Men explain things to me: examples from 2016

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’m a woman on the internet, so men explain things to me. They’re usually well-meaning. They want to help me out with an issue they have spotted, or give me the lowdown on something they think I should know. However, they also often assume a certain lack of knowledge on my part, around topics that I know already.

At the start of 2016, I started collecting examples. Here are a select few of my favourites.

Men explain things to me

The word ‘mansplaining’ moved into common parlance in 2016, and if you want to find out a bit more about it read Rebecca Solnit’s essay Men Explain Things To Me. The point – and I think it’s a valid one – is that many men explain things to women without first asking themselves whether the woman they’re explaining the thing to might, in fact, have more knowledge of that particular issue.

Before you – a man – hammer angrily on the keyboard, please read through some of the examples in this blog post, as well as the conclusion at the end. And consider: do you do this? If you do, I’m not telling you that you are an evil, appalling human being. Just that you, like many other men (NOT ALL MEN), might have a tendency to do something as a result of the way our society treats male versus female expertise.

You’re not a bad person, but you might be doing a bad thing. Let’s check out some examples.

Things men have explained to me

Because of what I said about good intentions, I’m not going to name anyone specifically – all the below are summaries of tweets/emails/conversations. You might be able to find some of them if you search really hard, but please don’t do that: I don’t want to embarrass any individual guy. Here are a few things men have explained to me…

That I – a professional writer – should carry a notebook

Me: God, I’m frustrated that my ideas always seem rubbish when I finally get to my laptop to write them.

Him: Carry a notebook.

Ah, gee, thanks. That would literally never have occurred to me.

That VPNs exist

Me: I don’t want people to be forced to use workarounds to access porn.

Him: There’s this thing called a VPN you can use – here’s how.

That you can use Who.is to see who owns a domain

Me: This shady company has paid for domain protection, so I’m struggling to find out where they’re actually based.

Him: Did you know you can use Who.is to find information about domains?

Not if they’ve paid for protection, you can’t. Besides – I am an anonymous sex blogger. If I did not know this, I would be a ‘sex blogger.’

That the iPlayer exists

Me: Damn, frustrated I didn’t get to livetweet tonight’s programme.

Him: There’s a site called iPlayer where you can catch up on it!

The i… what now? Nah, never heard of it. 

The shortcut for a ‘#’ symbol on a mac

To be fair, I am ALWAYS whining about the fact that not all Macs come with a marked ‘#’ key. I think it’s silly, given how often the symbol is used these days.

But in complaining about how silly it is that they don’t have one, I invite a deluge of responses explaining the shortcut to me. Even if I have actually used the # symbol in the tweet they’re replying to. 

That I am wearing the wrong bra size

Him: I used to work in a lingerie shop and I can tell by that picture that you’re wearing the wrong bra size.

It was a picture of my bra filled with sweets. I was not in the picture. 

How to close a pop-up window on a website

Me: I hate popup newsletter subscription windows.

Him: You can just click on the cross to close them.

That a video I mentioned in an article exists

Me: Tweets blog post about working from home, in which I’ve embedded that famous Mitchell and Webb sketch.

Him: Ooh, have you seen that Mitchell and Webb sketch?

Me: Yes. It’s in the blog post.

Him: Oh, I see. Well I can’t read your blog at work.

See I get that you can’t read my blog at work – that’s cool, you don’t have to. And the dude who did this is lovely, so I don’t want to kick him or anything. But this happens a lot, and I am genuinely fascinated by what convinces someone they can improve/correct/make suggestions to an article they haven’t actually read. My imposter syndrome is such that I can barely offer advice on articles I have read. 

What Search Engine Optimisation is

Me: Asks quite a complex, techy question about the impact of certain referring sites on Google rank.

Him: Did you know that if you get links from other sites it helps boost where you appear in Google search results?

Not to blow my own trumpet but I do run quite a successful blog, and this did not happen by accident. 

What the Digital Economy Bill is

Me: Here is an article I’ve written about the Digital Economy Bill, and why it is bad even if you can circumvent it.

Him: You can circumvent it.

The Digital Economy Bill is actually a perfect storm for this kind of thing – it attracts techy guys who want to explain all the details of something to me, and who simultaneously assume that I cannot possibly know what I’m talking about. They’re right in some respects – I’m not a developer or web security expert. But unfortunately for them, this is an issue that deeply affects me and a number of people I work with, so I know far more about it than I would know about a similarly techy issue that isn’t in my wheelhouse, partly because I actively seek out advice from technical people whose opinions I respect while I’m researching and writing articles.

The reason this one in particular fucks me off is that usually I am mansplained the issues on the Digital Economy Bill in response to posts I write about the Digital Economy Bill, so often people are telling me what I have just written. Alternatively, they are disagreeing with my ethical points but pretending that the only reason we have a disagreement on the principle is because I am too silly to understand the facts.

These are just a few of many many examples. I have deliberately not included the ones where people reply to tweets to essentially explain my own jokes back to me, because I cannot possibly compete with some of the excellent entries over at @yesthatsthejoke. But that happens a lot too.

Men explain things? Or ‘people’ explain things?

This is where we get to the tricky bit. It is not always men who explain things to me. But it is mostly men. A general rule of thumb, when involved in a conversation, men are more likely to offer me unsolicited advice than women are – especially on things that can vaguely be considered ‘technical.’ Another general rule of thumb: I am more likely to notice/be annoyed by unsolicited advice from men, because it tends to happen more often. When you can name something, you notice it more frequently – thus ‘mansplaining’ will get me more annoyed than ‘womansplaining’, because I can identify it as something in particular, and it’s part of a larger trend. So there may well be examples of women explaining things to me that I have not included here, or that I didn’t spot, because I’m more attuned to guys doing it, as well as because guys tend to do it more often.

