A woman I know posted a picture of her daughter looking obviously pissed off and standing in front of the “Boys Toys” (bad punctuation and all) aisle at Target. The woman’s daughter was upset because she likes superheroes, and yet, they are categorized under “Boys Toys.” This is the same tired sexism we’ve seen for decades. The image was amazing (the mom is awesome), and it created quite the debate on Target’s Facebook page.
When I read through the comments, I was saddened, but not surprised, to see mostly men commenting that this issue was “stupid”, “first world problem”, and “whiney.” They all refused to acknowledge the enormous issue of sexism. As if this wasn’t bad enough, mansplaining erupted like little volcanoes.
Here is a great, succinct definition of Mansplaining from Academic Men Explain Things To Me:
In brief, mansplaining doesn’t mean explaining while male; it means explaining while assuming you know more because you’re male. That is why it is different from ordinary condescension, or over-explanation by men to other men, or by women to other women, or by women to men.
If you’re spending time mansplaining, you’re stating your discomfort with women’s lived experiences. Even more so, you’re demonstrating an inability to listen to women with compassion and empathy. You’re showing an inability to listen to women, period.
The men posting on the Target thread began mansplaining about sexism, and how this was not sexism. Right, tell a woman what’s sexist and what’s not—that makes a lot of sense.
I saw only a handful of men who voiced their concern and agreement with Target’s sexist toy aisles. It was incredibly sad, but again, not surprising.
Mansplaining is not only shitty for women, but it’s also detrimental to men. If you partake in mansplaining, you’re silencing women. You’re saying, “Hey, I’m the authority of YOUR life.” Guess what? You’re not, and you could benefit greatly from listening to us.
In Rebecca Solnit’s popular essay from 2008, “Men Explain Things To Me,” she states:
The out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.
This goes beyond plain old accidental not listening, and is instead an ardent active not listening—the choice to not listen—the choice to think you know more than a women does about her own life experiences.
If a man tries to tell me what sexism is by refuting my very own definition, this a) makes him look stupid and b) makes assumptions about my intelligence. Everyone is allowed an opinion, of course, but don’t let that come in the way of listening to others. If you’re holding onto the belief that you have to always be right, then you’re missing out on important learning experiences. More so, with the issue of mansplaining, you’re contributing to misogyny.
Maybe you don’t care, but someone in your life probably does. Make it personal; to them, it is.