Can we talk about Sally Yates for just a minute?
As a girl, I was a fan of Wonder Woman. I was in awe of her strength, smarts, and ability to use that Lasso of Truth so deftly. A couple of weeks ago I witnessed a real-life Wonder Woman in action because—did you see Sally Yates’ testimony before Congress? She put the smack down on those senators. And it was glorious! It was glorious to watch an educated, articulate, confident woman avoid their power traps and political landmines, then educate them on the truth.
Watching Yates’ testimony reminded me of something that many of us have to deal with every day: mansplaining. I have a good friend who works in the financial industry, a predominantly male field. She’s educated— she has a master’s degree! She’s experienced—more than many of her colleagues! And she’s smart as a whip— or perhaps, a Lasso of Truth. Yet the men who surround her at work feel the need to explain things to her that she just explained to them. This is a classic mansplaining situation.
So what is mansplaining? If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid it up to this point, kudos to you. Far too many women are well aware of this patriarchal phenomenon in which a man (intentionally or just because he’s too clueless to know better) feels compelled to explain something to a woman whether she needs his explanation or not. It’s blatantly sexist and condescending. Not all mansplainers are jerks, but in my experience, all jerks are mansplainers.
It’s exhausting to deal with, and apparently so pervasive that spellcheck doesn’t even hit on the word “mansplain.” Since that seems to be the case, I’ve come up with a guide to help you bring out your inner Sally Yates and fight back against this sexist singularity. Here, then, is “The Sally Yates Smack Down Guide to Mansplaining.” It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
The Sally Yates Smack Down Guide to Mansplaining:
#1: The first rule of smacking down a mansplainer is to call him on it.
Let’s say, for example, you ask a man to recommend a good book to read. He replies with a brief history of books (perhaps going all the way back to Guttenberg) and finally recommends a good book to read. Now’s your chance to say “Hey, I know who Steve Guttenberg is, I loved him in Three Men and a Baby, but all I wanted to know was what book you would recommend.” You may want to leave out the Guttenberg joke, but don’t hesitate to call him on his condescending action. If he wasn’t aware of what he was doing, now he will be.
#2: The second rule of smacking down mansplaining is not to let them turn the tables and accuse you of womansplaining.
Yeah, this has happened. But you know what? “Womansplaining” isn’t a thing. When I have to set out my children’s clothes because my husband has no idea where we keep our 8-year-old’s pants, or leave detailed instructions for him on how to dress and feed the kids when I’m gone, that’s not womansplaining. That is, however, a failure on my part for taking on too much parenting responsibility in my house. And for being the only one who cares that our children not look like hobos.
The bottom line is that anyone can be condescending, but mansplaining is institutional sexism that highlights a disturbance in the balance of power in our society between men and women.
#3: The third rule of smacking down mansplaining is not to let them throw your feminism back at you and call you angry.
This one may involve eye rolling on the parts of both parties. It may also include bodily harm (though I would never condone violence on my blog), but, in my opinion, that’s just too much hassle. Because then the police would come, you’d be strip-searched while screaming “I got rights,” and, in the interim, you’d get roughly 35 text messages from your husband asking where you keep your 8-year-old’s pants. Frankly, it’s just not worth it.
Don’t let a guy vilify your point of view and suggest he was just trying to be helpful. You both know what’s really going on here, and you aren’t going to put up with it anymore because, you know, Sally Yates.