Mansplaining & Accusations of Mansplaining


informal gerund or present participle:

mansplaining (of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

Yeah, that happens, and it probably happens far more often than I know. However, there’s another definition of mansplaining


A sexist slur created by women to invalidate someone’s opinion based on their gender.

And yes, that happens too. And it’s probably more common than most women know. Please understand that accusing your husband of mansplaining may hurt him and your relationship with him. It condescending, and it’s telling him he’s wrong because he’s a man or because you’re a woman. It’s the mirror image of real mansplaining, and it’s just as wrong. Accuse your hubby of this often enough and he will just stop talking to you.

Another aspect of this is the very valid and often significant differences between men and women. Some (not all, but some) so called mansplaining comes down to this reality. If he shares something that is valid for him as man and you attack it, how do you think that makes him feel? (Probably much the same why you feel when he or some other man does this to you!)

Even if he is clearly guilty of mansplaining, I suggest you avoid the word as it’s become too much of a hot button.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I hope I’ve splained this well.

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35 Comments on “Mansplaining & Accusations of Mansplaining

  1. You’ve misunderstood the term fundamentally, if that’s what you think it means. “Mansplaining” does not mean, “you’re wrong about something because you’re a man, and I’m right ’cause I’m a woman,” that is absurd. It’s not even about whether he is right or not. No, it’s more about attitude, having the underlying assumption that you know more/are smarter than a woman on a certain subject, and are therefore superior and so must explain it to that woman in a condescending way with small words, as if she were a child. Which can be frustrating for women if they happen to be an expert on that subject (especially if the man only THINKS he’s an expert). It’s not that the man is wrong, or that anything he’s saying is wrong, it’s that he ASSUMES he has superior knowledge, and does not bother to verify that assumption, before plowing on ahead and talking over the woman.

    More often than not, when women accuse men of mansplaining, it’s not because they’re trying to invalidate them (not saying that it never happens, but it’s rarer than you think). Rather, they are expressing the feeling that they feeling disrespected (and the frustration that comes with that), and that they feel there is an imbalance of power, which is never good for any relationship. Do not disregard her complaint, but take it to heart; more likely than not it is valid. Watch yourselves, guys, and watch your tone, make sure you’re not being unintentionally disrespectful by talking down to her.

    Now write a proper post about this problem for the guys over on the generous husband. One WITHOUT telling women to what words they can and can not use to express their feelings and concerns, please and thank you.

    • This does teach women that saying “mansplaining” will be ignored. Perhaps it is better to call it as it is. “I’ll be ready to listen when you aren’t speaking to me in a condescending manner.” Or “I stopped listening to your points when you started using that condescending tone”.

    • Ok, for a moment, get off your high horse for a moment and think about what would happen if the word mansplaining never existed, and the word “womansplaining” did.

      In fact, “womansplaining” SHOULD exist, because it DOES – “That’s not how you load a dishwasher!” or “Is that how you raise a child??” or “If you think we’re visiting your parents for christmas, think again!” or “How could you get whole milk?? Everyone knows 2% is better!!”

      Here’s your quote, with the roles reversed:

      “No, it’s more about attitude, having the underlying assumption that you know more/are smarter than a man a certain subject, and are therefore superior and so must explain it to that man in a condescending way with small words, as if he were a child. ”

      Please do not try to tell me that this does not happen – it does. Maybe on different topics, but it does. A LOT.

      And here is my point: if men used the word “womansplaining” we would be crucified. Instantly. Everywhere. By everyone. Even if it is obviously true.

      Why not women when they use “mansplaining”?

      • 1. The word “womansplaining” already does exist. Look it up.

        2. Never said women don’t do this. Which you would know if you had read my comment more carefully.

        3. Do you think woman AREN’T criticized for using the word mansplaining? Trust me, they are. They get criticized for saying or doing (or even thinking) ANYTHING that makes a man even slightly uncomfortable, or doubt his superiority. Moving on.

        4. I’ll get off my magnificent and gloriously tall horse when you get over your persecution complex. Seriously, get over it. You’re not that oppressed, you’re probably very privileged and don’t even realize it.

