I was first made aware of my mansplaining a few years ago.
Erin - my wife and DOZR co-founder - witnessed me in the act and called me out on it. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. My intentions at the time were simply to help. I did it though and I’m glad Erin said something.
I oversimplified a topic to a woman I work with under the assumption that I needed to. I assumed that she didn’t know anything about construction equipment and I started explaining the basics. I went too far, getting to the point where I was pointing out specific pieces of equipment, construction terms and basics of the industry when Erin pointed out, “that’s mansplaining! You’re mansplaining!”
She was right. In the end my intentions were irrelevant because the outcome was a one-sided conversation of me talking at my coworker instead of with her.
After this incident I began to reflect back on other times I could have been unintentionally mansplaining… I always considered myself a supporter of women in the construction industry, but upon reflection I realized that I was actually contributing to the problem. The way I was speaking to them could at times be considered condescending or even belittling. It changed my mindset. I started thinking about how I can change my assumptions moving forward. Because that’s what I think it all boils down to: assumptions.
There’s an old saying that when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.
Assume = ass + u + me
When you don’t bother to ask questions and make assumptions about the person you are talking to, more often than not, you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. While this assumption could come from the desire to help and educate like mine had, it could also come from a feeling of superiority or privilege. Whether intentional or not, the result is the same: talking down to someone in a way that undermines or belittles them.
Ever since my mansplaining was pointed out to me, it has changed the way I talk to people. Not just women, but everyone. My good intentions never change and I still can’t stop trying to help the people around me learn and grow in their careers, but I try to avoid assuming what experience others have and what type of help they need to actively keep myself from mansplaining.
Shortly after Erin pointed my mansplaining out to me, I caught myself redhanded, doing it again. But this time I recognized it myself; Instead of asking if they understood what I was talking about I assumed they didn’t. Part way through the conversation, I caught myself. “This is it!” I thought. “I’m mansplaining!”
While it made me feel good to have caught myself, it also made it clear that it’s something to work on and saying to yourself once, “I won’t mansplain anymore” doesn’t really cut it.
Since I started down this path of self recognition, I have developed a renewed sense of responsibility to not only Erin and the women in my workplace but also to the women I encounter every day. It is our responsibility - each and every one of us - to do better and take responsibility for our own habits and ways of thinking.
I never would have labeled myself as a “mansplainer” but here I am, owning up to it today. Accepting it took some reflection but I do recognize it. My hope is that you can do the same. If I can see it in myself and work to change, then so can you. Whether you mean to or not, it is something that you may be guilty of and only you are capable of changing.
So assume no more! Stand up for the people around you. Do not shy away from recognizing mansplaining in others or yourself. Call yourself out on it. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with the woman you are talking to and say, “I’m sorry, I was just mansplaining.” Take responsibility for your actions and be confident enough in yourself to recognize your habits.
What Can You Do To Stop Mansplaining?
If you recognize yourself as a mansplainer, then you’ve already taken the first step.
Some ways to learn more about the impact of mansplaining and to catch yourself in the act are to:
Talk to the women in your life. Ask them how mansplaining has affected them and get a different point of view.
Recognize your own habits as a problem but then work to change. Do not limit yourself to your past but work to be better in the future.
Ask proactive questions before explaining a topic to insure you should even take the time to explain.
Check in throughout a conversation. A simple “Is this still helpful to you?” can go a long way.
Never assume the knowledge base of those around you. Everyone has different experiences so ask questions.
Stand up when you hear mansplaining or gender stereotypes around you.
Believe that your actions make a difference. The things you do and say have an impact. You decide if it’s for the better or worse. I hope we all try to do better.
If you get mansplained and aren’t sure how to handle it, check out 5 tips to deal with mansplaining published by Forbes. If you aren’t sure what mansplaining looks like or you want more information, check out some mansplaining examples. Bustle also published an article with some examples.