Mansplaining And How To Avoid It

I’m sure you’ve heard the term before, but here are some definitions of mansplaining from the internet.

Mansplain: delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation. Example: Even though he knew she had an advanced degree in neuroscience, he felt the need to mansplain “there are molecules in the brain called neurotransmitters”
Mansplaining: The tendency of some men to assume that they know more about any given topic than a woman, even if the topic is her area of expertise.

I’m updating this post (originally from 2014) because what was written is still relevant. This is for any men who have embraced the “know-it-all” culture taught to us by the patriarchy. (See also, every TV sitcom centered around a “wise” sort of “Father Knows Best” persona.) So, if you (or someone you know) wishes to avoid unconsciously mansplaining, keep reading. Here are five ways to avoid mansplaining!

ONE Be quiet. Did anyone ask you? If the answer is no, be quiet. Shutting the fuck up is always an option. Scene: You see two women talking about something. Let’s say you’ve recently watched a documentary or a Ted Talk on the subject of their conversation. Let’s say that they’re *gasp* disagreeing with what you learned in that documentary. (You’ve watched an hour and 40 minutes on the subject just yesterday. You’re now an expert on the matter, right!? Probably not.) Take the time to ask yourself, “How does this affect me?” If the conversation you overhear doesn’t affect you, keep it moving and stay in your lane. Even if it does kinda affect you, will the conversation of two people at some house party change the world? Even if they’re talking about a flat earth or their opinions on vaccines, who gives a shit? Being quiet is less stressful than being right.

TWO Remember that unsolicited advice is (you guessed it) unsolicited. I like to use the phrase, “they’ll figure it out” when I’m watching someone attempt to piece a puzzle together. It’s safe to assume that the person doing the thing is a contributing member to society if they are not locked away in a padded cell. So, with that being said, if this human being that has been functioning in society for 20, 30, 40+ years hasn’t asked for my help or advice I won’t offer it. The one exception, of course, is when someone is about to hurt themselves. If that happens, ask for consent to offer advice. “May I offer a suggestion?” and then wait for an enthusiastic yes before you speak. If they say no, just keep it moving. (You’ll notice a common theme in this post about leaving people alone.)

THREE Read body language. There are many forms of communication. There’s written, verbal, eye contact, and body language (just to name a few). Do you know how to read body language? Take a class at the Learning Annex. Google that shit. Figure it out. I’m decent at it because I’m a lifetime student on the subject. Body language can tell you a lot about whether or not someone wants to be bothered with your unsolicited commentary. If you read them right, you can save everyone a waste of time by keeping your distance and checking your ego. It’s worth mentioning that taking a class on body language is a dangerous path to assumption-ville. As an example, I know a lot of dancers (myself included) that get accused of being cocky because we always walk with good posture, head up, chest out, back straight sort of posture. Self-named experts on body language think they can read minds because they took a class and now mansplain to the masses about what my posture means. When you start mansplaining, watch the body language of the people to whom you speak. Do they seem defensive (arms crossing, when they hadn’t been crossed before) or disappointed that someone has arrived to over talk them (shoulders notably slumping)? If you sense a general shift in energy from a lively conversation to a “Who TF is this guy?” vibe, it’s not them, it’s you (and your mansplaining). There are other cues to seek, just know that you should pay attention to how others seem to receive your presence, mansplaining or not.

FOUR Remember that you don’t know everything. There is a difference between your way of doing things and the right way of doing things. The right way is subjective. There are many ways to get a cat’s skin. Ask yourself, “Am I bothered because that person isn’t doing it the way that I would do it?” Keep asking yourself, “Does that make it wrong?” (Hint: It doesn’t.) I remember sending out an email to my colleagues. One of them started to give me her* opinion on it… before she’d finished reading all of it (more on that later). A second person didn’t even read it because (and this is a direct quote) “it was too long”. He went on to claim that he knew exactly what I had to say based on the subject line of the email. Really? Another way that this can be stated is, “Don’t Make Assumptions”. But, if you’ve already read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz that wouldn’t be a new lesson. It’s been said that wise people know they still have lots to learn. The arrogantly intelligent crowd won’t hesitate to wear their degree on their sleeve and speak of their ‘higher learning’ as if it actually makes them a better human. Shocking news: A Master’s degree means that you were a good student. It doesn’t (necessarily) mean that you’re intelligent. You know nothing in the grand scheme of life and all of the knowledge there is to acquire. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will continue learning from the world around you and the less likely you’ll be to mansplain to someone. You don’t know everything. None of us do.

