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Illustration by Hope McConnell

Mansplaining, a portmanteau of ‘man’ and ‘explaining’, has only somewhat recently entered the English lexicon, but the concept has been around for centuries, as women have fought for the right to be heard.

From its early days within feminist circles, to its proliferation within the social fabric of our daily lives, ‘mansplaining’ announces to the world that, no matter how intelligent or experienced a woman is, she cannot possibly override a man’s natural authority over a subject — an authority he is awarded simply by being born male.

Mansplaining punctuates the workforce and interactions with those who occupy the same space. Like actor Matt Damon explaining diversity in the film industry to a black female producer in Project Greenlight, or the former editor of British Vogue being relentlessly questioned by a man on the evils of the fashion industry, the internet offers countless examples of how men propagate their air of superiority over women’s brains and bodies. How women must see, feel, perceive or interact with the world around them — all laid bare to be picked apart and pieced back together by people who cannot possibly know or understand their struggles.

While mansplaining walks a fine line between knowledge and assumption, that isn't to say all men who explain issues or ideas to women are mansplaining — far from it. Men are perfectly within their right to explain things to women, just as women are to explain things to men. What I am instead suggesting is that mansplaining implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, denies women the autonomy to speak for themselves and know they will be heard.

By denying women their voice, the message being perpetuated becomes clear. It is no longer a rallying cry for women to resist being shut out of conversations about their lives and bodies. Instead, it sends men a very different message — one that says, with enough persistence, women can be relegated to the sidelines of their own narratives.

Five questions to ask yourself if you think you might be a mansplainer

1. Do you actually know how much the woman you're talking to knows about the same subject?

2. Are you using your supposed expertise to prove something about your manhood?

3. When she talks, are you listening to what she's saying or merely rehearsing your next line?

4. Are you talking about your own experience, or are you universalising about how everyone feels? i.e. are you explaining her experience to her?

5. Do you actually know what you're talking about?

- Via

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