What’s more, the whole thing is exacerbated because often the issues I get mansplained to me are one which fall vaguely under the umbrella of ‘technical’ things. Using websites, SEO, and other stuff along those lines. They annoy me more because it is usually my job to know them. And mansplaining something like SEO or web will annoy me a hell of a lot more if it comes from a guy with a less popular blog/website – again this happens often.

At the bottom of this murky water is a horrible, aching fear that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Even on topics I’ve researched in depth and have lots of experience on, in which I am – cringe cringe cringe – genuinely knowledgeable, I live with the constant nagging voice of my impostor syndrome. I can barely bring myself to write the words down here, because just typing them sounds monumentally arrogant, but here goes: I’m quite good at this. I am. I had to go back and edit the comments above a lot, because each time I wrote something that implied I was good, I felt it looked arrogant. And yet here I am, with a pretty successful blog, doing things lots of other people would like to be able to do, so the time has come for me to say that maybe, yeah, I actually am a bit good at it. Still, helpful dudes are always waiting in the wings ready to tell me how to do it better, and 90% of the time they are telling me things I already know.

“I’m just trying to be helpful!”

I know. And that’s why this is a hard blog post to write. You’re just trying to be helpful, and you mean well. But you’re trying to be helpful within an environment where women are routinely offered this unsolicited advice. You’re sometimes trying to be helpful in a way that either assumes or – worse – ignores the evidence that I have actual expertise. The problem is not your offer of help, it’s your assumption that I desperately need it.

It has occasionally been helpful to have men explain things to me, but not in quite the way you might think. Rather than smacking my forehead and shouting ‘OH! This piece of information you have given me will now radically transform my life!’ in fact your unsolicited advice will sometimes boost my confidence in my own knowledge. When men explain things I already know, I realise I’m not actually doing too badly on the expertise front. When men explain things that directly contradict what I know to be the truth, again I grow in confidence a little, because I think ‘blimey, that guy has all the swagger of someone who might be right, yet still he is wrong. Just shows how confident I should be, as someone who has done this for years!’ But please don’t interpret this as an excuse to engage in mansplaining as a confidence-boosting exercise. While it sometimes boosts my confidence, often it wastes my time, as I question and double-guess things in the face of helpful guys who are convinced they know better. Besides, there are many people for whom this constant stream of unsolicited advice will be a serious hindrance. Faced with the certainty of a stranger who’s keen to correct them, many will just give up. And that’s how we end up in a society where women’s expertise is often treated as merely one factor to consider when making a decision, while men’s confident assertions (right or wrong) tend to carry more weight.

How to avoid mansplaining

So what should you do in the future when you’re feeling helpful? Well, boringly I think the answer is that you need to change your perspective a little. You might see me crossing a busy road, and rush forward unasked to lend me a hand. To you, you’re being chivalrous, courteous, and helpful. What you don’t realise is that I was fine crossing the road by myself, and now that you’re hanging off me it’s actually much harder to get to the other side. This is often the situation on Twitter, when I talk about some technical issue and am swamped by people linking me to very basic ‘how to do SEO’ articles, to which I feel it impolite not to reply. Consequence: I have less time to do the job I’m actually quite good at, because I’m busy thanking men who are getting in my way.

And in some cases the help you’re offering is entirely irrelevant to what I was trying to do: men offering technical solutions to a moral question, for instance. They rush forward to give me help crossing the road, failing to notice that I was only there to fix the broken traffic lights.

Anyway.

This is a long and ranty post, and there’ll be lots of people who see it and are hurt/offended, for which I’m really sorry. I imagine I’ll get a few emails or tweets off the back of this from guys who say ‘not me though, right? I was just trying to help!’ and then I’ll have to respond to those politely and say ‘oh no of course not you!’ and the cycle will continue. So rest assured, if you ask me directly if you’re one of these people, I will be unlikely to hurt your feelings and say ‘yes’, which I guess makes this whole post the blog equivalent of a ‘subtweet.’ But while I’m subtweeting, here’s a piece of unsolicited advice for you in future:

Before you offer help, consider: did the person you’re helping actually ask for it?

 

54 Comments

  • Loved this. So much truth.

    I know (even though I’m a woman) I am occasionally guilty of mansplaining but I tend to notice, feel bad, and apologise. Or I add a precursor of “you probably know this but just in case….”.

    What infuriates me the most in being mansplained to, is when they are just quoting the first result in a Google search, like I wouldn’t have known to check Google myself.

    Great post/rant. :)

  • Greg says:

    Ha, this could read as a list of things I’d have no idea how to explain to anyone. My wife mansplains things to me often with regards to social interactions. It’s funny, though she does apologize when she realizes I’m an introvert, not a recluse. Do you think it would feel less intrusive if you got apologies for these unwanted explanations?

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hmm, no not really because if someone is apologising for something then they know they’re doing a thing that is annoying, so probably best just not to do it. Example:

      “Sorry if I’m mansplaining but… [proceeds to mansplain]”
      It’s a bit like if I said “sorry if I’m stepping on your toes but… [steps on your toes]”

      If what you mean is apologise after the fact then hmm, maybe. But better to just consider the context, and try not to do it in the first place. Because this conversation:

      [someone explains a thing I demonstrably already know]
      Me: I already know this.
      [oh, sorry]

      … still takes up a lot of my time when I have to have it over and over again, not to mention it still essentially places someone else’s desire to tell me a thing on the same (or higher) level as my actual knowledge of that thing, thus undermining my expertise/authority on an issue.