    • @Amazing Ace – I know what it is supposed to mean, and I know how some women use it. And your telling me I’m wrong and that doesn’t happen is sadly funny.
      I’ve told the guys about words and terms they shoudl not use, so how is doing the same here somehow wrong? Certain phrases are loaded and proned to do harm, and I find it very loving to avoid such things.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Maybe It’s You?My Profile

      • I’ve said all I’m going to say on the subject, I’ll say no more. Here’s why: if you don’t already understand why telling women what they can and can’t say (or do, or think) is a problem, if you don’t already know why that’s wrong, then I can’t explain it to you. Nothing I can say will make any difference, you will never understand. And that, THAT, is what is sad. Not even funny, just sad.

        • Ace, this is a blog written by a man to women to help them understand the general bell-curve male of the species. I get it. His post on mansplaining feels like mansplaining, but this is exactly what he is talking about….guys get backed into a corner when women use that word. Women feel backed in a corner when men “mansplain”. It is a crazy-cycle.

          Paul isn’t trying to mansplain. He is trying to explain the good-willed husband’s perspective. It is about listening, maturity, and grace.

          True mansplaininv comes from misogyny, however, I have seen, heard, and experienced mansplaining in good marriages when the wife gets over-emotional or acts childish. It is the other side of the pendulum swing to try to bring balance to the force.

  2. Mansplaining is one example of ways we show disrespect to other human beings based on generalizations and stereotypes. I believe the term has become popular, and perhaps overused, of late because more and more people are realizing the problems borne of a male-dominated society.

    Recall the scene in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where Toula, her mother and her aunt devise a scheme for Toula to attend college. They trick Toula’s father into thinking it’s HIS idea. Many people laughed at this interchange, but in reality, it is very sad that society teaches us such ridiculous rules about our roles in life.

    I think Amazing Ace makes some strong points and I hear Paul’s intent as well. I am now very guarded about what I share with my husband because of the pain I feel when he shuts me down and I have found other “safe” people with whom to connect. I am making an effort to be a better listener so hubby feels safe sharing with me.

  3. The really sad thing is that it’s a poor way to argue a point – making premises that are based on unproven generalities (you are a man, ‘all men are like this’, therefore YOU are like this) standing firmly on a foundation of irrefutable fact (one’s gender).

    It would not get a passing grade in a course in logic.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 329 – YGBSMMy Profile

  4. I’m a woman and I absolutely hate the term “mansplaining.” Explaining in a condescending manner is something both genders are guilty of, and is not ok when either do it. It drives me nuts that the only term we have for it is directed at men. I agree with your second definition of it, Paul, as that is most often how I see women using it. There really should be a “womansplaining term” because most women are horrible about it, if not to the guy’s face then certainly behind his back. That’s the difference. Many guys say it straight, whereas many women save their contempt and condescension for when he’s not around. That’s what makes it easier to call out in men: it’s more obvious. With women it tends to be more secretive, and most women won’t call each other out. Just as women would throw an almighty fit if such a term were invented..though they have no problem throwing the accusation at men. The double standard is pretty outrageous, and unfair. So, to the male commenters on this blog, just know that not all women favor this term, or this attitude.

    • @Alicia – I think you’re right that the female version is different. And yeah, I see more behind the back stuff with women than with men, especially in same sex interactions.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Time UseMy Profile

  5. Such interesting relationship dynamics. In the example I cited above, Toula’s father had tried so hard to establish his position of power in the family, the women lost respect for him and found a way around his stubbornness. We earn respect when we show respect.

  6. Fortunately I have never had my husband mansplain anything to me. I have probably been more guilty of womansplaining, dishwasher example uses it a perfect example of what I’ve been guilty of. But this week my two oldest daughter have been in a driver’s training class and have encounter mansplaing or better the attitude of how some men seem to look down on women. The instructor of the class has repeatedly made comments along the lines of you boys with get this but you girls won’t. Or the guys won’t have any trouble with video (showing car accidents and why it’s important to not text or drink) but someone always faints when I show it and it’s almost always a girl. And then the change a tire, the boys will have no trouble picking up the tire but you girls won’t be able to do it. Talk about making a whole group of young impressionable teenage girls who already have self image problems feel even worse about themselves. Yes, I complained and even went so far as to withdraw my girls from the class. That’s the kind of man I think is the focus of this post. Good thing I don’t encounter very many men like this. When I do I womansplain and set them straight they just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m stupid about things like cars.

    • Oddly enough many women play the “I’m just a silly, stupid woman” card. Sometimes intentionally to get a guy to do the work. Sometimes unintentionally as a way of apologising for ignorance on a subject traditionally more man-based, like cars.

      I have taken my father, husband, or male in-laws with me to male-dominated shops to make sure I am protected from getting lied to and screwed over on car repairs or purchases.

