Photo credit Jim Herrington

One evening over dinner, I began to joke, as I often had before, about writing an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me.” Every writer has a stable of ideas that never make it to the racetrack, and I’d been trotting this pony out recreationally every once in a while. My houseguest, the brilliant theorist and activist Marina Sitrin, insisted that I had to write it down because people like her younger sister Sam needed to read it. Young women needed to know that being belittled wasn’t the result of their own secret failings; it was the boring old gender wars. So lovely, immeasurably valuable Sam, this one always was for you in particular. It wanted to be written; it was restless for the racetrack; it galloped along once I sat down at the computer; and since Marina slept in later than me in those days, I served it for breakfast and sent it to Tom later that day.

That was April 2008 and it struck a chord.  It still seems to get reposted more than just about anything I’ve written at, and prompted some very funny letters to this site. None was more astonishing than the one from the Indianapolis man who wrote in to tell me that he had “never personally or professionally shortchanged a woman” and went on to berate me for not hanging out with “more regular guys or at least do a little homework first,” gave me some advice about how to run my life, and then commented on my “feelings of inferiority.” He thought that being patronized was an experience a woman chooses to, or could choose not to have–and so the fault was all mine. Life is short; I didn’t write back.

Young women subsequently added the word “mansplaining” to the lexicon. Though I hasten to add that the essay makes it clear mansplaining is not a universal flaw of the gender, just the intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.

The battle for women to be treated like human beings with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of involvement in cultural and political arenas continues, and it is sometimes a pretty grim battle. When I wrote the essay below, I surprised myself in seeing that what starts out as minor social misery can expand into violent silencing and even violent death. Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to women, two Liberians and a Yemeni, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Which is to say, that safety and full participation is only a goal.

This is a struggle that takes place in war-torn nations, but also in the bedroom, the dining room, the classroom, the workplace, and the streets. And in newspapers, magazines, and television, where women are dramatically underrepresented. Even in the online gaming arena women face furious harassment and threats of assault simply for daring to participate. That’s mostly symbolic violence.  Real violence, the most extreme form of silencing and destroying rights, takes a far more dire toll in this country where domestic violence accounts for 30 percent of all homicides of women, annually creates about two million injuries, and prompts 18.5 million mental health care visits. It’s in Cairo’s Tahrir Square too, brutal gender violence where freedom and democracy had been claimed.

Having the right to show up and speak are basic to survival, to dignity, and to liberty. I’m grateful that, after an early life of being silenced, sometimes violently, I grew up to have a voice, circumstances that will always bind me to the rights of the voiceless.

Rebecca Solnit, August 19, 2012


I still don’t know why Sallie and I bothered to go to that party in the forest slope above Aspen. The people were all older than us and dull in a distinguished way, old enough that we, at forty-ish, passed as the occasion’s young ladies. The house was great–if you like Ralph Lauren-style chalets–a rugged luxury cabin at 9,000 feet complete with elk antlers, lots of kilims, and a wood-burning stove. We were preparing to leave, when our host said, “No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you.” He was an imposing man who’d made a lot of money.

He kept us waiting while the other guests drifted out into the summer night, and then sat us down at his authentically grainy wood table and said to me, “So? I hear you’ve written a couple of books.”

I replied, “Several, actually.”

He said, in the way you encourage your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice, “And what are they about?”

They were actually about quite a few different things, the six or seven out by then, but I began to speak only of the most recent on that summer day in 2003, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, my book on the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life.

He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?”

So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it. He was already telling me about the very important book–with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.

Here, let me just say that my life is well-sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said–like the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales I still remember from Mr. Pelen’s class on Chaucer–“gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Still, there are these other men, too. So, Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, “That’s her book.” Or tried to interrupt him anyway.

But he just continued on his way. She had to say, “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn’t read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless–for a moment, before he began holding forth again. Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we’ve never really stopped.

The out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet.

When River of Shadows came out, some pedant wrote a snarky letter to the New York Times explaining that, though Muybridge had made improvements in camera technology, he had not made any breakthroughs in photographic chemistry. The guy had no idea what he was talking about. Both Philip Prodger, in his wonderful book on Muybridge, and I had actually researched the subject and made it clear that Muybridge had done something obscure but powerful to the wet-plate technology of the time to speed it up amazingly, but letters to the editor don’t get fact-checked. And perhaps because the book was about the virile subjects of cinema and technology, the Men Who Knew came out of the woodwork.

A British academic wrote in to the London Review of Books with all kinds of nitpicking corrections and complaints, all of them from outer space. He carped, for example, that to aggrandize Muybridge’s standing I left out technological predecessors like Henry R. Heyl. He’d apparently not read the book all the way to page 202 or checked the index, since Heyl was there (though his contribution was just not very significant). Surely one of these men has died of embarrassment, but not nearly publicly enough.

The Slippery Slope of Silencings

Yes, guys like this pick on other men’s books too, and people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

More extreme versions of our situation exist in, for example, those Middle Eastern countries where women’s testimony has no legal standing; so that a woman can’t testify that she was raped without a male witness to counter the male rapist.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)

Arrogance might have had something to do with the war, but this syndrome is a war that nearly every woman faces every day, a war within herself too, a belief in her superfluity, an invitation to silence, one from which a fairly nice career as a writer (with a lot of research and facts correctly deployed) has not entirely freed me. After all, there was a moment there when I was willing to let Mr. Important and his overweening confidence bowl over my more shaky certainty.

Don’t forget that I’ve had a lot more confirmation of my right to think and speak than most women, and I’ve learned that a certain amount of self-doubt is a good tool for correcting, understanding, listening, and progressing–though too much is paralyzing and total self-confidence produces arrogant idiots, like the ones who have governed us since 2001. There’s a happy medium between these poles to which the genders have been pushed, a warm equatorial belt of give and take where we should all meet.

More extreme versions of our situation exist in, for example, those Middle Eastern countries where women’s testimony has no legal standing; so that a woman can’t testify that she was raped without a male witness to counter the male rapist. Which there rarely is.

Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

I tend to believe that women acquired the status of human beings when these kinds of acts started to be taken seriously, when the big things that stop us and kill us were addressed legally from the mid-1970s on; well after, that is, my birth. And for anyone about to argue that workplace sexual intimidation isn’t a life or death issue, remember that Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, age 20, was apparently killed by her higher-ranking colleague last winter while she was waiting to testify that he raped her. The burned remains of her pregnant body were found in the fire pit in his backyard in December.

Being told that, categorically, he knows what he’s talking about and she doesn’t, however minor a part of any given conversation, perpetuates the ugliness of this world and holds back its light. After my book Wanderlust came out in 2000, I found myself better able to resist being bullied out of my own perceptions and interpretations. On two occasions around that time, I objected to the behavior of a man, only to be told that the incidents hadn’t happened at all as I said, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest–in a nutshell, female.

Most of my life, I would have doubted myself and backed down. Having public standing as a writer of history helped me stand my ground, but few women get that boost, and billions of women must be out there on this six-billion-person planet being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever. This goes way beyond Men Explaining Things, but it’s part of the same archipelago of arrogance.

Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t. Not yet, but according to the actuarial tables, I may have another forty-something years to live, more or less, so it could happen. Though I’m not holding my breath.

Women Fighting on Two Fronts

A few years after the idiot in Aspen, I was in Berlin giving a talk when the Marxist writer Tariq Ali invited me out to a dinner that included a male writer and translator and three women a little younger than me who would remain deferential and mostly silent throughout the dinner. Tariq was great. Perhaps the translator was peeved that I insisted on playing a modest role in the conversation, but when I said something about how Women Strike for Peace, the extraordinary, little-known antinuclear and antiwar group founded in 1961, helped bring down the communist-hunting House Committee on Un-American Activities, HUAC, Mr. Very Important II sneered at me. HUAC, he insisted, didn’t exist by the early 1960s and, anyway, no women’s group played such a role in HUAC’s downfall. His scorn was so withering, his confidence so aggressive, that arguing with him seemed a scary exercise in futility and an invitation to more insult.

The battle with Men Who Explain Things has trampled down many women–of my generation, of the up-and-coming generation we need so badly, here and in Pakistan and Bolivia and Java, not to speak of the countless women who came before me…

I think I was at nine books at that point, including one that drew from primary documents and interviews about Women Strike for Peace. But explaining men still assume I am, in some sort of obscene impregnation metaphor, an empty vessel to be filled with their wisdom and knowledge. A Freudian would claim to know what they have and I lack, but intelligence is not situated in the crotch–even if you can write one of Virginia Woolf’s long mellifluous musical sentences about the subtle subjugation of women in the snow with your willie. Back in my hotel room, I Googled a bit and found that Eric Bentley in his definitive history of the House Committee on Un-American Activities credits Women Strike for Peace with “striking the crucial blow in the fall of HUAC’s Bastille.” In the early 1960s.

So I opened an essay for the Nation with this interchange, in part as a shout-out to one of the more unpleasant men who have explained things to me: Dude, if you’re reading this, you’re a carbuncle on the face of humanity and an obstacle to civilization. Feel the shame.

The battle with Men Who Explain Things has trampled down many women–of my generation, of the up-and-coming generation we need so badly, here and in Pakistan and Bolivia and Java, not to speak of the countless women who came before me and were not allowed into the laboratory, or the library, or the conversation, or the revolution, or even the category called human.

After all, Women Strike for Peace was founded by women who were tired of making the coffee and doing the typing and not having any voice or decision-making role in the antinuclear movement of the 1950s. Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being. Things have certainly gotten better, but this war won’t end in my lifetime. I’m still fighting it, for myself certainly, but also for all those younger women who have something to say, in the hope that they will get to say it.

From Men Explain Things To Me (Haymarket Books, 2015)

Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is the author of 17 books, including an expanded hardcover version of her paperback indie bestseller Men Explain Things to Me and a newly released anthology of her essays about places from Detroit to Kyoto to the Arctic, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.

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298 Comments on “Men Explain Things to Me

  1. Thank you for reprinting this wonderful analysis. I missed it first time round. It’s not called patronising for nothing.

      1. Are men the only gender ever to explain things that the listener may know more about than them?

        Common sense says no.

        Here’s a pretty extreme example of a woman femsplaining to MRAs what MRAs were all about.

        Because naturally a feminist would know more about the kind of issues MRAs want to discuss than MRAs themselves.

        If you honestly don’t believe that men have any issues worthy of discussing, then watch the Red Pill movie. It is an award winning movie that takes a non-judgemental approach to men’s issues, and also gives time to the feminist POV.

        For a taste of what the movie’s like, I’d recommend the short TED talk by Cassie Jaye called Meeting the Enemy. Here’s the link to it:

        Spoiler alert: Cassie’s aim in creating The Red Pill was to expose misogyny in the Men’s Rights Movement.

      2. You know I’m going to type this. Growing up I was bullied a lot. But by girls. I was called ugly and other names and made fun of. My male friends stood by me. TBH I’m not very attractive. It was the females in my formative teenage years that didn’t have any trouble making sure I knew how ugly they thought I was. But now in this time I do understand. Hurt is hurt. Neither side should be cruel.Nobody should ever be picked on, or made to feel low. We all have a Mother, and A Father. We all have Female and Male family that we love. Ha, anyway I guess I must be full of shit. I’m just disgusted by the divide.

        1. Agree with Anthony. I think there needs to be a communication bridge.

          Those sound interesting, Mark. I think I’m going to look into it.

      3. It’s a good thing Mark is around to point out such an important fact that I’m sure we were all ignorant of. Jfc.

    1. I am sorry, but this deranged drivel is why women should be restrained from commenting in public. As a Man, I feel it my duty to explain to you that this writer is CLEARLY uninformed and dangerously disruptive of Societal Norms. Perhaps if she and other commentators here had had the benefit of some sound information, then she may become a useful member of society. This may help:

      1. Im sorry but your comment right here is why men should be restrained from even speaking anymore. As a womyn I feel its my duty to explain to you that you are clearly arrogant and most likely have a frail male ego that is so dependent on fucked up societal norms you are willing to stay ignorant to different perspectives for the sake of not questioning your own. Perhaps if you actually didn’t speak and reflected on how ignorant and stupid you sound maybe society could change for the better and we wouldn’t produce people such as yourself anymore.
        Im not leaving you a link to look at b/c all Im recommending you do is to literally shut up and reflect on what you wrote and how you think. This may or may not produce results, either way you may just be a classic, type A personality that is on its way to extinction so im not really concerned. Hope this helps.

        1. I am a bit sick of both your sides..Saying “deranged drivel is why woman”.. and the other side, “Your comment right here is why men.” Speaking in absolutes. Not all over either gender feel this whole way. But I guess with the internet and everyone feeling safe behind their keyboard as a bully. I really doubt things will every change and get better.

        2. He was joking. If you followed the link, you’d realise without any doubt it was a satirical comment.

      2. *laughs*
        *briefly pauses from laughing to catch my breath*
        *laughs longer*
        *takes note that mark goes so far as to capitalize the word “man” yet insecurely delivers a disclaimer prior to his deranged rant*
        *realizes that mark is delusional and most likely unattractive inside and out*
        *laughs the longest*

      3. Lol. Some replying simply don’t their limits! (Or they just don’t know how to copy/paste a URL to watch the YouTube video.) Sad though how over-the-top you really have to go to demonstrate sarcasm on this topic.

    2. I’m a man, and I find this a beautifully written and thought-provoking article.

      The only point I would add to it is that people behave this way when they look down on someone, and use an artificial means such as gender or race to justify it. I certainly believe that men look down on women more often than the reverse, and more often than they do each other. But they all happen.

      Nevertheless, the pervasiveness of men using gender as an justification for looking down on women leads to the societal inequalities that the author has documented here.

      A simple contribution that anyone may make to a solution is to quit looking down on people. Nobody needs to, really.

      1. There are so many issues but the one I usually suggest people look at, if they want to understand how men feel about women, is to take a look at the phone book ( online is fine too!) and count how many men list their wives initials alongside their own. It is very telling. It is just as telling if the wife doesn’t feel she should list her name if it turns out to be her ‘job’ to organise the phone connections. Obviously, I am referring to women who give up their own name (and identity) when they marry.
        To make the exercise easier, count the listings which have both husband and wife shown. It won’t take long.
        We are a long way from equality and civilization.

        1. Last time I checked, the phone company would not list both names or initials without us paying extra. So your observation is not really a true reflection of society’s view as it is the true reflection of the phone company’s view.

    3. Rage whether for or against something is still violent. Why not be creative and develope a semi-rural voluntary exile community for released sex offenders that keeps pedophiles and rapist separate away from women and children? I am registered a homeless Level 3 sex offender getting $750.00 a month from SSI, $160.00 from DSHS in supplemental food stamps. At first, When I got after doing another 36 years straight in prison on the public dime, X-ING and 501(c)(3) from Sober Living Services got me a 1986 motorhome for $40, which I have repairing, which I park in a private driveway, as I battle a foreclosure in the courts after our landlady died. No employer will hire me with my criminal records. I have good support from my brother and sisters, but none of them want me telling anybody the details of my plans to get a piece of property, but motorhomes from MV Towing, fix them up, and have those released pedophiles and rapist pay for our wants and needs. Rebecca Solnit wants to complain about the plight of women and not provide any guidance as to how to actually protect women and children from rapist and pedophiles.

      1. Women don’t want ‘protection’. They want to live freely without threats of violence or actual violence. Maybe men need to simply obey the law if they can’t find it within themselves to respect others and their rights. The law, and its enforcement, costs billions of dollars…money that should be spent on education, scientific and medical research etc. But no, we have men the world over behaving like pigs, causing terrible social issues and holding civilization back. If in doubt visit a courthouse near you to see who makes up the majority of defendants. It is sickening.

  2. “the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered.”

    If a man would turn this completely sexist argument around you would be outraged. Let me demonstrate:

    “out-and-out hysterical reactions to normal arguments, are, in my experience, normal behaviour for women but not as much for men”

    1. You haven’t turned the argument around, though: you replaced ‘confrontational’ with ‘hysterical’. Hysterical is an adjective with a long and very gendered history of prejudice – so in a sort of ironic way, you support Solnit’s statement.

        1. We’re all the setpieces of each other here. Viezeric apparently meant the argument’s form, not the argument’s content. When one says, “That’s a strawman argument”, one doesn’t mean that the other has argued to establish that one is a strawman. And since I’m a man who explained to women something obvious to the men, you can argue, a la Solnit, that I’m mansplaining. Hence, the women’s reactions here do resemble hysteria, similar to Solnit’s. She ironically fails to apprehend that mansplaining is so gendered in her experience since, to begin with, her experience is so gendered. Throughout my life, I’ve been the victim of girls and women womanplaining to me with “the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant”.

          1. You said it, mate. Serena & Cyndi seem to have missed the point and it seems some mansplaining was in order, lol!

    2. hysterical – is the same word root as hysterectomy. It relates to the assumption that only women get overly upset. I think it relates to having to bite your tongue for years in order to survive until you are ready to explode.

  3. I do not wish, in any way to belittle the fight that women, throughout the world, face on a daily basis. The fight to be heard, the fight to be taken seriously, the fight for parity, and so on. I support all of these objectives, and wonder why it is that women even have to fight. They are equal. No question. But, are you seriously telling me that women are the only ones who have to fight the men who explain. I have, in my 50 years, been a Mechanical Engineer and a television producer. I have a huge range of knowledge and experience. I have met, worked with and been entertained by members of the British royal family. I have travelled extensively. I have been through university, twice. And yet, still, I suffer from the men who explain.
    The problem is not one of gender, in my experience, at least not when it comes to the victims of these over opinionated fools. No, men who explain just need a victim. It doesn’t matter whether they are penis-less or not. They just need a victim.
    Your comments do not undermine the cause of feminism, but to take a portion of society that exists for everybody, and make it another tool with which to bash men (not all men, as you kindly state yourself) does not further the cause any, and may even give the men who explain more ammunition to fuel their foolish belief that they are the only ones who know.

    1. Thank you for explaining again how Solnit is wrong.
      As for “bashing” men – WTH are you even speaking of? That this is some kind of sexist comment?
      Oh, please….puh-lease…..PUH – LEASE.

    2. This is an age old concept where, yes, you occasionally “suffer” from men who explain. But, you aren’t in the context of a woman’s life nor are you trying to place yourself in that perspective to see how systematically mansplaining is more prevalent in women’s lives than in men’s.

      1. I’m male. Ironically, having never much suffered from men explaining anything to me, I’m prepared to accept that women suffer from it far more often–until I reflect. Then I realize that I’ve often sustained men mansplaining to me. I mostly never found it remarkable, just took it as part of life. And truly, I’ve sustained mansplaining far more from women, mansplaining to me aggressively and chronically both about the very same things that men have mansplained to me about, but additionally on what the women are utterly ignorant about–what it’s like to be a boy or a man and what I thereby think and feel and what I should be and do.

