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Every woman—young or old, married or single, straight, gay, bi, trans, and more—has, at one time or another, been mansplained.
Before I share my examples, Eleanor Beaton explains mansplaining pretty succinctly:
“Mansplaining is a blend of the words man and explaining, to explain something to someone, typically a man to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing…it refers to the widespread cultural phenomenon of men interrupting, ‘shooshing’ and speaking down to women, and a woman’s related reluctance to speak up.”
Here are some of my infamous examples of being mansplained, and how they made me feel:
Being Mansplained on How to Pronounce my Own Last Name
Nothing infuriates me more than when people say, “Omg, Roopa! Your last name is so difficult to pronounce. So I’ll just call you Roopa, okay?” Given that I make the effort and pronounce last names like Roethlisberger, Krivokrasov, Achtymichuk, Neckar, or Ohanian pretty easily, I never understood just what the problem was with saying Swaminathan.
Then I went to China to be a college professor—and I mangled my colleagues’ and students’ names so badly that they all took to shortening their names in ways I could handle. I continue to persevere though and try and get their names right.
So, I now completely get it when folks find it difficult to pronounce my last name.
But what incensed me a few years back was when a white dude who had never set foot outside of Michigan (well, okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—he had been to Chicago) had the nerve to teach me how to pronounce my own last name.
The first “a” in both the “Swam” part and the “Nathan” part are pronounced as “aah,” as in dahlia or ha ha. Neither “a” sound is pronounced how Americans would say either word separately. Swam is not pronounced as the past tense of swim, and Nathan is not pronounced like Americans would pronounce Nate. They’re both “ahh” sounds.
But this dude I met told me that while the ahh pronunciation made sense with the Swam part of my last name (gee, thanks bro), the ahh sound in Nathan did not. Then he asked me if I was absolutely sure that Nathan should be pronounced the way I claimed!
I am still enraged when I think back to that day. I don’t care if the dude thought he was being funny and just winding me up, I still wanted to beat the mansplaining out of him.
Being Mansplained on Why Being Hooted at on the Street Is Not Harassment
If I had a nickel for every time a man told me that when someone hoots and hollers at you from the inside of their car as you walk down the street, I should take it as a compliment…
Chill, yo! It’s no big deal! We’re just letting you know how much we like you!
Or when a former male colleague continued to come closer to me when we were discussing a pitch even as I kept pulling back and so he mansplained, “It’s okay. I’m not getting close close to you. This is absolutely fine.”
But it wasn’t.
When I Was Mansplained in depth about What Bollywood Films Were All About
Back when I was in grad school, stateside, a fellow male classmate mansplained in detail to me about what made Bollywood films tick. His bountiful knowledge came from having watched two films. One was an English film about India, “Slumdog Millionaire,” and the other, a Bollywood film, “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.”
At that point in my life, I had worked in the Indian film industry, assisted one of Bollywood’s most renowned film directors, wrote and directed my own Indian English-language film, written a book about Bollywood called “Star Dust” (that won the National Award in India) and was in the middle of writing my Doctorate on the soft power potential of Bollywood cinema in the world (which later became a book that Penguin published called “Bollywood Boom”).
But WTF did I know about the film industry from my own country, right?
To be fair to my mansplaining friend, I have also been womansplained about Bollywood. So I guess there’s that.
Being Mansplained about How Giving Birth isn’t Nearly as Painful as Other Things
This happened when a 40-year-old father of two decided to share how he believed pregnancy couldn’t be nearly as tough on the body as being hit by a linebacker on the football field.
I couldn’t even. So I called him a “f*cking asshole” under my breath and walked away out of respect for my girlfriend.
Being Mansplained on How Period Pains are the Exact Same as Shaving Nicks
A relative of mine stayed over for a few days and one morning I saw him shave and nick his chin with a particularly sharp Gillette blade.
“Ouch!” I said, and quickly got him some cotton and Dettol to clean the little bit of blood on his face. He did some oohing and aahing and then said, “Man! I wish I didn’t have to shave every day. It’s so painful getting these little cuts and nicks every single time. You women think you have it bad with your monthly periods? I have news for you girls! Your periods come monthly. We men have to shave daily!”
And how can I forget the many, many times when dudes (including close male family members) get together and wink or raise their hands as if surrendering when faced with the justifiable wrath of women. They say, “No, no! I raise my hands. I come in peace,” then turn to another mansplainer and giggle, “Dude! Stop talking. These chicks have all synced their periods at the same time. Hard enough to handle one woman on her period. But multiple women PMSing at the same time? Geez!”
Being Mansplained on How Lucky I was to be a Woman in the U.S. versus India
This happened in an Intro to Gender class during grad school, and there were five dudes out of a class of 22. Of course, there were heated discussions about gender and the status of women in the world. We discussed patriarchy and being woke in today’s world and, of course, there were discussions about the dreaded F word: feminism.
In particular, we talked about what it meant for a man to be a feminist.
After many politically correct and incorrect discussions, one conversation got extremely heated. And when I had the audacity to point out that despite its superpower status, America had yet to elect a woman president while India has had one who was the prime minister for 20-something years, one guy got all burned up with patriotism and said, “Well, at least in my country you can actually speak up and say these things. Unlike your own country where women can’t drive, have to cover themselves up from head to toe, and have zero rights.”
I guess he had India confused with Saudi Arabia. Or Afghanistan. Or Iraq. Or…
And he f*cking missed the point of the story.
Being Mansplained on what is Wrong with Education in General and Writing Exams in Particular
I only have a double masters (Mass Communications and Creative Writing) and a Ph.D. (International Relations). I’ve only been a university professor in the U.S. and in China, and only more than 50 former students of mine have gotten into the top tier and Ivy League colleges in America for their graduate studies but by all means, please tell me what’s wrong with the education system and why I should not give exams to my writing students.
Yes, my high-school dropout male friend who has not even finished writing a single paragraph on his social media post while I have two books and three coffee table books published, please mansplain to me how to teach writing to my students.
How about you? What has your experience been with mansplaining? And how have you handled it?
Drop me a line in the comments below!