6 Tips for Shutting Down Mansplaining

Mansplaining: When a man explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. 

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Recently, I got mansplained to. It happened so suddenly and over such a strange topic that it shocked me during and after it happened. While working, I had a passenger get on that asked to be driven across town. A normal occurrence for my campus job that consists of me driving students home on weekend nights. It was still very early in the night so the ratio of assholes to nice people is typically pretty low.

While driving this stranger, he beings talking about music and saying he feels that the Beatles and John Lennon are the greatest of all time. I gave my disproval with a simple “nah” which prompted an escalation. My dissent was immediately met with an interrogation. “Do you even know who John Lennon is? How can you not like someone who was all about peace? You’re probably not familiar or a real fan.”

 

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Now, these questions and comments weren't out of kindness or consideration but rather to patronize and shame me because I disagreed with him. I felt that neither the Beatles nor John Lennon were the best of all time – for several reasons – none of which I could explain because I was being talked over. This stranger continues to admonish me for disagreeing because I “must not be familiar with their stuff” or because I’m “not a real fan.”

 

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When I’m finally able to get a word in I tell him I’m not a fan of John Lennon because of his history of domestic violence with women. My question for him was “How was John Lennon all about peace when he used to abuse his wife?”

He then became louder – and angrier, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re not even a fan” and “that’s just a rumor that was made up” were the kind of comments I was met with for the rest of the ride. Rather than escalating the situation further I chose to not comment anymore but simply thought to myself Google is free ya know.

 

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The thing is, I had to allow someone to patronize me on a topic I was at least partially more familiar with in hopes that a stranger would stop admonishing or critiquing me. Although this is a less serious example of mansplaining, it is something that women are expected to deal with all the time – especially those that work in fields like STEM, business, or sports. In hopes of being better prepared than I was when this inevitably happens to you, here’s some tips.

 

Photo courtesy of Kim Goodwin.

 

1. Force yourself back into the conversation

You know the old cliché that communication is a two-way street? Well it’s true. Don’t allow a man – or any person for that matter, talk over, or at you. This can be done in even simple ways like making comments on what they’re saying or changing the topic.

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2. Speak up - literally 

As women we’ve been conditioned to speak quietly and not address things that bother us to be “polite.” Say what needs to be said, because your voice is important.

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3. Push back and set boundaries

Although it’s not an excuse, the mansplainer in the situation might not be aware of what he’s doing – and can only change his ways by being corrected. If you make it clear you’re not okay with the situation or what’s being said, boundaries can be set and hopefully respected in the future.

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4. Don't let misinformation continue

It’s important in any situation to correct information that’s false. In my case it was mentioning that John Lennon has admitted on record to abusing women in the past, which can be found in multiple places.

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5. Call him out for what he's doing

It can be as direct as, “I don’t appreciate you talking to me about something I know more about,” or as simple as “I don’t need you to explain information I’m already familiar with.” You shouldn't allow people to treat you poorly, especially when they’re in the wrong.

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6. Defend yourself

There’s no reason why you can’t have different opinions but having an opinion different from his doesn't make you wrong. You shouldn't feel guilty or be shamed into thinking differently, especially when it comes to the facts. Share your credentials or assert your knowledge and make yourself clear.

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