Mansplaining 101 for Men: Why We Do It
A fear-based need to project competency is at the core of mansplaining. But you already knew that.
I realize that mansplaining is a partisan term that implies a particular bent in the binary gender wars. But terms like mansplaining, which gain widespread use across the entire culture, always have some kernel of truth in them. The problem is, terms like this often get used to browbeat people or shut down conversations. At which point terms like mansplaining create reactivity in all of us, me included.
So, yes, mansplaining is a harsh and unforgiving label for a particular mode of masculine communication in which men, in conversation with women, speak as if they are the acknowledged expert on a subject when they actually aren’t or at least aren’t the only one. There is a presumption of expertise. Especially is the subject is traditionally gendered; say, programming or engineering. Additionally, woman who may know more about said subject often can’t get a word in edgewise. This is a real thing. It happens.
I would hasten to add that when the mansplainer is not talking over women, he is busy condescending to other men. We don’t like him any better than women do, but given the historic imbalance of power for women, mansplaining is particularly galling for them.
But I will say this. Men are trained all their lives to do just this. It’s how we’re conditioned to engage in nearly all of our primary relationships.
Mansplaining is rooted in how men are trained to form relationships. For generations, America’s culture of masculinity has taught boys and men to suppress their emotional expression, to project certainty and confidence above all else. To this day, we coach our sons to present a facade of emotional toughness and our daughters to admire that facade in men. Even in infancy, little boys are expected to begin modeling emotional stoicism, confidence, physical toughness and independence. The strong and silent type remains a central American symbol of “real manhood.”
Instead of connecting in distinctive and authentic ways individually, boys are encouraged to connect socially in the context of groups and…