      So yeah. In your example, that does sound kind of annoying although it sounds like you don’t mind it that much if you think it’s funny. I’d kind of hope that if someone found this really irritating and/or demoralising then the person repeatedly doing it would make a big effort to not do it.

      • Greg says:

        I guess I assume it’s different people each time explaining things that you would already know (given the anonymity of the net). If they apologized for assuming your lack of knowledge after the fact and then did not repeat the mistake, it’s certainly annoying when the next random person does it, but I guess atleast it could show that people learn from their mistaken assumption. If someone repeatedly explained the same thing again and again after I explained I knew the concept, I’d be royally pissed.

        • Girl on the net says:

          Yeah kind of, except in a lot of these situations it (I think) should be clear to them that they’re explaining something I already know. A ‘sorry’ after the fact doesn’t really erase it if, for instance, the person has been explaining something that I wrote in an article they haven’t read, or if they’re explaining something that clearly I know as an anonymous/successful blogger.

          The anonymity of the net means there are some topics people explain to me with (justified) reasons for assuming I might not know – like they don’t know my entire background or all the subjects I might know about. But at the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether they would be offering such unsolicited help if I were a man. I’m wary of saying ‘they wouldn’t’ because obviously it will depend on the person and the situation, but given the frequency with which I’m offered advice on everything else, I’ll stick my neck out and say that it’s likely.

  • You are actually quite brilliant at this and I love the wide range of your posts. I may have to start noticing such things, even this morning (which is why this article rang so true with me) I was thinking how often I get “topslaining” where tops tell me my motivation, how I feel, and what I go through while bottoming

  • Pat says:

    I have heard that there are two kinds of women in this world, and that a man should not try to explain football to either one. Either she already knows more than he does, or she does not care. :-)

    Peace,
    Pat

    • I love this example! (& would place myself very firmly in the 2nd category, though in a friendship situation I will happily sit & listen to someone enthusing & explaining about their favourite sport *provided* they will do the same when I get fired up & talking about one of my favourite things)

  • Tom OD says:

    You’d be amazed at when you get the reverse as a guy with babies; before that I’d not really experienced it. It’s incredibly annoying, so hopefully I can suggest I can go some way to feeling your pain!

    How to do everything from women, every bit of advice you never needed! I have 4 month old twins, they’re both very different and have different needs yet women seem to want to offer ‘advice’ all the time and tell you what you’re doing wrong; despite the fact that you’re not!

    • Girl on the net says:

      Oh my god yes! I obviously can’t empathise completely but I’ve seen this happening with Dads I know getting told the most basic shit that they clearly already know argh. Must be v frustrating. If you’d ever be interested in writing one, I would love a guest blog on this topic!

      • Tom F says:

        I find it with packing bags at supermarkets, it could be that I’m just rubbish at it through.

      • Tom says:

        It might come under the topic of ranty! It probably wouldn’t start with that intention, but might end up that way! Not sure I want to be referred to as the ‘babysitter’ again!

  • I snort-giggled at the “wearing the wrong bra size / it’s got sweets in” one.
    Sorry…

    As for leaving comments on an article you’ve not read? Blimey! At least try to disguise it by simply expressing an opinion about the well-known sketch!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    You’re not the first woman to be annoyed at men explaining things you already know! Did you know that the word ‘mansplaining’ has been invented to refer to this behaviour? Did you know that it’s commonly attributed to the writer Rebecca Solnit, although in fact the word does not appear in her original essay, Men Explain Things To Me? Don’t worry, it’s pretty obscure. You probably haven’t heard of it.

    (Joking aside… I *know* I am totally guilty of this sometimes. I try not to do it, but like most men I am a bit too fond of expounding on a subject to people, whether they actually needed to know or not.)

  • Thrasy says:

    Out of curiousity – how do men generally react when you point this out to them?

    I know I sometimes purposefully offer advice that is likely obvious, just to gauge whether I’m actually in position to say anything of practical use.

    – I have problem A
    Me: Have you tried X?
    – Yes I tried X. I tried Y and Z as well, before you ask.
    Me: Fair enough.

    I’m never sure whether that is the same as “mansplaining” or not.

    It’d be a shame if anyone mistook that exchange as me actually thinking I knew better/they knew less – but it certainly feels that way at times.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I think this is kind of a side issue. The way someone offers help is not really as relevant as the thing I said at the end: did they *ask* for it?

      To answer your question on how men react if I point this out, generally they’d do what you did here, and explain why when they do it it’s fine/actually useful/not a problem.

  • Ferns says:

    I’m right there with you on all of this. Both the ‘helping me out unasked and assuming I’m stupid’ and the ‘explaining shit to me when they don’t know anything’ things. Ugh, hate.

    I had a revelation when I was young where I was talking to a male work colleague who knew a bunch of buzzwords in my area of expertise, but he had literally NO CLUE what he was talking about. And he explained that shit to me with such confidence that IF it hadn’t been utter utter nonsense, I probably would have believed him (or at least, doubted myself).

    And I realised that MEN DID THIS TO ME ALL THE TIME with complete and utter confidence, whether they had the knowledge or not. It was just that this time the bullshit was so thick that I saw it clearly whereas usually there was some room for doubt. It was a huge lesson for me, especially in the corporate world.

