Alright, all you feminists out there, I need your advice and I need it now. I’ve been mansplained. Fully mansplained. The worst part? My reaction was appalling, even to myself! I laughed it off, and that made me feel stupid and frustrated with myself. I do NOT like to feel stupid and I do NOT like to be frustrated.
For those of you who are unsure what “mansplaining” is, let me help you. According to the Oxford Dictionary mansplaining is when “(Of a man) explains (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing”.
I like Wikipedia’s definition:
Mansplaining covers a heterogeneous mix of mannerisms in which a speaker’s reduced respect for the stance of a listener, or a person being discussed, appears to have little reason behind it other than the speaker’s assumption that the listener or subject, being female, does not have the same capacity to understand as a man. It also covers situations in which it appears a person is using a conversation primarily for the purpose of self-aggrandizement — holding forth to a female listener, presumed to be less capable, in order to appear knowledgeable by comparison.
Gross, right? Apparently women are using the term “mansplaining” in a number of different ways and some writers are worried that we’re using it too much and taking its power away. I, however, was absolutely mansplained in the most fundamental of ways.
During a meeting I had the other day I was trying to understand a concept that was not being clearly explained. As I tried to talk my way through it, I was interrupted and asked “Do you need me to slow down for you? Perhaps I should just write this out for you so you’ll understand. Is there blonde underneath that red hair of yours?”.
I’m not kidding.
Wanna know the worst part? I was so shocked that I laughed it off. I looked at the man, laughed, shook my (100% red head) and said: “I’m a really smart woman, ha ha ha, trust me on that, but this just isn’t making sense to me”. The meeting went downhill from there. I could not focus. I could not react. I felt stupid and judged and he really did not make any sense to me. From the point on, I mentally checked out.
I got off the call and thought “What the hell just happened there?!”. I called a friend and she told me that I had been mansplained. Well, let me tell you…it feels awful. It is demoralizing and frustrating and I do NOT like to feel anything close to stupid. I AM NOT A STUPID WOMAN.
I feel I have to apologize to all the women out there…I think I set us back about 50 years in the eyes of the “gentleman” yesterday. I own that. I feel terrible for that, but I learned from this experience. Boy did I learn!
Today I take my power back and I’ve come up with a plan. Here are the five steps I’m going take the next time I feel the air leave my body in response to a comment a man makes regarding my aptitude to understand his oh-so-impressive concept:
- I will go quiet. Not for long, don’t worry. But, I will turn to him so I face him straight on, square my shoulders and I will go quiet. My face will go neutral.
- I will breathe. I will take three deep breaths while I regard him and while I breathe I will organize my thoughts and I will fire up the power I have within my body.
- I will tell him to stop talking. I will interrupt him like he interrupted me if he continues to talk and I will tell him he needs to stop talking right now and listen to the words about to come out of my mouth. “You need to stop talking right now and you need to listen”.
- I will say the following (or something like it): You obviously have the wrong idea about me. I am incredibly smart. I am incredibly powerful. I understand easily and I comprehend more in a day than most people do in a week. Again, I am an incredibly smart woman. You need to understand that.I don’t need your condescending tone or words to mansplain anything to me at this point. When you’re ready to talk to me like I’m your equal, I’ll be ready to discuss this with you. Until then enjoy your day and good luck with your project.
*Note: What I really want to say is”…until then, go f**k yourself”…but that’s the redhead in me begging to be unleashed.
- I will walk away or leave the meeting. After I’ve said my piece I will either walk away or I will end my meeting. I will leave cordially and politely, but I will leave powerfully with my head held high, my shoulders back and my confidence intact. I will be strong and powerful and not demoralized. Dammit, I will feel and be powerful.
That’s my plan. I do not like the way I felt after that meeting and once again, I feel the need to apologize to women everywhere for my reaction. What a crazy experience that was. My friends asked me if I throat-punched him then they called him names and joined in my confusion. That’s what friends do…but I’m still left feeling deflated.
I still need advice. How would you handle mansplaining? What would you do? Is my plan a good one? I want to be prepared for the next time because heaven knows there will be a next time. Any tips out there for me? I’d love to hear them.
For now, I leave all my women entrepreneurs, Mamas and friends out there with this:
We are powerful. We are smart. We are confident. We have fights to fight. We have power to find and unleash. We can make a difference. Stand tall. Walk proud. Never lose your power to someone else. Speak your mind and never let anyone make you feel stupid. Ever.
<Cue Helen Reddy “I Am Woman”>
Now…how ‘bout that advice I need?