How to combat mansplaining
November 14, 2016 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Looking for just this - a short script or set of communication skills to combat mansplaining.

In the past, when I feel I'm being mansplained to, I'll usually just a) not engage, and think of all the great women in history who have been treated like they're stupid despite their great expertise, or, b) engage, which is at least face-saving, but has the potential to lead to time wasting debate. Often when b) occurs, I still genuinely halfway end up feeling like I did something wrong... even if my idea was right and I had the right to defend it - because at the bottom of my mind I feel like everyone is going "oooh, so defensive," while the man is expected to have the expertise. Teach me your tricks for asserting your views like a boss, Metafilter! I know you all have them. The more script-like, the better. Bonus - how to address others' statements of outright racism or sexism when you don't have three hours to spare for a debate.
posted by benadryl to Human Relations (38 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I usually just quietly & firmly say "I know" when the mansplaining starts. Or "I'll save you the time there bob I already know that".

For the statements of outright sexism/racism I'm currently going with "Please stop right there." When I can see where a statement/joke/comment is going. Or just "no" No is a complete sentence, just keep repeating it. Oh I avoid debate by not debating. I'll even say words to that effect. "I'm not trying to debate I just don't want to hear it." Though I just wondered what would happen if I just started saying "Wrong" over & over again like their patron saint did at the debate.

Sorry they're not pithy comebacks that will right all the wrongs, but I find if you are polite but firm. It seems to work best. I might be seething inside, but the second you lose your temper they'll not shut up because they see a weakness or think it's an argument to win.

Good luck.
posted by wwax at 8:41 PM on November 14, 2016 [21 favorites]

Oh, lord, mansplaining! Perpetrators must die.

I say, in my most scornful tone, either:

"Why are you telling me what I already know?"
"Christ almighty, I knew that years ago. Stop talking."
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:56 PM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, lord, mansplaining! Perpetrators must die.

I say, in my most scornful tone, either:

"Why are you telling me what I already know?"

Haha all right, but what if it's a slightly more formal setting? Let's say you were giving a speech and you were on camera? In that case, both this and "I'll save you the time there bob I already know that" come close to the mark, but could be construed as adversarial, no? Or maybe it's all in delivery...
posted by benadryl at 8:59 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this would work in a public speaking situation, but for plenty of others, smile through maybe 30 seconds of their spiel, and then just talk over them. In a slow, low-pitched (but decently loud), confident tone. Don't defend yourself or even entertain the criticism. Don't get mad (or show it if you are). Just keep talking, as if they weren't saying anything at all, until you're finished.

If you're having to claim ownership of an idea, do it (e.g. "and when I said xxx back in September").

(If you have the energy for that and really have to. Otherwise, your a) option is good most of the time, as far as I'm concerned, because there's no winning over a mansplainer, ime, it's usually a waste of energy. Also, above technique might get them to shut up in that moment, but it won't change their mind, and they'll be frustrated in a way that might come out later.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:20 PM on November 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I find calling it out directly helps. Something like a direct, confused "why on earth would you think I don't know that?" Then wait for a response.

Another possibility is to arch an eyebrow, stop responding in any way until they finish, and then go "now that you're done reviewing Topic 101, how about we move on to Advanced Topic?"

Both of these make it clear that the mansplainer is really just talking to themselves. In the second case, making it somewhat clear you are uninterested can be fun- inspect your nails, look through your papers, sigh a bit. It is stress relieving but possibly not a good way to get the person on your side.

Note that these work best when you really do know your shit; I haven't yet found a good way to deal with male condescension when I am a beginner. Perhaps straight up saying "are you this condescending with everyone new to Topic X? Because it's pretty hostile."

And yeah, all of these options are adversarial, but when your very competence is being subtly questioned, I think adversarial is appropriate.
posted by nat at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I find an affirmation usually short-circuits the 'you're being defensive' crap. I just say, with a smile, "Yes, that's exactly what I was talking about. As I was saying . . ."

