The term “mansplain” was one of many words added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. Mansplain is defined as an informal verb meaning “(Of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.”
While a condescending explanation isn’t something that is limited to men, it is something that many women have experienced over and over. Being silenced is something that many have experienced in one way or another, and mansplaining is one of the ways that that happens.
A good example of mansplaining is something you might have already seen from recent news – Matt Damon explaining how diversity in the film industry works to Effie Brown, producer of Dear White People during a discussion on Project Greenlight, which can be viewed in the TMZ video below.
He later released an apology, saying that, “My comments were part of a much broader conversation about diversity in Hollywood and the fundamental nature of Project Greenlight which did not make the show. I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood.”
Damon’s apology has its own issues, starting with the fact that the discussion about diversity in Hollywood has been going on for years, but it certainly did add to the discussion about diversity in a way.
Now, I know that you would never want to be accused of mansplaining, so here are some ways to avoid it in all of your conversations.
1) Before jumping in with your thoughts, ask yourself these questions:
A) Did your conversation partner ask for your opinion about the topic?
B) Are you an expert on the topic?
C) Does your sentence start with “I don’t think you understand…” or “No, you’re misunderstanding….”?
2) How much does your conversation partner know about the topic? If you’re not sure, ask!
3) Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. You aren’t always going to know everything about every topic. If you don’t know about it, open your ears and give it a solid listen – You’ll probably learn something!
4) Is your conversation partner plastering a fake smile on their face or responding with nods or “mmhmms”? If so, they probably aren’t listening to you anymore. Watch your social cues.
5) Limit your assertions to your own experiences or research that you have fully read and understand. If you don’t fully understand it, say so.
6) Last but definitely not least, respect your conversation partner’s experiences and viewpoint. It may be different from yours, perhaps even wrong by your beliefs, but you still need to respect them.
Cover Photo Credit: ☻☺/Flickr (CC By 2.0)