FIVE Ask for permission. There have been times when I had freshly learned something and wanted to tell everyone because I thought it was the greatest information ever! How did I share the info without mansplaining? I asked for permission. A simple, “May I share something with you that I just learned?” will make a huge difference between a mansplanation and sharing knowledge. By stating that I just learned the thing, I’m humbling myself to the person so that they can understand I am not coming from a position of arrogance. Be prepared for “no” to be the answer to a proposition of sharing what you know. No means no, keep it moving and don’t take it personally.

Listen more than you speak. Never stop learning. Your degree in Physics doesn’t mean that you know how to drive a car. Mansplaining isn’t always about men ‘splaining to women. I’ve seen women do it to men (*see the first anecdote in step 4 wherein she tried to share an opinion without all of the information) and every gender combination you can imagine. Mansplaining has more to do with arrogance/assumption than gender. Keep your ego in check. Above all else, seek to understand before attempting to be understood.

I’m Not A Real Man

What does it take to be a real man? I don’t know. For all of the gentlemen reading this, I have bad news. You’ll never know either. In my search for a Primary Partner, I’ve come across a specific phrase that has never sat well with me. It’s the phrase “real man” and of equal annoyance is the phrase “real woman.” These terms annoy me for the same reason that I’m bothered to hear anyone say, “why can’t people just be normal.” Well, boring human, who is to be tasked with defining normalcy, you and your khaki pants? God, I hope not. I’m stating the obvious when I mention that any proclamation of realness or normalcy is subjective!

To all of the thin/skinny women that are reading this, I’m sure you’ve heard that real women have curves. False women have no curves. WTF!? We’re all curvy. You don’t have to spend much time in nature to know that there are no (true) right angles in nature. All of nature has curves, all humans have curves, thin/skinny women have curves. Body shaming and body politics are weapons that can be aimed in any direction and unfortunately no one is safe. A greater degree of curvature in a person’s physical dimensions doesn’t make them a better human and certainly no more real than anyone else. A lesser degree of curvature in a person’s physical dimensions shouldn’t devalue their existence. The worst assumption to make about someone’s body is that they’re sick. I hear women of a certain body type referring to thin/skinny women as “anorexic” and that’s just shitty. There aren’t many people that are qualified to diagnose at a glance. So, don’t confuse your personal judgment with what should be a clinical diagnosis. All of the aforementioned topics are much bigger issues than this post is attempting to combat. Discuss amongst yourselves. Thank you for allowing my side rant digression.

To all of the men that are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been tasked by your village elders to be a real man since you could walk. It’s an interesting burden. Here’s some of the input that I’ve seen on t-shirts and overheard in conversations. I’ve read/heard that real men… wear black, wear pink, don’t cry, call their mother on Sunday, and can chop down a tree… with their huge penis… in a snow storm… while firing their rifle at some big game Unicorn to thin out their herd. The peculiar part is that these statements are often made by women. Regardless of how you identify or your preferred pronoun, there is a societal expectation that comes along with being a male. Society expects me to be the protector that walks a woman through a “tough” neighborhood to her car. At the end of a show, I volunteer to walk ladies to their cars because I was raised to be a gentleman, not as proof of manhood. But, what makes me better suited to protect her? Bullets pierce male flesh as well, does that make me less of a man for admitting that? The difference is that I have the misperception of a potential attacker on my side. Standing 5′ 11″ tall (I’ll never lie about my height… more on that later), just shy of 200 pounds, and brown-skinned gives most assholes pause when considering their approach. Body politics also applies to those of us that appear to be fit and of a certain complexion. I’m not a violent person. But, I’m truly tired of hearing people say, “Jet would kick my ass!” That statement makes me want to slap fools. I really would not kick anyone’s ass. I haven’t been in a fight since the 6th grade and I didn’t start that one. Just to be clear, I’m not lamenting my appearance. I chose this body with intentional activities (some time after 6th grade) and no one has started a fight with me since.