It seems to work on all but the most intractable mansplainers. In those cases, I let them ramble on for a bit before doing a slow blink and continuing. I'm feeling snarky, I smile and say, "Thanks for explaining that to our studio audience. My point is . . ."

Do not let the snark slide into your expression or tone, or they will write you off as a 'sensitive type' or some other BS. If you turn it into a light joke, you're less likely to get their hackles up and bruise their tender man-egos.
posted by ananci at 9:38 PM on November 14, 2016 [30 favorites]

"Thanks for explaining that for members of our audience who might not be aware. Now, to build on a more advanced thought ..."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:48 PM on November 14, 2016 [38 favorites]

"I already know that. [insert thing about how/why you already know that.]"

For example:

"I already know that. I'm an astronaut myself, actually."

"I already know that. I just finished reading a book about the history of the Supreme Court."

"I already know that. I've lived in this neighborhood for five years."

"I already know that. Mick Jagger is a close family friend."

"I already know that. I wrote a report on Qatar for my sixth grade social studies class."
posted by Sara C. at 10:23 PM on November 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

I find an affirmation usually short-circuits the 'you're being defensive' crap. I just say, with a smile, "Yes, that's exactly what I was talking about. As I was saying . . ."

So representing the often clueless guy in the audience at the meeting, this is probably the one that would most consistently get me or keep me on your side. Even if I don't explicitly realize it was mansplaining, Bob is wasting my time too and you're doing me a favor too by trying to shut him up in a non-confrontational way.

Not saying there is never a reason to take the other approaches.
posted by mark k at 11:00 PM on November 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm usually able to avoid these types, fortunately, but this has been a banner week in terms of annoying conversations, so I have some fresh experience.

Most relevant, I've had cow-tipping and the electoral college incorrectly "mansplained" to me and handled both situations with the same words. First, I disagreed with the info and in both cases, was told that, in fact, I was mistaken. I simply said, "Oh, reeeaaallllly?" and just looked (not a glare, but close) at them while they briefly continued with their monologue and finally STFU. There were a couple/few others in the conversation circle and I sensed they thought I should lighten up, so if you're going for a diplomatic approach, this probably isn't the best option.

I think age helps in these situations, i.e., I'm old enough to be these guys' mother (OK, maybe even grandmother), and my reaction was in keeping with how I would probably respond if one of my adult kids said something this stupid in public and I was trying to shut down the discussion with minimal conversation/fuss.
posted by she's not there at 11:22 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The formal/speech/camera condition does make delivery/tone very important, but the audience should also know that you cannot respond as you might in less formal settings. Everything I ran through my head had some element of adversarial-ness? -ality? crankiness to it (but that might just be me). As the guy in the room not doing any talking, just listening/wanting to get on with it, mark k's line seems to acknowledge it and move on just fine. If it's a repeat offender, this would soon get cut to "Yes, exactly", then a nod and a 'Yep'.
After that the cranky lines can come out.
posted by quinndexter at 11:25 PM on November 14, 2016

Perhaps more helpful than my above comment, I used to work with a woman who could stop old-school businessmen about 2 sentences into what would have become a long-winded monologue about the obvious with the words "duly noted" and a quick return to the subject at hand.

Frankly, it didn't always make sense. But she said it with authority and moved on so quickly that no one had time to object.
posted by she's not there at 11:43 PM on November 14, 2016 [20 favorites]

This is kinda shitty, but in formal situations, I throw my high-value cards right on the table:

"I totally agree-- actually your comment reminds me a lot of the research I was funded to do as part of my postdoctoral fellowship"
"I was actually just having a similar conversation with (famous person I interviewed) last week"
"Yes, I do know about that volume. In fact, my work is included in it."
"Thanks for bringing that to my attention."

The big thing IMO is that these babies just want to be heard, it's actually not about you at all. So I think acknowledging their wittle feelings and then pivoting to your legitimate expertise is the most satisfying course of action in my experience.

