What Happens When She Mansplains?

By | March 5, 2023

When I began thinking of writing this piece, I had several fears.

As a man, when you call women to task, you are always placing yourself in the role of being misunderstood and labeled sexist and misogynistic.

Whenever a member of a particular group dares to critically examine the thinking or behavior of another group that is perceived as having less power, there is the assumption of blind spots and maybe this ain’t such a good idea.

In our current political and social movement era, men are being painted as being power hungry predators with no moral compass.

Although many men might fit into this role, there are women who also wield power over and among those who have little to say regarding being heard.

Mansplaining, the new catch all phrase that explains bad and inappropriate behavior, is the new way we have that silences men and allows women who have access to power to dominate and control the direction of conversations.

For more than a decade, I have had the pleasure and challenge that is working in Social Services.

Much of my time has been spent working with women in fields and on projects that require patience, compassion and ongoing nurturing.

Our culture devalues these attributes and automatically assigns them to women.

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It is wrongly assumed that women can only occupy the role of oppressed and never be the oppressor.

I have known some awful women who were as disturbed, manipulative and vile as any men I’ve met.

We, as a society, must stop demonizing men. There is a cost for all of the blaming and finger pointing.

Many years ago, I wrote an article which highlighted my commitment to cultural transformation and the joys and challenges of being a part time activist (see Confessions of a Part Time Activist).

I pointed out that what matters was not gender.

That what really mattered was the individual’s commitment to social justice and power sharing.

It’s troubling to me when I see folks get lulled into sleeping because things seem ok.

I’ve seen people become more or less confident or stressed once it’s revealed who is in charge of a particular thought or project.

We often assume that if it’s a financial situation there better be a highly visible white face. If we are in an urban environment that involves anything with children, there better be some black folks and a black woman telling it like it is.

Neither stereotypes indicates qualifications or specialized knowledge and we allow it.

We agree that men are the problem.

When this is the accepted logic, we go to great lengths to prove ourselves right.

When you have not sought out or wisely recognized when things have changed or that men, like women, come in a number of guises, you run the risk of doing what we self-righteously refer to as “mansplaining”.

What if we piled it under the guise of white supremacy or domination?

This deeper reflection would make us all rethink our assumptions about power and who gets to wield it.

We would all have to look at the contributions we’ve made that support and encourage the silly nonsense that is White Supremacy.

Are we ready to have that conversation?

The first thing to do is to not assume the worst simple because of someone’s gender.

How is this any different than assuming girls can’t do math or delve deeply into the hard sciences?

I’ve heard educated, should-know-better women respond to men’s behavior by saying : he’s such a boy.

Would this be an acceptable response if you substituted it with woman or Mexican?

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Can’t you hear it now- Helen, you’re such a woman or Jose you’re such a Mexican.

Doesn’t sound very appealing does it?

How do we fix this shit?

We have real conversations that lovingly, repeatedly and pointedly remind folks that a) I just said that b) Do we need to revisit this or are we clear?

Domination comes in many forms and it is excellent at creating the results it wants.

Domination provides everyone with a way to make a contribution to the planet’s foolishness.

Everyone gets assigned a role- victim or victimizer.

What if you are not interested in either role?

If you really want to see humanity at its worst and most entertaining, ask the victimizer to stop being an asshole.

I’ve never felt that domination was normal and an integral part of being human.

When we bring this wholesale foolishness into any of our relationships, we run the risk of alienating people and ensuring we will never receive their best offerings. It is hard to create and take a calculated risk when so much of your mental bandwith is spent worrying about when the next attack will be unleashed.

Where did this very limited and highly unproductive way of human interaction come from and who sold us on this plan?

If it’s not natural it means it had to be taught and learned and then shared with others in an effort to keep it alive and kicking.

I remember so much of this nonsense from my childhood.

I never wanted to hurt and lord over others and often felt as if our time together (playmates and neighborhood children) would be better spent creating worlds where we could all prosper.

This didn’t go over very well and instead caused the neighborhood assholes to perceive me as weak and in need of domination.

Does anybody feel good when they are making others feel like shit?

Ashley Judd, in her powerful autobiography, Bitter and Sweet, lovingly reminds us that pain that is not transformed is transferred.

In other words, when we don’t deal with or handle our shit, we unload it on someone else.

This allows double relief- we no longer have to carry this shit around with us and if we’re lucky someone else will allow us to unload it on them and then we can swoop in with a solution- a human project in need of our special brand of bullshit disguised as care.

This is what makes it so bloody difficult to identify and eliminate. It shows up as something lovely and productive.

The real challenge is figuring out how to manage this nonsense when the involved parties have to also renegotiate their power dynamic.

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Most folks would rather die than change.

If this is the real issue (flat out refusal to change) then what needs to happen to usher in a new way of being?

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