Have you ever been mansplained?
You’re a smart, competent and accomplished woman, and yet a man of equal, or most often, lesser competence decides to explain what you need to know or how you need to do things.
This has happened to me many times in my kayaking career. Such as…
I’m working with a student on the river when a man I’ve never met paddles over and offers unsolicited advice.
A man I don’t know offers unsolicited advice while I’m scouting a rapid.
After I smoothly run a Class V rapid I get the response: “Yeah, that line was pretty good. You could have…” from a man who didn’t even run the rapid that day!
In preparation for an instructor recertification I get the response ‘You should know what you’re getting into. I’ve been paddling for 25 years,’ after I press him about answering my standard questionnaire assessing ability and teaching methodology
Just last week I was mansplained on Facebook about my Soc Em Dog line (from last week’s blog). A man with much less experience than me commented that I should have paddled a creek boat instead of a slicy boat. I WAS in a creek boat, and it was very obvious from the video that I was in a creek boat!
Don’t think that this post is about man-bashing. It’s not. It is, however, important to share these experiences so that we know we’re not alone.
And most importantly, focus on how we can respond powerfully, and help change this dynamic and others like it.
Here are my suggestions for what we can do:
Stop Being Nice
When talking with women about how to respond to the mansplain and unsolicited advice, so many of us want to be nice. That’s how we’ve been taught and socialized.
Thanking men who act in this way is sending them the message that it’s OK for them to do so when it’s really not OK.
Unsolicited advice and mansplaining is a form of domination.
This type of behavior is used to erode a woman’s confidence and helps to keep the dominant power structure in place, especially when it’s done in public.
We all have a right to feel empowered, thrive and have our competency be acknowledged.
Sure, some men may not be aware of the impacts of their actions. That doesn’t diminish the impact of their actions and that’s why it’s important to call it out.
Here are some suggestions on how to respond powerfully:
“I hear you want to help. I’ll be sure to ask you if I want insights or feedback from you.”
“That’s an interesting way to see it. Here’s my perspective…”
“I’m confident in my work and my results speak for themselves…”
“Awesome that you’ve been paddling for 25 years, I’ve been paddling for 27 so we’re close!”
It’s also OK to be more direct and set strong boundaries. I did it on my FB post by pointedly calling the guy out for mansplaining. You get to decide.
Support Other Women
I’ve been called the ‘feminazi’ of the kayaking world, I’ve been confronted by a sexist team manager for expressing my discomfort with his actions, and I’ve been called ‘too soft’ for pushing back against sexism and misogyny in the sport. Yes, some of the pushback has come from men, but A LOT of it has come from women.
It feels very lonely to be speaking up about sexism and injustices (like equal pay from sponsors) that would benefit women in the sport, and have no one stand with you.
What’s worse is people who tell me privately how much they agree with me, but who aren’t willing to put themselves on the line publicly.
If you really want things to change then the uncomfortable truth is that you need to have the courage to use your voice, both to support people who are speaking up, and also when you see behavior that needs to be called out.
BUT you know what… I’ve been guilty of jealousy and not supporting other women too. Even though I know how crappy it feels to not be supported. WTH is that?!
I’m working on recognizing my own scarcity mentality and putting energy into calling myself out.
Which brings me to my last suggestion for creating change…
Recognize the Waters You Swim In
Self awareness is the most powerful tool you can cultivate in life. It gives you the ability to create positive change in all areas of your life. You can’t change what you can’t see or what you don’t know.
Have you ever asked yourself why you feel the need to be nice, to apologize, and to not rock the boat?
My friend Casey introduced me to this story: Two young fish are swimming along. An older, wiser fish passes them and asks: ‘Hey you two, how’s the water?’ The two young fish look at each other with puzzled expressions. One of them asks, ‘What’s water?’
As a white, cis-gender woman I know how crappy it feels to be on the receiving end of mansplaining. I know the frustration of not being taken seriously because I’m a woman, to be overlooked because I look a certain way, to be told that I need to be more like a dude, to be told to smile, to not be so sensitive etc…
If it’s tough for me then what is it like for black woman, people of color and LGBTQIA folk? How can I use my experiences as jumping points to cultivate empathy and better understanding of how the dominant culture I’m swimming in affects, not only myself, but others.
How have my biases, actions and silence reinforced the dominant culture, systems and behavior patterns?
Most importantly, how can I contribute to cleaning up the water we all swim in?
Never thought about it? Now’s the time!
I highly recommend the podcast Scene on Radio. Specifically season 2: Seeing White and season 3: MEN. They have been very eye opening for me in recognizing the water we all swim in.
From the self-awareness perspective I highly recommend the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a small book with a big impact on awareness and how to become more powerful.
If you want to connect with other like-minded women around topics similar to this and how to become more powerful, I invite you to join my private Facebook group: Courage Confidence and Wellness with Anna.
You’ll be asked to answer 2 membership questions – don’t skip that part or you won’t be approved – FYI. 🙂