By: Hannah Davies, Lily Fontaine, Gabrielle McLaren, Natasha Tar, Lauren Wallace, Winona Young
Luckily, I’ve been mansplained to relatively few times. While I do obviously find it mildly insulting and quite frustrating despite trying not to let it get to me too much, the feeling I most prevalently experience is disappointment.
Regardless of the man’s intention, I am disappointed that they would assume that I did not already know about the thing they are “educating” me on, disappointed that they would not take the time to learn what I already know about the subject, and disappointed that this is still something that happens to women today.
I define my experiences as being relatively few, as my criteria for being mansplained to are the following: (1) perpetrator speaks over me and (2) explanation is unsolicited. I sometimes even apply this third criteria: (3) perpetrator explaining something to me that a woman such as myself would likely have experienced or at least know about (birth control, periods).
So speaking of unsolicited advice, as a woman who goes to the gym I have experienced what I like to call “surprise tips.” Someone, usually a man, approaches to comment on my form or a way that I could do the exercise better. Maybe they think they are helping, but I am a personal trainer, and am quite confident in my form for most exercises. I do not want a stranger approaching me to “fix” what I am doing.
So strangers, please let me enjoy my music and workout on my own! Thank you! – HD
If as many men were experts on women’s bodies as the number of men who act like it, I’d never have an issue with my uterus again. The world would be full of gynecologists, schools would teach more comprehensive sex education, straight women everywhere would have regular orgasms, tampons would be tax free, and maybe my birth control wouldn’t have made me attempt to jump off a bridge when I was still a teen. But unfortunately, that’s not been my experience.
Instead, men who are decidedly not experts tell women about how lady parts should taste like peaches and honey, how we can’t conceive unless the body “really wants it,” and how tampons are considered a “luxury item” but Viagra is not. And if I argue with them, I’m not a woman who has experience with my uterus, I’m “some crazy bitch” who is “PMSing.”
To put this in context, I’m going to tell you about my ninth-grade math teacher. I tried to explain to him, in class, on multiple occasions, why I had to leave early, as I often threw up during cramps, passed out, or couldn’t stand. He thought I was faking being sick. He often called me out in class for almost nodding off, while I was actually partially fainting in his classes due to my anemia and my super enthusiastic uterus. He decided I was just a “problem kid.”
I just started going home on days when it got that bad, not wanting to have attention drawn to myself while I was unwell. He wrote me up, twice, for skipping class. Then he called my house phone, irate, telling my parents what a terrible child their daughter was.
It took the combination of my mom, a nurse, a note from other teachers and a comment from the principal for this guy to stop harassing me while we figured out what combination of medication and supplements would keep me from being bedridden. Yet to this man, I was “obviously faking it.”
Because a I couldn’t be believed as a girl. I wasn’t a good enough expert as a girl. – LW
A professor once split our seminar class up into reading groups to divide her 400-level history seminar’s reading list, which are known for being killer. Basically meant that you read one (1) scholarly article well instead of half-assing four, went to class, discussed the text in a small group, and then taught it to the rest of the class. This was amazing, except for the two dudes in my group.
One of them barely showed up to class and never did the readings, but he was at least honest about it. This other guy in our group also never did the readings or even took notes in seminar, but cluttered our discussions with random information he had picked up in other classes or wherever to try and stay relevant. Instead of, you know, doing any kind of work or sitting back and listening to what the women of the group were saying. Presumably, he also liked the sound of his own voice because nobody else enjoyed hearing about Irish sheep raising traditions while we were really supposed to be talking about North American health history.
It got especially insulting when he started poaching our ideas and sharing them with the class as his own. One week, I expressed how one Historical Event X seemed to have strong political motivations despite our article presenting it as an economic event, only to have him cut in ten minutes later, telling me that he thought that my point was wrong since I needed to remember that “this had a political motivation as well as economic.”
If looks could kill, we wouldn’t have had to bring this behaviour to the prof’s attention twice before confronting him ourselves, thus prompting him to vanish five weeks before the end of term, never to be seen again. – GM
An SFU Security guard once mansplained what crime was to me, and surprise surprise, didn’t actually help me.
