Just in case you are somehow unfamiliar with the term, "mansplaining" is when a man explains something to a woman with a strong air of condescension. It occurs in the workplace, in politics, even on vacation. For example, Lara B. Sharp got mansplained while reading a book on mansplaining by the pool this weekend and it's basically impossible not to face-palm at the whole thing.
Soaking in the last few weeks of summer sun, Sharp describes a “balding man, maybe 65 or 70 years old with blue, bloodshot eyes, drinking from a bottle of Ensure, wearing designer swim trunks, [which are] half hidden under a huge, extremely brown, beer belly" approached her to ask what book she was reading.
Going off that description alone, you can already imagine how things plays out, right?
Assuming Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me was a self-help book for women looking for male mentorship, the man suggests he could "assist" Sharp in writing her career. It's bad enough when someone shares their opinion when you didn't ask for it in the first place (think Thanksgiving dinner with out-of-town relatives who pass the plate of turkey with a side of judgment), but it's even worse when a man thinks it's OK to insult a woman's intelligence by deliberately patronizing her at every moment of a conversation he started.
From the man giving an unsolicited synopsis on Solnit's book to offering a backwards mentorship to assist Sharp's career as a freelance writer to, inevitably, asking her out, the best part of the exchange was hands down the fact that Sharp's condescending responses went unnoticed because the man was so inclined to hear himself talk.
Taking this opportunity as an optimal writing exercise to exploit mansplaining at its prime, Sharp gave her Facebook followers an epic play-by-play of the encounter in real time.
By using vernacular such as “young lady,” “good girl,” and “darling,” on top of making the all-too-stereotypical assumption that because Sharp is a woman writer she must A) work for women's magazines, and B) write about herself, this particular instance of mansplaining surpassed pretentious know-it-all and proved this man to be every form of sexist.
And let's not overlook that tidbit suggesting Sharp put a picture of herself in a bikini on Solnit's book cover. Classic.
The sad truth about mansplaining is that it's really nothing new.
Though the first documented use of the official term "mansplaining" dates back to 2008, men have been overexplaining things to women forever, assuming that they know more than or know what's best for a woman. This ranges from political stances to everyday occurrences, like what a woman should wear to work.
Lily Rothman wrote for The Atlantic:
Seeing mansplaining everywhere—especially once you know it's been around so long—is perhaps as dangerous as allowing it to go unnoticed. It's a bad idea to discourage the valuable exercise of putting oneself in another's shoes, regardless of gender.
On one hand, giving this type of behavior a name gives it notoriety, but it also makes it tangible.
By identifying what mansplaining is, we can also identify ways to properly refute it.
Whether or not mansplaining is done intentionally, the behavior will not subside unless we call perpetrators out on it.
There are a few ways we can fight back against mansplaining, like speaking from experience, nonchalantly sending the men in our lives passages from Men Explain Things to Me throughout the day (romantic, I know), doing the research and citing sources, and just simply sitting down to have an open conversation about the sexist implications of mansplaining.
Hermione Granger said it best, friends: Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. Speak up about mansplaining so we can put a stop to this nonsense ASAP.