The phenomenon of mansplaining has received much attention in progressive feminism and is usually not doubted to exist anymore. Even the women who have never heard of the concept have had the experience of a man explaining to them something they know (at times better than he does) and – particularly uncomfortable – something he’s well aware that they know. If a woman wants the conversation floor, she has to fight for it while staying friendly, and she still has to take into account that she might pay for it with her likeability.
All too often, however, we don’t just give up said conversation floor, but we even present it to those men who don’t know more than us. I’ve seen many women asking men (especially their partners) questions that they know these men aren’t qualified to answer. One of the examples I’ve witnessed would be a woman who studied politics asking her husband to explain the political situation of another country, despite being well aware that he didn’t study politics, consumes about half the news that she does and only does so when she consumes the same news.
Why do so many of us do this? Just to keep the conversation going? If that were the case, wouldn’t we ask for their opinion instead of for a useless explanation? I think the reasons lie a lot deeper. Women know unconsciously that most men feel more comfortable when they dominate the conversation (and the women might even feel more comfortable or at least used to it themselves). This is true for speaking time as much as it is for “mastery” in a topic (studies on this here, here and a really great one here). And the feeling of knowing more is enough, actually knowing more is apparently not that important. So, for a conversation that is guaranteed the best to be conflict-free, many women hand men the power of explaining whatever the topic may be.
Essentially, whenever this happens, power structures are reinforced. Men who get handed the floor again and again won’t give it up without a fight in a conversation with a woman who wants to share it. Obviously it’s also the job of men to check their privilege and try to do away with it. But it’s also women’s job to not facilitate mansplaining even more by showing men that their dominance in conversation is so normal that neither of those two genders even notices it.
So let’s start noticing it.