A few months ago, the other web developer in my company suddenly was released from his job as a reward for being a colossal prolapsed rectum. This meant that I became, by default, the ‘lead’ and only web developer.
Today I sat in a meeting featuring one other woman and a substantial troop of men. My new web dev project was mentioned, and immediately the testosterone-havers in the room began confidently and eloquently making decisive statements about the project. My project. Let me re-emphasise: none of these people are professional web developers who will have anything to do with how the product is programmed. Almost all of them were not my superiors. And yet they expostulated and agreed and nodded gravely as if it were a discussion in the Jedi council. When I eventually ventured a sentence myself, the reply was that I shouldn’t sweat the details. It was an absolute masterpiece of mansplaining.
Mansplaining is, particularly in the world of tech, in no sense a rare beast. You will encounter it on a daily basis, and for this reason it becomes mundane; one will probably tend to miss it when it happens, much like one may overlook the beauty of the common sparrow. And yet, like the common sparrow, we must observe it in order to understand it. And sooner or later we must tell our friends about it before we explode with rage in the workplace and end up swearing our tits off next to the printer.
Without further ado, let us take a look at some examples of mansplaining in its natural habitat.
1. That time my colleague tried (incorrectly) to explain to me how percentages work
Yeah. That happened. No, he didn’t understand how percentages work.
2. That time a bloke tried to explain to me that the gender pay gap makes sense because women are rubbish negotiators
But, he went on to explain, that in itself is fine because it is just a symptom of the fact that women are also gentle, reasonable beings who actively make an effort not to be arseholes. So…thanks I guess?
Also: do men, like, not feel the need to make an effort not to be arseholes? Is this what we are to believe? How is that an approriate status quo?
3. Those times men have told me that I need chocolate
Well maybe I did up until that need was replaced with a ferocious urge to punch somebody.
But FYI: when women are not in a good mood or are cranky they do not need chocolate or to be told that they need it. What they need is for you to ask them if they’re ok and if there’s anything you can do to help, and then they need for you to go the f*** away (unless otherwise stated).
4. That time with the plugs
I was trying to plug in a plug, so my man-colleague took it from me and plugged it in for me. To be clear: this plug socket was not at the centre of a hazardous pool of toxic juices. It was a normal plug socket. Heaven knows what kind of weak-ass women this guy imagines cannot deal without a chivalrous plug guy as well as all the usual door-openers and let-me-help-you-with-the-photocopier dudes.
NB: this is a rare example of wordless mansplaining, where the action in itself shows that they know something astoundingly obvious better than you.
5. “Don’t worry gals, no pecs for you!”
The gym man in my weight training class always begins the chest press section with the following pep talk:
“Alright guys time to work it! A strong chest for the men – and a cute cleavage for the ladieeeeees!”
Alright, this isn’t direct mansplaining but it’s pretty egregious. I should note that this slogan is always shouted in German, but the word ‘LADIES’ is always kept in English, for maximum blork factor.
I’ve tried to think of more things to say about this one but I actually feel it does the talking quite well for itself.
6. I shall take this soldering torch and shove it…
Once I was telling my colleagues about my hobby as a silversmith, which I have been doing over 10 years, and they were asking me how I make my pieces. I explained that I solder bits of silver together and file it, texture it et cetera as I go. Then one bloke declared: “Silver isn’t soldered, IT IS WELDED.”
To be fair I would love to see the mangled 2-kilo lump of welded silver that he gives to his wife on their wedding anniversary.
7. Having the basic themes of German literature’s most famous, classic texts explained to me (by a guy who has read them once)
I am a first-class graduate of German language and literature. But hey, thanks for those fun facts about Goethe.
8. The dishwasher isn’t working
“It’s working, you must have just forgotten to turn it on. Here, you just press the ‘on’ button. You press the – press the ‘on’ button… Press… Hmm, the dishwasher seems not to be working.”
9. That time some dude wanted to walk me home
And then, when I politely refused because I didn’t want this creep to know where I live, stated that all women want to be walked home at night because we love it and also taxi drivers are rapists.
10. “The thing about mansplaining is, it shows women that people aren’t listening to them and that makes them less likely in general to speak up.”
IS THAT SO?
I think that’s enough examples for today. Tune in another time for other sample chapters of the Field Guide to Mansplaining.
Author’s note: I have tried to be fair in this chapter. It is true that I am the kind of person who will happily pour salad dressing in their soup or mistake Dick Cheney for John Lithgow. I am not a switched-on person, and people know this; often they are simply patiently trying to help me not screw things up. I give them the benefit of the doubt when this happens even if it feels a bit mansplainy. But boy, the other times are frequent. And numerous. And frankly intolerable.
This is not my last word.