    Ferns

    • Girl on the net says:

      “this time the bullshit was so thick that I saw it clearly whereas usually there was some room for doubt”

      Hahahaha yes I recognise this so much =D

  • prufrock says:

    Great piece and thanks for fighting the imposter sydrome to write it!
    Although I’m a woman I definately have lots of personality traits I think society defines as ‘masculine’ and am definately guilty of doing this- especially at work where I just want us all to get the best result (which I’m working on obvs). But find where everyone tolerates/expects this from men at work- people certainly react very differently to a woman doing it.
    The part at the end where you said when men ask ‘ not me’ you will say ‘of course not you’ broke my heart a little bit. It”a really tough but if we are to stop the mansplaining we need to have difficult conversations- which means stepping outside the communication styles out society has assigned us by gender.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah yeah you’re right – and I do sometimes pick guys up on it. Like if they’re my friends and they’re doing it to me, I’ll nudge and they’ll realise and go ‘ah yeah oops shit sorry.’ But I think I’ve become probably less combative than I used to be, because I spend so much time on the internet, and it’s easy for ‘you did this bad thing’ to escalate into them going ‘fuck you fuck you fuck you’, or – sometimes worse – a long conversation where they ask me question after question trying to bait me into a long-winded fight. So now, I am actually far more likely to say this stuff gently to people I know/like, where I think there’s a fairly decent chance of a useful reaction.

  • J. says:

    When I saw the word ‘mansplaining’ I imagined more the lecturing kind, concerning ethics and so on, rather that short, technical directions. I’m now less concerned that I may be a mansplainer considering that a lot of the examples you list are things I’m actually quite ignorant of and wouldn’t be able to mansplain!

    There are times when I’ve wondered whether I’m, ironically, mansplaining feminism to women!

    For example: if I’m at work and a female colleague makes a comment about needing to lose weight to look attractive (when if she lost any more weight she would literally start to look like a child) I will tell her that only a seriously creepy person would think that a woman looking as weak as possible was a good thing. I will then probably tell her that such erotisizing of vulnerability is the product of a misogynistic society that tries to condition us to think in terms of Male = big n’ strong/Female = small n’ weak.

    The point is though, that if I hear anything being spread that I find worrying, I will address it, whether it is said by a woman or a man. Obviously though, I don’t want it to come across as a case of “now dear, listen as I tell you all about how you should empower yourself as a woman…”

    I’ll mention another thing though, as I’m here… I often think I pick up on sexist reinforcements that are maybe going unnoticed… Often ones perpetuated by women. For example, call me over sensitive, but when women (and I honestly have never heard a man do this) make a kind of caricatured “grrr” sound to indicate anger. I hate that! I think that’s equating womanhood with a kind of foot stomping, eye rolling, frustration accepting identity. In other words, ‘I am woman, my lot is to growl in serio comic powerless frustration, usually in the face of male foolishness’.

    Also, and I’m not getting at you GOTN (because you are anything but self-abnegating) and I know you do use this word, but… I’ve noticed that women issue comically serious apologies for so called ‘RANTS’ when all they have done is voiced a perfectly reasonable objection to something. Why does a woman feel she has to conclude a complaint with the words ‘rant over’ when a man does not? Don’t apologize!

    Anyway, I think that’s everything! I must say I do like reading your posts. I’d be interested whether you agree with what I’ve said about growls and rants or whether you get a different vibe. Anyway, have a good day! :)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Blimey, where to start? So mansplaining can also often come in the form of a lecture – the examples in my blog post were mostly short ones because it’s not really fun to read if I just try and reproduce some of the longer, more ‘lecture-y’ examples. So yes, mansplaining can also come in the form of – for instance – guys telling me that they think that some of my behaviour isn’t quite feminist enough or what have you.

      To your examples, they all make me quite uncomfortable to be honest. Each of them involves you deciding that you don’t like a certain aspect of a woman’s behaviour, and telling her (or them) to behave differently.

      “For example: if I’m at work and a female colleague makes a comment about needing to lose weight to look attractive (when if she lost any more weight she would literally start to look like a child) I will tell her that only a seriously creepy person would think that a woman looking as weak as possible was a good thing. I will then probably tell her that such erotisizing of vulnerability is the product of a misogynistic society that tries to condition us to think in terms of Male = big n’ strong/Female = small n’ weak.”

      While I understand the point you’re making, one of the reasons why women often feel under pressure to conform to certain kinds of body norm is because for years people have been telling her to look a certain way. You adding your voice to the fray to tell her that she should look a certain way (or not – “literally start to look like a child”) isn’t particularly helpful. What’s more, while I am not a massive fan of people making loud fatphobic statements in the workplace, I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of colleagues chipping in to tell women what choices they should or shouldn’t make about their own bodies. So I think your behaviour here is inappropriate.

      Rants and ‘grr’ (I haven’t particularly noticed either of these things being used more by women, though if they are I’d hazard a guess that it’s probably for the same reason women use ‘sorry’ more if they speak up – we’re often taught to try and make ourselves meeker/more gentle out of fear of being labelled bossy or what have you). In both of these examples, you’re not ‘mansplaining’ any area of their likely expertise, you’re just telling women what to do because their behaviour irritates you. Going back to the question at the end of my piece – did any of these women *ask* you for this feedback, or did you just take it upon yourself to give it? Because if you only do it to women, then I think that is quite sexist and it would certainly irritate me if you did it to me. If you do it to *everyone*, men included (which I’m guessing you don’t because you only used examples here with women), then I just think it’s rude.

      • J. says:

        Thanks for the feedback and after taking this on board it will no doubt influence my conduct. What I’m thinking though, is that tongue-biting is so counter intuitive when one feels that something damaging is said – I mean, if the subject was anything other than body image (Brexit, Trump, homophobia, even more trivial but unpleasant things like dog-fouling in the neighborhood) then I wouldn’t blame a woman or a man for jumping in without waiting to be asked.

