DeFrates column: Mansplaining 101
Mansplaining has been a popular activity since the existence of genders, but it’s only been in the past few years that the term itself has really taken off. Mansplaining is a great way to get noticed and feel good about yourself at the expense of others, and often aligns perfectly with any number of personal biases. So if you’re interested in joining this growing trend, or want to find out if maybe you’ve already been doing it for your whole life, read on.
The most important thing to understand about mansplaining is that it can only occur when no one asked for your input. If, say, a woman were to ask you for advice on the subject because she knew that she needed more information, that is not mansplaining. That’s just being a good citizen or friend, and you’re going to have to try a little harder.
Real mansplainers have to assume that almost every female in the world is in need of their guidance, no matter what the situation or subject. They have to get out ahead of any meaningful personal connection which might help them understand the other person better. A good mansplainer knows that as long as he can hold up his hands and say, “I’m just trying to help,” afterward, then any comment is fair game.
To really get in the mindset, picture this: A not-young woman waits at a cross-walk with her three very young children. A good mansplainer would know to step up and explain to her that the left-hand turn signal is coming, and that that is not a safe time for her to cross with her children. There would be no need to take time to consider how she could possibly have survived to the age of at least 33 without knowing this, better to just jump in and assume that she has never seen a traffic light in her entire life. Tell yourself, after her reaction is confused and ungrateful, that you probably just saved the life of all those kids. There’s no way she could have figured it out on her own.
“I’m just trying to help.” Well done, mansplainer.
How about another biking-related example? Let’s pretend this time, that the same grown-up woman is riding her bike without a helmet on as she takes her kid to school. Shocking, I know. As a mansplainer, you would immediately shout out, “Mom needs a helmet.”
You have to make sure to use a tone of absolute authority, and be loud. The kids need to hear you in order to learn that any random old man walking his dog has the god-given right to tell their mother how to live her life. Always be sure that in the moment, your advice changes nothing about her immediate situation.
In this case, the lack of personal connection or empathy is especially crucial, because wearing a helmet is probably a good idea. If you were to take the time to get to know her and respectfully explain, when asked, that wearing a helmet is important to you because of, say, a tragic accident in your past, then the effect would be lost completely. You would also need to avoid taking any time to consider the reasons why she might have left the house that morning without one. If you listened to her share the realities of her life with you, you would quickly lose track of the moral high ground, maybe accidentally admit that she is an adult capable of making her own decisions, and hence, fail at mansplaining.
One final example to help all you budding mansplainers off to the right start: whitewater rafting.
Side Note — If you’re struggling to find authentic opportunities to mansplain, just pick up any adventure sport. There are many expert-level mansplainers in almost all the adrenaline-fueled pursuits, so you’ll have a lot to learn from.
Pretend that you are catching a ride to the river with two ladies you’ve never met. The driver asks you to remind her where the turn is because she hasn’t taken the drive from this direction before. You chat with the two women and learn that both of them have decades of whitewater experience, one of them internationally. They’ve run this stretch and one even writes and ambassadors for several rafting manufacturers. It’s highwater season, though, and you’re a man, so it would be a good idea to launch, unprompted, into a detailed description of exactly how to run the river.
Don’t stop when they gently remind you they know what they’re doing. When the driver finally calls you out with a, “Zip it, mansplainer,” then splutter indignantly for 10 minutes and refuse to tell her when the turn is coming up. She asked for that information, so it wouldn’t have been mansplaining.
If you are in the market for a new hobby that belittles half of the population while winning you the approval of like-gendered individuals, mansplaining is for you.
Always remember, you’re just trying to help.
Lindsay DeFrates is a freelance writer living in Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at http://www.roaringforkwriter.com.
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