Cleaning The World of Mansplaining

2016-2017 Rising Voices Fellow Lili Klayman, and her friend, doing cleaning work on a service trip.

“It doesn't seem to matter if you have a PhD in neuroscience, that won't stop some [man] from assuming you are ignorant on the subject and carefully explaining what he learned in his high school bio class.” This quote, from an article by Lily Feinn published on Bustle, perfectly explains the art of mansplaining. The term “mansplaining” has recently been injected into society, and it describes instances when a man explains something to a woman in a patronizing manner. Mansplaining can also define moments when a man believes he can explain something better than a woman. This phenomenon has become such a common occurrence in our society that it’s no wonder we needed a word to describe it.

I have recently noticed how often mansplaining occurs in my daily life, in fact it’s the frequency that’s half the issue. Since September, when I was sentenced to live out my days in a linoleum cell (school), I have tallied at least five mansplaining instances. One of the most memorable ones consisted of one of my male peers telling me that mansplaining doesn’t actually exist and it’s just another way that women target men. This boy was mansplaining the concept of mansplaining to me. Needless to say, I took some time to think about the irony.

Another occasion happened just a few weeks ago when a boy in one of my classes interrupted me while I was explaining something and told me that he could explain the subject more “effectively” than I could. Now, I understand that this boy didn’t wait all day to seek me out and spit his misogyny at me. In fact, he probably didn’t even know that what he was doing was problematic, but that’s another piece of the issue. The lack of awareness about mansplaining is troubling, as many men and women underestimate it, and therefor think it’s ok. For example, it is engrained in the DNA of our society that men should control conversations (especially in the business world). Although we are slowly but surely breaking out of those molds, the process would be quicker if mansplaining was left out of the equation.

Going back to the Bustle article I mentioned earlier, Lily Feinn sheds light on yet another aspect of mansplaining. She explains, “when someone starts mansplaining it can make you feel trapped. There are two choices: either you call the guy on his condescending behavior and risk being rude, or you have to wait till he's done with his uninformed diatribe.” In other words, mansplaining has a fight or flight effect. You can engage, or you can choose to stay silent. As someone who has experimented with both fight and flight, I have come to realize that both usually fail. In one instance, when I argued with a mansplainer, I was told to let him share his piece, even though he had interrupted me before I had even addressed my point. In another scenario I decided to walk away from the conversation, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this signaled to my counterpart that he was right. Neither option seems to work, highlighting the point that mansplaining is a very tricky issue to address.

Mansplaining is a deeply ingrained societal issue. We are bred with the notion that men know more than women. Many things fuel this ideology: the wage gap, companies that hire many more men than women (even though women applicants have the same qualifications), as well as the patriarchal nature of our society as a whole. Mansplaining is a big issue on its own, but it’s only one part of a larger ideology that’s dismantling is long overdue.  

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism, Schools
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Klayman, Lili. "Cleaning The World of Mansplaining ." 21 November 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 4, 2022) <>.

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