      • @libl – Women do get cheated that way, but it’s not just women. I get very different when I’m in an old T-shirt and jean vs dressed like I have no idea how to change a tire.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Avoid Argument DriftMy Profile

        • I’ve asked to see the broken part when an auto shop tells me something needs to be repaired. It takes them back and suddenly the repair isn’t such an emergency. Or one time the part had already been disposed of. I told them no part no pay. I challenge the stereotype that women don’t know anything about cars and it throws some businesses off. Man or woman, I don’t want to do business with a company with that lack of ethics.

  7. There is absolutely no substitute for good will in a marriage. Without it innocent conversation can become a mine-field, and barbed comments become commonplace.

  8. So I’m going to challenge this a little, Paul. Yes, I totally agree you should not look at husband and say, “You’re mansplaining to me!” It’s a loaded word and clearly taken by men as an insult. However, what do you with the research studies that show this actually happens to women? That in certain circumstances, men dominate conversation and patronizingly explain things to women. The term has arisen because enough women experienced it that it warranted a label. This is different from the generally sexist man who always looks down on women, but rather a tendency among many men to speak from a place of confidence regardless of whether or not they are the expert in the room.

    Honestly, I agree with you that it’s become an overused term such that things that are not mansplaining get labeled that way. But I do think it exists. And sorry, guys, but I think we women have had plenty of years of being labeled as “nagging” for similar behavior. You rarely hear that term used about men. Now I’ve called women out on nagging, including myself, on my blog, because yeah, we do that sometimes. So I’m not looking at a double-standard here myself. But while we wives shouldn’t accuse our husbands of mansplaining, maybe some men need to ask themselves if they’ve been guilty of it more than think.
    J. Parker recently posted…Q&A with J: Abstaining from Sex to PrayMy Profile

    • @J. Parker – Of course it happens, I was upfront about that. It should be dealt with anywhere it’s happening, and especially a marriage. However, using a loaded term is never a good way to get traction on dealing with something. The approuch Eliza suggested above is far better.

      I’d also caution about assuming it’s sexist. Yes it is in many cases, but I’ve seen men do it to men many times, so it’s not just about gender.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Little Acts, Big ResultsMy Profile

      • Linguist Deborah Tannen wrote about different communication styles she saw in men versus women. Men talk, in part, to determine and achieve status; so yes, they might well “mansplain” to one another. However, since women don’t tend to use verbal communication this way, we’re especially struck by how it can feel really condescending. I think that’s why a woman coined the term “mansplaining” and many other women began using the word. Not that it’s a good word — it clearly isn’t, and Eliza does have a great idea — but it’s an experience that has bothered enough women and so husbands might want to check their communication style with their wife. In marriage, we should be willing to make adjustments so that our speech is uplifting to one another.
        J. Parker recently posted…Q&A with J: Abstaining from Sex to PrayMy Profile

        • @J. Parker – Interesting stuff! Lori and I have seen this often. Men use words as weapons to challenge, test, and prove each other. Women don’t usually do this, and if a man does he can easily cause harm.
          As to “nag” – I’d say that is a word men should avoid using even if it is what a woman is doing. It’s a loaded word, and using it does nothing to help address the issue.
          Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Time UseMy Profile

    • Amen about being called a nag. If I politely ask my husband to pick up his dirty clothes so I can do the laundry today and he doesn’t then I either don’t do his laundry or become a nag when I ask a second time. I’ve taken the route of not doing his laundry so I won’t be called a nag. My husband is a procrastinator when the job isn’t important to him. Once I learned that I stopped nagging and just did the job. It’s all about learning how to live together and be respectful. He doesn’t call me a nag anymore and I don’t stress out when he doesn’t do something I asked him to do.

      • @Tiffany – Nag is an interesting word. It can mean “Going on and on about something” but it can also mean “Reminding me of something I don’t want to do.”
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Be The Change: Time UseMy Profile

        • When I mention something again that’s what I am doing, simply a reminder of something that I asked him to do. But since I had already asked him once or two or three times depending on the situation he saw it as asking over and over, this nagging. 20 years of marriage has taught me that sometimes it better to just do it yourself rather than create strife by being a nag, no matter what constitutes a “nag”.

          • What is interesting is you asked him to do something. Does that mean he has the freedom to say no? Not saying it is in his best interest, just wondering.

            Because if you asked, he would have the freedom to say no. But if you really expect him to do it and you say you asked….