It’s worth mentioning… I have several motivators for a fit lifestyle. Childhood bullies on the playground was not the sole source of my fit-spiration.

To all of the womanizers that are reading this, your behavior has been stereotyped as a habit of males. Yes, that means that female womanizers have been jeered as, “acting like a man” when they practice unethical non-monogamy. As a male, society expects me to pursue women in the courting process. In the online dating world, women rarely send the first message. In the real-life dating world, women still say things like, “when are you going to ask me out?” Is it not 2016? Why are women still waiting for men to make the first move? Survey time! Ask all of your friends that are female (or identify as female) if they initiate the courting process (I’m aware that courting is a dated term, but to my knowledge a better one has yet to make its way into the lexicon; dating has too many definitions). Post your empirical findings (no assumptions) in the comments below. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that the majority of women are getting things started. But, based on my first-hand experiences they are not. The vicious cycle men face is that society expects us to make the first move, (our peers) question our manhood if we don’t, and if/when we do a crass job in our approach we are criticized for harassing behavior. When the average man tries to understand what he’s done wrong, he seeks counsel with other men (circle jerk much?) which exacerbates the problem as they all piss and moan about what they’re owed by women. “Bro, what’s her problem?” Spoiler alert! Women owe men nothing. No human owes anyone anything.

The part of the story many women don’t want to read is that men have been pressured by their peers to treat women as conquests since the onset of puberty. I distinctly recall peer pressure to “hit that” or “holla at her” when I was in my early teens. I’ve never been a fan of undue pressure. I opted not to have many Bros as friends when I realized the stock that surrounded me. Let me be clear, this isn’t a feel sorry for the patriarchy post. “Oh, poor men have it so rough!” Nope. That’s not what I’m saying. This is more like a, #YesAllMen have been societally conditioned to harass #YesAllWomen post. I’m saying that there are multiple angles to every story. For any woman reading this, have you ever asked why men harass women? Not, why they’re harassing you, but why men cat call and why they tend to get worse when they’re surrounded by their Peers/Bros? Here’s the equation. (Pack mentality + peer pressure to pursue/objectify women + treating women like a conquest to be pursued) – alternative female POV to highlight a woman’s perception of such crass pursuits = ass/hattery^2.  If womanizing defines a real man, I hope to never be a real man.

It’s worth mentioning… That there are some men reading this that want to take offense and derail the post by arguing #NotAllMen If my words don’t apply to you, I’m not talking about you. I’m not talking to you. STFU. Don’t manufacture butt hurt feels and make this about you.

The interesting conundrum such real man pressure creates is that it becomes difficult to relate to and love women if the man agrees to his conditioning to objectify women. My challenge to the real men reading this is that you create some platonic bonds with genders other than your own.

Earlier in the post I mentioned my, just shy of six feet tall, height. I’ve found that reading women’s preferences in men has been a basic breakdown of the Hollywood male archetype. All of the ladies want the man that is 6+ feet tall. The story I hear more often than any from frustrated female friends is about the short guy that lied on his profile that he was 6′ tall only to find that he was 5’10” and wearing Timberland boots in person. Survey time! Ask everyone you know that dates men what their ideal (specific) height is for their match. Post your findings below. Does it take 6 feet to make a real man?

To tie a bow on this entire post, I’m not here to criticize women for having preferences in a male partner. I encourage everyone (especially women) to ask for what they want. There’s a difference between asking for and expecting, sight unseen. What I’m suggesting is that the concept of realness (real men or real women) creates an environment of exclusivity. Desired subjective realness makes pariah out of those of us that just choose to dance to our own rhythms. In my dating past, my rapid disappointments came from the women that wanted a real man. I mean to say that she had a pre-determined idea of what a man – more specifically what a boyfriend – should be. The act of creating the perfect man on paper creates the trap of the pre-existing mold. When I didn’t fit into a mold I had never seen there were lots of, “you should’ve said it this way” conversations that felt like script coaching with a film director.

