I have a confession to make.
I am a mansplainer.
I know, I know – it’s pretty damning. After all, I do just so happen to be an editor at an unabashedly feminist outlet.
But it’s the truth. And the truth, as we know, sometimes hurts.
While I freely admit there are plenty of things I don’t know about (like how to change a tyre, how to properly make a soufflé, or even how to buy an internet plan for my flat), I’ve found that I most often mansplain when it’s a subject I’m passionate about.
For example, I once found myself writing several paragraphs about my experiences in rural north-eastern North Korea, and how the scars of the “Arduous March” (a famine in the 1990s that led to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people starving to death) were still evident 20 years later in a pitch to the Beijing bureau chief of a large US newspaper. The problem: she’d written arguably the most critically acclaimed book on the subject. Oops.
Unfortunately, that’s far from my only transgression. Another time, I was mansplaining North Korea with another Asia-based newspaper bureau chief on Twitter. I really should have been cognisant to the fact that she just so happened to be one of the world’s foremost North Korea experts – and had been to the country many more times than me.
I could go on, but I think you get the point: I have an issue. But the thing is, we also know that an awful lot of other people do, too – including many other people who don’t identify as male.
Many, many articles have been written by people far more talented than myself (including here at Villainesse) about how to shut down mansplainers and how it’s but a symptom of a patriarchal, heteronormative society that oppresses women and anyone not a cisgender white man, so I won’t go into that here. But what do we do if we’re mansplainers ourselves? How do we cut it out and understand – subconsciously or not – that we don’t know everything about something?
Perhaps the first step is realising we have a problem, kind of like how in a 12-step programme acknowledging a problem is the first step towards overcoming it. Once we recognise our problem, we can take conscious steps to avoid mansplaining – things like practising active listening by frequently asking the people we’re speaking to for feedback or their contribution, or, better yet, asking them what they already know about a subject before we talk about it. Then, if it’s evident the other person knows more than us, shouldn’t we defer to them? After all, even us mansplainers can understand that no one likes to be mansplained to.
It’s a simple solution, sure. But societal change starts from within each and every one of us.
The benefits of that need no mansplanation.