        With the example of a woman thinking there’s something wrong with the way she looks, that’s the sort of situation where female coworkers tend to also make comments like ‘you don’t need to loose weight’. I like the idea of women and men being able to share in a conversation without the gender division of all the men thinking they have to bite their tongue and look at the floor. Surely that’s not just a naïve pipe dream?

        As for grrr and rant, maybe I am building it up a bit. You see I tend to be very adverse to the idea of women feeling that they have to be self-effacing, not just because I was raised to be conscious of sexism but also because I admire confident, unflinching women as a result of my strong sub nature. It’s not that I want every woman in society to feed my Domme fantasy – but I have such a strong instinct to admire female strength (my girlfriend makes a deliberate show of Womansplaining to me, but we both love that dynamic of our relationship so obv that’s different!) this has maybe put me on a high alert mode for any traces of what I see as potential female subjugation. (I commented on your blog regarding D/s related issues – but I didn’t involve the word ‘sub’ in my name this time as it wasn’t – or rather I thought it wasn’t – related to what I wanted to say. Maybe everything I want to say is related to that though… deep down!)

        Anyway, hope I’m not in your bad books now! I added my comment because I genuinely wanted to hear your take, not because I just want to be told I’m good. I’m constantly exploring, absorbing, so thanks for the feedback.

        There WILL inevitably be instances where interactions head in a certain direction and I will pause… and recall this discussion. Ever onward! :)

        Have a good day.

        • J. says:

          When I say ‘strong sub nature’ I mean strong in the sense of extreme!

          I also realised I didn’t properly answer your question, as for who I ‘correct’ so to speak, I think it’s more women than men though tbh I work in a place where most of my coworkers are women though I will say something to my male friends if I think someone is drifting into sexism (or some other thing I think is nasty).

        • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

          My (female) boss often comments in the workplace that she’s trying to lose weight. I don’t like it either, but I say nothing. There is no comment I as a man could make that would be helpful and appropriate. (“Gee boss, you don’t need to do that, you look fabulous!” – No. “Yeah, you probably could stand to lose a few pounds.” – No.) The woman at your work, similarly, is probably not really looking for a reply, still less one likely to make her feel worse about herself.

          Protip, dude: trying to fight sexism by correcting women’s behaviour is not the way to go.

          • J. says:

            Yep, I think this is indeed my take-home point of the day! :)

          • Girl on the net says:

            OK, so I think SpaceCaptainSmith covered it pretty well (thanks!), but J I just wanted to reply to your point on this:

            “if the subject was anything other than body image (Brexit, Trump, homophobia, even more trivial but unpleasant things like dog-fouling in the neighborhood) then I wouldn’t blame a woman or a man for jumping in without waiting to be asked.”

            You’re right – I definitely would want to speak up and challenge this, and I would definitely speak up and challenge someone who stood in the middle of the office and said ‘hey! I think all of you should lose weight/conform to society’s expectations on body shape!’ But lecturing individual women is a very different thing. What you’re saying/implying in this situation is that any and every woman must be constantly aware of the way in which her body/desires about her own body feed into a cultural narrative. And what’s more, that it’s acceptable for her individual choices to be questioned/picked over because of this.

            You’re essentially saying that her body – and the ways in which she chooses to either change or keep it the same – are political acts on a par with making overtly homophobic statements. Do you think this about men who, say, go to the gym or talk about their exercise regimes? Do you stop them and explain why what they’re doing might be having a negative effect on other men?

            I appreciate that you’re not trying to start a massive barney with me or anything, and that your question was a genuine one, I’m just trying to put this in a way that demonstrates the double-standard. Women’s bodies are not public statements in the same way homophobia is a public statement. They are also just the things we live in every day.

  • Caitlin says:

    I love you for this. My recent favorite episode of mansplaining involved a FB friend asking about orders of protection for cyber abuse (ftr, I am a survivor of violence who obtained the for protective order ever in the state of VA for cyberstalking, and the first – and only – person to obtain a protective order in the UNITED STATES that covers the abusive use of hashtags. I also happen to be a NY-licensed attorney who focused on violence against women. Oh, and I’ve written published articles on the topic of protective orders.)

    Friend: Can I get help and do X? (Asking about discovery and orders of protection for cyber harassment)
    Man: Basically the answer is no to both. Only a DA can do the first unless you sue for damages in a civil case and you can only do the second if he has been investigated in connection with a crime.
    Me: That’s incorrect. You don’t need someone to be charged with a crime in order to get an order of protection.
    Man: I believe in NYS you do! There may be different rules for federal court though.
    Me: I’m a licensed attorney in NY State. No, you don’t. Civil protection orders are available in Y, too.
    Man: …

    – Fin. –

  • Chris says:

    Why is being a know-it-all gendered?

    Btw, I didn’t skim the article as soon as I saw the word ‘mansplaining’ – all of these are great examples, but I don’t yet see the justification for this phenomenon to be gendered (other than the fact that men seem to do it more often).

  • Tom F says:

    I think men do just spend a lot of time trying to explain things in general not just to women.

    but I think a big part for this phenomenon is women are more likely to ask for advice then men, while a man may tend prefer figuring things out themselves even if it is more arduous to do so, plus there are still many women who like to play to the old stereotype and act dumb whether they are or not. which is fine but men have to realise that doesn’t apply to all women.
    Overall men just get used to explaining things all the time.

