The effects of mansplaining

When English Teacher Eve Berinati presents her Gender in Literature class the first text of the year, “Men Explain Things to Me,” she immediately hears an imbalance of voices. As discussion around the text written by Rebecca Solnit transpires, she notices resistance from some of the boys, and some girls not speaking up when they disagree. Although this dynamic changes as the semester progresses, this has been a point of repetition for Berinati each year.

The term mansplaining, which many credit Solnit for, is often used as an umbrella term, referring to a dynamic of men explaining things to women in a way that is considered patronizing. Discussion and controversy regarding mansplaining has since been sparked by Solnit’s work.

Berinati recognizes the controversy surrounding the word, as it can imply a generalization. “It’s not about all men,” Berinati said. “But it is when men do this… it has a stronger effect in terms of the message it sends in that women are not credible or not capable of coming up with ideas.”

Although Berinati acknowledges that there are instances when women speak over men, she believes that the implications are different. “I think there is this added element of when a man does it to a woman or male student to a female student, [as] it reinforces the gendered power structure that we have in society,” Berinati said.

Similarly, World Languages and Cultures Teacher Ruth McDonough believes that while it can be problematic to speak in generalizations when it comes to using the term mansplaining, it allows us to “point out the pattern,” she said.

McDonough believes that this particular gender dynamic of mansplaining can be seen at ASL as well. “I think that it’s inevitable that power dynamics in society are going to be present in ASL,” she said. “Any structure that is pervasive in our media, in our workforce, in our government and in our social lives is going to be a part of what we do and recreate within school communities.”

Math Teacher Tony Bracht has seen that in his class, there are times when some male students tend to dominate the conversation. However, he recognizes that “men, including myself, don’t notice it as much as women do. [Mansplaining] is a symptom of bigger problems of the roles and the way men think about women or treat women, both [in society] and in relationships,” Bracht said.

The prevalence of mansplaining at ASL is seen by Gender Equity Club Co-President Sophie Partridge-Hicks (’17). She believes that there are instances when this gender dynamic is internalized, and women can become socialized to  doubt themselves. “If you’re in an economics class, you feel that men sort of deserve to be there, and as a girl you’re kind of just there as an audience member and not necessarily like an active participant in conversation,” Partridge-Hicks said.

Social Studies Teacher Becky Mason doesn’t always see the occurence of mansplaining present in her class as she notices how vocal a person is doesn’t always correlate to mansplaining. “Some people are more quiet, girls and boys,” she said. “I have plenty of girls that are very vocal and plenty of boys that are more withdrawn. [Mansplaining] has to happen in specific contexts.”

In faculty meetings and in class discussions, Berinati has noticed that there are times when male teachers and students tend to subconsciously echo what female teachers and students have already said. “I have to work twice as hard to be heard, to be respected for my voice,” she said.

Berinati also recognizes the impact a person’s intersectionality of identities has on the extent of mansplaining. “I think [intersectionality] changes everything,” she said. “If you’re female, white and middle class, your life is very different than if you’re female, not white and of a different class or a combination of other identities,” she said.

Bracht has noticed that it’s easy for many to assume that there is no problem of mansplaining, and to instead focus on other issues. “Especially if you’re in the group that is traditionally the dominating group, it’s easy to just dismiss [mansplaining] as non-issues,” he said.

Noah Hearne (’17) agrees with Bracht and believes that mansplaining stems, “from the stigma that exists between males and females and how men have always been perceived as stronger and more intelligent,” he said. “That has just been ingrained into how people use language and how they treat others based on those perceptions of intelligence.”

To increase the recognition of mansplaining, Hearne feels that the school needs to identify it as something to be discussed. He believes that it is essential that students “address its existence and recognize it is a thing and raise awareness so people wouldn’t be doing it blindly without realizing it is happening,” Hearne said.

Alongside increasing dialogue, Mason believes that it is essential for people to recognize the power imbalance amongst genders. “We [must] get to the point where it’s so clear that we understand where privilege lies and who has privilege, that you become aware, and men become aware of themselves doing it,” Mason said. “That’s where we can get a change.”

Partridge-Hicks further believes that it’s important to recognize that the occurrence of mansplaining impacts all genders. “Mansplaining is just as destructive to men, this is a problem where voices aren’t being heard, and that’s an issue regardless of gender,” she said. “It’s holding everyone back.”

Written by Online/Photo Editor Stephanie Brendsel and Features Editor Ananya Prakash