Mansplaining Why Feminists are Sexist

feminists-are-sexistThe BBC has a new article that claims to femsplain their sexist term “mansplaining” in one chart. I’m going explain why telling men to stop mansplaining is counterproductive.

Two male colleagues recently asked me, unprompted, “How do I know if I’m mansplaining?” Both are experts who are often asked to explain concepts to colleagues outside their fields. Both were concerned about those explanations being taken the wrong way. I wondered: Is it really so hard to tell the difference between condescending or simply explaining-while-male?

Clearly these men are either fools or cowards. If they are experts and are asked to explain concepts, why are they worried about those explanations being taken the wrong way? Is it because they are academics trying to navigate an environment that has been taken over by the so-called “progressives”? Since most people don’t read minds, it is difficult to tell whether a person who is listening to you feels you’re being condescending. Assuming you are not trying to be condescending, they should listen, and maybe they will learn something.

Thousands of female-appearing Twitter users started sharing the post, asking to print it on business cards or staple it to the foreheads of men.

What the eff is a “female-appearing Twitter user”? And why are they suggesting doing violence to men? They should be banned from Twitter for doing so, shouldn’t they?

When people (almost always men) explain the product design methods in my own book to me, I say I’m well-acquainted with them, mentally roll my eyes, and move on.

This seems a reasonable way to react.

If someone asks you a question, explain away! Unsolicited explanations may be fine (within reason) if you’re someone’s teacher or manager. Explaining after they’ve declined your help is almost always disrespectful. Conversation is a good place to start building the habit of consent.

This leaves out mentoring and teamwork. Since people rarely have the same experience, explaining our understandings to each other is critical if we are to achieve the best results. If someone is trying to explain something and you don’t have the knowledge of the subject area you need, by all means tell them you need to learn more before you’re ready to hear their explanation. The idea that explaining your understanding can ever be disrespectful–assuming you deliver it factually–or that you should ask for consent before doing so is ridiculous.

Are you making bad assumptions about competence? Explaining things to knowledgeable people isn’t just wasting everyone’s time. You may, regardless of your intent, undermine them by implying you don’t trust their competence or intelligence. You also run the risk of undermining yourself by looking like you have an inflated opinion of your own knowledge.

If someone makes a bad assumption and is explaining something you already know about, you should simply tell them so. People who aren’t idiots will then seek to find out what you know before explaining further. Some people are idiots; best you learn how to deal with them. You only risk undermining yourself if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

How does bias affect your interpretation of the above? Both questions are complicated by sexism and other kinds of bias. We’re all taught gender bias in behavior and communication from an early age, with boys and girls being criticised and praised for different behaviors in school. We all like to think we treat people fairly, but men often assume women are less competent, and white people are likely to assume darker skin equals lower intelligence.

Our school system constantly tells boys that they are wrong for being what they are. It’s a minor miracle that men have the confidence to think that they’re more competent than women, when they were told for 13 years that they were inferior. Claiming that all white people are likely to make assumptions about other people’s intelligence is racist.

Here is the diagram posted on twitter by author Kim Goodwin:
(Credit: Kim Goodwin)
According to this diagram, if you weren’t asked for an explanation but have more relevant experience by a fair amount, most with the level of your explainee’s education and experience wouldn’t know, but you didn’t ask if an explanation was required, you are probably “mansplaining”. This is a load of shit. If someone is less competent than you and can reasonably be expected not to understand something, explaining it to them is not patronizing. If they already know what you are explaining to them, they can simply tell you so.

[Some] male-appearing Tweeters … responded with mansplaining, either explaining sexism to women or asking how women would learn if men didn’t share their knowledge. Many said the diagram was helpful. Others wondered whether this is really a gendered behaviour; a few argued (fairly, I think) that fathers are frequently mum-splained.

WTF is a male-appearing Tweeter? Goodwin is obsessed with the sex of those who are tweeting at her. How do their reproductive organs make their opinion any more or less valid?

Quite a few responses said: men do this to other men too – it’s annoying, but women should just respond as men do. In other words: men agree that men do this a lot, but men aren’t going to change, so women should adopt the “masculine” norm. Interesting assumption.

Men shouldn’t change. If women can’t handle someone explaining something to them that they already know, they won’t be able to succeed. This is not a masculine norm; it’s a competence norm.

There was much angst about the m-word: is it sexism in reverse? Sorry, but no.

Sorry but yes. If you are calling this imaginary problem “mansplaining”, you are pretty explicitly saying that only men are capable of causing it, yet women often explain things to men that men already understand. By calling this behavior “mansplaining”, you are discriminating against our gender. That is by definition sexism. Sorry, but mansplaining is bullshit.

Some women use this gendered term to express frustration with sexist communication norms, but that doesn’t invalidate the message. A snarky word is also not the equivalent of systemic sexism, which primarily targets women while also limiting the lives of men.

Sexism exists, but systemic sexism is a feminist conspiracy theory. Men favor women over men in most ways. This is known as male gynocentrism. Using a gendered slur is sexism.

And isn’t it odd that nobody gets offended when “mother-henning” behaviour is described as gendered?

Mother henning is gendered behaviour. Roosters do not care for their young. Chickens have a very high level of sexual dimorphism. When someone says you are acting like a mother hen, they are comparing you to a chicken. Complaining that it’s a female chicken is pretty petty.

Plenty of evidence supports the idea that communication behaviours are often gendered in multiple ways. In school, boys are encouraged to take more air time.

Bullshit. There are hundreds of articles that prove that this statement is pure feminist propaganda. For example, see Why Boys Struggle with School.

Adult men then talk much more in groups, which adds to their perceived influence. Women are interrupted more than men, by both men and women, but women rarely interrupt men. Women in senior positions may learn to interrupt, but are likely to be seen as both more rude and less intelligent. Assertive women are called “abrasive” in performance reviews.

These are not reasons that men shouldn’t explain things to women. You should ask for feedback from your manager regularly, so you won’t receive unexpected feedback in a performance review. If your manager tells you you were abrasive, ask for a specific example of a time that you were, then understand why you were perceived that way. This is how you improve.

Although there may be consequences for women who adopt stereotypically masculine communication behaviours, studies show men are rewarded more when they adopt certain “female” behaviors at work. Given that, I think it is fair to ask: if men also find mansplaining counterproductive, why, exactly, should any of us accept it as the norm?

Explaining things to make sure that people fully understand them is essential. Otherwise, you will end up building the wrong thing, or building the right thing with the wrong level of quality. If you don’t think that understanding requirements and quality are important, you won’t get far in the real world. Men should (and do) adopt whatever behavior is effective; women should do the same.

Mansplaining may seem like a trivial issue in isolation, but how we communicate tells other people how much or little they are valued. And in my experience, humans feel better, work more effectively, and behave better when we feel valued ourselves.

Attacking men for explaining things is not a trivial issue. It is a terrible behavior that will lead to poor results. The idea that removing the ability to freely explain things to each other will make us more effective is laughable. By withholding your knowledge and understanding out of a misplaced idea that information can be offensive, you are not “behaving better”. People will only feel better until their companies shut down because they are unable to compete with companies who don’t adopt such anti-learning policies.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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