This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about “mansplaining” — that dynamic where men sometimes explain things to women in condescending, clueless, or less-than-respectful ways.
Perhaps a man persists in explaining something that a woman already knows. Perhaps he talks over her attempts to express her own point of view. Or perhaps he holds forth in some way that generally does not honor his listener as an equal.
Mansplaining has become a popular term and a hot topic over the past few years, and because it’s such an common source of stress and strife in our world, we also see it as an important and under-recognized health issue.
So in this episode, we talk about the origins of the word “mansplaining.” We share our personal experiences with it and discuss how increasing our awareness of it can help men and women communicate in more constructive, mutually satisfying ways.
Finally, we serve up some experiments to help you notice how mansplaining might be showing up in your life — and what you can do about it.
“Mansplaining” Episode Highlights
- Dallas’s eye-opening (and sometimes disturbing) journey through Rebecca Solnit’s book, Men Explain Things to Me (4:00)
- Defining the term “mansplaining” — via examples and Solnit’s own words (9:00)
- How the mansplaining dynamic creates a chronic, internalized stress that may manifest as physical illness (11:10)
- Pilar’s experiences with mansplaining at work (12:55) and in a dating relationship (15:25)
- The ways that women’s pent-up frustrations may suddenly surface, and why those eruptions tend to have less-than-healthy outcomes (18:15)
- How mansplaining was modeled and adopted in Dallas’s family (20:10)
- The problem (for both genders) of disregarding women’s viewpoints (21:25)
- A recent mansplaining incident in Pilar’s current relationship (23:30)
- Practical solutions for men and women, beginning with awareness (26:10)
- Pilar’s perspective shift transitioning from a women’s college to a male-dominated workplace (26:55)
- Dallas’s key takeaways and the consequences of ignoring half of the human race (28:35)
- The intersection of three themes from episodes of The Living Experiment — shame, scarcity mentality, and mansplaining (31:00)
- The value of asking “interested” vs. merely “interesting” questions, and how this can help produce richer, more rewarding conversations (32:45)
- The physical reactions women may experience in response to mansplaining scenarios (35:45)
- An analysis of two responses to mansplaining (toleration or intervention) (36:30)
- Avoiding lose-lose scenarios (38:05)
- Finding context for the frustration (39:10)
- Dallas’s call for men to take responsibility and change the dynamic (41:15)
- How mansplaining depletes pleasure (42:15)
- Suggested experiments for the week (43:55)
This Week’s Experiments
1) For men: Pay attention to how you speak to women, notice when you’re mansplaining, and own up to it in the moment it happens.
- The woman may already be frustrated, and you may have already damaged your conversation and relationship. Call yourself out and take responsibility.
- Behavior change is important, but even more powerful is stopping and acknowledging the behavior in the moment because it defuses harm and allows the tone of the conversation to reset.
2) For women on the receiving end of mansplaining, intervene with the man in a constructive way.
- Share how you are feeling, raise the issue, and indicate that you want to advance the conversation together in a mutually respectful way.
- If you notice anger rising, ask whether it’s commensurate with the situation or a disproportionate response driven by your personal history.
- Recognize that blasting the man doesn’t help solve the problem of the millennia behind you. He may have no idea that what he’s doing is being received by you as disrespectful; he may have been trying to impress you with his knowledge or share something he thought you’d find helpful and interesting.
1) Read Rebecca Solnit’s thought-provoking essay, “Men Explain Things to Me”, to get a sense of why this issue matters so much, and carries so much social, emotional and political charge.
2) Start noticing mansplaining on television, the radio, or wherever you overhear conversations.
- Witnessing it occurring around you allows you to observe it more objectively and consider how you might handle it if you were to find yourself in a comparable situation.
- Seeing examples through the lens of history (watching period pieces, on Mad Men, etc.) can help make you more aware of when it’s happening in your own midst.
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- Rebecca Solnit’s seminal essay, “Men Explain Things to Me”.
- Solnit’s book of collected essays on this and related topics.
- A Wall Street Journal article (by a female CEO) confirming the mansplaining phenomenon, and suggesting that women’s best bet for being heard in meetings may be (sigh) circulating their ideas on paper ahead of time. 🙁
- From The Washington Post: How women in the Obama White House started amplifying each other’s voices.
- A piece from Time with advice on “How Not to Be Manterrupted in Meetings” (also mentions “Manstanding,” and the problem of women having their ideas “bro-priated.”
- The New York Times op-ed by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on the hazards of “Speaking While Female”, (references copious research on barriers women face in being heard).
- The four essentials of nonviolent communication from Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model.
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- Listen to Pilar’s “Your Ideal Day” guided visualization.