I Think I’m Starting to Get “Mansplaining”
It was an odd realization. For years, I’ve been a science communicator whose work is displayed publicly. I’ve noticed how the comments section is typically riddled with trolls and people who are just looking to say something contrarian. And I’ve especially noticed how rarely people who comment on social media platforms ever bother to read the articles, but feel fit to lecture me on what’s wrong with my work or what I’ve “ignored.”
The other day, it hit me! This is precisely what “mansplainers” do! For a long time, I noticed that nasty comments were exclusively posted by men and I felt that this was the usual dick-measuring crap. Somehow, an insecure man always feels the need to denigrate anothers’ intellectual property, thinking it’s going to make him look smarter and more virile in the eyes of others. Mainly, it just reveals that the man in question is struggling with his own sense of self-worth.
But after awhile, it clicked for me that this behavior is no different than what female academics, authors, and content creators experience on a daily basis! I was getting a taste of what they are forced to deal with regularly and I felt pretty damn sick about it! Granted, I have always felt contempt for male counterparts who engage in this behavior. Nevertheless, I felt like my eyes were only now being opened.
The same sense of entitlement and insecurity that powers these dick-measuring idiots is what drives them to denigrate women, threaten them, dox them, insult them, and generally criticize their work. Why? Because to the sufficiently stupid and insecure man, a woman having the audacity to speak out on an issue, or just express herself publicly, is intolerable to them!
To test this theory, I will describe the kind of behavior I have been subjected to, and ask that any women reading these words tell me how often they’ve encountered it. To break it down, have people commenting on your work done any of the following?
- Tried to explain to you what you were writing about
- Raised an point (in rebuttal) that you yourself addressed in the article
- Accused you of “ignoring” something unrelated or irrelevant to the article
- Put words in your mouth or claimed you were saying something you weren’t
- Acted like you were attacking them personally
- Posted something YOU wrote in rebuttal
As a science communicator, I am used to people raising certain talking points in response to what I write. Ordinarily, I will be talking about space exploration and humans living on other planets. In every single case, most of the feedback I got was “we can’t even live here on Earth, now we want to go to space?” or my personal favorite, “shouldn’t we fix Earth first before we go to space?” This is the hallmark of people reacting to bylines and never reading the articles themselves.
This has always been frustrating. But more than that, its when people write in to take serious issue with what I’m writing, who accuse me of “ignoring” things, and who claim that the article is “idiotic” based on things that are not there. These people are not only being intellectually lazy, they’re being assholes. And to a person, they’ve all been men. In a few cases, they were even people I considered colleagues who had visceral, petty things to say!
Not ONCE has a female academic, researcher, colleague, or layperson stooped like this to me. In fact, I’ve received nothing but positive feedback or constructive criticism from my female counterparts, and they were always kind, polite, and worried about hurting my feelings. I told them not to worry about it because I respected their opinions and (more importantly) their approach. They were being helpful and were civil about it and I’d have to have a pretty fragile ego to be offended.
But here too, I realized something. These colleagues of mine (at least to a point) were probably worried about my feelings because this is what society conditions women to do: to be “nice girls” and protect the boys’ egos. Why is there some unwritten rule that women need to say “sorry” whenever they have a suggestion? Why is that feminists and people engaged in the pursuit of social justice have to preamble anything they have to say with “don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate men!” or include the caveat “not ALL men”?
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Sexism persists and we’re more concerned with protecting the boys feelings than holding them accountable! It’s no different than racism and “whitesplaining,” where privileged white folks care more about their feelings than the lives of Brown or Black people. “Not all white people,” “not all cops,” “not all conservative white men.”
Were I the kind of guy who suffers from these same feelings of insecurity and entitlement, I would probably claim that this experience proves that “mansplaining is not real” or that “men can experience it too.” For anyone who thinks that’s the takeaway from this story, allow me to disabuse you of that notion right now.
The moral of this story is that male feelings of inferiority cut in both directions, but hardly in a way that is equal or proportionate. Women, by far, carry the burden of male insecurity, in the form of disrespect, institutionalized sexism, domestic violence, and rape. And you know what else?
The fact that male feelings of inferiority (and the violence that results) also victimizes men is something that (in my experience) feminists and advocates against domestic violence have been saying ALL ALONG! I remember when a particular idiot was saying people who talk about violence against women “ignore” violence against men. He posted a meme that showed relevant statistics, but didn’t realize that it was produced by
Oh, and for those men making similar arguments, I would like to accuse you of being complete hypocrites. Not only are you stealing your talking points from the people you denounce, you don’t give a shit about male domestic violence victims at all! The only time you talk about violence against men is when you’re arguing that violence against women isn’t a problem. Much like racists who say “what about black-on-black crime?”
It’s not about you, so why are you making it about you? A sense of entitlement, your fragile egos, or both? Some advice: try shutting up and listening for a change! You’re bound to learn something that way.