  • D Struecker says:

    Dear GOTN,

    I’ve never commented before, although I’ve followed you for a long time. I introduced my girlfriend to your blog, and I have to say that you have been an excellent influence on her accepting that it’s totally okay for her to perv out. She never used to randomly grab my arse until she started reading your stuff. Which is nice. So thanks for that :) and all the wank material. Pretty cool too.

    Although you are often described as a feminist, I’ve come see you much more as an egalitarian. Far removed from the jezebel, tumblr or buzzfeed feminism that seems worryingly prominent. I see you in a similar light as perhaps Amelia Earhart. The kind of woman who would rather make change than demand it.

    I get somewhat disheartened when I read about you buying into an idea like mansplaining. I’m not outraged, just disheartened. You often have unique perspectives on things, and when I read that you believe in something that I find narrow minded, it sucks. But that’s life. And part of getting older is accepting that we can’t all agree. But you do note that you find this an uncomfortable subject, which makes me wonder if there is a part of you that thinks that there is something off with the whole mansplaining thing.

    So with this in mind I ask you: What is the alternative? Because starting with “Do you know how to…” or “Have you tried…” is met with just as much scorn and eye rolling. Do we just shut up? Perhaps…

    I work as a firefighter (You’ve already stated that you don’t find that impressive, so don’t worry, that ain’t my angle). This is a statement that acts as a catalyst to an exhausting phenomenon; peacocking. So exhausting is it that I don’t bring it up on nights out or at parties, and I dread being asked what I work as. Honestly GOTN, it has fucking wrecked my social life. Suddenly, everything about my manliness or resolve is questioned. Men start doing that death grip hand shake thing, and everything I say has to be challenged. If I can’t chop my own trees, carve my own woods then fit a kitchen with it all, I’m a knob. Women peacock with each other, all genuine communication stops and they become more interested in showing other women up than just talking. And then asking stupid questions “What’s it like to see someone burned alive?” or “What do you do when it rains?” because screams of agony and the apparent lack of houses with roofs make good party chat. Unless they are suggesting something like “Shouldn’t you be taller?” or “I bet you couldn’t lift me, you don’t look strong enough” to which the answers would be “No because smoke and heat rises and if I’m 6 foot 3 I’ll be getting cooked quicker” and “Bet I could but I wouldn’t because smoke and heat rises and if I pick you up…” you get the idea.

    Just the other day we had to get a recovery truck to tow our fire engine. The offside rear suspension snapped and sent the tail out from us, sort of jack knifing us. “Don’t be stupid” said the recovery guy “Now I’m not on a fancy fireman’s wage (Because you know, we’re rolling in it). But I can tell you that you can’t jack knife a fixed chassis.” Of course, after he found out the problem it was “Aye well, I can see how that might jack knife the motor…”

    So is it still mansplaining if it’s to another guy? Because north of the wall, we just call that being a pure wank.

    Anyway. Firefighters are fixy. Give us a problem and we’ll attempt to fix it, if we can’t fix it then we’ll attempt to contain it and then call somebody who knows what they’re talking about. Even on calls that really have nothing to do with us, we’re now in attendance so we might as well try to help. And I believe this is why fire fighting remains an almost entirely male dominated is because it requires a bit of “mansplaining”. We’re required to take charge of an incident even if its outside of our expertise. For example, I don’t know much about radiation but in the event of a nuclear disaster, I’m part of the lucky lot that gets to go to try and resolve it. The 2011 Fukushima disaster and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster being perfect recent examples. I wonder how much worse things could have went were it not for fixy people and their mansplaining. I’d go as far to say that the term “mansplaining” takes a steaming jobby on well meaning individuals who make the kind of certain death choices that terrify most folk.

    Mansplaining is a term I loathe. I loathe it because it’s another socially acceptable way in which anything male is a joke. I.e. The common portrayal of the doughy, balding husband who can’t figure out how to wash his clothes properly. Men are overgrown children who can’t handle being ill; man flu. Men are rude who sit with their legs open; manspreading. That any advert directed towards men has to be associated with football somehow because we’re all louts. I constantly have to listen to women in the media and in day to day life explain to me what a man should be like. Because that’s called progress. A man telling a woman how they should act though, that’s sexist.

    Mansplaining makes me laugh however, because I find it ironic. Your suggestion that men should have a change in perspective, as is often the only offered solution to mansplaining, is riddled with it. I wish to offer something else:

    Women don’t know how to talk to men.

    “Men are fixers” it is said. As are women. The difference in perspective, I believe, is that women are much more accustomed to venting than men. I don’t mean complaining (of which, I think women also do the lions share of; “men keep explaining things to me! It’s so bloody annoying!”). I mean venting. Women have a great knack for airing frustration. It’s not a call for help, it’s a sign of frustration. “My boss is a grade A fuck bucket. £55k a year and he doesn’t have a clue what this company does.” 9 times out of 10, you already know the solution to the problem. You have fussed over scenarios and outcomes and know what your next action needs to be but you still want to talk about how bloody annoyed you are about being in this position.

    Men on the other hand have little concept of venting. It just comes out as complaining. I don’t know about you GOTN but to me complaining means that the situation has bested you and you’re out of ideas. So what happens when men complain to men? The other men see this as a cry for help so begin to offer suggestions on how to fix it. So when a women vents frustration over something, it just sounds like complaining, so we offer unsolicited advice. Despite the feminist belief that men “mansplain” because we think women inferior couldn’t possibly do anything themselves. That actually isn’t the thought process at all; and I’d argue that very few men actually accept that as a reality. What’s actually going is that we hear you admit to struggling with something, because we have little concept of venting, and wish to help. And it’s just as infuriating to sit through as a conversation with I.T helpline “You’re computer isn’t working? Have you switched it on?” YES! OF COURSE I’VE SWITCHED THE BLOODY- Oh, wait. Yup okay that fixed it, sorry to have disturbed you!