      2. Are you explaining to Marc that he can’t possibly have ‘suffered’ from a man explaining because a man being subjected to uneducated and uninformed comments from a male cannot possibly suffer as only women have the womb in place to enable suffering as an experience???
        Why are you belittling his experience?
        Sometimes people ‘mansplain’ because they are noxious individuals who like to assert that they are superior. Sometimes men do it because they have been socialised to always act assertive and be right, trying to appear confident when they are not. Women , in general, tend to question themselves and appear less confident despite knowing the facts. Both positions can be detrimental, maybe we just need to recognise that they both exist and that generally, one gender tends towards one behaviour. In most cases people do not do it to be demeaning or toxic or shirking responsibility or procrastinating

    3. I just wonder how may times you have suffered this indignity of being told your opinion is incorrect on a subject you know well, by a woman?

      I bet only men have had the audacity to do this so doesn’t tell you something?

    4. In the end it’s about satisfying egos for people.
      The targets don’t matter! Anyone different will suffice.

      Thank you, this made my day.

  4. Ah ha, Explaining Men is a thing then? I have some experience of them since my older brother has been one for the last 20 years. Still, at least he’s obnoxious towards both sexes so that’s something.

    I’ll be honest, when I started reading this I didn’t believe that this could be classed as a gender issue. Surely these pedantic arseholes do it to everyone. No one in this day and age would patronise a woman just because she is a woman. It’s a naive viewpoint of mine that I’ve never really considered before.

    On a side note: “Mansplaining” sounds like some sort of uncomfortable sex act.

  5. I hate these kinds of articles – mostly, because they fuel the fire against feminism, when it is indeed an important battle to be won. That’s because men ironically know better than this article, and, perhaps, it would be worth at least listening to them when they explain… as will I… that the Explaining Men explain to everyone. I suppose there is an argument that would suggest that they do fear, in their inevitable narcissism, a formidable contender, and I would hazard a guess to say that they would probably presume that contender to be a man. Probably. But that’s hard to observe and demonstrate, and certainly not what you are doing in this article. You take a couple of jerks – from very privileged positions – and you turn their behaviour – from just one encounter – into a generalised view of them as symbols for most men. And I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. They’re just jerks who think they’re better than EVERYONE, and you’re kidding yourself if you think they don’t explain to other men.

    The irony of this article is that it is in itself a symptom of sexism, because it creates a kind of paranoia and resentment in women that starts projecting over things it probably shouldn’t. But most men won’t consider this- they’ll just say “Those feminists talk rubbish, that’s wrong!” because… well… it is wrong. And that will cancel out any self-comprehension of what is wrong about those men! Which is a shame, really.

  6. I remember a great conversation with a lover years ago where he explained something and I then asked whether what he’d said was actually bullshit? He replied that it was. This is obviously a sub-section of the mansplaining that you were talking about, but it’s a very rich seam and worthy of note.

      1. when women all say the same thing and you as a man are there, saying “what if all of your perceptions are wrong though?”
        … clearly, as a man, you are right.

  7. If anyone feels Ms Solnit lacks proof of her argument, perhaps that person should look at the gender of those writing these lengthy comments of why and how she misinterpreted her own experiences.

  8. As ‘Ha’ has already pointed out, it seems that anyone decrying Rebecca’s claims is a man. They’re keen to point out (after saying how much the love the wimin and their rights and that) that it happens to them as well, seemingly blind to the fact that what they have written is not actually a valid counterargument, though they believe that it is. Why is it not a counterargument? Because she hasn’t claimed that it doesn’t happen to men, just that it happens a lot to women. As men it is hard for us to know whether it does happen a lot to women (or any subjective difference in the experience when it does), interestingly we still want to have an opinion on that though right, I mean we’d probably know better…

    1. whether they’re men or not is irrelevant. You probably have 4 times many men reading this page cause its on the internet.

  9. Fuggedaboutit: “The Battle with Men Who Explain Things to Me” seems to be very dissimilar from “The Battle with Men Who” deliberately pursue the belittlement, degradation and submission of women through gender-based violence; repression; and denial of access to economic, social, political, and cultural opportunities. Rolling up ‘mansplaining’ with the overt and covert efforts to obstruct women and girls from realizing their rights, determining their life outcomes, and participating in all levels of societal discourse and decision-making appear disingenuous. IMMSO — In My ManSplaining Opinion

  10. “The irony of this article is that it is in itself a symptom of sexism, because it creates a kind of paranoia and resentment in women that starts projecting over things it probably shouldn’t.”

    Ladies are so hysterical! So overreactive!

    To previous commenters: I would guess that women suffer this a TAD more than men, given the whole history of sexism / assumption of inferiority thing. On the same note, I’ve seen white women whitesplain to women of color– like the girl in a class of mine who dismissively asked our visiting guest, the NY head of ACORN, whether she’d ever read bell hooks. (spoiler: she most certainly, certainly had.) Or the straight allies who like to have a much louder voice than those they’re trying to support. ‘Splaining travels right down the privilege ladder and really just helps to reenforce identity politics.

    To the people who say this article makes feminists look bad, I’d say a) we really couldn’t give two shits what makes us “look bad.” and b) thanks for explaining how women should be feminists. it’s suuuuuper helpful.

  11. Growing up amid many bipolar men, I was occasionally shocked to find I was being heard every now and then. Ever since it was imperative that what I said was interesting, factual and contributory. That formula has never failed me except when people are just too darn wrapped up in themselves to hear anyone and those people have been men as well as women. So, I wait, I learn, I judge when what I say will be heard, otherwise it’s just people of both genders COMPETING to dominate the floor. And competition as it pertains to communication is just another version of oneupmanship.

    1. This is one of the best comments I’ve read on this thread. Thank Jann, for injecting some far too uncommon common sense into it. I don’t know if you’re male or female, and frankly it doesn’t matter, your comments are right on the money.

      As an aside, there is nothing wrong with explaining things per se. One of my best mates loves to explain things and I don’t mind as he always makes sense.

      The term mansplaining is a sexist term for reasons that require no explanation for anyone with a modicum of common sense.

  12. I put this comment on the MotherJones version of this article, so I might as well put it on here as well…

    I don’t doubt that these events happened to Rebecca Solnit, nor do I doubt her interpretation of them. I do question her logic in assembling them in support of an argument about sexism.

    This article is essentially an assemblage of anecdotes, some half-told, and all laced with minimizing nudge-wink insinuations (I enjoyed especially “suburban bomb-making community”).

    In the first, Solnit goes to a party with people she does not like, and at the end of the evening she and her friend stay with these dull, moneyed people, and a boor with whom they had chosen to extend their stay behaved boorishly towards them.

    Next, the reviews, which Solnit recounts in rude and dismissive fashion. (Was this article supposed to satirise “minimising” and “silencing” behaviour? It doesn’t seem to have been taken in that way by most readers.)

    Solnit dismisses “a British academic” (Professor Brian Winston). What might otherwise be called a contribution – however mistaken – to an academic debate, she describes as “nitpicking” and “carping”. Condescendingly she refers to her academic colleague as “the guy”.

    The “some pedant” to whom she refers appears to be Matthew Demakos whose letter is reproduced on this page ( – but he wrote a letter addressing not Solnit herself, but Solnit’s reviewer Jim Lewis, whom Demakos accuses of “advanc[ing] a common misconception about early photography”.

    It seems odd to enlist this criticism of one man by another man in an argument about sexism against women. But then, as Solnit concedes: “Yes, guys like this pick on other men’s books too, and people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories.” Uh, yes. Talk about burying the lede. Why is this article about man-on-woman arrogance, again?

    Having run out of personal examples, Solnit slithers onto the ‘slippery slope’ of non-sequiters.

    Where is the evidence that Colleen Rowley’s gender was an issue the FBI’s failure to take seriously the warnings of her field office? Solnit cites none. Where is the gender connection to the Bush administration’s arrogance in the Iraq war? Again, Solnit cites none, conceding that “male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness”. So maybe no gender there, actually. (And wasn’t Karen Hughes one of Bush’s top advisers at the time? What about – the in-theory doubly silenced – Condoleezza Rice?)

    Then we veer even further away from arguments that might support Solnit’s shaky foundations. That one Christmas years ago that her boyfriend’s Uncle – who is voiceless, and whose reasons which are speculated by Solnit – apparently didn’t take as seriously as he should have done an apparent claim of domestic violence.

    Next, Solnit suggests it’s too difficult for restraining orders to be put in place. “Even getting a restraining order—a fairly new legal tool—requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it.” Read that sentence carefully and tell me that doesn’t sound like a really good description of due process? Does Solnit truly advocate a situation in which restraining orders can be granted on a complainant’s say-so? If so, why doesn’t she argue this?

    Then some more anecdotes, with nothing to link this clearly to a wider trend, except for the line “every woman knows what I’m talking about”, which is really not enough. Sure, ask women if they’ve been talked over, ‘silenced’, ‘minimized’, and patronised and no doubt they will say that they have. But is there any proper, empirical, non-anecdotal, adjusted-for-confirmation-bias research to indicate whether this behaviour (or the perception of it) is as gendered as Solnit argues? Maybe there is, but once again, Solnit cites none.

    Anyone with half a brain knows that sexism exists, and that men are often patronising to women. I’ve seen plenty of that in my anecdotal experience. I’ve also seen plenty of it between men, between women, and from women towards men. We could all write up the moments in our lives when we had been mistreated, condescended to, silenced or minimized by [insert socio-political-economical-sexual group here].

    But what’s the point, if the argumentation is so illogical? What does it achieve, other than to misguide the faithful and infuriate the middle ground?

    1. I’m not saying other contributions weren’t worthy, but this answer, written in 2012, is the most intelligent piece of writing on this subject in the entire thread.

      So very well written, and such very good points.

    2. Perhaps Solnit assumed basic knowledge on the part of her readers. You know, things like unequal pay, unequal access to finance, and epidemic sized sexual violence against women. Wholesale structural gendered inequality has been well researched and documented. Solnit (IMHO) was describing how male behaviour reinforces this inequality, despite thousands of laws enacted to prevent it. It is disingenuous to think men, who have had everything their own way for centuries, suddenly respect women just because its 2012 or indeed 2050. Stating that Solnit’s observations ( ‘anecdotes’ ) are illogical is another example of condescension or, quite possibly, gaslighting.

  13. “I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)”

    You are, surely, KIDDING?

  14. Firstly – I loved this article, it really resonated with frustrations and experiences I have lived and felt. I think it’s an important article to have written. I want to ask a question, not as a criticism of the article, but honestly and openly hoping for other people’s perspective on it.

    The article was written with a friend’s younger sister (Sam) in mind. I wonder to what extent there is some Explaining then in the premise of the article. Not Men-Explaining but Intellectually-Self-Satisfied-(Older/Whiter/Richer?)-Women Explaining. I’m wondering this thinking about my own relationship with my younger sister who, in her late teens, often says she feels ashamed of her lack of knowledge on things and too embarrassed to give her (she feels uninformed) opinions. I want to explain to her that she doesn’t need to feel that way and that she has lots of wonderful things to contribute. I want to show her this article. But I’m worried that by doing that I am contributing to exactly the tone of arrogant Explaining that traps her in this lack of confidence in her own voice. I guess this is a broader question about the means by which feminist standpoints are expressed and diffused. How do we avoid mimicking the same patronising (emphasis on patr) tone that we seek to escape? And, really, how can I best approach the situation with my sister – how can we think about “voicing” outside of the problematically hierarchical “giving voice”?

    1. “my younger sister who, in her late teens, often says she feels ashamed of her lack of knowledge on things and too embarrassed to give her (she feels uninformed) opinions.” I am very curious about how your sister came to feel this way about herself. Do either you or she have insight into this?

      1. If you can access this 2 part BBC Documentary wherever you are, it would certainly add huge credence and insight to how pervasive, and invisibly ‘white-noise’ background this cultural reality is. Like living by the main road, the traffic noise and fumes becomes so much in the background as to be something you cease to be aware of (but you life-expectancy is shortened dramatically the closer you live to the road – so unawareness does NOT mean irrelevance!)

    2. There is a big difference between genuinely trying to help someone with your greater experience and dismissively putting the other person down. The answer is in your motivation, and the recipient can feel the difference.

  15. I can’t believe this post — halfway through it points out how her life is sprinkled with lovely men — yet we’re being fed “mansplaining”. Wtf? I’ve had a number of female bosses act in this manner but I don;t go gobbing off about “womensplaining” like a little 8 year old. Guess what? Some men and women, in equal measures, are idiots. But if you generalise on the base of sex (or color — but I bet you wouldn’t think of doing that) then you are, by far, a bigger one.

    1. You mention “female bosses act in this manner.”
      I don’t doubt your experiences, but you’re missing the point. Women, who may be the boss in the company, often have men at the bottom rung of the company or even me not working in the company, even the bloody industry, explain what the woman is doing wrong or how “he’d” do it.
      That’s mansplaining.

      1. I guess that is why Stash is oblivious to the driving factors in creating a reality that, in Australia, there are more men named ‘John’ as heads of listed companies than their are women. The Gender wars are viscous.
        There are some GREAT observations about this as it relates to Greenalnd and Genderered leadership issues in Michael Moore’s doco, “Where Shall We Invade Next” (I have NOT checked that particular site)

  16. Wow. It’s true… as far as I can tell, every. single. hater. of this article has not lived life as a woman. It’s so simple: if someone from a community that has less systemic privilege than you shares their experience so you can stop perpetuating the kind of unconscious oppression in question: LISTEN.

    Seriously. It really is that simple. Just shut up, listen, and BELIEVE that people who have lived in their own skin know more about what that is like for them than you do. And then, take a long, hard look at your own behaviors, ask yourself how you might change them to account for this new information, thank the person who shared it with you, and change.

    It’s not hard, and it’s not personal.

    Did I mention that it’s not about you? Cos it’s not. But it is your responsibility to change it.

    1. This is just an astoundingly absurd response to a well thought out, and well articulated comment pertaining to an equally absurd topic. Well done.

  17. > I put this comment on the MotherJones version of this article, so I might as well put it on here as well…

    That does not really make any sense. Why would you post to every copy of the article you can find? Anyway you’re wrong here too but I at least will abbreviate myself:

    You are being extraordinarily dishonest. Of course it doesn’t hold together if you construe it as an argument. It’s some anecdotes from life. It’s a discussion about the state of the world, as the writer sees it. And it’s a call to action. It’s not an argument that women are patronized by men, any more than my pants are. Oh, these pants don’t even have any citations.

  18. I am often baffled at the difficulty some people have believing that the experience of men talking down to women is still a common occurrence. It hasn’t been that long ago that women where expected to keep their opinions to themselves in almost every venue.

    While I don’t always succeed, I make an effort to listen when I am corrected by either my wife or daughter, and am pleased to say that my 5 year old grand daughter had corrected me a few times as well. When she does, I acknowledge her correction and thank her, or if appropriate, apologize. I want to make sure she knows that she has a voice, and should always use it.

    To those who wish to argue that this article is not (as they think it should be) burdened by footnotes and copious detailed facts, it’s been pointed out that it was not written to be a peer reviewed paper. I hope Sam enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks.

      1. Sure but women explaining things to men when they have inferior knowledge on the subject, they cut them off, etc is not the default scenario. Men who do it to women is the default. It’s as simple as that :)

        1. ok, its a simple as that. Then the action for the woman to cut off the man who is talking about something that he does not know about is your job. You have the power and ability to do that but you don’t. And after you act so sheepishly you then try to pin this as sexist behavior. I’ve loathed this comment section because of the poor arguments and the people making fun of men as a whole.

          1. Yet you obsessively read them all, correct? 😉 Now, if you wouldn’t mind… Please do list all of the individual names of all the people for whom you found fault, not only regarding their own respective perspectives; but also, please, for my own greater understanding, match those same names to the (please itemize!) exceptions you took to the tone(s) with which they presented their arguments or opinions (based upon personal life experiences) to the entire group assembly here in the comments section over the last 8 years. Or, was it perhaps your assumption that all of these comments were directed directly (and only) to you, through both space and time? 😉 I am basing my assumptions about you, most directly, from your own actions here in this democratic-like forum. And I can already here so many people starting to say, “That is nothing like/sort of dissimilar to the Democratic Process!”
            And to those commenters queueing up for democracy… I have no rebuttal. 🇺🇸💭👌😔🙄😇🙂🤔😬😜

    1. That’s a good question. Certainly there are women who also give unwanted explanations about things they are less knowledgeable about, but by far the most mansplainers I’ve seen are male. It’s the gender dynamic that warrants creating the very term. I think it boils down to this: when women are insecure around men they tend to traditionally get quiet; when men are insecure around women they tend to traditionally get louder. Note that this is not saying that all women or men do this, but that the force of tradition and habit adds greatly to the dynamic. Thank God it is better than it used to be, and that insecure women are more likely to demand their voice while insecure men are more likely to let themselves sit with their uncertainty. But there is still a notable amount of the old traditional friction with women being demeaned without even being listened to, as seen in some of these comments. Just accept that we inherited a mess and that the way we choose to move forward demonstrates our personal sense of nobility and fair play.

      1. indeed there already is a defined subsection in momsplainers… the annoying women who start their sentences with “as a mother” who invariably think that non-moms can not see the bigger societal picture or that non-moms can know anything valuable about child care/child raising

        They love to momsplain to non-moms (especially dads) but also to new moms

  19. First, conflicts of interest: I am a man, and I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of mansplaining.

    I enjoyed reading this, and it gave me a lot to think about, about myself, and about the way society is structured. I don’t think that the assertions made or implied in the article are wrong; I expect that there is a gender difference between the givers and receivers of this kind of explanation. However, I don’t agree that this article in any way proves or even particularly illustrates that this is the case.

    This doesn’t stop it from being an interesting talking point, and a valid contribution in that light. I would be interested to see evidence – by which I mean a properly controlled study – that shows this is specifically gendered, and not due to the position on what Callie refers to as the ‘privilege ladder’. In other words, it may be that men tend to be privileged, and privileged people tend to ‘splain, rather than that men ‘splain.

    And I find myself concerned that the notion of evidence seems to be downplayed (e.g. “If anyone feels Ms Solnit lacks proof of her argument, perhaps that person should look at the gender of those writing these lengthy comments of why and how she misinterpreted her own experiences.”). Surely, given that sexism is prevalent, there is lots of rich evidence of sexism at work available for the studying? If anecdote is considered sufficient grounds for argument, then why reject anecdote as counterargument?

  20. “My houseguest, the brilliant theorist and activist Marina Sitrin…”

    I LOLed at “theorist.” Pure comedy.

  21. I’m a man, and I’d just like to say: guys, surely you can see that with this particular article, leaving a lengthy explanation here about why the author is wrong is kind of a self-defeating gesture?