So when I was in second year, I accidentally left around $50 I’d withdrawn in the AQ’s CIBC ATM in the machine. When I realized this, I called security and a female security guard told me to call security once I got back to the ATM. When I ran back to get it, a girl told me that some guy in a red jacket went to that machine after I left. Now I wasn’t sure if it qualified as theft but the previous female guard assured me that they would help. So I called security back up again, but a new male guard picked up, and I told him the story.
Once I finished, he essentially did the verbal equivalent of scoffing and said, “That’s not how crime works, sweetie.” He went on a solid two-minute speech of explaining Canadian crime and law, and when I tried to ask any questions or correct him, he would keep on going like he didn’t hear me. I repeated that I was asking if he could possibly do anything to help me, to which he said, “We can’t just shake up every person in the AQ with a red jacket and look through their bag, that’s not how it works.”
I knew that! I told him I didn’t expect him to do that at all, at this point feeling equal parts frustrated and humiliated for how he spoke to me. By the end of the call, he asked for my information again while I was trying to not let my voice crack from all the silent crying I did. If I had the chance ever again to either lose $50 or speak to that SFU security guard again, I’d rather lose the money. – WY
In my memory, I’ve never been officially mansplained to. Whether that’s by good luck or because I’ve only associated with fairly decent men, I’m not sure. But dear lord, if one thing has happened to me at SFU, that’s being professor-splained. Specifically, I’ve been frequently professors-plained to about trigger warnings.
Let me take you back a few semesters to an English class I was taking. A big theme of the class was trauma caused through colonialism, and in one book, the protagonist has crippling flashbacks of a war he was in. Near the end of the same book, there’s an unexpected and extremely graphic rape scene. I was very disturbed by the scene’s four excruciating pages, and knew that several of my friends would have been severely harmed by reading these passages.
I wondered why the professor had not mentioned that the book had a scene like this. There was so much potential there to retraumatize someone in the class, and I was worried for my classmates.
But when I brought it up to the professor in a reading response, instead of talking to me personally, she brought the subject of trigger warnings up in class. Overall, she explained to us that in the real world, there are no trigger warnings, you need to be strong to survive in this harsh world, and that she guessed she would have to give us a “trigger warning” (yes, she used air quotes) concerning the next book we were going to read.
The next semester, I experienced something similar, this time with a male professor. I don’t feel the need to go into details, because it was a carbon copy of what I described above.
What I’m trying to say is that while men have long been above women in terms of power, and so have professors over their students. I will perhaps wrongly assume that neither of my aforementioned professors have gone through serious trauma, and I will also assume that at least some students at SFU have had traumatizing experiences in their lives.
For professors to use their power to explain away trauma they haven’t experienced is totally wrong. A PhD doesn’t make you an expert on everything, but I guess some professors have yet to figure that out. – NT
This is my magnum opus: I could finish my degree right now and get into any job or school with this story. Basically, a student who I’ve seen disrespect and interrupt female professors and students for two semesters in a row now was talking while I was sharing something with the class. And not just quickly whispering something to a neighbour: talking. Having a full-on conversation with the person next to him, loud enough for all of us to hear.
So I stopped talking mid-sentence, turned my head to face him, and waited. I’ve worked with five-year-olds, and have used this strategy multiple times. The entire class stayed quiet while I stared at him until he realised in a moment of self-awareness that it had gone quiet. He turned back and saw all of us staring at him, and started saying “Oh, I was just saying how…” And I interrupted him saying, “Cool. You can wait until I’m done talking.”
Let me tell you: when I read that boy, my skin cleared, my metabolism sped up, my spine uncurled, and my depression was basically cured. I stared him down until he apologized, too. It was a good moment.
The point I was making was far from the most relevant thing to be said in class, but that’s besides the point. Disrespect shouldn’t be respected in class. I highly recommend calling out this kind of behaviour, it reestablishes the validity of your place in the classroom, and denormalizes these kinds of behaviours. – LF