Sheela and Ravi work together at an advertising agency. One day, over lunch, Sheela is talking to her colleagues about a recent OS update on her phone and how there are some really cool features in it for gamers and multimedia enthusiasts since she herself is one. While she is still talking about it, Ravi joins the table (uninvited) and interrupts her with, “Oh, yeah. I’ll explain how exactly this update helps gamers.” That instant, everyone stops eating to turn and stare at him. Did that ring a bell? Yes, we are going to talk about that one colleague or multiple such who are so addicted to mansplaining that it almost seems like an involuntary action to them.
Why does this happen? The deep-rooted patriarchy and gender discrimination that’s ingrained in their upbringing play a big part. These could be men who have watched their fathers and other father figures mansplain their mothers and other female elders in their family. This is then cemented by the non-stop exposure to patriarchy they have - on television, in movies and in advertisements where the female characters are your typical homemakers running behind her husband and children. All of these factors make the mansplaining men believe that they are superior to their female counterparts since the latter are conveniently presumed as being ignorant. This very act is alarming and needs to be stopped. As if rampant gender discrimination were not enough, mansplaining men make it very frustrating for women in the workforce to work in harmony.
Listed below are 5 methods women in the workforce could use to shut down the mansplaining at office.
Be polite but stern: Yes, we know that ‘polite’ is the last thing you want to be, and all you want to do is snub this person and tell them to bugger off. Unfortunately, losing your cool at your workplace is not the wisest thing to do. So, start politely. Remind them politely that you are still talking and that you’re absolutely aware of whatever you are talking about.
Counter-cut them off: If the first method doesn’t work and you feel your voice is drowning, barge into the conversation and reclaim the floor before they go on their predictive rant. Catching them off-guard will make them realize that it is unsolicited advice and that they must respect your knowledge of the matter and let you finish what you were saying.
Let them know what they did: Here’s how to do this: wait for the mansplaining colleague to finish rambling and then step in. Let them know what they did by telling them that firstly, you were still talking when they came in and interrupted you and that it makes you feel uncomfortable and belittled. If they didn’t actually intend to mansplain, they will understand and respect your taking the effort to tell them about it.
This method can also affect your professional relationship with this particular colleague but that’s a better bargain than tolerating mansplaining which is already making you uncomfortable. Be sure to do this as politely, patiently and carefully as possible.
Acknowledge that they might not be doing it deliberately: Your mansplaining colleague might not even realize that they are actually doing something wrong. There are many people out there who like to brag about their knowledge in certain fields. In this case, Ravi might actually be enthusiastic about gaming and genuinely got excited to share what he knows about this update. You have to judge that by hindsight and observing their tone and body language when they are speaking.
Give them a taste of their own medicine: This is really a last resort, when all else fails. The next time you find them talking about something, enter the conversation by cutting them off but do not be aggressive in doing so. Always remind yourself that you are at your workplace and it is your duty to maintain decorum. Besides, you don’t want to stoop down to their level of mansplaining. Sarcasm is a key to crack the tough nut of mansplaining. Use it wisely to your advantage. Humour them when they realize what you just did. Laugh it off!
Mansplaining may not seem like a grave issue at the surface. But dig a little deeper into it and you’ll see that it stands the potential to affect a woman’s mental health and hinder her growth at the workplace. Hence it is essential for both men and women in the workforce to do whatever they can to stop the mansplaining.
(Edited by Neha Baid)