Womansplaining: when a woman speaks tentatively and with unnecessary “verbal padding” to someone, especially a man, about something she knows well, with the correct assumption that she knows more about it than her listener. The listener’s ego must be protected, and the woman must not, at any point act like a man.
Here’s how it works (I think):
1) Begin with a fact. Example: “You [the listener] have not made your quarterly revenue projections.”
2) If necessary, confirm your own gender. There are several ways to do this.
A) Remembering that “gender” is not “sex,” you should still check for secondary sex characteristics such as breasts, wider hips, and lesser compensation for doing the same job.
B) If born before the 1980s, your name may be a clue. (Please skip to C if your name is Tylor, Monarch, Lou, Bradford-Lee, Starlight, etc.)
C) If you are concerned about your competence and worry that incompetence will cost you your job, then you are probably a woman.
3) Ignore reality and proceed from the premise that the listener’s feelings are as important as the fact. A woman’s knowledge is incidental, apologetic, and unattractive. To illustrate, let’s make a sandwich:
- The bottom bread slice is when you say, “Hey, I don’t want you to worry.” [Your listener should worry, but he doesn’t need to. You can do it for him.]
- A condiment is when you continue, “And this isn’t a reflection on you.” [It is. But it will become a reflection on you, the woman.]
- Finally, some meat: “It seems to be that you [the listener] have not made your quarterly revenue projections.” [Make reality seem subject to negotiation or appeal.]
- Pad the meat with some cheese: “I know you’re trying your best.” [Terrifying if true. Note the rare instance of a direct assertion of knowledge and that it’s about something unknowable.]
- Top with another bread slice, a solicitous, “So let’s talk about what I can do to help.” [This is where you obscure that you have done as much as you can already and now take on the listener’s failure as your own fault.]
Like the sandwich construct itself, it’s a generous format born of the idea that a person’s hands shouldn’t get dirty while they feed off of you.
Now that you know how it works, you can use womansplaining everywhere! A few examples:
Ordering at a restaurant: “Hi, I don’t want to bother you, but I don’t think I ordered the shrimp. I think I ordered the beef because I’m a lot less allergic to it. I guess there might have been a mix-up in the kitchen?” [Use the verb “think” to introduce uncertainty. End your sentence with an upward inflection to undermine your credibility and own responsibility for others’ errors. Maintain empathy and eye contact until your eyelids swell shut.]
When providing tech support: “Great question; thank you for asking it. Your computer doesn’t like being punched when not going fast enough. I could show you some things I learned online to speed up your computer’s performance.” [Personify the computer and show empathy for it; offer information that has the authority of the internet rather than your ten-plus years of experience; do it all with a smile so big it breaks your face.]
While discussing history: “There’s a lot of confusion around that! But I’m pretty sure feminism isn’t the reason you and your high-school diploma only got you into middle-management and not into the Space Shuttle program. I could be wrong.” [You could be wrong. You’re not, but you could be.]
On the sciences: “I was talking with my brother who sent me an article about climate change. There are a lot of convincing graphs and measurements in it. The world is getting warmer and sea levels are rising, they say. What do you think?” [Start talking about science by appealing to authority via introducing the specter of a penis (in this case “brother”). End with the insinuation that the listener’s opinion is as valid as the fact-reporting of thousands of trained professionals. Qualify everything you know to be true.]
When speaking at a meeting: “Jerry just did a great job summarizing and taking ownership of the work I presented immediately before he spoke.” [Nice try, but now you’re just the bitch trying to steal Jerry’s ideas. Apologize for any mistakes Jerry made.]
On your own lived experiences: “Maybe you’re right. Why was I going out into public as if we don’t live in a religious dystopia? Maybe I do need to reflect upon what signals I’m putting out to make entitled strangers touch me without my consent.” [Absolutely do not grab the other person to illustrate your point; unlike you, their experiences are as experienced by them, not as revised by others. Also, ew.]
While hiring: “I don’t want to push this, but she has over ten years of experience and a Bachelor’s in computer science. I feel like him being twenty-five years old, bearded, and self-taught in Tumblr themes doesn’t make him more qualified. I’m sorry.” [Don’t forget to turn basic fairness and compliance with employment law into a special, biased request from you on behalf of all women. Also don’t forget to make yourself smaller at every possible opportunity.]
In summation, womansplaining is two-party face-saving performed entirely by one of those two parties. Hopefully this primer was helpful. If not, no worries, someone will be along soon enough to explain womansplaining in a deeper tone that will allow you to hear it better. (If that’s okay with you.)
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