DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the position of UNM IGNITE.
That is how society has taught men to respond to/perceive women’s voices. White noise easily muted or silenced into submission. The problematic act of mansplaining is so dangerously entrenched in our society that: 1. (some) men are unconscious participants, and 2. (some) women are unaware of it being done to them. It is so heavily normalised, desensitised, recycled and cultivated that even at a microcosmic level, it is socially ‘allowed/accepted’. Can you imagine the intense oppression it holds at a macrocosmic level?
Google defines the term ‘mansplaining’ as: (of a man) explaining [something] to someone, typically a woman, in a manner often classified as condescending or patronising.
Socio-political journalist, Rebecca Solnit, describes it as the “slippery slope of silencing…[mansplaining] crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world”.
In other words, mansplaining is not just a conversational inconvenience. Rather, it is the practice of encouraging women to doubt themselves – the power within them. To limit their abilities, strengths and potential to fit into a toxic and aggressive box designed to keep them from achieving the same positions, status and independence. To deceive them into believing their voice is one not worth acknowledging, listening, and respecting. To exclude women from equal opportunities.
At a microcosmic level – in the workplace and the classroom, sexualised remarks are frequently thrown at and made around women. A common reality, unfortunately, for women in the workplace is sexual harassment. A brush on the shoulder, a distanced-whistle motioning for her to ‘come here’, a ‘joke’ made at her expanse.
At a macrocosmic level – in politics, religion, and leadership roles world-wide, women are often labelled as ‘too emotional’ and ‘she can’t take a joke’ when an obvious yet somewhat undetected line has been crossed and pointed out. Women are interrupted during their speeches. Women are dismissed during their own allocated time on the podium.
Their voices muzzled by (some) men’s micro-aggressive comments, insults and behaviours.
It is by means of a cyclical, institutionalised socialisation at a microcosmic and macrocosmic level that society has normalised and taught men to view their voices as more valuable/superior, and women to undermine their own. Mansplaining, the underestimated linguistic undercurrent, is harmful to a woman’s dignity, free speech, and physical and emotional well-being. The domination of men in the public sphere has interrupted women and will continue to violently silence their voices if we continue to view reality through the lens of a patriarchally problematic system.
We are all a by-product of a patriarchal system. We have been fed misinformation. We have been misled to believe that oppression of women voices has to be the only way men remain in power. Men are taught to be threatened by a woman’s voice, intelligence, and abilities.
We need to unpack, unlearn and re-define all of those traumas. The hurt it has caused, continues to cause and is causing. Dismissing her opinions as ‘too much’ or telling her to ‘calm down’ is mansplaining and mansplaining hurts everyone.
Mansplaining takes away from someone. It does not empower them.
Mansplaining is built on keeping the gender-power gap alive. It does not work towards equality.
Mansplaining robs society from the untapped/unlocked potential of women. It does not build a safer/healthier world for humanity.
Women add to humanity too. Their voices just as much of a power-house. Women’s voices do not take away from men’s voices/opinions. We build each other up. We are equals adding to the betterment of society. Society would be a healthier place for all of its inhabitants with women owning and expressing their most powerful tool – their voice, with respect, genuine appreciation and acknowledgement.
So, let us re-define how it means to listen, acknowledge and respect women’s voices. Let us approach and hold conversations/discussions with each other with an open heart/mind and the desire to grow as a person. Hold space for every individual to be heard, seen and acknowledged. Every individual creates a rippling effect. Nothing happens in isolation.
Written by Puteri Izzaty