In terms of quickly and effectively shutting down racist/sexist derails, I have found basic strength-in-numbers tactics (like the amplification theory that made the rounds) legitimately effective. "I'd like to circle back to Emily's point, because it's really important and I don't want her contributions to be overlooked." I try to be that person and when people do this work on my behalf I am so, so grateful.
posted by athirstforsalt at 1:30 AM on November 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

I had a mentor who would put her hand up (not the "asking" hand, the talk-to-the-hand hand) and say "Bob. I've got this, thanks."
posted by warriorqueen at 4:21 AM on November 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

'Obviously, James'. The word 'obviously' irks some people and said enough, it will make people stop and think before they say something again. If you add a slight snicker beforehand (like Tina Fey does here about 0:02 secs into the open credits of 30 Rock) then it will add to the burn. Eventually they'll stop.

'That was implied'.

'Another explanation from James!'

'I hope you're not going to waste my time with information I already know' (best used on someone you really dislike rather than an innocent). Add 'again' in there for an extra punch.

One I use on my father - 'You're not teaching me anything new here'. Fucking stings. It may not work professionally, though.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 4:43 AM on November 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Along the same lines as the "duly noted" semi-nonsequitur above, wait for him to pause (even if he's not really done), say a confident "Thank you. As I was saying..." and don't stop talking. If he tries to interrupt you, keep talking. Repeat as necessary.

If your response doesn't make sense in context, it actually draws attention to the inappropriateness of the mansplaining.
posted by mchorn at 6:23 AM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

mark k's line

Thanks, but it was ananci's line.
posted by mark k at 6:38 AM on November 15, 2016 [14 favorites]

Professionally, I always say that questions work better than statements. And questions that point out the root of the problem (sexism) are best:

"Why did you assume I didn't know that?" with a stern stare.

They'll make some excuse, naturally. You can reply with something like "next time please don't assume, it will save us both time if I don't have to learn something I knew already."
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:41 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I like a thousand yard stare, followed by a short sharp intake of breath and a mock-cheery "Okay!" or "Yup!" when it comes to folks telling me something I already know.

If it's something inappropriate or discriminatory, but it's neither the time or setting to really get into it, a lot of times I'll respond with something like, "Really? [bad thing they said]?" in a tone of surprise and disappointment and end the conversation as gracefully as possible.

Hope this helps!
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:51 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I often go with the pointed stare and, "Oh, no, I'll just wait til you're finished." Imagine that as if Julia Sugarbaker said it. I find Julia Sugarbaker is basically my go-to for all of this.

In terms of just conversations that WILL NOT BE HAD right now, I just go with, "No," "Absolutely not," "We are not discussing that today," or I just walk away.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:00 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

In public speaking Q&A, I often dream of saying, "I'm sorry, did you have a question?"
posted by advicepig at 7:07 AM on November 15, 2016 [8 favorites]

My favorite is to femalesplain, i.e. say, "Have you ever heard of mansplaining? It means that a man tells a woman all the things he thinks she should know. It is considered very sexist because the implicit assumption is that the woman is stupid and uninformed and the man must explain things to her. Also, did you know I already knew the information you are mansplaining to me?"
posted by bearwife at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

advicepig, that's exactly what I teach my debaters.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Please consider, if the situation is appropriate, pausing the conversation to define the term mansplaining to your mansplainer.

As I man, I never would have thought of myself as the type of guy mansplained. When I learned the word and what it meant, I immediately started checking myself, because I don't want to be (and/or be perceived to be) an arrogant person. I still have a ways to go, but my listening skills have improved in general as a result of a significant reduction in mansplaining. I think the last mansplaining I have left is when I genuinely believe my conversation partner needs or wants background information they don't have.

Not all men will be receptive, but many will be. You have a real opportunity to change behaviors if you can clearly identify the problem.
posted by quarterframer at 8:59 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and re responding to racism and sexism, I recommend the following: "I do not understand how you arrived at [racist/sexist statement.] What is the connection between [race/sex] and your statement?"

