I was in a conversation with a friend of mine about what mansplaining is. He was saying that as a man, if he tries to explain his side of anything, then it can easily be combated with the idea that he’s just “mansplaining”, and there for his argument is irrelevant.
I am here to say that is not so.
Of course there are those who will just battle any man who has something to say and just call it mansplaining. I can’t speak on behalf of those who don’t fully grasp the concept. However, what I can do is attempt to make it clear the difference between explaining and mansplaining.
A few weeks ago, someone that I know mostly through either his profession or my profession approached me at my cheese booth at the farmers market. He stopped by to say hi and chit-chatted. As he went to say his good-bye’s, he said, “It’s such a pleasure seeing you and your boobies.”
I looked at him and calmly said, “You don’t get to say that to me.”
“Oh,” he replied, taken aback, but smiling nonetheless. “I’m sorry. I miss seeing your eyes,” he corrected himself.
I wasn’t really pleased with the answer, but I saw that he was making the effort to remedy his mistake and so I was happy to let it go and move on.
Except he didn’t feel the issue was over.
He later that day came back to me on Facebook, wanting to talk about it. He began telling me at first about how such statements are healthy, and that I should embrace them in order to keep healthy relationships. I disagreed and said that I felt I was being judged and reduced to my shape. My shape should not be a reason to be visited. He tried to tell me that he had no interest in me. That is, of course, fine, but it still does not permit for such comments. I explained this, and he said that because he’s willing to see my point on this, that I need to find a willingness to see his point, which is that he was giving me a compliment.
The discussion soon ended when I stopped responding. Or so I thought.
The next day he decided to let me know that he had “figured it out”, that the reason why I didn’t feel it was an appropriate comment to make was because I don’t trust him. If only I know that he’s not trying to “bed” me then he would be able to make those comments without me being offended. I told him that no, that’s not the reason, it’s because no one gets to make those comments at me. If he respects me, he would simply hear what I said at the market that I’m not comfortable with those comments, and would leave it alone.
He told me he understood, and the matter was settled. For a little while.
There is more to this story, but I want to interject with some explanation of what I’m understanding of what is going on here.
- Acquaintance makes an inappropriate comment. I tell him where my comfort zone is (in the sense that I said he can’t talk to me like that), and he adjusted his comment.
- He messaged me on Facebook to tell me why it was alright that he made that comment, and that I shouldn’t be upset, ignoring my initial statement that I was uncomfortable with that kind of talk.
- He messaged me again telling me that he figured out why I wasn’t comfortable, and why I should be comfortable.
The first bullet point was a social mistake that was corrected. That is fine. That is explaining himself, or adjusting, and that is fine. had he gone on to say something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought that would be funny, or I didn’t realize that’s where your boundaries are,” that would have been fine. That is nothing to dwell on.
The second and third bullet point are mansplaining.
The reason why they are mansplaining is because they are times when this individual was not listening to what I was saying. He wasn’t hearing that I was trying to tell him what is inappropriate language to use with me as an individual, and where my comfort zone is. Meanwhile, I was being told that my boundaries weren’t where I said they were, and why they shouldn’t be there. He was going on to readjust my comfort level because to do so would remove him from fault.
What should have been done is simply realize the social faux pas, accepted the mistake, and move on. But instead, the fault was attempted to be put onto me and my perception of his words.
The story continues.
This weekend was my last weekend at the farmers market. nearly at the end of it, he appeared, wanting to explain himself yet again. He explained that he had learned he had a certain disorder, which makes him say certain things (I won’t list it out of respect for this other individual). Fair enough, I will give him that. However, I’m certain that it’s not that disorder which caused him to come back to me multiple times to try and change my mind on my discomfort.
I tried, as calmly as I could (because I was at work, trapped behind my booth, and representing the company that employed me), to explain to him why I was initially upset, why didn’t want to talk about it at all anymore, and what I viewed him as trying to convey to me every time he tried to talk to me about it.
He literally talked right over me, did not hear anything I said because he was too worried about being heard. And I conceded, I stopped talking because I didn’t want to start yelling at him top be heard myself, and cause more of a scene than he was already causing. He explained to me that I wasn’t hearing what he had initially been trying to tell me when he made the comment, that I just wasn’t understanding what his “joke” had been trying to portray to me.
(It should be noted here, that I put the word “joke” in quotation marks because when he initially began explaining to me on Facebook his position, he was saying I should take the compliment, and was adamant of his words. However, at the time of this recent discussion, it had transformed into a joke.)
I was also told that I was only meeting him with aggression (though the girl I was training said that I was extremely patient with this guy), and that I wasn’t hearing him as a result. So I gave him his platform. I asked him what it was that I had missed that he was trying to say between the lines of commenting on my chest.
I was then informed that what I was wearing the day of the comment on my chest wasn’t very flattering that day, and his comment was a means of portraying that to me.
I reminded him that it wasn’t for him to comment on, that I wasn’t dressing for him, or anyone else. He went on to tell me that it is important that I should know how I appear to the rest of the world.
I left it at that. I gave up on my words because I had no more for him. They were only going to be wasted.
If I am grungy, I can understand why that might be important in my role as a prepared food representative and salesperson. Smelly, professional, any of those things–yes, I do need to consider how I look. But I do not need to consider whether or not my clothing is flattering, especially in a work environment when my only concern is to appear professional and to the style standards of my place of employment. And what I was wearing that day was downright cute and I have had multiple compliments on it. Though, that really is neither here nor there.
By suggesting that the non-form-fitting, flowing dress that I was wearing was unflattering, it was stating that what would have been flattering is something form-fitting. True, there are other possible meanings other than that one (though none come to mind), but at the end of the day, the assumption is that what I wear is meant to be for other people’s pleasure, which is completely inaccurate.
In summary, what I was met with when I expressed my discomfort at a comment that was made to me weeks ago was someone attempting to tell me that I’m taking it too seriously, being told to where I should adjust my comfort level, being told I misunderstood, being told what to wear, as well as a insult to what I was wearing and how I choose to display myself to the world.
Yes, perhaps in some regards one might consider this as airing my dirty laundry to the internet. But what I really truly want to do is display the difference between mansplaining and explaining. I also want to point out what it is that women deal with on a regular basis, and let it be known that sexism is still around, that women are still fighting to be viewed as human beings and not as something that should fit into a box of pleasure for the external world.