            Food for thought. It may or may not help.

            If he were here, I’d tell him to be helpful when it comes to laundry or just do it himself…. But he’s not, you are.

            If you resent picking up his clothes don’t. I’d just couch it this way, I’m willing to wash the clothes in the hamper. Anything that doesn’t make it in the hamper won’t get washed.

            I did this with my wife. She has some stuff with special care instructions. I’m getting to the age where I can’t read the tiny type of those labels (my arms are getting too short.) I bought her a little red laundry basket and suggested anything she didn’t want me to wash/ruin with the rest of the laundry, put it in the red basket and do it herself.

            If something special makes it into the regular laundry and I wash it, she had the chance and means to ensure it doesn’t get placed in the regular cottons wash.

            I also keep any money I find in pockets :)

            • I ask him to do things because when I would tell him he said I was ordering him. I don’t do him laundry anymore, but a messy room bothers me. Funny thing about laundry is when I was doing it I told him I would great appreciate it if he turned his clothes right side out, it was taking me forever to fold and hang his stuff and I had four little ones at the time. He didn’t so I started folding them and hanging them right side out. Didn’t take him long to figure out he’d had to do it either before or after they were washed.

              He also discovered a jar in the closet once filled with money. The shock on his when I told him it was laundry money was priceless. I keep all money found when I do laundry too. 😉

        • “Nag is an interesting word. It can mean “Going on and on about something” but it can also mean “Reminding me of something I don’t want to do.”

          Interesting… I’ve always thought of “mansplaining” in a similar way. i.e. “Telling me something I don’t want to hear.” Which seems to be the far more common reason for “mansplaining” accusations than any actual condescension on the part of the man speaking.

  9. I have a male cousin who might well be accused of mainsplaining (it’s not a word I use). Let’s call it over-explaining.

    He often explains things that he actually knows nothing about. Or he explains things that are already familiar to the person he is talking to. Or he explains things that he knows, but that are irrelevant to the matter at hand. It is hugely annoying, especially because it often makes it seem as though he is deliberately trying to be contrary, or that he is highly controlling, or that he thinks the person he’s talking to is stupid. And yet, I don’t think any of those are really his motives.

    What I see in him is a need to feel knowledgeable, a need to be seen as knowledgeable, and a need to find (and share) a reasonable explanation for everything. He also wants to be helpful, and that is intensified by the need to feel knowledgeable and competent. It makes him feel good about himself if he can “help” someone, even though what he is really doing is telling them how to do something they already know how to do, or coming up with a theory that is completely off track.

    Of course, sometimes he is right, but family members and friends are so sensitized to his over-explaining, that they tend not to listen.

    Does he do this to women more than to men? I don’t know. I do know that when he does it to me, I feel a strong desire to scream. (I don’t actually scream.)

    He’s not the only man I know who does this. I also know one woman who tends to do it, and she’s just as annoying.

    I can’t claim to have a good way to deal with someone who over-explains. Sometimes I just put a blank smile on my face and wait for it to be over. Sometimes I point out that I actually know what I’m doing. Sometimes I challenge his knowledge of the subject. Any one of these may help in the moment, but none of them cures the person of doing this.
    Rosemary recently posted…Traveling the Redwood HighwayMy Profile

  10. Bottom line, “mansplaining” is yet another word like bigot or homophobe that’s used to shut down conversation. It shows a lack of good faith on the part of the person making the accusation. If you think someone is being condescending to you, use condescending to describe the behavior – regardless of the sex of the person using it. Mansplaining is a loaded term at this point and should be scrubbed from our lexicon.

  11. I guess this has happened to me? If it does I 1) I write them off as idiots and stop talking to them (not the best response, I know) 2) I interrupt are counter with a comment that demonstrates I don’t need the explanation or 3) patiently wait it out.

    I’ve spent all of my adult life around professors. Sometimes they zone our and go on long tangents and explain details about things no-one cares about. They can’t help it, it’s not gender specific. They just get excited about esoteric things. It is not condescension. Sometimes people get resentful when they can’t follow these explanations and calls it “condescending” or “talking doen to them”. It’s not. They simply forget that not everyone spends their entire lives thinking about this problem. Or even knows the problem exists. Lolz.

    Men generally don’t assume I’m stupid.
    If they do, I think Podkyn in Heinlein’s Podkyn of Mars has the perfect response. Act doey eyed and innocent and get them to do all the work for you. :D that way you’re subtly making fun of them and getting what you want.

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