  22. Men, naturally thought incorrectly, assume women want to know how the world works instead of the of the world as a magical. There is a reason superstitions passed along from generation to generation are called “old wive’s tales.” They lack grounding in fact and rely heavily on someone’s anecdotal evidence in the misty past. Women have traditionally been less interested in empirical evidence than men, which also goes a long way to explain why women are far more likely to be regular church-goers.

    1. citation please? Women have been “traditionally” tasked with managing the household and which, in religious times, meant praying for everyone else. It’s nothing to do with women wanting to live in magical fairy land.

    2. Old wives tales – a fair number of them have been proven to be very real and fact-based. Catch up.

  23. I am amused by flurry of mansplaining from the mansplainers whose thin skin was so easily pricked by this essay.

    Their egos prevent them from seeing the irony and they really want to believe that just because they were lectured to a few times in their lives by some know-it-alls, it can even begin to compare to the daily life of a woman having almost every man in her life tell her she’s not smart enough to know the 411.

    Kate Marshall, I think most people accept the older people in their lives can pass wisdom on to the younger. I think there can be a little valid privilege to do so in experience.

    In my opinion, the best answer you can give to your little sister if she doesn’t feel confident to comment on a subject, is to advise her to inform herself on those subjects she’d like to speak up about. Instead of explaining to her, encourage her to educate herself. This essay is one of many sources when considering the subject of feminism.

    I just ordered ‘How To Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, heard her interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, loved what she had to say and of course she’s also hilarious..oftentimes humor can really drive a point home to a younger person without it feeling like a lecture.

    1. I think that it’s a feminist sociopolitical and misandrist delusion that it is “the daily life of a woman having almost every man in her life tell her she’s not smart enough to know the 411”. This sounds more like what boys and men are being told by girls and women–and that any appearance otherwise is due to boys and men suppressing girls and women. Nathanson P & Young KK, Spreading Misandry (McGill-Queen’s U P, 2001)

  24. Others have pointed it out – I couldn’t make it thru the entire article. It was too patronizing, wordy and arrogant.

    Women intentionally act stupid to get what they want, avoid confrontation, and not have to be the ones to step out on a limb.

    You may be suffering from what a bunch of other bimbos have been responsible for creating … but the root of origin is in women who intentionally create lower standards for themselves. *Shrug* It sucks, got it, I’m sorry.

    As far as sexist, raping murdering pigs in the middle east. Like every other red blooded man – I’d cut their balls off and force them to eat them given half a chance.

    1. hahah I’m really hoping this comment was satirical. It proves her point exactly! she even makes a point to mention instances where men have tried to explain matters to her based on pieces of writing they didn’t bother to finish reading.

      She never ones mentions “and then this man who was far better educated on the subject than I shed some light on it and I walked away having learned something new! It was wonderful!” Because if a man who knew more about something wanted to share his knowledge, she’d listen. She even mentions the great men in her life whom she’d presumably have these moments with. No, the point is that so many men, who just don’t know as much as she does about a specific thing have tried to educate her on that very thing. Do you see how this is working? THAT’s the problem. That the presumption is that she wouldn’t know because she’s a nice woman who probably has other, simple things on their minds.

      Oh and hey, also, what you said is unfounded and completely rude. “Women intentionally act stupid to get what they want, avoid confrontation, and not have to be the ones to step out on a limb.” This is fucking infuriating. Please don’t engage in this discussion any further.

    2. Bob, although disagreeing with your stereotype of “every other red blooded man”, I must say, you’ve succinctly spoken the blasphemous truth about women’s social tactics.

  25. Great article and essay… really enjoyed the perspective and the few chuckles along the way… really enjoyed the work

  26. I agree with a lot of this article, but part of it makes it sound like women never talk down to men about “things women just know more about”, which is untrue. I’ve been talked down to by men and women both plenty of times – it’s not just a one-gender thing.

    Men aren’t wholly arrogant just as women aren’t wholly stupid, or any other stereotypical, insulting assumption.

  27. Also, the comment about restraining orders….what? You want to just be handed one without proof, simply because you’re a woman? That’s sexist in and of itself. A guy being harassed by an ex-girlfriend should have to get some proof and have the cops enforce it because he’s male, but a woman with the same problem should just get it? Uhhh, equality, anyone?

    As for domestic violence, I know people whose wives will take swings at them every time they get pissed off. Let me guess, since they’re men, they should just “deal with it”, and she should face no penalty for her actions, right? If a man had swung at her, he’d be arrested on the spot, and rightly so.

    For all the hardships women do indeed face in today’s world, they also have it extremely easy in a lot of things.

    Both genders face problems, but no one’s willing to say that because they’re labeled “sexist” for wanting everyone to be on equal footing. Because that makes sense…..

  28. as a man I can’t help but feel a little hurt that one who fights for equality would then proceed to label a whole gender under the acts of a minority. It is my belief there is only way to create equality between people and it is achieved through respect towards all. Boxing a gender in based on some peoples behavior only serves to push the type of stereotypes that have diminished what we as a race should be working towards.

    It’s only when we let go of the stereotypes and start to look beyond the genders, sexual preferences, religious outlooks, political views and what countries we are from, that we might grow.

  29. I was going to leave a comment mansplaining why this article was wrong, as a joke, but after reading the comments here I realize that it would be impossible to distinguish that comment from the comments of men who are actually doing that.

    Maybe they’re all just very clever parodies?

  30. I mansplain things to all genders, but it’s because of my own baggage. I actually take very seriously the subjugation of women and in spite of it I continue to act out – because of my own issues of needing to be heard and validated. I do NOT want to be seen as “that guy” or an asshole, but alas my own convictions would be perceived that way.. It’s a vicious cycle that has virtually nothing to do with gender and everything to do with nature and nurture. IMO

  31. Hi, another man here! I’d like to address my comment not to Rebecca, whose article is great and was great the first time round, but to the men responding to her in the comments.

    Dear Dudes: if the entirety of your comment can be summed up as “You’re wrong; here’s why” then you, sir, are mansplaining.

    Neither the author nor any keen observer of these issues argues that women don’t explain things, or that the Men Who Explain Things don’t explain to other men. What this symptomatic issue is about is that Men Who Explain Things To Women have a tendency to _listen_ to other Men Who Explain Things, but do _not_ listen to any woman who explains things. It’s their modus operandi that because they are Men, they are Right, and that if the other participant is a Woman, she is by default Wrong.

    It deserves noting that this is driven by our societal structures that tell men at every turn that they are free to do whatever _they_ want to do, yet tells women that they should consider themselves lucky the men are _letting_ them do whatever they want to do. This is society ingraining the gender divide upon us all, meaning, if you haven’t spent much time observing, addressing and counter-balancing the gender-normative influences of society in your own life, you’re probably still a product of them.

    1. “you’re wrong; here’s why”

      Right, and when I respond to articles that detail why blacks are inferior to whites or why women are inferior to males I wont make the comment that you seem to hate. Because arguments are not helpful or anything. Because allowing said opinions to be published without an opposition so that those watching can take a viewpoint rather than just going with the default. Seriously…

  32. Interesting how the differences in gender or race is always the path writers, comedians and journalists take when they don’t have anything interesting to say.

  33. Hahaha. For the best example yet, see the comment by Bob above. I was starting to have a hard time recalling recent examples, because the men I encounter and keep in my life are genuinely informed, enlightened and smart people–not those trying to “prove” that they are.

    A man commenting on an article he didn’t even read? Calling a woman’s essay irrelevant for being “wordy and arrogant”? Wow. This reminds me of all the ignorant fools who fight to have the last word on current events right after admitting they never read the news.

    From what I’ve seen, there is often a generational difference in how men treat women. I’m hoping these boors die out quicker in our lifetime than video rental stores.

  34. Isn’t the point that these ‘men’ who act like they know everything are men…. As the writer states, it’s not all men who do this, and the fact that these men inflict their ‘knowledge’ on other men seems very believable (as people have stated here). I don’t think that makes it a non gender issue as they remain men. Sure, not always inflicting their ‘knowledge’ on women only. I think it is worth considering though that they may disproportionately give this knowledge out to women.

    I’m sure that the writer is aware that there are other power dynamics at play other than gender. However, if those who have commented here (who seem predominately male themselves) are so supportive of gender equality, but appear equally sure that this is not an example of its opposite, perhaps you could look at it another way. Is it not likely that a group of individuals with a collective identity who are given power – political and physical – over another group are likely to display that superiority complex in many ways, including through ‘knowledge’. Could this not be happening here? I’m sure that race, socio-economic background, nationality etc also play their part in these issues and gender is only part of it. To say that gender has no role within this though seems to overlook the very issue of power relations which it seems most people cannot deny exist.

  35. What a condescending sexist woman. Being the only man besides my dad in family, I was raised by women. So telling me how my brain works because of the way you’ve created stereotypes and a superiority complex is an irresponsible usage of your intellectual capacity.

      1. And Booya! Another ginormous strawman! Which is what this whole topic is…one big strawman arguement. They are called fallacies for goid reason. I’d explain it to you further, but I’m gonna assume some intelligence on your part.

  36. Thank you for a wonderful, insightful, and deeply familiar analysis. I wish you were an obligatory read in high schools. And I will make my students read it. Go get them, tiger!

  37. I think that a lot of the Male answer syndrome(what I have referred to it as over the years) simply starts as a desire to fix things or tackle a problem. I have been known to in the past analyse or over analyse a problem or situation and infer things about the issue without having factual basis for said statement. Sometimes this has made some extraordinary BS escape my lips. I believe that inherently, this is a mechanism that stems from a good nature, that like anything else can be taken to the point of perversion. I like many men before me have been called out on it, and took to becoming more of an observer than needing to “help” everyone around me(whether they wanted it or not). I noticed that a lot of these traits in relation to women were trained by common interactions at an early adolescent age in particular, dating roles. Personally I’ve noted that I’m much happier the less I try to dole out advice. Sometimes it is difficult to avoid this, especially in relationships in which you care about someone a great deal, but standing back and waiting for those who may need advice to come to you and instead of solving problems, giving advice and having those individuals make a solution is far more gratifying. As with anything else, a touch of arrogance and privilege not checked can tarnish any good nature.

    1. dear intriguing…thanks for your thoughtful and honest reply to this difficult discussion. good on you! i hope many of us will do the same deep thinking. and find how rewarding it can be.

  38. Well, to all the women on here saying that men responding to this article should just keep it to themselves since they’ve never lived life as a woman… all I can say is, you’ve never lived life as a man, so how would you know that you get treated any differently? Men explain things to you, Ok, but you’re not a man, so how would you have any idea how much we have things explained to us by other men AND women? And how would you have any idea that the amount you have things explained to you is any less than men?

    This is the problem when anyone starts yammering about how bad they have it compared to anyone else. All you have is your own life to look at. Maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are and need to have things explained. Maybe you surround yourself with arrogant people. Or maybe you don’t have it any worse than anyone else, you just think you do.

  39. No doubt that people like this exist. Beautifully written and well-expressed. There is a lot of truth to it. Still, each time I read it I can’t help to feel it’s a huge overgeneralization. OK, so you’ve met a few assholes along the way. Haven’t we all? I certainly have met women like this as well.

  40. Is all writing just different explanations of our world?

    If so then maybe the pie graphs below are just a symptom of men wanting to explain things?

    But then, probably not.

  41. Thank you for opening the discussion of women rights to me.

    When I mention a fact about a topic I have always wondered why it is usually followed by a comment such as: “Are you sure?” or “Where did you hear that?”

  42. I love all the mansplainers here in the comments who insist on mansplaining to us all how “mansplaining” isn’t really a thing because men who are mansplainers tend to mansplain to everyone, other men included. Uh-huh. Please….tell us more about your experiences with this phenomenon and how un-gendered those experiences have been for you. And how those experiences negate the author’s experiences and how misguided it is of her to write an essay about her experiences in a way that calls attention to gender issues. And how arrogant and patronizing her writing style is. And how her essay is counterproductive to the project of gender equality. And how we have a special word for women who “womansplain”: nags. And how illogical, non-qualitative, and anecdotal (= illegitimate) her personal essay is. Please. Continue. We’re all ears.

  43. It’s comforting to see that women can be just as sexist as men. I’m sure the right to be predictably stereotyping of men is exactly what Shirley Chisholm and Gloria Steinem were going for. Pointing out people’s faults in the broadest sense possible is a surefire way to bring about change and never backfires or alienates them. Keep up the good work!

  44. I really enjoyed this. It is well written, timely, and pushes me to think about my actions and how they affect others. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

  45. @pike: I appreciate what you said, but I would argue that it IS hard to address one’s privilege and to actually make changes in the behavior being addressed.

    Clearly many people who read this article did not make changes in their behavior… at least not yet. Maybe six months down the line they’ll reread this article and have a “damn, I (screwed) up” moment. Ideally I’d like to see people addressing their s$%t all the time, but that’s a lot of work, and most people aren’t doing it.

    How would you, or anyone really, recommend approaching someone who doesn’t notice or refuses to address the fact that they too have s#$t to work on, so that they actually hear you and don’t just get their hackles up? It is not the responsibility of the person receiving the annoying behavior to fix, or even deal with, the person who is showing the behavior, but sometimes it’s nice to give back to my friends and community by helping them figure out their s#$t.

  46. Ever been in a conversation with a group of guys, voiced an opinion or idea, had it ignored, and then heard it REPEATED VERBATIM by another dude as the rest of the group nods sagely? Happens to me all the time, especially if it’s a discussion surrounding how to fix a problem. Not to mention my solution usually turns out to be right. ;)

  47. I wasn’t going to comment on this article because I thought it spoke for itself. But after reading the comments that were posted, I felt I had to say something.

    For those of you demanding empirical evidence in a controlled study, how exactly would you go about that? Since the common experience of most women — that of being interrupted, disregarded, dismissed and rejected as a liar or an idiot since birth — is not empirical enough, what do you propose, instead? I can say, as a woman, that I have experienced all of those things constantly since I was very young, mostly from men (though not exclusively, of course. Solnit herself concedes this.) and especially in cases where I was the subject expert and was invited or expected to explain something. Are you telling me that this account isn’t credible because I can’t back it up with “facts?”

    That is exactly what Solnit is talking about.

    And to the person who said “For all the hardships women do indeed face in today’s world, they also have it extremely easy in a lot of things…” Please name one thing. Just one. If anything is easier for women today than it was yesterday (easy, even. Not “extremely easy.”) it is because the women of yesterday fought and bled and sometimes died to make it easier for us. The way you wrote that sentence only reinforces what Faruk said above:

    “It deserves noting that this is driven by our societal structures that tell men at every turn that they are free to do whatever _they_ want to do, yet tells women that they should consider themselves lucky the men are _letting_ them do whatever they want to do.”

    I am in no way saying, and I am sure the author is not saying, that men have faced no difficulties. But it is a fact that societies the world over oppress and silence women and have done this for millenia, and that the primary source of this oppression has been men. This is not a competition. This is not a pity party. Women do not mean to delegitimize the hardships of the male sex by pointing out and seeking to alleviate the hardships of the female sex. It’s not as if we have to choose between the two — the world can accomplish both. But for that to happen, men MUST acknowledge that the problem exists. And that, like it or not, you have probably perpetuated it in some way, perhaps unknowingly and unintentionally, in the same way that people passively participate in racism. I do not think you are evil or bad or wrong in the way a liar is wrong — I think you are a victim, too, of a system that has indoctrinated you to think of women a certain way. But we cannot throw off those chains by denying that the problem exists. We cannot make progress by trying to address a way in which men are hurting us and then be told that we are not reliable witnesses to our own experience. That will only make things worse for everyone.

  48. I love how any disagreement with any part of this article – if said by a main – is “mansplaining” itself. So apparently the only thing that isn’t “mansplaining” in response to a feminist article is aggreeing with every point made?

    Just imagine for a second that a man wrote an article about “here’s something women do”, and as proof provided a handful of times a woman did something he found offensive. Would he be applauded for his astute observations about women? Or laughed at for mistaking his own anecdotal experiences for actual research on a topic?

  49. Have you noticed how some men respond to information or discussion like this with a knee jerk turn around argument like, well if women do this to men, it’s also unfair; ienthey like to bring up some sort of ‘reverse’ discrimination or equality issue. They clearly refuse to understand the point and yes, are ‘explaining things’, ignorant of ignorance. So comforting that you can express these ideas so well. Thanks.

  50. Reading this great article reminded me of our first trip to Europe, in 1970. We would see an American couple arrive at an art museum (any art museum). The man would then invariably, and loudly, tell the woman (and the rest of us) which paintings to look at, what they were about, what to look for and so on. The woman’s job was apparently to remain silent and admiring, of her male, rather than the art.

  51. Rebecca says that she is in her 40s. I’m a woman who has just turned 30 and I’m glad to say I haven’t experienced the level of gender discrimination she seems to have.

    I have, however, experienced the situation of not being heard (by both genders), despite having something important and useful say and actually taking the trouble to say it. In the last few years I’ve undertaken challenges that have drastically increased my confidence. Now, when I express myself, people listen.

    I know people listen to me now because I have confidence and self-belief. Before, I thought most people knew more than I did and that I was just a stupid kid. And that’s why no one really listened.

    IMO, the gender discrepancy that Rebecca is describing above is a result of the majority of men and woman being taught to value themselves differently from a very young age.

    So I don’t think a large % of men spontaneously desire to patronise women. I think the effect is more that a large % of women don’t value their own opinion enough and are taught the tactic of deferral of authority.

    There’s also another factor: women are encouraged to arrive at decisions that affect groups by discussing options and arriving at a consensus. It would an unspoken assumption of gender identity that to be manly means having a definite opinion or solution all of the man’s own. So both genders feel under pressure to arrive at solutions in opposing ways: women don’t want to seem overbearing and men don’t want to seem weak.

    So bosses, if they are men can be manly and have definite opinions. Female bosses with definite opinions can be categorised as overbearing and unfeminine. And this is where women are genuinely at a disadvantage. People can argue that women have certain things ‘easy’ but the bottom line is that bosses/leaders rule the world and that being a decisive, self-assured decision maker is still largely seen as unfeminine.

    Why should I have to feel – to any extent – like an un-woman if I want to lead?

  52. Wow. I’ve never been so insulted.

    Firstly, yes, I am a man. If just being a man makes my comments wrong, then you, ma’am, are guilty of the same sexism that you’re trying to rally against. I personally prefer the idea of ‘equality’ – not feminism – because sexism works both ways.

    We (yes ‘we’ – don’t pretend that you’re immune to being sexist or racist simply because you see yourself as the victim!) got into this mess because ignorant people paint one group with some quality when that quality is universal – blacks are good at sports, women are good at cooking, jews are good with money – well, the post above is just an attempt to add ‘men are arrogant’ to the list which is counter productive.

    Know how I know that being arrogant and condescending to one particular group isn’t just a male trait? Just reread the post above and pretend you’re a man.

