and I really think you should look it up so you don’t do it to other women in the future.”

Or, if they’re really rude, you can use this as an amazing opportunity to condescendingly explain what “Mansplaining” is, starting with, “You probably won’t understand this, but…” 

Sweet, sweet justice.

2. Question them.

If you’re being lectured to about something you know quite a lot about, questioning is always a good tactic to use.

“Oh, I thought I knew loads about maths because I have a degree in it, but clearly you know more than me. Have you got a Masters?” 

It’s always fun watching their faces as you slowly undermine their patriarchal authority.

3. Walk away, and secretly work on your plan to totally topple the Patriarchy.

You should absolutely not feel like you have to take Mansplaining, but at the same time it’s exhausting having to deal with manchildren constantly. Listening to hours of mansplanations can be exhausting and bad for your blood pressure, so there’s no shame in doing yourself a favour and just walking away.

And, as you go, this is a perfect time to think up a plan to wipe White Male Privilege from the Earth.  

4. Smile and nod, and then smile gradually wider and wider, nodding faster and faster, until you’re maniacally nodding and smiling.

Nothing scares men more than an unattractive woman, so go crazy. Go cross eyed, if you can. Maybe even hiss like an enraged cat. 

5. Above all else, challenge it.

You don’t need to take anyone’s Mansplaining. You don’t need to let anyone make you feel uncomfortable or stupid, and you don’t need to let a man speak for you. Twitter’s vice president of engineering Nandini Ramani recently said that her favourite way to deal with mansplaining is to challenge it, to “speak up, even when it’s hard.” (Source: CNBC).  Don’t be afraid to be a bitch. If you’re being mansplained to, stand up for yourself, and tell them that it’s not ok.

You’re under no obligation to listen or to be nice to a Mansplainer. We don’t need to be endorsed to be taken seriously; we don’t need facts and figures, a PowerPoint presentation or a man giving us the thumbs up to make people listen to what we have to say. We don’t need to have our lived experiences explained back to us, our likes and dislikes challenged because our lady brains can’t possibly make good decisions. What we do need to do is shut this down, one Mansplainer at a time.

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Amy Beaumont

Exeter Cornwall

I'm an English Literature and History student, a big fan of cats, and Campus Coordinator for Her Campus Exeter Cornwall.
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