To all who are reading this, you’re allowed to seek exactly what you desire, just try not to expect it. What if your perfect partner were an inch shorter or a shade darker than the image that exists in your mind? Would you turn them away? You’re allowed to want your ideal partner to be exactly this or specifically that, just know the difference between a want and a need. I’d like to challenge you to consider the length of your wish list. I once knew of a frustrated single person that had a wish list that was 200 items long! When this person dated, it didn’t last. Try this, allow the people you meet to be themselves. See and embrace their flaws and let them express gratitude, regret, passion, and love in their own words without script coaching. I’ve been dating for 25+ years and my best version of myself is my most honest self. When my honesty is limited, my partner doesn’t receive the best version of me. Some of my greatest loves have commented on our spectacular connection. I just thanked them for letting me be myself instead of some arbitrary subjective real man as defined by society. Being myself is the best way I know how to be a good human and a compassionate partner. I’ll never drink the blood of Unicorns after bench pressing an over-tanned bikini model on Venice Beach as a testament to manhood. I’ll never be a real man and I couldn’t be happier!

She’s Not That Into You

Recently, I suffered through 3/4 of a movie preview for some bullshit entitled, “Girl House”. I’m not going to post a link to the preview here because no one should be encouraged to watch that nonsense. Besides, I can sum up that slasher flick for you in four sentences. Dude watches girls on webcam perform sex acts. Girls realize he’s a creeper and blocks the user. Dude gets butt hurt. Dude hackingly figures out the address of the webcam house, shows up with a Michael Myers knock-off mask and gets to killin’. Do we care how it ends? I don’t. I care more about the idea that some donkey in Hollywood thought of this as entertainment. For whom, all of the other butt hurt men that feel women owe them something? Is this an Elliot Rodger biopic? Isla Vista happened less than a fucking year ago and now there’s “Girl House”! I could sit here and type a bunch of angry words about a dumb ass movie. But, that won’t stop it from making the studio some cash. Further, my angry blog rant won’t stop sequels or similar storylines from hitting the silver screen. I’m here to write a PSA to men, #YesAllMen. I want to talk about the societal lie to which we’ve all subscribed.

I’ve been saving women from peril since childhood. It started with a pixelated Princess in Super Mario Brothers. It continued with Princess whats-her-name in the Legend of Zelda and various other helpless cartoon women. I’ve heard all of the fables. Pull her hair to climb the tower and she’ll be yours because you have the power. Slay the dragon with the sword and with her heart this will strike a chord. All story books, television shows, movies, and comics tell the same lie. Be a badass and win the girl. We’ve all bought into this lie. The unfortunate result is that many of us walk around acting as if women of the world owe us something. Some of us have balls enough to ask women to smile when we see them on the street. She owes us nothing. We want her to smile because it will satisfy our preconceived image of a pretty frail object that needs us to rescue her. Some of us feel that women owe us justification for not carrying on a conversation in a loud bar just because we paid for an over-priced cocktail. Some of us feel that a woman owes us affection or sex because she dressed a certain way and sat with us through dinner. I’m intentionally using the word, “us” because this is a PSA to all men, even myself. For the men that are reading this and thinking, “not me”, I have this to ask. How many times has your buddy expressed any of the aforementioned acts of entitlement without you putting him in check? Before any jackass, replies with some #NotAllMen bullshit, think carefully. Any time a dude was around me and spoke about a woman like an object and I let it slide and didn’t call him out as if he were talking about my sister, I’m just as guilty for allowing the culture of objectification to grow. “I’d tap that!” “These bitches trippin'” “She better give me some ass!” Have you heard those phrases without stepping up to slay the dragon next to you? “Hey man, that’s not cool.” It’s a simple phrase. Try it out the next time that some dude is talking about a woman the way you’d never allow anyone to talk about your mother.

All of this boils down to something very simple. No one owes anyone anything. Women don’t owe men anything. It’s inevitable that you’ll fall in love with the woman you’ve slayed many dragons to find. When you profess your love for her, she may tell you that she doesn’t feel the same. She may want to wait on someone better to come along. She may not be that into you. Before you decide to hack into her system, show up unannounced, lay hands on her, or begin any form of fuckery, seek counsel… from anyone other than another male. Don’t go to a chat room filled with equally clueless men to get some clarity on women. It’s like going to Italy to learn how to make Thai food. You might learn some things, but going to the source would be ideal. Find a platonic female friend (’tis true, they exist) and talk to her. Get some perspective, calm down, and accept the fact that she’s not that into you. She owes you nothing.