  53. Feminists, allow me to introduce you to someone: persecution complex (although I think you know her well).

    Has it never occurred to you that perhaps gender has nothing to do with it and that there are just horrible, stupid, patronising (or whatever) people in the world? People very often do bad things to other people. It is not always because of their gender.

    In the Muybridge book story, the obvious explanation is age, not gender.

    In any case, fighting gender generalisations with more gender generalisations is a really winning strategy, way to go. You’ll definitely end gender discrimination by continuing to do it.

    1. I was assaulted by a man in front of 23 people.

      The police officer sat with me as I filed a report and gently told me how it was my fault for walking through the room, by walking into the unlocked classroom I invited it, because he was In Charge, and so when he ran at me, screaming, that was his way of being in charge.

      The officer took my statement very poorly, the statement did not resemble my remarks at all, and the officer would not fix it when I repeatedly protested.

      Please understand that the dynamics of power are enormous.

      The man assaulted another woman that same month, then people started to speak up and it ended up the guy had a long history assaulting female students, but each time it was like for me, probably other twisted statements and police officers who helped keep him in power. So he got a temporary firing, and came back later. The ombudsperson at the university said it was my job to learn his schedule and avoid him.

      This is daily for women, and the mansplaining is part of the constant self-reinforcement that illegitimate power has to engage in or it crumbles.

      How many men who have had people bloviate at them have also gone through the second and third levels of Hell, where being right by virtue of being male then means also being in control of another’s body, or their right to speak?

  54. This is definitely a man thing. When I was in my early 30’s, I was the only woman in a meeting full of men. I’d been hired as an expert on the meeting topic. In the course of the meeting, one of the men asked a question, and instead of letting me answer and do my JOB, three different men, each with more convincing authority than the previous, gave three completely ridiculous answers. When I gave the correct answer, the level of annoyance was palpable. It was a real lightbulb moment. Since then, I’ve experienced this phenomenon many, many times. Since then, I’ve also noticed something about my own gender: some women, even when 100% sure of the facts, will, at times, preface her presentation of said facts with, “I think” or “I believe,” as though it’s only her opinion, as if not wanting to offend the hearer. I’ve, in fact, done it myself on occasion. It seems traditional gender habits are difficult to break on both sides.

  55. It might be an existing problem. But everybody in this conversation sould be aware that there is always a sender a receiver. This is very strong focused to a male sender.
    I am looking forward to have one day an essay about “womensplaining”…

  56. Yo Rebecca, I’ma let you finish, but there was a very important article published a few years ago on that you really must read. It’s called The Island of Arrogance or something like that. Drop me a line and I’ll explain the gist of it to you, based on what I’ve heard about it.

  57. Personally, I’ve noticed men feel comfortable acting like this to women, but not to other men. It’s an implied act of domination, and guys know this, even if they don’t want to admit it. At least, such has been my experience among my testicled brethren.

  58. A very very long article. I wonder if class isn’t a bigger prompter of this sort of behaviour, or status at work. Isn’t this really just a case of people behaving like patronising wankers just because they can?

  59. I loved finding this article when it was first published in 2008. As a young woman who has been participating in and fighting to be respected in my daily life (aren’t we all), academia, my job, my living room full of friends, parties, comment sections in articles, my relationships with family and friends, etc., this is my experience. without a doubt. it is so pervasive an experience to be belittled by men, ignored, talked over, and patronized that it is almost not worth bringing up. i have always lived in a very progressive, politically active community. the worst offenders have been men who seek to explain to me how oppression works, how politics work, how they are the best activist and most cultured and most aware. really–tell me more–and take up all of the space in the conversation to tell us all what you think. the source of the problem is that men are raised in a culture that tells them we are all dying to hear what they have to say about everything. men are not raised to listen. and just so you know, while many women are listening to your constant belittling, we are rolling our eyes. when men behave in this way, it never surprises us. every woman shares this experience. women in my life have more than once made their way through an experience like this, looked over at me, rolled their eyes, and made a mocking gesture of a man jerking off. it’s shorthand for solnit’s analysis, and it is understood immediately by any woman.

    this is not a generational problem (see: young “MANarchists” at occupy, every other guy friend i’ve known and loved, etc). this is such a common experience that i am shocked to see it met with such suspicion by men. it’s as if i said the sky was blue and was then told i was wrong.

    i just cannot believe that this is a controversial article. it is really dismaying. i thought you guys knew you were doing this. every single negative comment here is a prime example of mansplaining. i could copy paste them to my friends and they would all roll their eyes, laugh, and then shudder at how much work there is still to do.

    thank you rebecca solnit for saying what goes without saying among women, but apparently is shocking news for the vast majority of men.

  60. I am a man, and I knew exactly what ‘mansplaining’ was just having read the intro to the piece. As has been mentioned, men are the recipients of ‘mansplaining’ too – all the frickin’ time!

  61. A lot of men on here claim that Mansplaining happens to them as well. Are we to discount their experiences?

    Is it at all possible that insufferable boors grate on both sexes equally, but that because of the climate of sexism, women experience this as misogyny?

    Remember, everyone experiences an explainer, but few ever experience the motive for why they explain. I too have seen the ashen look on the face of an explainer when their conceit is exposed. I’m not sure that their discomfort, generally, comes from the gender of the one that exposes this conceit. From my perspective, it appear to come from a crack in their facade of confidence.

  62. I found it very hard not to see sexism and martyrdom in this article. I feel the ‘explaining’ referred to is rather broad, and that anyone who thinks they are informed or superior will talk down to others. Then, only 3 days after reading this essay and most of the comments following it I watched Mansplaining in action on Real Time with Bill Maher.

    Episode 255, round table (the first half). Three men including Bill and one woman are in discussion. The conservative on the panel (a position demonized and berated on this program without pause) yells out that “…you think China is gonna come walking over, just fly over like it did at Pearl Harbor?” No one bats an eye, they let his point stand despite the fact that every person in America SHOULD know Japan was the aggressor and that these countries are in NO way interchangeable or even very similar. The lone female, a second later, says “…President Obama wants to take defense spending down to 490,000…” and is instantly corrected by Bill and she repeats the correction and carries on.
    It is a basic and broadly taught FACT that Japan attacked the USA at Pearl Harbor and that China has never attacked the USA, and no one corrects this male. It is a small fact inside a large opaque budget proposal that most officials don’t even know all the information on that is corrected instantly when the female slips on the b in billion.
    The more I think about my own life and working with men and women the more I see this as a reality. I would never say that this is exclusive to men; women do this to other women just as much when they are in the position do so. But seriously, there it is, they do this to WOMEN. Women are being ignored and doubted and explained to far more than men in the same situations, I’ve seen it happen and had it happen to me too many times. What this article fails to do is contextualize this as a societal problem rather than a ‘guy thing’ because it IS a problem, just not one perpetrated by men alone. We are all the problem, from the Explainers (male or female) to the docile victims who laugh politely or bite their tongue.
    PS I really enjoied the well thought out comments, left by either sex. The comments are twice as informative as the essay for me.

  63. A comment section replete with men behaving condescendingly towards a woman over an article she wrote that suggests that society is replete with men who’s immediate reaction toward women is to behave condescendingly?

    Such. Utter. Epic. Fail.

  64. This article is a complete disgrace toward real feminists who are trying hard to create and authentic discourse. This article is really about being transparently absurd so as to create an angry and polarized response. Solnit should be ashamed of herself and so should anyone who is gullible enough to print this.

    Here is what is wrong with the article.

    >>>”I still don’t know why Sallie and I bothered to go to that party in the forest slope above Aspen. The people were all older than us and dull in a distinguished way, old enough that we, at 40ish, passed as the occasion’s young ladies. The house was great—if you like Ralph Lauren-style chalets—a rugged luxury cabin at 9,000 feet complete with elk antlers, lots of kilims, and a wood-burning stove. We were preparing to leave, when our host said, “No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you.” He was an imposing man who’d made a lot of money.”

    These details don’t make one very sympathetic to her since she comes across as snobby and judgmental. If you think your party mates will be “dull” why bother to go? Obviously this is not a very good way of establishing that your “credible”.

    >>>He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?””So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingenue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it. He was already telling me about the very important book—with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.”

    That makes her sound very insincere, and it it also explains why he was confused when her friend (rather than her) explained that it was “her”. He asked a very straightforward question. We are left to wander how bad of a faux-pas he actually made if she subtracted all the hyperbole.
    Here, let me just say that my life is well sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said—like the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales I still remember from Mr. Pelen’s class on Chaucer—”gladly would he learn and gladly teach.”

    Such purple prose, but it doesn’t establish her credibility it makes her sound ridiculous.

    >>>So, Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, “That’s her book.” Or tried to interrupt him anyway.But he just continued on his way. She had to say “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a 19th-century novel, he went ashen.

    Solnit doesn’t bother to explain this to him herself so caught up as she is in her assigned role as “ingenue” (in her 40’s)

    >>>>”Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we’ve never really stopped.

    What does being a woman have anything to do with being “polite” enough to avoid laughing at somebody within earshot?

    >>>”When River of Shadows came out, some pedant wrote a snarky letter to the New York Timesexplaining that, though Muybridge had made improvements in camera technology, he had not made any breakthroughs in photographic chemistry. The guy had no idea what he was talking about. Both Philip Prodger, in his wonderful book on Muybridge, and I had actually researched the subject and made it clear that Muybridge had done something obscure but powerful to the wet-plate technology of the time to speed it up amazingly, but letters to the editor don’t get fact-checked. And perhaps because the book was about the virile subjects of cinema and technology, the Men Who Knew came out of the woodwork.A British academic wrote in to the London Review of Books with all kinds of nitpicking corrections and complaints, all of them from outer space. He carped, for example, that to aggrandize Muybridge’s standing I left out technological predecessors like Henry R. Heyl. He’d apparently not read the book all the way to page 202 or checked the index, since Heyl was there (though his contribution was just not very significant). Surely one of these men has died of embarrassment, but not nearly publicly enough.”

    Some men disagree with you and its sexism by default? Not much credible information to go by here.

    “Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling—as though it were a light and amusing subject—how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand…”

    So why is Solnit trying so hard to not be credible? High post-modern irony? (I’m not really kidding) Whatever reason she has, she is being highly irresponsible. It is reprehensible.
    Why is she writing this article if she sees how horrible it is when women are not trusted?

    >>>>”Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t.”

    Being wrong isn’t crime even if your a man. This sounds an awful lot like this definition of “mansplaining” that has a lot of currency on the “feminist” blogs
    This definition: “Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does. Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!”

    Yeah that is right, you read that correctly, whenever a man says something to a woman who’s smarter than him he’s “mansplaining”. This incredibly bizzare definition of mansplaining that looks like it could have been written in some snarky anti-feminist dictionary of radical feminism is the definition that has dominant currency within the “feminist” blogosphere. (it’s the most relied on definition when someone tries to explain “mansplaining” within internet feminism)

    Stuff like this which is full of transparent absurdities is everywhere within the “feminist” blogosphere. It’s very hard to distinguish an “over the top” work of irony from authentic feminist thought. People like Solnit are tools, political hacks, who will stop at nothing to disrupt honest debate.

  65. Thank you for writing this back in 2008 and for sharing it with us now! Oh how it resonates! The comments section provides quite an illustration, as well.

    Anyone who hasn’t read Callie’s comment should read it, too. As she points out, this, like so many issues related to sexism, is really about power and can be found any time there’s a cultural dynamic between majority or dominant and less powerful populations. As a white lesbian, I can quickly notice it when a man or a straight ally is patronizing, but it’s much harder for me to see it in my own behavior when I’m the culturally dominant one in the conversation. I try not to behave this way, but honestly, I suspect I sometimes do. It’s difficult for people in the dominant group to see their own privilege, but such privilege is very clear to those who don’t share it.

    1. You WIN! You win the Mansplainer of the YEAR award!
      Or were you submitting a parody in order to support Solnit’s experiences.
      If so, thank you very much.

  66. To all the men who think this isn’t a gendered problem, that they are condescended to, ignored, belittled and talked over as much as women are, and that women are guilty of this as much as men: try posting online using a female screenname for a month or so. Take an honest look at who says what to you, how and when.

  67. Here is a good one:

    My brother, a lawyer, proposed some kind of deal with the family trust of which he is trustee asking for the approval of my siblings and myself. I sent him a series of questions I wanted answered before I made my decision. He responded by saying: “Sounds like you’ve had someone prepare these questions for you.”

    I was an editor of the law revue and won 2 scholarships for being “Top Female Student” in law school.

    What really makes me insanely angry is that I still want approval and recognition from a$$holes. Some dudes will see us and others won’t. Why do we still give a $%^&?

  68. Interesting that all the comments taking exception with this article are coming from MEN. Why are you defending yourselves? This woman says this happened to her. That means it happened to her. That doesn’t mean you get to say it didn’t happen to her, because you don’t think YOU do it.
    Ugh. Pretty scary to have an opinion or a personal story about anything in the world today, since any Tom, Dick or Harry can post his ugly opinion on what you’ve written. How is this any different from telling minorities that they aren’t experiencing racism, when they so clearly are? How is this different?

    1. It’s not all. A ton of ‘racism’ isn’t racist either, just as many things painted with the sexism brush just simply are not. We have become a society wholly obsessed with ideology and hence, martyrdom. This may come across as mansplaining to you, but that would say more about you than the explanation.

      1. @T Clark – All of your comments in this thread have been dismissive, rude and quite frankly, irrelevant. Please stop before you hurt yourself.

  69. Brilliant, entertaining and insightful article, thank you …… And judging by the pompous long winded and somewhat embittered responses from many of the male critics it clearly irritates the very same male egos that you so skillfully eviscerate, once again ….. Thank you

  70. I’m going to point out the irony of this situation-
    As a man, anything I have to say about the topic will subsequently be relegated to mere “mansplaining,” which is the crux of any “anti-feminist” argument on the web. Many men can’t articulate their frustrations without resorting to virtual chest thumping, but I can.

    It’s actually very simple. By belittling men’s responses, you put your own views on the pedestal of perfection, that you shouldn’t have to consider the possibility that YOU are wrong. If I’m arguing with a lady over… say, which topics should be taught in a “women and american culture” class, and you take the elitist highroad and accuse me of “mansplaining,” you’re pretty much saying that as a member of the human race, I cannot contribute to the topic at hand at all because my experiences and thoughts on the matter are essentially worthless. In this example, how can you teach a women’s studies class without the input of the people you claim are oppressing you? How can you dissect and fix the issue without open discussion? The same goes for the opposite. Men must allow women to integrate into their formerly closed circles without resistance, but who wants to do that when our views are tossed aside?

    A social revolution without the input of all parties is not a revolution.

  71. I stumbled upon this article after a google search because I wanted to know if this sort of thing happens to anyone else. Thank you for sharing this piece. It made me feel a little less alone in a world where I feel that everyone is always explaining things to me.

    Most recently, my husband was lecturing my on how difficult it is to play songs by Franz Liszt on the piano because someone with hands my size would not be able to reach all the keys. “Have you ever played any Liszt?” he asked me. (Sort of incredulously) Since I took classical piano lessons for twelve years from a very gifted pianist, the answer is of course, my teacher assigned quite a bit of Liszt for me to play. The funny thing is, my husband can’t play the piano at all. He’s never taken lessons and he can’t read music. But he felt the “Intro to Classical Music” class that he took in college made him an expert on how to play piano even though he cannot actually play.

    Also, one facet that may not always get attention is one of cultural differences. I am a half American and half South Indian woman. There are a number of times where a Caucasian man has lectured me at length about the features of my own culture. A co-worker who travelled in Thailand for two years as a missionary spent an hour telling me about what it’s like to be in a South Indian family, as though I wouldn’t know (as a member of such a family myself). And my husband’s family (all Caucasian) are similarly condescending. My husband’s father routinely corrects my pronunciation of Hindi words and city names that I learned from my Indian aunts and uncles because “he once knew a guy who said it differently” so I’m “wrong.” Even my husband, routinely lectures me on India and Indians and when I offer additional information, he tells me that I’m closed minded and obviously don’t want to learn about India.

    I am beginning to think that at its core, this is less of a gender issue and more of a power and privilege issue. But I do believe that it likely masquerades as a gender issue because positions of power and authority have traditionally been held by men.

    Just some thoughts. Again, thank you for this piece.

  72. Really glad to have come across this piece. One thing it’s making me think about particularly is the bit in the article that an earlier commenter pointed out, where Solnit and her friend did indeed follow / obey / comply with the obnoxious man’s request for them to stay and be talked at by him. I don’t for a moment absolve him of his, as the commenter said, boorishness. I do think we need to look much more often at ‘our’ part in these kinds of situations, the ways that we as women do indeed tolerate and invite behaviours that are condescending and often sexist.

    This isn’t the only point to be made about this piece but it’s an important one. Solnit’s points about those of us who get a lot of encouragement are also extremely important. Take an example of a woman who chooses to enter into an academic relationship (in which he is the teacher / explainer and she is the student) with a man she regards as sexist and as sexually harrassing. She does not end this relationship in spite of how bitterly she feels its impact on her. This is the point where I ask what else the situation is giving her or enabling for her – or, a more nuanced way of asking, why is she remaining there?

    I think Western cultures spend a lot of time telling women that it’s ok and natural to be non-assertive, to be victims of violence, that we are non-agents and that yes, it’s really hard to go through, but it’s all rationalised. I’d rather say, fuck that, when one is treated in a sexist way or gender-abused, an obligation is conferred on one, on me, that is almost definitely not welcome but I think is an obligation none the less. For me to limit offer only ‘supportive’ reassurance to a woman struggling with this obligation is to tell her that it’s ok for her to give up, ok for her to give way to all her doubts and fears, ok to take a role in perpetuating the violence from which she is suffering. The man needs to alter his behaviour AND the woman needs to alter hers.

    So I think Solnit’s article would have been enhanced by a discussion of the ways in which we as women submit to and further our conditioning to waste our time putting up with shit. These are not behaviours that are ever exclusive to women but they are structurally reproduced in us and by us. And this emphasis is not a sexist claim that men are inevitably sexist – but when we don’t challenge these behaviours we violate men, passive-aggressively, by framing their sexism as innate and unchangeable.

  73. It’s phenomenal how much fear and hubris is contained in many of the male responses here. I haven’t read all the comments, but in my brief skimming it seems that most of them are based on distortions of Solnit’s piece, efforts to dismiss her entire point of view, as opposed to engaging with it as a valid perspective.

    In my reading I don’t find her to be saying that men, or others, can not be critical of her work. Or that men can not have opinions on feminism or history, or that all men are always guilty of patronizing women. Rather she seems to be giving an account based on her experiences, and those of women she knows, that a pattern exists and is culturally promoted in which men are often uncomfortable with listening to and learning from women, and as such attempt to discredit or silence them.

