From driving a car to filing an RTI, women are still sized up into stereotypical gender bias.
One of the men in a party tried to tell Rebecca Solnit, an activist, journalist and writer, about a photography book that she should see, without giving her the chance to tell him that she was the author of the same book.
“Most women fight wars on two fronts. One for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being,” Solnit said.
Mansplaining might be a new term, but the concept is as old as time and is based on the presumption that women are uninformed or less knowledgeable on everything.
Sallie Krawcheck, a former CEO of wealth management at CitiBank, told Inc.com, a business magazine that she was mansplained financial advising by some venture capitalist. Supriya Prasad, a documentary filmmaker, narrated another instance where a husband sitting at the back of the car kept on directing her wife, who was driving despite her saying that she knew the directions.
Mansplaining is not exclusive to certain professions, It is a gender bias in every walk of life. Not all men do it, nor have all women faced it, but the phenomenon has passed the test of time and society.
Women from different professions have been given unsolicited advice from men under the garb of ‘explaining’ things.
“It felt like he was talking me down just because I was a woman.”
Poornima Makaram, a photojournalist, started her career when the field had hardly a few practising women. From not being given good assignments to making her name in the journalism industry, she didn’t have it easy.
She remembers an early winter morning when her camera batteries weren’t working. While she tried to fix it, a man walked up to her, took the batteries and rubbed them on the woollen sweater he was wearing. “It worked when I put them back. Then he said, ‘No amount of college will give you the experience needed. I don’t know whether he would have said this to a man or not, but it felt as if he was talking me down just because I was a woman.”
She recalls another such instance where she was called for an interview, and the editor had not even seen her CV. He wanted her on his team to diversify his workforce. “He did not listen to me and seemed quite disinterested. It did not feel good.” She has observed in her workshops that most of the boys want to do better than the girls around them, whereas girls do not focus on these things; instead, they get their work done. “In one of the workshops, this boy did not ask questions despite her teacher telling her to and switched off his camera. He was completely disinterested.”
“I have to put twice the effort in my work as I am a woman.”
Ankita Kumar, a coder, has faced and heard stories of casual sexism and mansplaining in the workplace.
With coffee in one hand and with just one click, she solved a mistake in the code her male colleague was stuck with, only to be looked at with surprise. “I remember that look in his eyes. He was confused and surprised about how I did it because I am a woman. I could see his male ego crashing right in front of me, and you know what, I was happy to see that. Many men feel that women are not logical enough to write good codes or have a lot of other distractions, which makes them unsuitable for this role, which triggers me. I have to put twice the effort in my work as I am a woman.” She added that she doesn’t want to leave any scope for some other woman to be stereotyped in this manner.
“Tumse hi ho payega…ladko ka kaam hai yeh” ( You cannot do it…it’s a man’s job)
In the third year of her college, Ananya Singh is the only woman Civil Engineering student in her class.
“In the first year of college, I was helping my senior in his project, and I was telling him about the quantity of all elements we need to prepare a mixture. He then told me that bookish knowledge is very different from practical knowledge. His words came from a place of authority, and it felt as if he assumed that I do not know anything because I am a girl.”
She also added that she is not allowed to go for site work to avoid any kind of mishap. Once, her male professor also told her that software work is the best option for girls. Her work usually comprises calculations and writing reports rather than going on the field.
“Society has made women think they can be mansplained.”
Supriya Prasad, a documentary director, has been mansplained many times. She believes that society has conditioned men to think that they are in authority to mansplain and women to take it.
“I was shooting in Meghalaya alone, and I needed assistance, so I contacted this photographer. He had a DSLR but had not done direction before. Despite that, he was governing me throughout the shoot, and whenever I tried to tell him that we should do it this way, he ignored it. I have been trained as a director, and I called him for helping me, but he ended up dominating me. That day I decided to do all my work on my own.”
The footprints take us back to 2008 when Rebecca Solnit wrote an essay, ‘Men Explain Things To Me’ and narrated her personal experience of getting patronized by a male friend. However, it is believed that she never used the term in her essay. The site Know Your Meme traces back the first use of the word in the comment section of an article in the same year