On “Mansplaining”

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague forwarded an email to me from a web developer who is building a web site for us. She noted with annoyance, “He is mansplaining through this whole thing. Like I need that.”

I read his message, which was an answer to a question about how photos are cropped for responsive sites. He included a graphic with various photo dimensions for different screen sizes. To me, it read like a tech person explaining to a non tech person how the site crops large photos.

How do you explain something without explaining it? Was he supposed to assume that customers who hired him to build a web site already knew the answer to a question they asked?

It’s 2018, and we think ourselves sophisticated and progressive. And yet, women are talking about men in dismissive and derogatory ways that remind me of anti-suffrage propaganda.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t demand respect and not give it. We can’t expect to be treated like princesses while we dole out criticism for nothing. No one is impressed with someone this tedious. No one thinks, “Wow, she is a strong, confident woman.”

If a man asked a female tech the same question, can you imagine the outrage if he made a snide remark about womansplaining?

Last year, my partner and I went to an agricultural fair. We saw a bald eagle flying overhead, and we stopped to watch it. An older man, around 70, looked at me and said, “What are you staring at? It’s an eagle, not a seagull.” He didn’t even look at my very male spouse, but we both kind of laughed and told him that we were watching it because it was a bald eagle. (Besides, we were at least two hours away from the coast.) After the older man walked away, we broke out laughing. Could we call that “mansplaining”? I guess, if I was looking for a way to be offended.

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