    But they, like men, are just being thorough. Although, we do tend to handle it like a bull in a China shop.

    So how does one avoid mansplaining? It starts by shutting up. If it’s not a problem and you don’t need help with it, why the hell are you talking about it? That’s what girlfriends are for. They get it. We don’t. We find it very hard to understand why we’re still talking about it a problem that is already fixed. Like looking for your keys after you’ve found them. Does not compute.

    So what is mansplaining? A myth. Another feminist complaint. An admission that they don’t know how to handle something that they find to be a problem. Rather than admit that there is a very real possibility that feminists don’t know what they are talking about, they blame men.

    You know why they blame men? Because men don’t have a clue how to talk to women.

    Take care GOTN. You are incredible and I’m looking forward to your next article.

    -D

    • Girl on the net says:

      “If it’s not a problem and you don’t need help with it, why the hell are you talking about it?”

      If you look at the examples in the post, there are lots of different reasons I talk about things other than to ask for help. As, I imagine, do you.

      I’m somewhat disheartened that you say you’ve read my blog for a long time, yet you think a comment that equates ‘feminist complaint’ with ‘myth’ would in any way change my mind or encourage me to see things from your perspective. Especially seeing as you ask questions which I’ve raised and then directly answered in the post itself. Not outraged, just disheartened.

      • D Struecker says:

        RE: Bull in a China shop – I imagined my first comment to a respected writer going better. Although challenging feminist perspectives is almost always met with offence, hostility or an outright refusal to engage. But I expected a little more patience and humour here.

        Still, I’ll bite. Which questions of mine did you already answer?

        Sick burn though, yo.

        Thanks for the speedy response
        -D

        • Girl on the net says:

          “Although challenging feminist perspectives is almost always met with offence, hostility or an outright refusal to engage. But I expected a little more patience and humour here.”
          I echoed the exact language you used in your post – quite deliberately, in fact, used ‘not outraged, just disheartened’ as you did. If you think it lacks patience or humour, then I can only direct you to your own answer.

          ‘I imagined my first comment to a respected writer going better’: why? Genuinely: why? You opened your comment by saying “Although you are often described as a feminist, I’ve come see you much more as an egalitarian.” I’m a feminist. I say it a lot. I tag lots of my posts ‘feminism’, etc. So in saying that you don’t think I am one, you have already got off on the wrong foot: showing you don’t really listen to what I actually say, and prefer instead to put your own interpretation on it.

          “you do note that you find this an uncomfortable subject, which makes me wonder if there is a part of you that thinks that there is something off with the whole mansplaining thing.”
          Again, here you’re adding an interpretation that ignores what I have actually said (I’m uncomfortable for the reasons listed in the piece) in favour of your own interpretation.

          You then go on to ask questions which have been addressed in the article (“What is the alternative?” “So how does one avoid mansplaining?” – there’s a whole section on this at the end). Thus cementing the fact that you don’t want to listen to what I am actually saying, choosing instead to pick your own interpretation and ignoring where I’ve directly addressed your points.

          I have loads of fun disagreements in the comments on this blog, and I’d be more than happy for this to be one of them. But you’re not listening to me then offering rebuttals – you’re pretending to listen to me then ignoring the things I say that are inconvenient to you.

          Finally, you’re not the first (and you certainly won’t be the last) guy who says he’s enjoyed my blog for the porn (and perhaps the politics that he happens to agree with) then used his first ever comment on here to express disappointment in me because I have finally said something he *doesn’t* like. Where were you in the past, when I could have done with some agreement in the comments? Fair enough – you don’t have to comment all the time. But you should realise that regardless of how it’s intended, it comes across that you think I am ‘OK/acceptable’ when I am agreeing with you/turning you on – I’ll get no thanks for that – but if I step out of line I should be corrected. This reflects on you, and again paints a picture of you as someone who only respects me as long as I fit your interpretation of a feminist/good person/acceptable blogger, rather than who I actually am.

          • D Struecker says:

            Of course I have my own interpretation on it. Interpretation is the subject of discussion, is it not? You’re interpreting well meaning gestures as annoying and a problem. I interpret mansplaining as an unconstructive term.

            I should clarify that my points on mansplaining and on your perspective were separate. Yes, I found it disheartening. So what? I didn’t say that you are wrong in your opinion. I wasn’t criticising you, in fact, I applauded you for for efforts and likened you to a highly respected person. And thanked you for having a profoundly positive effect on my relationship. As for the wank comment, it was meant to be funny but you’ve interpreted it as dismissive of your politics.

            Did I say that you weren’t a feminist, GOTN? No. I said that I view you as much more of an egalitarian. Where is the error in that? You are egalitarian, aren’t you? You are a staunch supporter of equal rights. Although you still call yourself a feminist, you don’t appear to advocate for the type of feminism that promotes domestic abuse against men. I see you as more egalitarian than that.

            “How to avoid mansplaining” was your question, not mine. I was adding my own take on it. In fact, I offered my perspective on it. You want confirmation that I agree with what your saying? Yes, I think the examples that you give are great. People offering useless advice, or totally misinterpreting what your saying. I think what you’ve written is well written, even if I disagree with some of it. I apologise if that wasn’t clear, but I’m from an environment where you know you’re doing well if nobody bothers you.

            Fair enough, you answered “what’s the alternative” yes, a change in perspective. But you didn’t so much offer a solution as much as reinforce the fact that you find mansplaining obstructive. Fine but I’d still like to explore that a little more.

