Reflective thinking can help avoid mansplaining

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier deputy news editor

A while ago, I was having a conversation with someone about the 2020 democratic presidential primary. It was prior to the candidacy announcement of who is most currently running for president, so we were postulating on potential candidates. At one point I tangentially and incorrectly mentioned I didn’t think Joe Biden was going to be running for president. 

He disagreed, arguing that some of Biden’s tweets made it look like he would enter the race. 

I told him I hadn’t been keeping up with his feed. 

He asked, “Oh, have you not heard of Twitter before?” 

I began to respond that I had, in fact, heard of it before. Rather than listening to my response, he began to give me an unnecessarily detailed explanation of Twitter. 

Despite my continued attempt to assure him I was familiar with Twitter, and actually even have 75 followers, he kept mansplaining social media to me. I didn’t know what to do. I eventually gave up on protesting, electing to just stand there and listen. 

If a list was created of the most significant and harmful problems women face, mansplaining probably wouldn’t even be in the top 500. But it’s still really annoying and condescending. 

The prevalence of mansplaining is demonstrative of the underlying patriarchal nature of our society, where women are seen as less intelligent and less worthy of respect. While the act of mansplaining is not as harmful as other sexist aggressions, it indicates how little one understands or cares about the social constructs actively portraying women as inferior. Aside from being blatantly rude, it’s indicative of a flawed worldview that perpetuates damaging and untrue stereotypes about women. 

Luckily, the solution to mansplaining is simple. If you think something that might belittle the person you are speaking to, simply don’t say it. 

If everyone gave more consideration to the meaning behind what they say, we could easily build a society with significantly more respect. 

While the solution is easy, it isn’t utilized as often as it should be. Generally, the only one cognizant of mansplaining in a verbal interaction is the one on the opposite side of an interaction. The burden of correcting inappropriate language should never lie on the receiving end of a conversation. But, without a deep understanding of the gender, racial and economic issues present in America today, knowing whether or not you’re speaking in a problematic way can become difficult. 

Kim Goodwin, author and design consultant, created a flowchart that went viral on Jul. 22, 2018, titled “Am I mansplaining?” that can help simplify the thought process. 

The flowchart elaborates a reflective thought process people can use to avoid mansplaining or speaking diminutively to anyone. In a piece posted on BBC on Jul. 29, 2018, she narrowed the process into three main questions: “Do they want an explanation?’’ ‘’Are you making bad assumptions about their competence?” and “how does bias affect your interpretation of the above?” 

By considering these questions, you can avoid mansplaining and speak to others in a respectful manner. 

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