    As men I think we suffer in this situation as well, because we miss out on valuable perspectives, experiences, and knowledge that can enrich our lives. I’ve been to many speaking engagements where men dominate the discussion, interrupt when others are speaking, pontificate ad nauseam, etc (I’m guilty of this too, of course).

    It’s true, as some have pointed out, this isn’t just directed towards women. I believe men in general are trained to boast and carve their intellectual territory as a means of proving themselves and their worth, which is unfortunate. Why? Because it has a tendency towards dogmatism, fundamentalism, and closed-mindedness.

    Ultimately, if men can relax and listen to a message, it seems like more of an invitation to open our ears, minds, and hearts to women’s voices. We might just learn a thing or two.

  74. I just reread this. The first time I must have been in the midst of life’s demands. I don’t know Rebecca Solnit, but just did some library searching and I’m interested now. I’m a woman writer too and it feels like I just hit upon a world that echos my own, even some of the subject matter. Writing, Art, Wild West Technology…
    see and

    I feel like we are literary and imaging daughters of Dale Spender and Judy Chicago. At least I am.

    The responses, IMHO, are such a waste of anything productive for me. I think there is so much lack of comprehension of where we are as people. Let’s just start with only less than a century ago, women and men were segregated and weren’t allowed to ‘play’ with each other as children at some point, we’re allowed to be together until married and then after marriage, not allowed to talk to the other sex without suspicions of sexual activity. We are only ALL learning what’s really going on.

    If something doesn’t speak to you that someone writes, then so what. Find what does. But I think there is a difference between an individual behavior and a designated ‘group’ behavior. For example, at some point in history, the group designated behaviors were men don’t get ‘afraid’ and women don’t get ‘angry’, breaking those stereotypical roles would then, in many cases, cause social reactions and quick responses to set things ‘right’, especially by ‘officials’ like psychiatrists, doctors, etc. Same with women driving race cars, girls climbing trees and playing with hot wheels, boys playing with dolls and men cooking the family meals. All these are examples of (at some point) enforced social ‘norms’. This fact of social norm by group that exists does not mean that everyone and everywhere that only ONE thing happened. In a world with millions of people, it’s bound to be that many things happen to many people. How one deals with the ‘enforced social norms’ and responses matters. Unfortunately, many go along to the norm for mere survival and to avoid negative social punishments and reactions, and therefore, reinforces ‘group’ experiences.

    We are not at a stage in conversation between the sexes where this confusion about what is going on is articulated. The responses here – such as calling someone who EXPLAINS the social environment that exists as if it IS sexism of the author is an example.

    If one is on a ladder – as people are in hierarchies of relationships – for one person the rung of the ladder is up if one is below it, and the same rung is down for the person above it. When we see something that is directly opposite of what another person says, it doesn’t make them wrong. It makes their position different in the world. The key is to get out of the domination of assuming that the reality of our world is the same for all of us when it is not as if one size fits all and at the same time to find the places where what IS the same for all of us on this planet is what is right for all of us. In other words, it’s about getting it ‘right’ either way. Any person alive today should begin with an understanding that we have inherited a mess with ideas about gender and be open to everyone’s views and no one’s views but those fitting ourselves. I mean, both can exist. It’s because of domination that we keep thinking only one thing at a time must be ‘truth’ and exist when in fact two things that sound like contradictions are in fact just simply two things in existence, like up and down on a ladder.

    In other words, we first have to really understand we’ve been gendered and stop leaping over that gender as if we are the same and can begin as humans, But we can’t have conversations as humans until we treat each other as humans. Did you ever have a rope or string that was all knotted up and pulled on the string that made the knots tighter and caused the knots to bunch up? Well, when you stop pulling and you loosen up the string at different places, you begin to unravel the knot. I’m not the first to call this a gender knot, but it is. When things are all knotted up, they are neat and in order and aligned and symmetrical. They are chaotic and twisted and back and forth. The easing of the rope for me is breathing space into these conversations where I don’t cut the rope off, and I don’t pull on it tighter, but I actually move it back and forth and in and out and up and down until it’s loose and FREE……we are all getting there, and that’s the good news. Thank you Rebecca for putting into words an experience that I was having as a woman writer and artist whose got a brain and a need to express my inners moreso than many others. It’s the job. And thanks to all the responses that help me to see the kind of responses and discussions I don’t want to waste my time on…..because the segregation of our gendered minds is something that I gladly want to move away from and into a world where we can both be human and not ‘partial’ humans. I heard it said once that what women experience for a lifetime, men experience for a few moments….within the relationship of men and women gendered. Men may experience the same thing from OTHER MEN – which is why the Declaration of Independence for Freedom was written, but they did not and do not experience a social world where they are confined to a home or social space because of a body part they have at the hands of women presidents, women organized militarily and women in control of the government. And they may not experience a world where it takes so damn long to explain the most simplest of their experiences and then get accused of taking up too much space in a world where we are all reduced to a whole new kind of literary dehumanizing which is mentally perceiving a whole person from reading about two paragraphs, or even five. Two or three paragraphs and I’m out of here……impression finalized. Just a few accusations before I leave. The ultimate of trashing people, IMO.

  75. When someone writes to share their subjective experience of something, I can either find it illuminating and thought-provoking, or not.

    But what I can’t do is argue that she’s mistaken, based on my own experience, and insist on explaining what her experience must actually have been.

    If you disagree that this is something she’s experienced, I’m sure you have intellectually rigorous arguments why you feel that way.

    And you’re wrong.

  76. Being an aging latino male, I find all this talk so confusing! Just stop dating short men! Now I will go find a wall to sit and lean against and drink tequila until I pass out and my sombrero touches my knees…

  77. Thank you. I will try to listen to myself more carefully to reduce the number of times I find myself engaged in this behavior. Your experiences and your wisdom to put them in a perspective and context are helpful to me.

  78. Great article. Thanks to Rachel Maddow for indirectly exposing me to it, and Ms. Solnit for writing it. Made me reflective of my own attitude towards my interactions with women, and men as well.

    And thanks to the many, many fellow men who read and commented on this article and helped mansplain it to the rest of us.

    “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

  79. Thank you for writing this. Beside the grotesque examples, this exists in the dept of our (Western) society in a all accepted, more hidden but therefore nasty way. For them who can’t taste these nuances, because often this authority issue occurs in small language in tiny gestures, in easy to be ignored situations, I would suggest that you need a lot off finesse and selfknowledge to be able to see through these often camouflaged power plays.
    Me, as a very experienced technician, working in a ‘men’s’ world can testify on this. But there is a very elegant and beautifull cure, that helps and almost always works: humor.

  80. Thanks for the re-print. I came across the original article a couple of years ago and it opened my eyes. Although I’ve always considered myself a feminist, I was once a “Man Who Explained Things.” Thanks for the wake-up call.

  81. A few comments suggest that Solnit believes men should not be allowed to question women, and that men are doubted just as much as women. But this is not the point being made. Solnit’s claims exist within a context.

    Women are doubted & scrutinized in intellectual & other stereo-typically masculine arenas. Men are doubted in stereo-typically feminine arenas such as child care. The difference is men are not doubted on the basis of their sex, except in roles which are considered inferior (feminine) to men’s potential. Women receive less backlash for preforming roles outside of their gender norms. However, there are inherent negative stereotypes against women in stereo-typically masculine roles, which creates volatile stereotype-threat. Stereotype-threat against women’s competency in these roles creates a toxic environment for women & perpetuates negative stereotypes.

    Men are not doubted in competitive professional & academic fields which require intelligence, ingenuity, creativity, based on their sex, but based on their performance, & other activated stereotypes. Women are doubted firstly on sex alone, in addition to other available stereotypes, until they are able (often at the permission of men in power) to prove their worth. Their worth & success is then framed in exceptionalism, “for a woman,” whereas men’s sex goes unrecognized as the invisible norm. The best a woman can do is the best a woman can do while playing at a man’s level: where men coast. And women’s achievements, even then, are more often attributed to luck rather than skill.

    Claiming that men & women experience sex-stereotyping equally in the context provided in this article, as some here have elected to, explicitly contradicts what current research indicates. It is not sexist for Solnit to identify & expound upon institutional sexism.

    Additionally, there is an INHERENT difference between sex & gender which must be considered when understanding the statement “confrontational confidence of the ignorant is…gendered.” Gender is a prescribed role dictated by a society, and masculine gender-role does prescribe confidence, leadership, aggressiveness, etc. While women suffer harsher restrictions in their prescribed roles, men suffer greater backlash for violating masculine gender-roles. I have not researched this specific claim, so with a grain of salt, there may be basis for “confrontational confidence…[is] gendered”, in that men are expected to know more than women, & to direct interactions, and do take more risks than women to meet expectations. Such a case would be detrimental to both sexes, and is a symptom of gender-roles in society.

  82. The really troubling thing to me is, in spite of a solid belief in gender equality and at times being a good listener, I suspect that I may be completely unaware of the times when I become a Man Who Explains Things. If that is so, I hope it is not something inherent in the “explaining” itself, but more a question of caring to understand that a dialogue involves two people. Hard to believe that gender does not enter into that equation. I think I will ask my wife to read this article too. It may prove to be illuminating and I hope not too painful.

  83. This was an interesting read, but I think she beats her drum a little too loudly here, thereby unwittingly giving credence to the very thing she is protesting. While I don’t disagree that things used to really be horrible for women, we have come eeons in progress, though a REAL war on women does certainly exist in other parts of the world. Look what happened to the sleezebag mayor of San Diego. People don’t put up with it anymore. Women are largely responsible for nearly 75% of the economy last I heard and have and are breaking through barriers right and left. That is a good thing. This woman keeps referring to her many authored books, as though those define her worth to be heard. She doesn’t need to do that. Simply by virtue of her having a voice, any voice, she has a right to be heard, gender notwithstanding. The following link by Bozo Biden also infers that women are somehow weak and in need of separate legislation. No. The Constitution affords ALL of us equal protection. It doesn’t differentiate, or shouldn’t. I may be altruistic here, but I think it’s not a valid argument anymore. Some men are certainly jerks, but so are some women. The real blessing is ridding our lives of all who are anything but lovely. She mentions as a recurring phrase, “Some men”. That right there shows even she realizes you can’t lump them all in as a sub-demographic. We need to stop all this divisiveness and become unified. We are all humans. We are all Americans. We all love, feel pain, laugh, cry, eat, sleep, drink, mourn, and on and on. We should emphasize our vectors where we intersect and build on that.

  84. I liked this essay very much. Therefore I want the following to be taken in its proper context. Notwithstanding the offensive tone of the man with whom Ms. Solnit spoke about HUAC, I don’t think that his claim was far-fetched. By 1961 (when Women Strike for Peace was founded) HUAC’s role in American politics was much less important than the late ’40’s to mid ’50’s. I suspect that Mr. Very Important II , like many people vaguely familiar with American politics, assumed that this is the period of activity to which Ms. Solnit referred, and I think that his assumption was not idiosyncratic. The the word “downfall” is at issue here, I suppose. HUAC wasn’t “disbanded” until 1975 (or 1969, when its name was changed). But its downfall — in any interesting sense — occurred before 1961.

  85. What Ms. Solnit it cannot know, because she is not a man, is that even in a group of only men, the same men who mansplain to women tend to mansplain to other men. Men are socialized to be modestly annoyed by this at worst, unless it’s truly egregious. We quietly sigh to ourselves about it, maybe crack jokes behind the back of the worst offenders.

    I would be surprised if more than 20% of men who mans plain to women do not also mansplain to men. It is mostly a non-sexist personality flaw that is rampant in men. It happens because men are socialized to desire to seen as authoritative, wise. And because they’re encouraged to be bold in conversation. And men don’t complain about the behavior when they receive it from other men because we’re socialized to be unthreatened by other people’s arrogance.

    The solution here is to teach women confidence in the same way men are taught it, but also to teach men humility in the same way women are taught it.

  86. This is the reason Gen-X women date younger men. We’re the most educated of all generations, but older men still talk down to us as if we were idiots. It’s worth dating a less stable younger guy just to avoid the patronizing lectures from the older guys. I have 2 graduate degrees and a membership card in MENSA. I don’t need a dreary “mansplanation” of anything. :)

  87. This article reminds me of a recent conversation with my dad, who is definitely guilty of mansplaining. He started to explain the difference between the terms “climate change” and “global warming”. I know the difference! I have a masters degree in climate change!

  88. This article tore my heart out, and I’m thankful for it. Although I’d imagine that everyone has condescended to someone at some point, I had never really considered that there might be a gendered angle to it. I’m glad to have come upon this article, and I’ll try my best to avoid “mansplaining” from now on.

  89. Hi Rebecca
    I’m a man and am perfectly capable of accepting when you (or any female) know something and I don’t (even when I have been trying to “teach” you about it erroneously). My only question is why did you write this piece? It comes across to me as if you are angry about something that while it matters – matters little. You should just be proud of your accomplishments (as a writer) and realize the following: There will always be someone more knowledgeable and many less so. So why dwell on it?
    Congratulations on all your books! (I have yet to write one!)

  90. This was a great article. also ‘Dude, if you’re reading this, you’re a carbuncle on the face of humanity and an obstacle to civilization.” is the greatest diss of all time.

  91. I’d just like to say my brain screams at men who like to patronise and belittle women. Everything you report I have witnessed and has made me ashamed of my gender. After a life in broadcasting and journalism I know that women have a far greater ability to understand, analyse and explain. It is that uniquely feminine sensitivity that takes their thoughts and words far beyond the simplistic male. Now I must immediately buy and read your work, which, for my sins, I have never come across before… and yes, I am British.

  92. I appreciate Paul White’s acknowledgement. Thank you to him. I only want to ADD to his comment that my brain screams that what women have comes from what they are assigned to be and do. I want to be heard that like men not doing the laundry, there are areas of living, relationships and life that women are ‘responsible’ for – often unpaid. It is WORK – that is concerted effort and time that women put into things so they can have the results. It’s about what one pays attention to. I’m tired of both men’s irresponsibility of carrying the necessary load of what needs to be done for humanity where I KNOW that men have been raised, for a few generations, to JUST be concerned about ‘being the provider of a paycheck’ and seeing ‘women’s work’ as inferior and of less value or not even counted as ‘work’. Work itself is framed in what men do. Over my lifetime, I’ve seen more men know about football than anything to do with relationships with humans. The results are seen globally. I mostly want to say that ‘this isn’t some feminine nature’. It’s HUMAN nature and it’s a division of work. Some of the work, with women moving into the ‘work world of men’ in the last few decades is actually GOING extinct. It’s one thing when moms no longer ‘bake their own cookies’. It’s quite another when the very work of ‘mothering’ – emotional caretaking, loving, relationship knowledge, nurturing and daily health care’ and ‘knowing’ what men claimed ‘inferior women’s work’ is being lost to a generation of children. The results being that mothering itself is being driven by doctors with medications and statistics that does not translate into mothering. Doctors can’t replace mothers the way restaurants replaced mom’s cooking. Like the loss of farming, the loss of the work of mothering is being turned over to big business and unless women can start getting respect for what they do know and that knowledge being valued as much as Bill Gates or Stephen Hawkings contributions to the world, there is and will be needless human suffering because of the lack of that knowledge. I hope this makes sense. It is very destructive to have men dominate the world and conversations as if their work and knowledge is the superior and only valueable . It isnt just individual interacting – it’s a collective destruction of the world we live in. I write to provoke people to think and bring knowledge and value to relationship work so that human functioning can thrive in ways comparison to NASA’s ability to get a robot to Mars. It’s possible, but change is necessary.. More can be see at

  93. Thank you Karen…we are all people and carry equal responsibility for our work and lives. Every gender brings unique qualities to solve every problem. We all deserve equal respect.

  94. “Hi Rebecca
    I’m a man and am perfectly capable of accepting when you (or any female) know something and I don’t (even when I have been trying to “teach” you about it erroneously). My only question is why did you write this piece? It comes across to me as if you are angry about something that while it matters – matters little. You should just be proud of your accomplishments (as a writer) and realize the following: There will always be someone more knowledgeable and many less so. So why dwell on it?
    Congratulations on all your books! (I have yet to write one!)

    …I hope this is a joke.
    The author’s opinion of what matters doesn’t matter? She’s “angry” (read: emotionally overreacting)? Clearly, there is no respect here for the author’s experiences or judgment (“why did you write this article?”)
    This idiot is only reinforcing the author’s point.

  95. Thanks for such an insightful article! I couldn’t have said it any better than this! I’m with you and can empathize having experienced endless mansplaining situations myself over the years. Bravo!

    PS: love the irony with all the extensive mansplainin’ going on here in the comments section–

    mr. Mansplainer: “Hi There Gals! I’m busy with Real Important Things your little girl brains can’t possible fathom, so I haven’t taken the time to read this girl’s article. Nevertheless I feel an intense, compelling need to explain to you ladies exactly what’s sooo wrong with this gal’s article.”


  96. Summary: “I don’t like it when my ideas are tested by facts and reason, which I blame men for, and would prefer instead for them to shut up and not challenge my preconceptions.”

    No mention of all the 100% female panels that claim to offer a balanced perspective on gender equality and men’s issues either… maybe if you didn’t treat half the male population as invisible, they wouldn’t come out of the woodwork whenever you try to speak for them.

    1. Thank you Linda M, on behalf of all men.

      It is so easy to criticize men as a group, and everyone knows they can get away with it. It’s socially acceptable to say all sorts of bad things about men, and never get accused of sexism.

      In fact you’re more likely to be called a sexist if you say good things about men.

      This article takes advantage of the fact that society tacitly approves of anti male sentiment, while harshly punishing any kind of criticism against women.

      I’m sure that 50 years in the future, people will see this period as a time of unchecked sexism against men, and wonder how society could have allowed that kind of sexism.

      For anyone who thinks this article is fair and reasonable, I ask you this: would you be just as comfortable with an article on how women can be such nags?

      Or would you find such an article offensive and sexist?

  97. Thank you, Ms. Solnit, and please continue to also fight the battle on behalf of women older than you. Since my hair has turned gray, I find myself increasingly interrupted and marginalized, to the point of invisibility. My experience is considered irrelevant and dated.

    1. Second that, Katy. I’ve come to the conclusion that until recent decades, life spans were shorter and most women were pretty well worn out from child-birth and -rearing by the time they got grey hair.

      Besides, they were mansplained so much while young, it all make them glad to associate with others of like gender and age and leave the younger women to deal with mansplaining.

      Now we are living longer and I look forward to Ms. Solnit’s take on this issue when she is in her 70s-80s.

  98. Reading articles like this I am struck by how much of the behaviour described could easily be an Alpha male talking down to a Beta male. It seems like there is a hierarchy of alpha, then beta, and women get to slot into their default position underneath both.

    It would then logically seem that equality would mean that women have as much of an opportunity to become an alpha or beta themselves. Would we really want to perpetuate this system, though? And would it really work if women weren’t there at the bottom? Much of the Alpha/Beta conflict comes down to the perception by Beta men that the Alphas are getting all the money/sex – and women are the gift that is promised men for fulfilling societies expectations. So you have condescension at Alpha, resentment and bitterness at beta, and women get to be held on a pedestal that has no actual power or respect. They are the trophy and the currency, but have no agency in this system.