For example, if responding to that outrageous post about Michele Obama in W. Virginia, assuming it was said to you in person: "I do not understand how you arrived at your conclusion that Michele Obama is an ape. What is the connection between the fact that she is an African American and your conclusion? Please explain how her race connects to being anything like an animal."

If you want to be more direct, you can say, "I am having a hard time construing that statement as anything but [racist/sexist.] You seem to be [e.g., equating being African American to being an animal.] Am I hearing you correctly?"
posted by bearwife at 9:02 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I also wanted to second a point someone else bought up further up in the comments. It's important in times like these that we support other women, if you see someone being mansplained over that "Let's circle back to Emily I'd like to hear her points." type comments athirstforsalt bought up can be very effective.

I believe it was something the women working in Obamas administration started doing & it was very effective for them in making sure that everyone was heard in a business context.

I think that could be a very effective tool in our belts in the upcoming days. Thank you for reminding me of it. While I only have a couple of co workers I'm close enough to that I could currently bring this idea up with but maybe if we start doing it for all the people being mansplained to discriminated against in our company/meetings etc it will spread.
posted by wwax at 9:25 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can't imagine why you felt the need to review that, now I'll continue...
posted by theora55 at 9:29 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just a note: A friend of mine is a champion mansplainer. He's out of the country so we mostly text. Once I interrupted his mansplaining to ask him to stop mansplaining and he followed with a barrage of text mansplaining mansplaining to me because I had gotten it wrong and that's not what he was doing. I mention this because telling someone of any gender that they are mansplaining is not necessarily an effective way of getting them to shut up.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:44 AM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

In my experience, you can't best a mansplainer by trying to dominate him. He's already trying to dominate you, and if you dominate him back (e.g., lay out your superior credentials, shame him by telling him he's mansplaining, etc.), you're just escalating and he'll redouble his efforts.

Instead try a cheery "Thank you! I am so glad we agree! As I was saying..."

You aren't disagreeing, you aren't shaming him, you aren't escalating the domination. It takes the wind out of his sails because he can't add anything else.
posted by woot at 10:03 AM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

"Yes, that's right" is a good way to co-opt his interjection.
posted by at at 12:42 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Interrupt. A hand gesture and your choice of:
That's a given.
We're past the basics.
I know.
I covered that.
That's been covered.
If you have a question, we can take that offline.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:47 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I bookmarked this article awhile ago for its suggestions when facing this issue. It recommends arming yourself, as needed, with:

"Stop interrupting me."
"I just said that."
"No explanation needed."

The rest of the article otherwise covers a lot of what you probably already know, although reading it might be affirming if you're dealing with a lot of this in your life right now.
posted by juliplease at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2016

This is the nuclear option.

Oh, how cute, he thinks he's the first person to ever learn about xxxxxx. Look how proud he is. No, please, continue. I can't wait to be re educated on something the rest of us learnt in sixth grade. It's clearly new information for him though.

People like this drive me bananas. Show him what it feels like to be condescended to. I'm sure he will think you're a bitch but he won't ever do it again.
posted by Jubey at 4:03 PM on November 15, 2016

Others have handled the defusing bit, but I wanted to offer this, which I came up with at work as a "lost editor's mark" to indicate mansplaining in writing.

I give you... the androthorpe.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Can someone turn the androthorpe into an easy-to-insert emoticon? This could transform website "comment" sections as we know them into something entirely different and, if not educational, perhaps more entertaining.
posted by she's not there at 4:21 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Him: You're being so defensive
You: The things you're saying are OFF-ensive.... Moving on.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:10 PM on November 15, 2016

"Oh, yes, I know"
"Yes, that's right"
"Yes, of course"
posted by heyjude at 10:41 PM on November 15, 2016

Bonus - how to address others' statements of outright racism or sexism when you don't have three hours to spare for a debate.

"I disagree"
"I'm not sure I agree with that"
"I'm not quite sure I understand what you're saying"
"Sorry, what were you saying/can you repeat that?"
"Now, how does that work?"
posted by heyjude at 10:54 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

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