By Chris Howard-Williams
So, I have a confession – I’m a little intimidated to be working in the Women’s Center. Being a man, I am keenly aware that many of the difficult issues women face today are a result of mistreatment by the male gender. To this end, my goal this summer is to further my knowledge of feminism and women’s rights so that I may be counted as an ally. I want to know what I can do as a male feminist to support the many wonderful women in my life as best I can. My first commitment? No mansplaining!
The term “mansplaining” is thought to have its creation due to an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Don’t Get in Their Way”, written by Rebecca Solnit in April 2008. In the essay, Solnit recounts a story where, while at a party, she began to discuss a book she had just written. She had hardly begun when she was interrupted by a man who began sharing about a book he had heard about on the same subject. As it turns out, he was talking about Solnit’s own book, but it took her friend interrupting him about four times, saying, “That’s her book,” before it sank in and he stopped talking. This is the essence of mansplaining.
An online article titled “6 Subtle Forms of Mansplaining that Women Face Every Day” further explains that mansplaining is not simply when a man is legitimately explaining something to someone. Rather, it’s those times when a man purposely interrupts a woman to explain things she already knows because he assumes he knows it better than she does. This can be as obvious as Steven Santagati insisting during an interview on CNN that he knows how the female host and guest of the program would respond while being catcalled, or it can be as subtle as the man who insists that you try something you know you don’t like, such as food or drink, because he “knows you’ll like it.” The point is, the man knows best and you need to listen – mansplaining.
So, my first goal working in the Women’s Center is to keep it a Mansplaining Free Zone! Instead, I want to listen. I want to hear the stories the people in the center have to share. I want to learn what I can do to further my stance on feminism and the fight for equity. I want to share what expertise I have while acknowledging and respecting others’ expertise. In short, I guess I want the opposite of mansplaining, which means I’ll make an effort to keep my lips sealed and my ears open. No mansplaining here!