    I feel like if the built-in relegation of women in the pecking order is to be removed, then the Alpha/Beta situation must be addressed at the same time. I feel like they are all parts of the same problem. Like there is this system and we are all stuck in it and encouraged to play our roles. Like the whole house needs to be demolished. If we all keep pecking we are just changing our position in that system, not stepping out of it. Not breaking it.

    Am I mansplaining here? I don’t mean to be, these are my thoughts directly upon reading your article. I would be interested in feminist perspective of my man-theories. Thanks!

    1. Interesting how you felt you had to ask whether or not you were “mansplaining”. Women commenting here would not have to ask that.

      Such is the discriminatory nature of this divisive article.

  99. Okay…..Here’s a way to say what might not be understood by men reading this. A Man can NOT KNOW a woman’s experience until and if he’s a woman. Trying to understand then isn’t taking a woman’s experience and interpreting it through a man’s with man’s knowledge. A man lacks the experience so he has nothing to contribute. That’s the problem women have had enough of but seems to just continue. In order to know a woman’s experience then, the proper response is to 1) ASSUME that a woman is describing her own experience perfectly and accurately. 2) Show a response of a willingness to learn and listen about women a long time. (Try a few women studies classes, or some marginalized women’s books or go into women spaces (where allowed) so you might LEARN by experience of being ‘out’ of a man’s dominant space. (Remember we have it our whole lives)… and 3) ADD NOTHING and 4) If you want to help, ask a woman what she needs and 5) DRUM ROLL………..just try doing what she wants and going out of the comfort zone of the man dominated world and try subordinattion, silence, and creating a world that is DIFFERENT because a man has changed his behavior. Warning: You’ll have to learn about women first before you can do this because you don’t want to do this with just ANY woman…..You have to have some common sense that doesn’t come from being a man. Sorry, I didn’t create this. Just worked a lifetime to articulate this mess in hopes of creating a harmonious world and good relationships.

  100. I haven’t read all the comments, but I will admit that I have been the one doing explaining to men and women, although many men I’ve explained things to do make it hard for me to do so. What can I say, except: I’ve seldom been called Lady-Like after I’ve opened my big ol’ gob.

    Question to provoke thought: Does this phenomena, arrogant men who explain things, tie in to the innocently ignorant conversationalist who asks for things to be explained while a discussion above their pay-grade is going on?

  101. The other day I met with a man about 65 years old. He kept reminding me how young I was. Now, I’m 32 so I’m ok with being told I’m young. But then I mentioned my parents, and mentioned my father would disagree with what he just said.

    His response was “well I guess maybe I would feel the same if I was as young as he is”.

    Now I should mention this meeting was a professional meeting, this man knows nothing about my family or my father. I should also mention my father is 70…

  102. For men to comment on this subject is a daunting no-win situation. Nevertheless – I think it is important to call out several issue from a male point of view. The Wildlife profession was one of the worst offenders in terms of lack of female representation. However the last 15 years shows an interesting and positive development: the growing majority of wildlife graduate students and new professionals are female….at least from all the major land grant University wildlife programs. Due to this and other factors, I work successfully in an organization that is 80% female. I find articles like this extremely discomforting. One of the biggest pitfalls of humanity is to make nonsensical correlations between two things with no cause and effect relationship. Like equating a mass shooting episode with a generalized misogynistic male culture, as opposed to a specific case of mental illness (recent news). Or connecting the struggles of college educated female Americans with the life or death plight of a woman in a specific third world nation with zero cultural linkage to our homeland.

    Humans love to grasp at randomness in hopes of cobbling a pattern, and the more passionate we are about a given subject, the more variables we try to connect to it – that’s not a gender thing, is an Ape thing. The bottom line is that there is a growing number of normal men and women leading normal lives that find harmony with the opposite sex in the workplace and at home, but find the surrounding culture of gender awareness to be an increasing pain in the ass:). Admittedly, that’s a brand new problem that is, from one perspective, a luxury to have. One of the surprising outcomes of equality in the workplace is the opportunity for men and women to share in the frustration having bosses, feeling under-appreciated, spending too much time away from your children, and feeling stressed out all the time. Welcome. One of the worst parts of equality is that it produces a partnership with two work-stressed people who still have to be a family. I reserve the right to explain myself:)

  103. i can definitely chime with this. As a man and occasional single parent i could also write an essay on Women Who Automatically And Offensively Assume You Can’t Parent Properly Because You’re Male but it wouldn’t be as good as Rebecca’s. As so the war rages on.

  104. This reminded me of what comedian Donald Glover said about women’s stories of their crazy exes were never as funny as guy’s stories. Why? Because usually women with crazy exes are dead.

  105. To the men who are complaining about men who explain things not being a gendered issue, because they too are on the receiving end of men’s explanations…

    Who is explaining it to you? A man? So… men think they know better than women, AND other men. That’s still a gendered issue.

  106. I had to explain the term mansplaining to my husband. He’d never heard it. He now works in an all-male office, partly due to the fact that it’s a small office and everyone who works there was referred to the boss by a buddy. Anyhoo, when I told him what it was, he said, “Oh god, I HATE that! Wait, do I do that?” I assured him that he only did it when the topic was a subject upon which he considered himself an authority, to which he responded, “Is that why you never want to play video games with me?” Yes, honey, that is indeed why.

    On a different note, Andye brings up a useful point. I think perhaps we can make long-term change by simply pecking away at the problem, and we may have to settle for long-term pecking, actually, because to address mansplaining and the whole alpha-beta construct simultaneously would make our goals all too clear to the invested alphas, who have nothing to gain. That might bring more violent backlash than is safe for those of us at the wrong end of a gun during an armed tantrum. But I must admit I’m too impatient to wait for real change. I want to be alive when it happens ;)

  107. The Economist published an article called “Why Men Interrupt” (written by an author, R.L.G., whose sex I don’t know and using as it’s main source a book by Deborah Tannen) that says the thing that women are criticizing men for saying here: men mansplain to both men and women. The idea seems to be that men are trying to prove their superiority to everyone.

  108. This article is the epitome of gender arrogance and hypocrisy. Congratulations Rebecca Solnit. Sexism at its finest.

  109. I live with four women — a wife and three daughters. I love them all, but three of them tell me what’s what every chance they get, regardless of whether they know much of anything about the topic, and they’re typically dismissive of what I think. During my grad school tenure, my mother-in-law twice informed me that my dissertation topic (involving evolutionary biology) was ridiculous. When I asked her to elaborate, she’d say, “I just don’t think that’s right.” She’s an atheist, so religious beliefs had nothing to do with it — this was just an extreme example of her tendency to take the opposite position on whatever I happened to say out loud. I once had two business partners — a husband and wife — and the wife’s contribution to all proposals to grow the business was so predictable that it might have doubled as her version of our mission statement: “We don’t do that.” (Usually stated with a sneer.)

    To be fair, my dad was a contrarian, and my mom wasn’t. I currently have three business partners, including two women, and of the four of us I’m probably the one who would get picked as the arrogant know-it-all.

    I guess my point is: People are rectal orifices, in general. A good percentage of people are dismissive, overconfident pains-in-the-ass. Aspen-guy seems like a self-important tool who was shocked that a woman would have authored an important book. He sounds a lot like my female gender psychology professor, a woman who made it abundantly clear on a daily basis that no male had anything of worth to say about gender issues, least of all an undergraduate.

    In short, I’m not at all convinced that Solnit’s experiences confirm that assholishness is gender-biased in an important way. I’m somewhat convinced that women and men are more sensitive to dismissiveness that comes from the opposite sex. Yeah, that makes me a “mainsplainer.” That term of ultimate, no-explanation-necessary dismissiveness might bother me, but it also helps make my point.

  110. So, being self important and full of crap is limited to men?

    As a matter of fact, in my research consulting practice, I am routinely challenged by clients about the necessity of value of certain procedures.

    Some ask questions about the reasoning or expected results. However, it has been almost uniformly the female clients in leadership positions who make unequivocal yet utterly ignorant declarations dismissing the value of what are in fact routine industry practices.

    “That won’t work,” “we don’t need to do that.” and the like.

    The project gets derailed and time is lost in explaining fundamental practices and reversing their positions and eventually starting over.

    And, in response to a post above, I am interrupted in meetings by women far more often than by men.

  111. My favorite moment of old, overconfident men explaining things to me: After graduating with a degree in philosophy, a friend’s dad was asking about some philosophical subject of some kind, and somehow rhetoric came up. That’s a tricky one, because “rhetoric” means different things in different contexts. I went with the definition that means persuasive but with little or no meaning. He explained that, no, it’s a general term for argument or speaking. Then I said, oh, yes, it can also be a general term for that, as in, for instance, the traditional educational trivium, where you study grammar, logic, and rhetoric. He said, “Well…we can look up the definition when we get home.”

  112. How would people react to an article summarized as a “critique of female emotionality”? People, especially people like the author of this condescending and highly generalizing article, would get upset and sound the feminist clarion.

    By contrast, there is of course nothing wrong with this article, summarized as a “critique of male arrogance.”

    Do women want equality? Or do they want special privileges whereby they can say whatever they want, while all men have to walk on eggshells to avoid saying anything slightly politically incorrect? I think they want special privileges.

    Has the author of this article never met any arrogant women? I certainly have. Loads of them. There are lots of rude, arrogant, and condescending people–male and female. The author of this article is obviously one of those people.

  113. In all of the examples you provided, you have had leaps of logic. Somehow, your first impression of every man who disagrees with you / has a different opinion / is wrong in an argument is an arrogant, overconfident male who is bent on talking down to women, and making them feel diminished.

    This article is infuriating because there’s no clear evidence that this is the case. I find this article to be hurtful to any feminist agenda as it promotes Misandry.

    I’m not saying that men as you have described do not exist, but I think that your quick jump to conclusions has led others to jump on your boat and accuse other men of this behaviour, whether or not its actually true. If you actually stand for equal rights, then attack the behavior. Don’t provide weak examples of men who may be exhibiting this behavior, and then attack men. You’re just encouraging others to attack men for the same weak examples. You might burn a few witches, but you’ll burn many innocents in the process.

  114. If Women Ruled the World: we would all be geared towards communication and connection rather than competition and dominance.

  115. Interesting that those who don’t have the experience can speak as authority on other’s experience of it. There is like a lapse in understanding who can have an opinion. I can’t have an opinion on something I don’t know anything about or have not experienced. People are not omniviisual and omnipotent but respond to someone’s writing as if they are. Their lack of it doesn’t make it univerally non-existant. Many of these comments actually are a continuation of the very subject of the article.. I”ll explain to you that it doesn’t exist in life even if I have never been in your life. It’s got something to do with confusion as if one is God or superior or over seer. A problem isn’t a problem if I don’t have the problem or believe it doesn’t exist, because I can claim reality for more than just myself, right? Especially if I am a man, I can claim reality about women. And men can somehow keep responding to women who describe being a woman as if they are women. Remember it’s really new for men to have to deal with women interfering with their domination in claiming authority over women’s intellect and bodies. Even in women studies classes, men routinely leave because they can’t seem to handle so much time actually in information about women – they aren’t forced into a whole education system rooted in our foremother’s work. We all grow up surrounded by what all the fathers did to create our world and women fall off the radar screen. From Henry Ford, To Freud, To JFK, to thomas Edison to Hugh Heffner to any father of our system. Men who are not women or do not have the experience have no basis to comment. And comparing men and women as if there is no sex segregation is actually delusional. When blacks said no race segregation, it wasn’t so easy to deny. But because women are actually exploited in very personal ways involving their bodies and for men’s personal needs of work and sex, we are much deeper in an unrecognized sex segregation. The good news is that we’ve progressed and women and men can actually be together in social places and it doesn’t mean they are having sex. We’ve progressed to where women can create meanings and voice for their own lives and express it without having to hide behind a man’s name. We’ve progressed that women actually have time to write because the no-choice children that makes it impossible to write has been reduced from 14 and 7 to a choice of 2 or 3. And we’ve progressed that we have technologies like this that you don’t have to be etremely wealthy and jump hoops with editors, publishers and printing presses to get your voice published. Now, we just have to deal with comments from men who are too privileged as to not have to sit back and think about what they inherited from such a history that didn’t require them to spend 12 years in a public education that revolved around the values and education of our foremothers that would make their work, their voices, and their lives honorable and worthy of museums and statues so that men might learn early to respect women when they speak.

  116. Thank you, this was a great essay and has made me want to check out your books. It’s hard to explain how this annoying behavior pertains to gender but I feel you did a good job. No way being a contrarian, know-it-all asshole is simply male behavior aimed at females, but it really seems we get it in mind-boggling ways.

    Once an ex-boyfriend mentioned the deal he got on a newly-bought fishing reel. He was describing why it was a good deal and suddenly interrupted himself to say “Wait, do you even know what a fishing reel is?”.
    This ex knew I’d been raised on the coast by a fisherman father and I’d enjoyed boating as a child.
    I reminded him of that and his response was “Well, I don’t know, you’re a girl.”

    “Well, I don’t know, you’re a girl” is not something that’s said out loud very often but it’s definitely implied. I’ve had men explain things to me that are so asinine there is no way I could have lived independently for 8 years and not have learned these things already. There is also no way they would actually explain these things to other men.

  117. I think the term “ManSplaining” is incredibly sexist. I would explain what I mean by that, but… I feel rather silenced at the moment.

  118. So the men in this comment section who are detailing why the author is wrong are basically proving her point. How are you going to tell a woman she’s wrong about how men explain things to her unwantedly by explaining something to her. Why can’t you just read the article take it for what it is and move on. You don’t have to be so sensitive.

  119. Do men mansplain to other men, or just women? I’m a man and I encounter lots of guys explaining things they plainly don’t understand. Do they do it more frequently or in a different fashion when speaking to a woman? Is this something *some* men do when speaking to women, or is this something *some* men merely do when speaking?

  120. Having been accused of this last night, & despite having read another version of this previously elsewhere, I just re read it, (& most of the comments) to see if I had, in fact, been mansplaining. I had not. I simply hadn’t read and researched every detail of the semi-anonymous person I was debating with, & so someone else who apparently had jumped in.

    Apparently, any challenge to someone, even if you have no idea of their gender, is now attacked as ‘mansplaining’. Debate is silenced, people are muted or blocked or banned. And suddenly the “abuse” has a name.

    Anyway, the author is an alpha female, and so when she runs into someone who doesn’t realise, she dramatically notices. The alpha male continues on regardless, as she would do were he not there.

    I look forward to hearing her article about the first time she is accused online of mansplaining.

  121. “Apparently, any challenge to someone, even if you have no idea of their gender, is now attacked as ‘mansplaining’. Debate is silenced, people are muted or blocked or banned. And suddenly the “abuse” has a name.”

    Congratulations, now you know exactly what women have been experiencing for thousands of years.
    Except you’re still a fucking idiot.
    “Alpha female”. Please.

    Grow up.

  122. First, I want to say that I generally applaud your empowering message to women. It is important that all human beings, regardless of gender, have the right to speak up.

    I do feel, however, that over-feminizing the topic strongly detracts from your message. Even in some of your most potent anecdotes, you seem to be making many assumptions.

    Let’s take a look at the Aspen idiot, for example. So the old man was imposing, and he had made a lot of money. And he spoke in the way that you would encourage your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice. Clearly, he was arrogant and patronizing. But about what?

    Did he speak to you as though he was simply encouraging your friend’s seven-year-old to describe flute practice, or did he speak to you as though he was encouraging your friend’s female seven-year-old to describe flute practice?

    Sure he cut you off when you mentioned your latest New York Times Bestseller. He had a “smug look,” and his eyes were “fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority,” but on what was this authority based? How do you know the arrogance wasn’t born of age or wealth, rather than of his male ego? Perhaps he was merely bragging about being well-read or well-informed of the latest novels. Nothing you’ve said in this anecdote indicates that the Aspen idiot patronized you solely because you were female.

    Indeed, if the old man was truly familiar with the New York Times review of your book, he would have known that the book was written by a female author. Where is your evidence that he was so blinded by his feelings of masculine superiority that he completely overlooked that fact and assumed that Rebecca was a male name?

    Up to this point, the unwarranted assumptions fall short of being harmful. The Aspen idiot was arrogant, ignorant, and deserved to be put in his place. But at some point, the feminist assumptions potentially cross the line and become dangerous. Your Iraq anecdote is a perfect example of this.

    I have no doubt Coleen Rowley made invaluable contributions in making those early warnings about al-Qaeda, but your critique implies that the Bush administration went to war out of smugness. Let’s assume for a moment that this is so. But what smugness? If their smugness was out-and-out masculine, how is it possible that male experts “couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness”? After all, even in those sexist and repressive Middle Eastern countries where women’s testimony has no legal standing, a male witness can counter the male rapist. How, then, is it possible that the supposed masculine smugness of the Bush administration could not be countered by male experts?

    Let’s face it. We do live in a world where many young women are crushed into silence, and this is a major problem. I applaud your act of giving a voice to those who have no voice. But when feminism is without adequate justification used to explain unrelated societal problems, it loses its potency and even hurts the very causes you stand for.

    1. Not smugness, methinks. It was the profit motive for Halliburton and other chickenhawk purveyors of military equipment/supplies that sent our men and women to war.
      Those who disputed the cause/need/location were being branded as un-American and traitors to the country. I wondered, myself, if perhaps the people promoting the invasion of Iraq might not be right in their judgment. But no time was given to hash this out, if the warmongers would have even discussed it with the opposition.

  123. Thank you so much for this article. It means a lot to hear a woman as intelligent and well spoken as you to help me realize it isn’t only me that this happens to. I have been in IT for over 33 years, made it to the top to present at world wide Microsoft conferences only to now at 52 feel like I’ve had enough. I am considering leaving a carreer I have loved for a long time because the men are just too insecure and over compensate by being complete pricks. It is important for women like you to speak out for all of us – I cannot wait for my 26 year old daughter to read this! She asks me questions all the time about situations like this and I have told her my experiences but it will mean a lot coming from someone else like you.

  124. Let me just start mansplanning for a minute. Please for the love of gender equality, or whatever it is you hold dear, do not refer to the Middle East as “those Middle East countries.” Sure the Middle East is a great name for the geographical location but it’s nations, societies, and cultures are too diverse to just carlessly lump into one category. I, for example, am a proud Iranian. The Middle East is Persian, Arab, Azeri, Turkish, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Assyrian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Palestinian, Afghani, and much more. Each demographic has its own view on gender, some of which correlates with your arguements and others which disprove them. And while I’m on the subject, Islam is just as respecting of women as any religion, if you care to learn by immersing yourself in the culture. The point is it is careless and ignorant to generalize, which is funny cause you accuse that of men. I guess we all (men and women) “mansplain.” Like I said, I am Iranian, so if you do want to learn about our culture and gender politics you’re always welcome as a guest to a traditional Iranian dinner.