            Anyway, my aim was not to correct you. I wanted conversation. I’m not disappointed in you, you haven’t failed me. I haven’t said that you’re wrong and should shut up. But hell yes I challenge your opinion on this because I disagree, so let’s talk. If I thought you we’re shit and didn’t respect you then I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this. It’s precisely because I love and respect your unique perspective that I’ve taken the time to write to you to talk.

            You’ve interpreted my comment as an attack when I was seeking discussion. As you are free to do. If you read my comment again, I made a point of stating that not only have I found your work enjoyable but that I’ve actually thanked you for having a positive effect on my partner and my life. So there is your thanks, and the thanks for taking the time to respond. With that said, I won’t think twice about challenging you. What i won’t do is make negative comments about your character.

            Again, I appreciate the response GOTN.

            -D

          • Girl on the net says:

            “you don’t appear to advocate for the type of feminism that promotes domestic abuse against men.”

            This is the moment where you lost me completely.

          • D Struecker says:

            “This is the moment where you lost me completely”

            http://jezebel.com/294383/have-you-ever-beat-up-a-boyfriend-cause-uh-we-have

            Anyway, it’s becoming clear that you would rather take offence and, as you say, “pretending to listen to me then ignoring the things I say that are inconvenient” to your position.

            Feminism: Lecture. Reject challenge. Attack all who don’t blindly follow.

            Feminists rallied around Hillary. If this is how they conducted debate, it’s no wonder that lunatic Trump got in.

            Take care GOTN

  • J. says:

    GOTN: Re the male gym comparison, yes, fair play. I’m a very skinny guy who goes to the gym to bulk up a little but I’m certainly not selling out the skinny guys of the world. I’m still skinny, by average standards. Nor do I think that the existence if muscle men are an anti-skinny guy statement.

    So yeah. Fair do’s. :)

    • Girl on the net says:

      =) Thanks! Also glad that example worked. I’m having a very slow brain day so it took me ages to come up with one that was analogous.

  • Bacchus says:

    “…I actually am a bit good at it.”

    In my opinion you are spectacular at it. And I have seen a lot of damn sex blogs since 2002.

    I winced in sympathetic appreciation of several of your examples. Some of the techboys don’t seem to care about the gender of the people they are ‘splainin’ at; I get a fair bit of that “the problem you mention would go away if you only were to run some geeky bit of freeware on an OS you don’t normally use in a virtual machine with the following seven flags set properly” stuff too. And at least once every two weeks I get somebody telling me facts as if I don’t know them that are set out at a link that I included that they clearly didn’t bother to follow.

    However, I’m not sharing these experiences in an attempt to question or challenge your characterization of the problem as gendered, either in the responsible parties or in their chosen targets. It’s clear that you get a gazillion times more of this than I do!

    By my lights, a professional sex blogger ought not to respond to any given comment with “Well, duh.” But I’ve done it. Not proud of it, but oh well. I’m also fond of “Somebody didn’t clicky the linky…”

    • Girl on the net says:

      Haha, I agree with you on the ‘well, duh’ – it’s never ideal, but is sometimes completely necessary =) And argh yes the link thing too – I get this in tweets quite a lot as well, if I chain tweets so I can use more than one to explain an issue, people often reply to my first one to say a lot of the things I said in my following tweets. Probably more the fault of the way Twitter is laid out than any individual, but now I always try to double-check when I’m replying to things in case they’re the start of a thread.

      And thank you for the compliment! You made my day <3

  • jnakabb says:

    Off topic, but I love Stuart’s cartoon – such a philosophical alternative to Mr Kool Aid. Did you provide him with the logical notation, was it his creativity or does it exist (insert existential quantification symbol) out there in the wild ?

    • Girl on the net says:

      It’s all his work! Usually I just send him a para or two about the blog I’m planning to write. Sometimes if I’m really organised I’ll have the whole post written to send him, but all the image ideas are his. I think this pic was originally drawn for a ‘not all men’ post I wrote a while ago but has come in handy since then too. Stuart is amazing =)

  • Sudonim007 says:

    You know, if some of the comments are offensive, you could just delete them.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Sure, and I would if they were really offensive – like hate speech or what have you. But tbh my general rule is the ‘reasonable bystander’ test. Like if someone came across that conversation, would they have the info/arguments to make up their own mind on it? Correct me if you reckon I’m wrong on the comments for this post, but I figure most people stumbling across the convo above, for instance, would see why it’s not something I really want to engage with point by point. So I’d rather let the comments stand, because I think otherwise people who read stuff I write and agree might end up with the false impression that everyone else agrees too.

      Specifically re: the above, I’m not entirely sure about leaving the link D Struecker put in, because I think it’s a hateful article and it advocates violence. If the genders in it were reversed, I’d be tempted to delete it. But then it also does speak directly to his point (although obviously doesn’t address why he lost me with his comment above), and his reply wouldn’t make sense without it.

      I’m always unsure, though, about which comments I do and don’t delete – unless there’s a specific libel issue or something, I’ll never be 100% sure whether I should delete, reply, or ignore. It’s a tricky one.

  • John says:

    bugger me, that sparked up a few people didn’t it?

  • Toasty says:

    GOTN you’re an absolutely exceptional human being for putting up with that fucker for a single second.

    Also first post so, you are a wonderful writer and great person and your existence makes the world a better place, thank you.

  • Girl E. says:

    Awesome post and the best part “Him: You can just click on the cross to close them.” haha can’t believe this :)

  • Real says:

    Interesting post, thank you for taking the time to gather all the quotes – some are hilarious while others are borderline insulting.

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