Standing Up to Mansplaining, One Comeback at a Time

“See!?!? Now, this is what I’m talking about,” Zayn* told me after I got clobbered over by a wave. Apparently, my surfboard flew in close proximity to him (along with my body) and he was insulted by my negligence to hold onto the rope attached to my ankle, as he had advised me to do before said incident, so said incident wouldn’t happen (he had been surfing just once before this said unsolicited advice was so graciously given to me.) I blew the salt water out of my nose and told him to “just not stand by me” if he had a problem with it. He backed off with a, “Woooah. What?” in a tone that let me know I was showing my girlish shrill and had offended his kind and masculine assistance in my attempt at surfing. I shot him a look and crashed away on my board.

Zayn never uses headphones, i.e. blasts NPR in the apartment and insists on talking about the latest thing “that Trump did,” at 7 A.M. while we wash his dishes from the night before. Yet, despite his political preaching and numerous liberal-rooted rants against Trump, he frequently uses phrases like, “Yeah, I f*cked her,” followed by a wide grin and high-five, a joke about “Christian girls ruining our study abroad program,” for not wanting to put out, and spreading rumors about “fingering” a girl when she claims they only kissed before she headed home for the night. He sounds great, doesn’t he? A selective radical liberal, if you will.

Well, this is the guy that has been telling me what to do, how to do it, what I should change about what I’m doing, and cutting off every sentence I say whenever he’s in close proximity to the sound of my voice THE. ENTIRE. SEMESTER. But the rest of my friends, male and female, just let him talk… and talk and TALK. Or as I like to call it: mansplain.

Some may read my surfing anecdote and think I was being harsh -- maybe I was. But many people may not understand the root of the chord Zayn strikes in me each time he tells me what the f*ck to do, or how to f*ck to do it, and that it undoubtedly happens every single day. Some people also may not understand that the root of Zayn’s insane need to seemingly correct my decisions and behavior is rooted in his sexist and narcissistic view of his world.

His comments come from a place of male superiority— if I just “let it go,” “play nice,” and “stop being a b*tch,” then who stops him from continuing to stomp over every woman in his path? From where I can see, no one. As a woman, I find it my responsibility to fight back. When he interjects I reject his place in my conversation; I refuse to let him speak over me, silence me, and drown out my voice in the sea of my male peers and women who allow him to conquer over the rest of us. But, from where everyone else is standing, I’m a b*tch. But should standing up for myself make me a b*tch? I certainly don’t think so. When his male friends tell him to “shut up,” “stop,” or simply groan in exasperation at the sound of his newest political point, are they seen as “b*tchy”? You got it right, no, no they’re not. So what is it that makes me the b*tch with the girlish feminist shrill in this situation? It’s the deeply ingrained mentality that a female’s perspective is intrinsically offensive or wrong because it isn’t cute or polite.

Is it worth it? Tarnishing my reputation for my own small advocacy for equality? To me, yes. Yes, and yes over and over again because allowing Zayn to talk over me and never be told he is wrong, is the “go make me a sandwich” bullsh*t that my future daughter, her daughter, and all the women after me aren’t going to take, either. If I’m complacent, so will the generation after me, and after, and after. I refuse to be a contribution to the reason why my mother, my female peers, friends, loved ones, and I don’t receive equal pay or recognition for the same job, live in fear of the rape culture that surrounds us, and are continually silenced in our conference rooms, our classrooms, and even our favorite bars.

These things won’t change unless we push against them. It’s not always a women’s march or a big speech on television. It doesn’t need to be a sponsored Instagram post or a large donation to the cause made by a celebrity. You don’t need millions of followers to make a difference and have a voice. The patriarchy is in each of our lives, staring us in the face and insisting that they know more than us and that we should probably just stop talking. It doesn’t matter if this guy is a boss, a boyfriend, a father, a friend, or a classmate. If he isn’t one today, one day, he’ll be someone else's. Trust me, you’re not the only woman that guy is stomping on, and you’re definitely not the last to be silenced by him. But I believe in small steps forward. If refusing to take sh*t from another blindly privileged, entitled white male makes me a b*tch, then I’m okay with being one. I encourage you to be a b*tch, too.

 

*Names have been changed

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