It’s not that women don’t want to hear from men. It’s that they don’t want their own lives, experiences, bodies and areas of expertise splained to them by someone who knows a lot less about it than they do, but just assumes they must know more because they are male. It’s a function of the dominance hierarchy and the way that men have been trained to behave in it, but that doesn’t mean that this can’t change if we point it out and talk about it. Individuals are unlikely to change societal dynamics by dealing with them as individuals. I’m sure there are plenty of black people who would be happy to attest to that, and the power dynamics that are often involved further make that impractical in many instances.

“Mansplain” may be a mash-up of “man” and “explain” (and if you think it’s a silly-sounding word, that’s totally fair), but “mansplaining” is not simply an issue of men explaining things. Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with men explaining things! If someone, regardless of gender, doesn’t know or understand something, and a man does, then by all means, he should explain it! Men can absolutely, without offense, explain things to women and to other men. And women can explain things to men, and to other women, and anyone can explain anything to anyone else. Information is awesome! Explanations are great!

But here’s what makes “mansplaining” different: When a man “mansplains” something to a woman, he interrupts or speaks over her to explain something that she already knows — indeed, something in which she may already be an expert — on the assumption that he must know more than she does. In many cases, the explanation has to do specifically with things that are unique to women — their bodies, their experiences, their lives. When men interrupt or presume to correct a woman who is speaking of her own experience or expertise, they are implying that she is ignorant, that she is incapable of having authoritative knowledge. They are saying, essentially, “Shh. I know best.”

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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