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How to respond to mansplaining

If you’re a woman or non-binary person, you’ve likely experienced mansplaining. For those who haven’t heard of the term, it is when a man (although other genders can also be the culprit) “explains” a concept to a woman which she already understands. Often the woman actually has more training, knowledge and experience in said topic than the mansplainer. When you find yourself the victim of this frustrating display of sexism and misogyny, it can be tempting to scream and pull your hair in a fit of rage.

Given this probably won’t achieve desired or productive results, let’s consider some alternative ways to respond:

  • Educate

Often it can help to explain the facts of the matter to the mansplainer, because the very nature of mansplaining means they likely assume you do not know them. Confidently and respectfully stopping their rant to explain that you very much understand what they are trying to tell you, and even offering some additional information that they may not already know, can be helpful. Another tactic can be to educate them about what your qualifications are, by saying “Mark, that comment makes me feel it could be helpful to remind you of my background”.

  • Ask questions

Next time you find yourself being told how to work a piece of equipment at the gym or whether you understand a professional role you’re applying for which you’ve been doing for years, consider asking one or some of the following questions: what knowledge or expertise do you have on the topic? What do you hope to accomplish by explaining this? Do you mind waiting until I have a question before assuming I need this information?

  • Ignore

If educating and asking questions does not work, or you feel as though you are not making progress by speaking up, there is always the option to say nothing. It should not be the job of the person on the receiving end to fix the behaviour of the mansplainer. It should be up to the man (or other person) to realise their belittling and change their ways. However, it is important to remember that not everyone who mansplains knows they are doing it or even what it is. So, it can be beneficial to both parties to politely explain it. But if the mansplainer gets defensive or rude, don’t feel obliged to engage with them at all.

Text by Sibthorpe

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