Isn’t today Father’s Day in the UK? Maybe the post below is a suitable Father’s Day gift.
Women often complain about or ridicule the phenomenon now known as mansplaining.
A typical and highly illustrative example is a man at a cocktail party explaining something to the woman he is talking to when the woman happens to be the world’s number one expert on the topic.
Is this really a feminist issue or could it be something else?
I am a feminist.
I am also Dutch.
Dutch men and women also do a heck of a lot of mansplaining. Dutch culture says that it is everyone’s democratic duty to have an opinion on everything.
The Dutch don’t say “I think that…” or “In my opinion…” and they don’t phrase their opinions in the form of questions either.
They make authoritative-sounding statements because they feel it is their duty to do so.
So I often get corrected and told that such and such is the truth and nothing but the truth. Also when it concerns topics that I have in my professional background and the other person does not!
When I go to the Netherlands, having been away from the country for a long time and having gotten used to a very different communication style puts me in the shoes of the average foreigner who is faced with the very direct and opinionated Dutch.
I too am now taken aback at first, but after a while, I fall into the familiar patterns again.
But it sometimes stays on my mind for a while when Dutch people seemed to be dismissing my professional background.
So then it hit me.
This is the same phenomenon as mansplaining.
It usually has nothing to do with wanting to take the other person down a notch or two, with wanting to convey a lack of professional respect or anything like that.
It is much more often a genuine effort to contribute to the discussion and do one’s very best.
That’s simply what men tend to do. That’s also what Dutch people do.
Emancipated Dutch women do it to me too. Mansplaining.
Of course, the old phenomenon of pissing contests does play a role in mansplaining as well. I am not denying that.
But maybe mainsplaining also happens because humans are really quite willing to help one another.
When someone offers to help you with heavy luggage at a train station, does that mean that the person seriously thinks that you’re not capable of carrying your own luggage or because he or she simply wants to be kind and give you a hand?
That this happens on the basis of outward appearances like apparent age, manner of dress, gender and hair colour (age) can be somewhat discriminatory.
Hey, tired young people wouldn’t mind a hand with their luggage either! And yes, the help often includes the assumption that women are less strong than men.
But these are snap decisions that people make, not decisions made after an hour of debate.
When you see a very young kid fall into the water, you rush. When you see a strong young man dressed in swimming gear fall into the water, you are a little bit less concerned.
That’s probably where it all comes from. Some people may say that this is the reptile part of our brain kicking in.
There is a difference between seeing someone fall into the water and having a conversation with someone, though. No life is potentially in danger during a conversation, so there is time for a quick thought or two before speaking.
Maybe the mansplainer and Dutch person could ask himself or herself “What is the other person’s background? Is it possible that he or she knows a lot more about the topic than I do?” before offering their opinions, which creates room for the option of asking a question instead.
But then, they also might not offer their unfiltered views and hold back what could be a genuine gem.
So, maybe the person on the receiving end of the mansplaining should simply listen and then provide a reply based on a wealth of knowledge.
It could lead to much more fruitful discussions.
This will go into my new book “We’re such animals!”