• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

‘Mansplaining’ – Joke or wider social issue?

ByAyesha Kamran

Mar 25, 2023

‘No, I really don’t think you understand, no really you’re not getting it.’ 

‘Well, actually, that’s not the correct approach’  

‘It’s alright if can’t comprehend this concept, most people can’t.’ 

This female engineering student told The Student that these were things said her by her male counterpart, here at the University of Edinburgh. She did not ask him a single question, but he explained to her regardless. In the end, she ended up getting a significantly higher mark than him in their course. This interaction seem fairly minor, right? Annoying? Yes, but not anything deeper than that. However, this seemingly trivial interaction is representative of a larger societal problem. This phenomena is known colloquially as ‘mansplaining.’ An unsolicited explanation from a man to a woman, with the preconceived assumption that he knows better than her.  

The term ‘mansplaining’ entered the realm of social media in 2008 and was eventually codified into the English dictionary in 2018, due to its relevance within online discourse. Numerous languages have a similar word which reveals the universality of the female experience. All over the world, women shared their stories, exposing the outrageous things said to them by men. It became a running joke online, with women sharing their personal anecdotes of being ‘mansplained’ to by their elderly neighbours and by their bad first dates and by their professional workplace colleagues. However, should this phenomenon continue to be trivialised or is it one that deeply permeates our society? 

‘Mansplaining’ is a fact that illuminates a wider problem. Psychological studies have shown that constantly being condescended and patronized contributes to women internalizing these patterns of behaviour, which leads them to devalue themselves. This is why many women may present themselves as gentle, non-threatening and demure, otherwise they open themselves up to this phenomena. A sociology student interviewed said, “I was telling my tutorial group about my family’s experience fleeing the fascist regime in Italy and a boy interrupted me to say, ‘If I could play devil’s advocate for a minute,’ and went on an unrelated tangent. It made me feel like I didn’t know what I was saying when I did and I wasn’t being taken seriously.” 

Living under a patriarchal society, these gender biases are cemented in the very framework of our daily lives. In the medical field, women’s pain is routinely underestimated due to their fear of speaking up and appearing as hysterical and hypersensitive. Even if they do make their pain known, doctors may ask if they are ‘sure’ of their pain and if they are ‘exaggerating’ it. Women of colour particularly bear the brunt of this behaviour. This leads to the creation of lingering inequalities which will affect our society for decades to come. 

While occurrences of ‘mansplaining’ may be trivialised online, it is also a distinctly pervasive issue. Women are not taken seriously. Women are not believed. Women are ridiculed. Mansplaining is contributing to this wider problem.

Flowers & Plants in the Workplace” by Flower Factor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.