The first time I heard the word ‘mansplaining’, I felt someone had read my mind… and my heart. That single word articulated many of my dilemmas where I either zone out, or revert with sarcasm (I have given up on the latter, following my partner’s humble request that I stop throwing darts). Mansplaining is the “explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing”. Reactions often vary. Over a period of time, I giggle and let it go.
Ladies, you’ve gotta be inheriting paradise if you have never been mansplained. And that’s exactly the utopia I plan to inherit some day. For good part of my 20s, I listened carefully to what I thought was ‘good advice’ coming from a senior person in the family or work. Like that time when an uncle told me, “Do you know Milton’s also written Paradise Regained?”, knowing fully well that not only was I studying literature, but was also a topper in the college. I pretended to feel enlightened just so he could feel good about himself.
When I just got married, a cousin who had come over to stay with my husband and me began advising on how to boil an egg to perfection. To know that he thought this was a Chef’s Table-level task did feel a bit humiliating. I retorted by serving him an omelette instead. And then there are those who seem to have figured out your political leanings and have branded you “Left-leaning” and are hyperventilating about why Left was left in smithereens.
Is it about gender? Or is it about ourselves? As a woman, I may get mansplained. But I am certain there are womansplainers too. We all love the idea of confident people. Those who wear pride and grace in their body language. And yet, we fear that confidence, and are quick to puncture it — sometimes consciously, and at times, unconsciously. When the desire to prove someone wrong far exceeds the desire to argue or talk based on logic, that conversation is a non-starter.
Mansplaining is tedious, especially when the person speaking to you is armed with condescension. But over a period of time, I have begun rejoicing in it. Not all battles can be won with words, sometimes, silences do the needful. Whenever I am mansplained, the sirens inside my head turn on. The humour comes from knowing that such is the other person’s love for the sound of his voice that he cannot help but state the obvious in a bid to win the SMARTNESS CHALLENGE.
One such moment came recently as I was to speak about a column I had written at an event. All signs pointed to the fact that the person asking me questions had not actually read the column, but I was still thrilled at the prospect of talking about it. Two sentences from me, and the whole interaction became about the interviewer’s views on the subject of building ‘brand you’. My presence or my thoughts on something I had written were incidental.
I returned home feeling a bit defeated when my phone blinked. It was a friend who’d forwarded me a thoughtful quote on the importance of anger. “How come we are so bad at dealing with it after centuries of human evolution?” she asked, not knowing the state of my mind. “Because bodies evolve, minds… not always.”