Mansplaining: What It Is + How to Avoid It

January 9, 2023

7 min read

Mansplaining isn't beneficial for the recipient.

You may have heard the term “mansplaining” before, but what does it mean? Mansplaining can be hard to understand, but it’s a really important concept everyone should get familiar with, particularly cisgender, straight men.

We’ll give you an overview of what the term means, provide some common examples, and explain how you can avoid doing it.

What Is Mansplaining?

Mansplaining is when a man gives an explanation to a woman under the assumption that he knows more about a field, concept, etc. without considering the woman’s expertise in the concept. It’s also called “mansplanation.” This explanation can feel condescending or patronizing, and leave the recipient feeling disrespected.

Mansplaining can be a barrier to inclusivity and prevent women from contributing their full worth to a conversation, a critical aspect of DEIB.

In all forms of communication, we want to ensure that everybody is feeling respected and heard. So, if you want to avoid mansplaining, there are a few steps to do so: recognizing it, acknowledging it, and correcting it.

How common is mansplaining?

Mansplaining is extremely common. The typical woman experiences mansplaining at work about six times a week on average. That would mean women face 312 instances of mansplaining every year.

What is manterrupting?

On the other hand, manterrupting is a term that refers to instances where a man interrupts a woman only because she’s a woman. For example, in mixed-gender conversations, a study from the University of California-Santa Barbara found that 97.9% of interruptions were from men.

Men are also more likely to aggressively speak over women in a dominant way that silences the entire room’s occupants, according to meta analyses of 43 studies.

What’s a manologue?

A manologue is similar to mansplaining in that it references men who give women their personal views, arguments, and advice that women didn’t ask for. The assumption comes from the man in question thinking that women are interested in the things he feels he has to say.

In a nutshell, it’s an unhelpful, unwarranted monologue from a man.

For example, Forbes points out that during the presidential debates of 2016, candidate Hilary Clinton was interrupted 51 times by Donald Trump. This happened in less than half an hour.

Does womansplaining exist?

No, womansplaining doesn’t exist and will never exist. Here’s why.

Because general society is based on patriarchal values and men are protected by this system, men often don’t face any consequences from inappropriate and entitled a behavior.

Men have historically always been the ones in power. As such — since mansplaining is directly tied to power dynamics — womanspalining could never exist.

What is whitesplaining?

Whitesplaining — another concept directly tied to a power dynamic — refers to instances where a white person explains or comments on the minority experience in a condescending way to a person of color.

They might also attempt to explain racism to them or even blame the person of color for certain behaviors.

Where Did Mansplaining Come from?

Mansplaining has essentially existed since the beginning of humanity. The word is a combination of “man” and “explaining.” However, the word’s origins are a bit difficult to trace.

The word emerged sometime from 2005 to 2010. Author Rebecca Solnit didn’t create the word, but she did bring attention to the concept with her essay “Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way” in 2008.

Although Solnit didn’t expect it, her essay went viral online. On LiveJournal in particular, feminist groups shared her writing and helped popularize the term.

Mansplaining received even more attention in 2010 and 2012. It was cited as one of the New York Times’ “Words of the Year” and the American Dialect Society’s “most creative” new word, respectively.

Mansplaining Examples

Sometimes it helps to have a few scenarios or examples to explain a term. Here are some mansplaining examples to illuminate this concept a little better:

  • As a woman opens up about an experience she had and a man interrupts her to inform her that he’s “faced worse.”
  • During a conversation a woman discusses a current event and a man cuts her off to say she’s mistaken or doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
  • When a woman describes her position to a man, he interrupts her mid-sentence to inform her that he “knows how that works.”
  • While a woman is working on a task, a man steps in and completely takes over, even though she didn’t ask for that.
  • When a woman is sharing about a novel she recently read, a man cuts her off to say that she’s wrong about how the book ended.

All of these mansplaining examples are harmful in their own ways and should be avoided.

What’s an example of mansplaining in a relationship?

In the context of a relationship, mansplaining can look a little different or manifest in various other ways. Here are some common mansplaining examples in a relationship.

  • When a woman is trying to complete a task or figure out a solution to a problem, her boyfriend or husband takes over completely, saying “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
  • A woman expresses her thoughts on a social or political issue and her male partner says, “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
  • While a woman opens up about her feelings surrounding a specific issue, her boyfriend or husband claims she’s “just being emotional.”
  • When a woman is making a decision regarding her body, her boyfriend or husband cuts her off and advises that she does something else instead.
  • A woman talks about her professional goals to her husband or boyfriend and he responds by insisting that she focus on “being a good mother and wife instead.”

These mansplaining examples in a relationship can ruin the connection you have with your partner.

Recognizing Mansplaining

Are you worried you may be mansplaining? It can be hard to notice when you cross over from simply explaining a concept to mansplaining. In fact, many people have no intention of doing so. This is closely tied to unconscious bias.

What’s the difference between mansplaining and explaining?

The line between the two appears when you either give undesired explanations or ignore the expertise of the recipient, according to the BBC.

This chart gives us an easy way to tell if mansplaining is happening or not
Mansplaining is extremely patronizing to the recipient.

Simply put, if she does not want your help, or she has more relevant experience, then you are mansplaining.

How to easily recognize mansplaining

As mentioned above, the BBC’s chart is one of the easiest ways to identify mansplaining. Once you’re familiar with it, you’ll start recognizing it everywhere.

Mansplaining is extremely harmful to the recipient.
Credit: Kim Goodwin, BBC (“Mansplaining, explained in one simple chart”)

Now, sometimes you may not intend to be mansplaining. This is where body language and the words you use come into play. It’s important to pay attention to whether you’re using condescending language or tones. Also make sure you’re giving people respect while they’re speaking. This can include cutting women off more than men, or not paying attention as much when a woman is speaking.

You can use platforms like Yoodli’s speech coach to catch this kind of language or behavior that you wouldn’t have recognized otherwise.

Correcting Mansplaining

To begin correcting a mansplaining habit, don’t make assumptions about who you are trying to help. If you are looking to help, ask if they want to hear you out before launching into an explanation. Oftentimes, underlying assumptions about women lacking experience in the workplace are the root cause of why a man feels the need to mansplain. By asking somebody if they need help, you put them in a position to say yes or no. That way, they can explain what they already know. It helps to avoid explanations that they might not need.

Second, it is important to be self-aware of your habits that may give off a sense of disrespect. A platform like Yoodli can give you quick feedback on potentially harmful behaviors. For example, Yoodli can inform you how often you’re cutting somebody off. It also notifies you whether or not you’re looking at your screen when a certain person is talking. With Yoodli, you can recognize these behaviors and correct them accordingly.

Benefits of Avoiding Mansplaining

These adjustments to your communication will also help you when you work with other people. If you can mitigate a condescending tone, or look somebody in the eye, you could find yourself having effective communication. By learning these practices, you are not only showing more respect to women in the workplace but all women you communicate with. Healthy communication is all about respect — listening more puts you on the right track to showing respect for the women (and everybody) you interact with.



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