What Exactly Is Mansplaining? Here Are 7 Examples

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on June 25, 2016. Enjoy!

In 1903, male theologian Lyman Abbot explained why women didn’t want suffrage, claiming he was speaking for the “silent women” who opposed upheaval.

More than a century later, men are still explaining what they believe women need, think and feel. And men are still addressing women with the assumption that they know better than them, no matter their qualifications.

Yes, mansplaining is alive and well.

According to Merriam-Webster, mansplaining is “what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.” 

More than obnoxious, mansplaining reflects men’s longtime habit of questioning women’s credibility and snubbing their contributions to the world. Data shows that women are more likely to get interrupted than men. And men tend to dominate conversations in business meetingscollege classes and news media. Men are also more likely to be seen as top students, despite their actual grades, and they experience a number of other gender-based advantages.

Reporter Shane Ferro cheekily calculates in Business Insider that mansplaining loses the U.S. economy more than $200 billion a year.

While Autostraddle has a few everyday examples that have likely happened to many women, here are some specific instances of mansplaining.

1. Rebecca Solnit and the Man at the Party

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Photo Credit: Ben Kaden

When Rebecca Solnit told her host she was the author of a book about British photographer Eadweard Muybridge, he interrupted her and asked if she “heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year.” He then started to tell her about the book she’d written.

Solnit’s friend tried to cut in three or four times, saying, “That’s her book.” When the host finally listened, he went ashen. 

“Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean,” Solnit writes in the Los Angeles Times. “It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”

2. Amy Bass and the Men of the Comment Section

Mansplainers get even more intense when women comment on so-called masculine activities, like sports. And the Wild West of the internet only amplifies the sexism.

When sports historian Amy Bass wrote about the Brazilian soccer team losing to Germany in the World Cup for CNN, for instance, the vitriol in the comment section exploded. They questioned her credibility, pointing out her blonde hair and asking about the things she did to get a job as a sports writer.

As Bass explains on The AllRounder:

Women taking flack for opining on sports is part and parcel of how women have to live their lives every moment of every day. It is part of the same world in which women battle against domestic violence and sexual assault and the wage gap. It is part of the same machine that sees male politicians trying to legislate female bodies, corporations firing women for breastfeeding on the job, and male professors receiving better teaching evaluations than their female counterparts. I have earned my position in this world as an authority on sports. So to every single one of those commenters, I say: thank you for reading.

3. Amanda Seals and Street Harassment Explainers

After shaking his head and laughing as comedian Amanda Seals told CNN she experienced street harassment daily, author Steve Santagati told her that he knew more about the topic.

“I can’t get in a woman’s head anymore than just like thinking about it. But I’m a guy, I know why these guys do this,” Santagati says. “The bottom line is this, ladies. You would not care if all these guys were hot. They would be bolstering your self-esteem, bolstering your ego. There’s nothing more than a woman loves to hear is that how pretty she is.”

While Santagati, who wrote books called the “Code of Honor” and “The Man-ual,” may be a dramatic example, his attitude reflects a common approach to street harassment. In saying that women as a whole take catcalls as a compliment, or that they all want male attention in any form, men downplay women’s accounts of their own experiences.

4. Jimmy Kimmel and Hillary Clinton

Angry yet? Take a breath to laugh at this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live that embodies what we’re talking about. It’s something even those who are not fans of Hillary Clinton can appreciate.

5. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilliard and Tony Abbott

As Care2 writer Kristina C. has noted before, Australian politician Tony Abbott has made a wealth of sexist comments, including a reference to former Prime Minister Julia Gilliard’s genitals on a fundraising dinner menu. Joining a cacophony of anti-abortion-rights protesters, the former prime minister has also been a long proponent of calling abortion an “easy way out.”

“It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations,” he said back in 2004. Similar arguments have been used to deny women’s right to an abortion here in the United States as well. 

6. Jack Wolfson and Washington Post reporter

When a Washington Post reporter called an anti-vaccine doctor for an interview on a story about last year’s measles outbreak, he let her know that he had more knowledge on the topic.

“Don’t be mad at me for speaking the truth about vaccines,” Wolfson said. “Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines. People need to learn the facts.”

7. Effie Brown and Matt Damon

After nearly two decades, the percentage of female directors in Hollywood remains the same as in 1998, at 7 percent. The number of directors of color hovers at an equally depressing 10 percent.

In this climate, white actor Matt Damon still thought he should explain diversity to black filmmaker Effie Brown on the show “Project Greenlight.”

If you are a woman who’s tired of mansplaining, Bustle has some advice on how to respond. For men, here are some good tips from Jezebel. Or, you can take this magic pill.

Photo Credit: rawpixel.com/Unsplash

499 comments

Daniel N
Daniel N28 days ago

Thank you

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Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

It's an ego disease.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M4 months ago

Noted.

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Danuta W
Danuta W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P4 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Amanda M
Amanda M8 months ago

no M, I must not be your idea of a "real woman" then, because if you ask me what time it is, I'll be too busy getting the job done to tell you myself-my response to our youngest kid (age 10) when asked the time is say, "Look at the clock on the wall and find out for yourself!"

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Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

mansplaining, but they can't manderstand what women need/want...

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Fred Campbell
Fred Campbell9 months ago

Everyone needs to listen to understand not listen to respond.

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