  125. Hallelejuah for this article! I can’t express how many times I have given myself whiplash over the course of an evening whilst silently nodding at over-confident and under-informed mansplainers.

    However, am I the only one who, unfortunately, read moments of internalized misogyny in here? Specifically, in the way that Solnit feels the need to justify any points of contention with Mr Very Important I and II by sourcing research from fellow male academics who agree. As if her expertise and thorough research on a topic is not fully valid without the blessing of a male academic counterpart. This happens twice in the article, i.e.:

    “Both Philip Prodger, in his wonderful book on Muybridge, and I had actually researched the subject and made it clear that Muybridge had done something obscure but powerful to the wet-plate technology (…). ”

    “I (… f)ound that Eric Bentley in his definitive history of the House Committee on Un-American Activities credits Women Strike for Peace with “striking the crucial blow in the fall of HUAC’s Bastille.”

    Could be coincidental (the only two academics who agreed were men?), but it feels grimly ironic considering her critique that women in some Middle Eastern counties cannot testify against a man without a male witness…

  126. This was brilliantly written and is such important reading – for everyone, of any gender.

    And god, can I ever relate. As a female (attractive, 20-something) psychology student working in research, every day is a fight for me to be taken seriously. Thankfully my mentors (those whose labs I work in, effectively my bosses) are a black female feminist and a white male feminist so I never deal with anything negative from them.

    No, the ‘splaining happens at conferences, when older men walk by my research and want to argue with it. Once a man tried to explain that the we way we designed the experiment was “wrong” (this guy was a clinical psychologist who hadn’t “published” anything since he completed his doctoral degree way back when), and that we should have designed it like another study he had read recently that was conducted by somebody else.

    That somebody else was me. He was referencing my work. You know, the study I ran. Outlined in the paper I wrote. With my name all over it.

    I wish I could have photographed his face when I explained why we designed the study the way we did – because it was a follow-up to the first study we’d done. The one he read about. The one I wrote about.

    Of course, no apology, no “Oops, my mistake!” just an uncomfortably long silence and a softly-muttered “…oh.” before walking off to presumably critique more female-lead work that he didn’t really understand.

  127. Arrogance and poor conversation/relating skills are not sex-specific. And pointing out, heh, heh, “patronising” — and coining “mansplaining” — are examples of the non-gender-neutral language, we’re not supposed to use, right?

  128. I try to read as many articles as I can about feminist topics. While I find it difficult to put myself in the shoes of a woman, I feel I get intellectually, if not emotionally, a little closer each time I complete one and think on it.

    This article reminded me of a joke my wife and I share, which came from a greeting card we found in a store one day. On the cover, an old man in ridiculous purple golf pants and a porkpie hat next to his wife in shuffleboard shoes and sporting a peach handbag is pointing into the distance and says “And that land mass over there is called a ‘stick out’ because of the way it sticks out into the water.” On the inside is the kicker: “Another year older, another year closer to making up crap.”

    We use this with each other as a BS detector. My wife might call me on something: “Oh really Dave? Is that a stickout?” At which point I have to reflect if what I’m saying is merited. Or not. And I do the same with her. It’s a good-natured challenge to back up assertions we make.

    With this article however, I got an icky feeling by the levels of condescension coming from a woman who is much smarter than I am, and is tickled to point it out.

    The argument she makes that Mansplaining (a snide and belittling term in itself if ever I saw one) is inherent in the male gender is ironically weakened in her derisively triumphal attitude towards unsuspecting male fools.

    What should be read into in her essay as frustration comes across more as hostility and an all-too eager predisposition to ascribe negative traits as inherent to men. The old man is Aspen? Sounds like my dad talking to me. And my grandma talking to him. But Ms. Solnit, in her story seemed ready to pounce on him (or any man, perhaps?) from the get go.

    Yes, men can be arrogant idiots, but don’t think they have the monopoly on that behavior. This article shows me that arrogance is alive and well in both sexes. I think we would all be better served not by assailing those who don’t “get it” but by being gracious ladies and gentlemen.

  129. Thanks, Rebecca. I loved this piece (and I’m a man). Undoubtedly I’ve been guilty of mansplaining things to women, myself. And probably to a few men, as well. I think really considering whether I DO actually believe I know someone is wrong, or if I’m actually discounting their experience, is a very important distinction. One I’ll be sure to pay a lot more attention to in the future.

  130. I agree with and support this article. I don’t have any critiques or additions. I can relate it to my personal experience as a guy but that’s not the point. I hope people who do read this can listen to it’s message without erroneously imposing and prioritising their perspective.

  131. Thanks and apparently – apologies – to Rebecca for explaining the endless faults of us men to the world, and rightly so. We are a lot of half- baked loafs with barely a right to breathe evidently, and guilty beyond belief of disrespecting the fairer sex.
    For my part, I hold you in high regard, and as such, I will restrain any and all attempts to explain anything to you, in the knowledge that any such altruistic mention would undoutably get mocked or shoeboxed as the lout that I am.
    May you find peace with mankind, and I hope that deep down inside you learn to love us as we are, fearfully and wonderfully made. Faults and all.

  132. Don’t mistake this for people who think you’ve made a mistake and helpfully want to offer advice. Stop crying about how your helpfulness is unappreciated. She’s talking about patronizing attempts to express superiority and exert social power, not respectful attempts to convey helpful information.

    I’ve been reading the comments here and as usual for any essay about a feminist perspective on women’s experiences, there are (ironically, though not unexpectedly) a lot of men commenting to explain how the woman author misunderstood her experiences and their larger implications and the world in general. That’s exactly what women are told all the time, which is after all the point – that they’ve misunderstood their own lived experiences and that their own self-reporting is not valid. This is the same thing that white people do to people who are not white.

    Yes, *men explain things to other men too*, just like she said. But it’s still men who are doing it 99% of the time, so it’s still “gendered” behavior just like she said. Her analysis that we live in a world where the voices of women don’t matter is actually supported by the fact that so many men get to assume that their own voices do.

    You don’t have to read the comments section of many internet articles or videos not to see “mansplaining” in action, however you feel about the term itself. In fact, try spending a month on the internet commenting with a feminine-sounding screen name and see how it goes. Try a gender neutral screen name, and a masculine-sounding screen name. I’ve definitely noticed a huge difference in the nature and mood of people’s responses.

    Anyone actually interested in the experiment might be interested to know that a neutral name works very well for ensuring more measured responses, but… you will always find jerks on the internet, of every gender, color, and creed.

  133. I very much appreciated the balance of this article.

    Trolls are everywhere, and their arrogance makes them particularly immune to information. All sorts of ironies result from this, including what just has to be projection – that YOU haven’t researched this enough. YOU don’t know what you’re talking about. YOU need to read this article or see this video that has already been thoroughly debunked.

    From my personal experience, this is a male-initiated action 99% of the time. I would even say a *white* male-initiated action. I have seen it directed at both males and females, but I can also see how it would be more easily directed at females for a variety of reasons.

    Not sure what to do about this toxic behavior except to point it out wherever possible.

  134. These men do exist (in abundance) but in the trait you describe they are not displaying sexism.

    As a man I can tell you that they do this same thing to other men – all the time.

    They are self important wind bags is all.

    Some of them may well be sexist, and as such apply this behaviour more to women than men, but I don’t believe the behaviour itself is inherently sexist.

  135. Rebecca, I am a man, and in my life, especially in some of my relationships, I have been guilty of what you speak of here, and you’re right, it is shameful. I had to “feel the shame” in order to fully understand how to keep watch over myself in order to not act like such an ass in the future. I am still ashamed of those times. Remember that movie Magnolia where the old man on his death bed is talking about regret, and how you can never regret too much when you have a lot of regretting to do? I feel the same way about being ashamed. It is honorable to be ashamed of shameful actions. So yes! that is the solution to the issues of which you speak. You nailed it! This was a beautifully written essay. Thank you.

  136. I want to add too that this is the kind of feminist article that I can get behind. I don’t always like the tone of feminist writings. Thank you for taking the time, at a very crucial point in this article, to appreciate the huge population of men who are on your team, or at least doing their best to be there. That’s so very necessary in these discussions and perhaps will be a crucial strategy for solving this gender problem once and for all.

  137. I do see the gendered / sexist aspect of the overconfidence of the ignorant, but I’d like to add that it also exists within male circles, albeit in a more competitive fashion. I can’t count the number of times that another guy has tried to upstage me on my own field of expertise, which he clearly knows nothing about but wants equal credit for. I mean really? I spent 5 years getting a degree in this along with all the personal sacrifices, and you want to act like you know the same amount about this as I do?

    So… I sort of agree with the sentiment that guys who tend to do this to women, also are also doing it to everyone else. The difference is that with other men it’s about trying to earn some modicum of respect, while when it’s done to women it’s about superiority and control.

    In the academic profession I’ve also seen women doing it to other women, though more rarely.

    There is another side to this too, which is that many men are natural teachers, irregardless of their actual knowledge level. In my opinion it’s a paternal aspect learned from their fathers or mothers which they then pass on. My father was always teaching me things and now I enjoy teaching people things too, but we have to be careful about only doing it where it is warranted. The downside of (pseudo)intellectualism is that it can become cruel, and that will especially translate to gender inequality.

  138. Is it just me or were these comments depressingly easy to predict?

    On the one hand you have the women expressing relief at being able to talk about experiences they’ve had with mansplaining. On the other hand you have the men who 1) do not have the experience of being mansplained to (by definition) so they don’t understand what all the fuss is about or 2) are offended because #notallmen (I guess they missed the numerous places where Solnit takes care to qualify her statements, eg. *some* men).

    It is also a depressing irony that there are comments picking Solnit’s stories to pieces, in an article where Solnit asks us to consider a woman’s uphill battle to gain trust and legitimacy over the words she speaks and writes. Unless you were there at the Aspen party or interviewed the old man afterward, you do not get to reinterpret her story for your own purposes (well, not if you want to be taken seriously).

    I’d also like to address something to David Spaler (Nov 13 comment). You say you felt the author’s condescension in her article. I didn’t feel that at all– I felt her weariness at having to deal with this bullshit over and over in her professional life. You also describe her attitude as “derisively triumphal, towards unsuspecting male fools”. What?! Every single one of the men in her story made fools of themselves by initiating their condescension to an expert in the field. In fact, she was much more restrained than I would be in those situations– in none of her stories does she “triumphantly” tell off the man.

    Why not just absorb the story as one of many common experiences shared by many professional women, instead of getting immediately defensive? I’m a man and it was pretty easy to do. But maybe it’s because my sisters are professionals who have also dealt with the same crap.

  139. I am embarrassed to say that I had not read this. Thank you, Rebecca Solnit, for your thinking and your writing. So clear, concise and funny, if you don’t think about the brutal, pointless sadness of it.

  140. What are your thoughts on the somewhat paradoxical nature of the article, since explaining mansplaining does assume a naivete among interested readers?

    Just a thought:
    Whenever someone other than the person whose story it is attempts to author that life (or work)…finish their sentence, change their story, tell them their own story, I consider it a pragmatic linguistic act (a speech act), more nonverbal than anything, since I assume it to be an attempt to position themselves socially (the speaker – by elevated themselves in knowledge above the other, and also concurrently, the other as lower in the social hierarchy)…I think that regardless of gender (I ran into this as a young man abroad a lot) the article touches upon how social power is maintained, asserted – and I would have really liked to have seen how the conversation (the discourse) would probably have illustrated this as well.

  141. You are aware that most people on the planet are quite dismissive and merely wait for the moment they can voice their opinion, oh wait I’m mansplaining already – I give up being a decent human sounds like too much work.

  142. Here’s an irony re: about half of these comments:

    Many have used the ol’ switcheroo logic – have you considered that if one nominal factor, that we’d best imagine as that of a word alone if this is ever going to make sense, were switched (“woman” for “man” and vice versa) and we were foolish enough as to imagine that doing so wouldn’t require a single predicative or associative “translation” – and if any of you guys take pride in your rational skillz then please apply your experience of equations to the logic I’m describing! – so that the discussion exits the real world of experiences entirely to the point where the words don’t even meaningfully signify – the only possible fucking way we can imagine this substitution passing muster – well, let me tell you: you might find you yourself as the REAL sexist, hrmmph.

    THEN these dudes have the audicity to dismiss your experiences for being NON-EMPIRICAL?!

    It’s just amazing, the kind of contradiction bad enough isolated, but as the core of an argument for one’s superior rationalism? Jesus wept. But really it’s not so hard to explain: I see it, and you’re seeing right above me if you do a tally, and there are reams of studies (empirical even!) demonstrating this phenomenon of so many dudes throwing around the ol’ logical/emotional and rational/irrational dichotomies with such foolish confidence as can only result from the historical existence of a long-standing gendered rhetoric of superiority on the same axes, of a class relationship whose social power was so imbalanced as to moot the question of coherence. 

    TO THOSE BROS: You might be surprised to learn how very, very rare it is that a person who’s taken the time to know at least some of what they’re talking about has claimed that empirical data alone counts – and those who do inevitably become far more fantastical in belief than any of their more-pragmatic peers, because to demand exclusively empirical reality is to live in a dream world more profoundly alien than any allowing for moderate credulity. One fails to recognize the conditions of existence. Consider the position in any current major philosophy department of a Comte or Carnap.

    And where empirical data counts for a great deal – as in questions with measurable real-world effects and differences, of material advantages, demographic distributions, controlled social experiments, properly weighted and sample-significant tests of guilt presumption, of hiring practices, of prejudging strangers, of credibility ranking from limited information – by casually claiming the issue of (false) simple equivalency, by attempting other-directed DISPROOF by anecdote against a person you have never met (a very different and far dicier operation than personal assertion by anecdote, which if empiricism matters to you in any non-rhetorical way you should already recognize), by misrecognizing qualification as contradiction, and not least by presuming your own neutrality and thus failing to qualify your own subjectivity- YOU HAVE ALREADY SPECTACULARLY DEMONSTRATED YOUR INCOMPETENCE IN EMPIRICAL THOUGHT. GOOD DAY SIR!

  143. I’ve read this article repeatedly over the years. It gives me solace. It explains something that I’ve experienced many times which used to leave me speechless. Now I just recommend they read this.

    My own example: I was introduced to a man, a lawyer, as an artist named Anne Harris, which I am. He responded by saying, “I was just looking at work online by an artist named Anne Harris. You should look her up.” He then proceeded to describe my own work to me at length. The woman I was with repeatedly tried to interject that that was me, and he kept responding, “No no…” while adding more facts. When he finally registered what she was saying, he seemed disappointed rather than embarrassed.

    There are men who are much more interested in giving me answers than asking me questions. I notice, as I grow older, this gets worse.

  144. Don’t feel too put out…the kind of tool that does mansplaining is equal opportunity. They are blowhards and blowhard on women and men, alike. They love listening to themselves talk. I’ve had countless instances of men talking down to me because I’m a house painter, them not knowing I have multiple advanced degrees but paint houses because it gives me 6 months off a year.

    My dad’s blowhard doctor neighbor (that insists people call him doctor ____) came out to explain how to back up a trailer because my dad clearly has no experience with heavy machinery. My dad is a 747 captain. It is just super difficult to back a trailer into his driveway off the narrow street (ironically due the the barriers the dr put up along his property).

    The irony that even writing this could be considered “mansplaining” is not lost on me ;)

  145. Thank you for your brilliant, magnificently crafted commentary. One of my areas of concern (I work in a medically-related field) is the survival of the histrionic stereotype which results female patients first being patronized, then marginalized and often dismissed and undertreated

  146. I work in an Art university more or less as an technical sound person, helping students to record audio, speech or show them how to do it themselves. Because this is an art school and people don’t usually have a deep understanding in the technology and craft of sound recording or post production I usually assume (for men and women alike) that people don’t know anything about this, just like a common person on the street wouldn’t.

    As a man and feminist myself, I was well aware of what is called “mensplaining” yet I found myself explaining stuff a lot more to women than to men. This had one major cause, I found out after a few years. I usually ask the students about their frame of knowledge on audio production. This is not a formal test, I just ask them if they have any experience in the field and based on the answer I guess their experience level.

    Male students tell me about their knowledge in a more straightforward way, while you nearly have to pressure female students to tell you what they can do. Before I was aware of this I ended up overexplaining a lot of stuff to female students, because I assumed they know nothing when they didn’t say they know something.

    Only after one female student got angry about me explaining the stuff in depth (she assumed I only do this because she is a woman), I had a discussion with her and asked her why she didn’t tell me that she knew about that stuff. It turns out she didn’t. I was baffled, because I explained it the same way I did to everybody else and I usually get very good feedback from females and males alike.

    But after that I started to think about – what if she had had experience, because when she got angry that was totally a possibility for me. However, it also shows the problem with the therm mansplaining. Is mansplaining mansplaining, when you go into a topic in depth in the assumption your student doesn’t know anything about it? Probably not. It would definitly be mansplaining if everything hints she has knowledge in the field and I still explain it to her as if she were a child. It also cannot be mansplaining if there is a discussion and a man adds arguments and facts that question the statment made by a female – this is something that happens in every discussion and is not bound to gender.

    As a feminist I think we need to be very careful in focusing on our goals, defining what kind of gender relations we wanna have and then working towards that. This sometimes means, we have to guard the therms and words we use. If mensplaining is to be used for a overly broad range of phenomena, of which many are not gender based – it will no longer point to a injustice, but will be used as a countersexist pidgeonhole, in which (silly) people put every man into who is not in their liking.

    To keep the therm meaningful I propose to speak out against reflexive missuse of it.

  147. I’m not sure how many people come down and read these comments, but I want to say that articles like this are so nice. They are written by women for women and they do exactly what they should – make other women feel at least a little more understood. Thank you so much for posting!

  148. So men promote themselves, and women not only don’t promote themselves, but also sabotage other women? Sounds about right.

  149. I suspect I am guilty of mansplaining — as recently as last weekend. The piece has really got me thinking. Although I have several thoughts and some explanations, this is really not the appropriate time for that. Instead, I will simply apologize. I am sorry to all the women (and men) that I have mansplained. Changes will be made. Habits will be broken.

  150. Thank you , Rebecca Solnit, you are a breath of fresh air!
    May we women straighten our spines and float our heads up armed with your brilliant “saying it like it is.”

  151. I am a 20 year old woman and this has happened a lot to me. Sometimes men who explain things even like to do so as a group to reinforce their “arguments” against me.

    … das nimmt einem den Mut und den Wind aus den Segeln!

  152. It is amazing to me that those in this comment section arguing that this doesn’t happen often to women, on the basis of them being women, seem to be missing the point.

    There have been multiple studies that PROVE this. On average, people don’t take women seriously. They could be the cream of the crop, the epitome of their field’s masters… and they will likely not be taken as seriously as a man.

    To prove this, one study gave two actors (male and female) the same exact script. They would then have these actors merge into a group, and attempt to take the leadership roles for these groups. The men would be admired, and often listened to.

    The women would, at best, be seen as bitchy and less likeable… and that would be if they were taken seriously at all. Their ideas would be received differently, and the only real explanation was perception of gender and what it meant on a subconscious basis.

    Obviously, I am a woman. I am not afraid to say that on this board. But I have experienced this phenomena of the men who explain often. I served in the military for 6 years, and was often in the position of having to get men to do as instructed by myself. I was the knowledgeable one on my maintenance crew… but most outside of my crew would immediately defer to the lower ranking man beside me, assuming he knew more than I.

    Women can often pull so many examples of this behavior out that I believe there is something to it. Does it happen to men? Of course. Does it happen anywhere close to the same number of times as it does those of the feminine sex? I don’t believe so.

  153. The issue I have with this line of thinking that it isn’t the incorrectness that is wrong but the explaining that is wrong. Why? If you’re saying something true, explaining is perfectly legit. If you’re explaining wrongly, the wrongness is the part to take the beef with, not the explaining.

  154. I agree with you that there are a lot of boorish know-it-alls out there. I don’t have a female’s perspective, but I can’t help but wonder if “mansplaining” might be a subcategory of a broader “alpha” behavior pattern built into people on an instinctual level. I mean I get what you’re saying and agree with it…I just wonder if it goes even farther…and maybe limiting it to a male–>female dynamic falls short. I wonder if the man at the fancy lodge who didn’t know you’d written that book might have exhibited the same behavior towards a younger male. I know I’ve certainly been in similar situations. My own parents, knowing I have had a 20 year career in computers, take great pleasure in explaining basic computer concepts they’ve recently mastered to me…as do many others who fancy themselves computer savvy. So what makes a situation where a male is condescending to a female any different from male to male or older to younger, younger to older, female to female, etc… what makes mansplaining different than these others which are just as common?

  155. I would be so happy to be Rebecca Solnit and have written this brilliant true essay except then I’d feel obligated to read all the responses from the folk Heather Mallick (another insanely good journalist) calls ‘angry pyjamas’. The father of a partner I had long and long ago would not hear anything I told him. I would say the thing, like “they caught those smugglers yesterday in Hacket’s Cove” and he would look at me blankly then look at his son and say “did you hear they caught those smugglers yesterday in Hacket’s Cove?”. My partner and I would laugh and laugh. Fuck though, I’m 64 and slightly tired of it all. Good lessons for my work now with aboriginal people. Humility is a tough bitter old piece of pie to eat.

  156. My best recent example that might bring a smile: I was at a charity gala, and someone happened to mention to a wealthy patron that I was a celebrated author. He turned to me with an indulgent smile and said,
    “Oh. Do you write those little romance books?”
    I said: “No. I write crime.”
    My companion said: “She knows fifty ways to kill you and not get caught.”
    He didn’t laugh.

  157. Nice to be able to laugh about this, as I cannot always do when the phenomenon is happening to me, as it has constantly throughout my life. This needed saying, and it needs saying today, and tomorrow and next year, I’m sure.

    I’d answer one comment from a few years back “Does this phenomena, arrogant men who explain things, tie in to the innocently ignorant conversationalist who asks for things to be explained while a discussion above their pay-grade is going on?”

    No, it doesn’t. This isn’t about that, or did you not read the story of how the dude who had unwittingly read a review of the author’s work interrupted her to explain to her how much more worthy of being talked about that book was than the book he had asked her to explain about– a book on a subject she had studied, researched & become so expert upon that her book was being lauded by the very sources he held in such respect he just had to stop her from answering His Own Question to her, to make sure she knew of it?

    If that doesn’t count, let me give a little example of my own.

    I was working on a no-budget indie film wearing many job hats, some of which were new to me. I was learning as I went along, but in my capacity as the musical supervisor & composer I was on firm ground. I’d been performing my own music live for some 14 years at that point, had been in 5 bands and seven performing choirs over a span of more than 25 years, had a wide variety of studio recording experiences, and had written/co-written hundreds of songs.

    As such it fell to me to teach a few verses of a song I’d written (to the director’s specifications) to an actor playing a supporting character, who was meant to sing a little in a single scene. He wasn’t a singer, played no instruments, couldn’t read music, didn’t write songs, and had never acted before either; his performing experience up to that point was all as a part-time unpaid comedian until I, personally, had cast him in this role. But as I was teaching him the song, he stopped me to explain how one of the lines was wrong and just how it should be changed. It was bad grammar, he told me, and didn’t properly express the thought, either. He knew it would be ten times better if only I made the change.

    I sang his change to him, showing how there were too many words, the flow got messed up, and it said the same thing, but less poetically. I assured him that the song would work my way, and he explained a little more, adding ideas about changing the melody as well (because of his deep understanding of music). I listened, but didn’t give in. We had no time to rewrite the entire tune. Finally, he huffily agreed to learn the song, doing so with no grace or good humor whatsoever.

    Please note, I was not & am not angry. I was mildly annoyed because of the extra time it all took, but hid it well, as I had quickly learned that even new-to-acting actors must be coddled or their mood will mess up your expensive shooting schedule.

    For my part, I could have explained that aside from my years of writing songs alone & in collaboration with other musicians, of performing them to appreciative audiences, & my decades in choral groups where I’d gained a pretty damn good understanding of musical structure, not to mention some music courses in university, I’d also spent ten years as a Creative Writing & Literature major, workshopping my poetry & short stories in class after class; that I’d actual put together & run songwriting & poetry workshops; that every scrap of writing I’d ever submitted for publication had been published. I had a wide base of education & experience that had prepared me well for the task at hand. In short, I knew how to write fucking good songs.

    But it doesn’t matter what I knew; what matters is, he didn’t know, and he still felt the need to be the expert, because I, a female and perhaps a somewhat imposing one, was teaching him. He had to bend that situation into one where he was on top. He had to tell, and when his telling was shown to be incorrect and ill-based, he never bothered to admit he could, possibly, have been wrong.

    Who was reaching for something above their pay grade here? It wasn’t me.

    Of course, people will want to tell me that it was just that guy’s way. They might even be right to a degree, as the same guy, who had never worn makeup, tried to give me a little lesson on face powder the first time I put it on him (don’t make me tell you my MUA credentials, too). Then again, he didn’t do that to the director, the sound guy or the assistant director, who were all dudes, and he did do it, several times, to the female director of photography, despite having no experience with film cameras or serious photography, unlike the DOP.

    It’s not down to any one person; it’s a learned behavior that needs to be addressed, examined, and unlearned.

    I would suggest, as an early commenter did, that anyone that thinks this is bullshit sexism should try taking on a female & very girly online alias for a month, but otherwise express themselves as usual. It will be a huge learning experience. I know, because I did the opposite– and the difference in reaction to the same opinions expressed in exactly the same way, under a male name, was startling.

    Thanks Rebecca, for making me think, making me laugh, and giving me a few more rows to hoe.

    Peace, Mari

    1. This is one of the best responses I’ve read. It really explained the phenomenon well and you did some experiments to prove it.

      On a side note, there’s nothing wrong with explaining things per se and per your post. But when somebody comes out with horseshit in your own field then yes, I get the frustration that’d cause.

      Do you think that this article has in way stirred up feelings of hostility and ill will towards men?

  158. Only reading the comments posted by men explaining how the author is wrong because she only relates anecdotes (you conveniently ignore those are most definitely not the only experiences she’s basing this essay on), is another whole exercise in mansplaining. Such a pity that they fail to see the irony.

  159. I am writing a sequal to Rebecca’s book – Men Explain Religion to me. I am up to 13 essays if you are interested.

  160. I just think it’s funny that the men who committed basically just proved the point.
    They read this just so they could get offended. And are not admitting the truth.
    And explaining.

    I am looking forward to reading all your books. I wish I knew of them sooner. I graduated from high school in 2008, I wish I read this then. Thank you so much for writing. Your amazing. And so inspirational. I heard you on the radio today talking about Hope In The Dark, You said all the things I’ve been thinking, I needed to hear it.

  161. I read the first few comments I saw. In that sample, people with men’s names wrote much longer responses than people with women’s names.
    Where women disagreed with someone, they were more likely to take the time to think about the core point of that disagreement, and phrase it concisely. This shows respect for others’ time and facilitates dialogue.
    Men were more likely to post a long response that is useful if you want to know exactly what they think and why, but is harder to respond to as part of a conversation. It is not clear to me whether these men had read the original article.

  162. The lust for purity of categorization is a human affliction. I would agree with Solnit that many, but not all, men are guilty of patronizing women, and I have certainly seen men who like to patronize do so to other men. I have been patronized, publicly, and humiliatingly, at least twice by other women for the backwardness and ignorance I displayed in my desire to be factual, rather than party-line. All categories are fuzzy, all motivations mostly unconscious.

  163. River of Shadows looks fascinating. I can’t wait to read it so that, perhaps one day I’ll get the chance to explain it to you! Hehe ;)

  164. Whatever the original intentions of the term “Mansplaining” may have been – and they are well explained in this article – this term has become an effective tool for gagging men’s voices in a variety of, mostly online, situations.

    If you support the idea of shutting down discussion and silencing dissenting points then I guess that’s a good thing.

  165. All those who have left comments, of whatever opinion, will find Deborah Tannen’s work explains their own views to them. She shows how communication styles reflect the different gender conditioning of ‘men’ and ‘women’ – how her work, and Solnit’s, and these comments, are all part of the complex cultural processes by which prevailing ideas of male-associated vs female-associated behaviours collectively evolve. Regardless of our own biology, we all, necessarily, participate in behaviours which others will identify as more or less male or female. To say that there is, in our society, an association of submission and apology with femaleness, and of confrontation and assertion with maleness, is non-controversial. It is up to all of us, of whatever gender by the accident of birth, to decide how to use those behaviours, their associations, and likely impact. To do so consciously, and with awareness, is a good thing. See Deborah Tannen 1992 ‘You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation’ and ‘That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations with Others’.

    That gender is a social construct, one which we are all consciously or unconsciously co-creating, is easier to accept in activities we frame as ‘art’. If not making a statement in that indeterminate, paradoxical and provocative space, humour, especially self-deprecation, are good clues as to how readers should take the authority intended behind any general claims. Solnit’s wry tone is an example of this. What would a gender-neutral article, or comment, look like?

  166. This website absolutely needs IT help. I get the e-mail notices, but the links don’t work to take you to the correct part of the thread. Somewhere up above was the comment on women who deliberately look stupid to get what they want and the replay back. I don’t have time to read everything to get the reply in the correct location.

    My question back – WHAT ARE THE AGES OF THE PEOPLE COMMENTING? As an old fogy just on the cusp of the baby boomers. Cultural media notes:

    George Burns & Gracy Allen – 1940’s – The ‘dumb’ woman assumption – Abbot & Costello would be the ‘gay’ version. This style of straight man/ foil isn’t so much the fashion any more.

    Dick Van Dyke show with a very young Mary Tyler Moore (May she rest in piece) She gave an interview on how she researched all the great ‘cryers’ Her character, Laura?, would always cry and look stupid to get her way. Late 60’s.

    I don’t cry when I get upset. My husband just accuses me of being manipulative.

    1970’s ‘ Facts of Life – The one episode has the ‘tom boy’ character working as the mechanic in the motorcycle shop. She is instructed by the ‘boy expert’ to act stupid to get the other, male, mechanic to like her. He wasn’t any where near as good a mechanic and screwed up the repair and she got fired. I don’t remember why the male wasn’t fired.

    So don’t forget the cultural history that this is expected female behavior.

    Thanks be to God if all you younger women don’t have to learn how to stroke the male ego as a survival trait so you don’t have to put up with the temper tantrums. You just get to listen to the ‘Christian Right’ lectures on how we have all lost our precious femininity. And for all you atheists remember, the ‘Christian Right’ is neither Christian nor right, they are just the western version of ISIS.

  167. My local priest handed out a monstrosity by the Catholic league, AKA the Catholic version of ISIS, saying it is acceptable to rape women. “Women’s Moral Descent” I suppose all those children were asking for it as well. That’s it. I QUIT! I am leaving the church.

    I am told that the Catholic League is heavily funded by Cardinal Slap You out of Philadelphia, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, and the Knights of Columbus. I haven’t been able to verify any of that. Does anyone have a tutorial on how to research to find out?

    1. I just read the article: William A Donohue, “Women’s moral descent, Catholic League, 21 Nov 2016, . It does not even suggest, let alone say, that it is acceptable to rape women. Further, the article opens by declaring that historically, men have been far more immoral than women. It then alleges that women, merely, “have at least caught up to men”.


    This is an account from someone who changed genders from being a female scientist to being a male scientist. One comment he heard was how the new ‘he’ had given such a good talk and ‘he’ was better than his ‘sister’ (his sister being actually his former female self, not a relative)

  169. I am so utterly impressed by this article , it relates directly into issues I am grappling with as a visual artist: confronted by discrimination towards my work based on my gender repeatedly although there is nothing gender specific in my practice and output. Also over whelmed by the audacious arrogance of male visual artists and how they present: recently posted a shot take from a Dior catwalk of a model wearing a t- shirt emblazoned with the words “ Why are there no great female artists?” ; which made my blood boil and run cold all in one!. No one seems to consider the complexity of of how women’s intelligence, women intellectual and artistic practices have been disregarded historically on multiple levels: This brilliant article points to one such level of dismissal and yet I am sadly told it cannot be shared on Facebook even though you attach a link?
    Well written Rebecca Solnit I am in admiration of your work:

    PS a small ironybthatbthe platform from which I came to read this article through is called GUERNICA: thoughts immediately turn to one of the most supremely arrogant male artists in histories pages Picasso !

  170. So, I might be a bit late, but I wanted to chime in a bit to offer some more commentary aside from people arguing whether or not it’s accurate or not. Really, what Ms. Solnit said at the beginning is really all that matters in the end. This article was written so a young girl could feel like her voice mattered in a world that, whether it is primarily done by whichever gender you want, will try to silence her and where her points will not be taken seriously no matter how much research she puts into them. This concept, of women feeling the need to act less smart and put on a facade of an, from the article, ingenue (“an innocent or unsophisticated young woman, especially in a play or film” btw) isn’t just something that happens to Rebecca Solnit.

    In an article written from 2007 (yes a decade old, however this article is only a year younger so I didn’t see any particular problem with citing it here) a study was done where women and male chess players were put against each other. All were of the same skill level, but when the women players knew they were playing against men they underperformed. To quote verbatim, “Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5 % of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grand masters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male–female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males.
    When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance.”

    Basically, women pretended to be less skilled in chess than they are because they didn’t want to face the ire of beating a man in a game so intrinsically tied with intelligence level. Whether or not this article is valid or factual or jumps to too many conclusions is not what really matters, what really matters is that it has been shown conclusively before and probably will again that the performance level of women in male-dominated fields has been affected by the type of behavior mentioned in this article and that has been shown in some of these comments and that some women, in an effort to avoid the backlash, will simply pretend to not be skilled in that field.

    article link here (, if you’d like to fact check my argument and read the article for yourself.

  171. Really, you do not know “all that matters in the end”. Still, you suggest it okay to publicly shame only men for possibly women’s misdeeds, too, if this empowers girls. Yet your own teaching a girl that “her points will not be taken seriously no matter how much research she puts into them” is far more disempowering to her than is mansplaining. Chronically challenged, boys receive scarce sympathy for being silent victims, and must instead rise to the challenges. But I was not taught that I would the next Einstein or Churchill. Becoming a scientific revolutionary or national leader is not the challenge that boys are generally acculturated into.

    In my earliest recalled socializing, my mother, sister, and grandmother—my main caretakers—chronically belittled, mocked, and taunted me. I was taught to shut up, obey orders, finish school, and get a job. Alone, I forged the fortitude to hold, develop, and, at last, voice my views, often questioning received wisdom. I did this without indoctrination that I was blighted by sexism, although now I see that I was. These women patronized me the child as smart and quiet, and thereby likened me to a girl, and depicted boys as lustful and aggressive. By adolescence, I was long accustomed to hiding my thoughts, and, as the women taught me, viewed myself as a defective boy.

    As to supposedly “all that matters in the end”, you womansplain, “This article was written so a young girl could feel like her voice mattered in a world that, whether it is primarily done by whichever gender you want, will try to silence her and where her points will not be taken seriously no matter how much research she puts into them”. Yet that happens only in some areas, not even in natural sciences anymore—Vera Rubin, Barbara McClintock, Lynn Margulis, as examples—whereas in others, her view will be prioritized over men’s. If I write about ‘womansplaining’—women’s reflex to legitimize themselves and deflect responsibility by foisting themselves as helpless, selfless victims—my thesis, however well researched, would hardly propel this word into the popular American lexicon.

    You cite an article whereby you ostensibly draw insight from the plight of female chess players, as competitive chess is roughly 95% male [Maass A, D’Ettole C & Cadinu M, “Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport”, Eur J Soc Psychol, 2008;38:231-245,]. The article is illuminating, I agree, but quite contradicts your womansplaining of it. Likening the female chess players to your mythologized “young girl”, you explain, “This concept, of women feeling the need to act less smart and put on a facade of an, from the article, ingenue (‘an innocent or unsophisticated young woman, especially in a play or film’ btw) isn’t just something that happens to Rebecca Solnit”.

    When the female chess players, whose skill was ranked equal to the male chess players, faced male opponents falsely identified as female, the females won 50% of matchups. Yet when accurately informed that the opponent was male, and also reminded of gender stereotypes about chess players, the females won only 25% of matchups. You womansplain, “Basically, women pretended to be less skilled in chess than they are because they didn’t want to face the ire for beating a man in a game so intrinsically tied with intelligence level”. And yet the researchers themselves lacked any ready explanation, let alone one so simplistic, complete, and certain as your apparently self-evident threat of “ire for beating a man” in an intellectual matchup.

    Especially since the performance drop was apparently involuntary and not pretending, the researchers investigated to explain it, whereupon they found, “Females reported a more defensive attitude when approaching a male”, “whereas opponent sex did not affect males”. That is, “women tend to approach chess games more cautiously and with lesser self-confidence”, they “approached games more defensively”, and “female players may be intimidated by playing against male opponents, despite the fact that our players knew that they were matched for ability level”. So the females did not at all seem to try to lose to male opponents, which is how you womansplained the data.

    The researchers noted metadata whereby a male commented that the females were easier to defeat, as he did not realize that the ostensible male opponents were actually female. And yet, as a matter of general fact, the females playing as females, not masqueraded as males, were indeed much easier to defeat. So misogyny seems, to me, a dubious explanation, since the male players did not evince a greater aggressive drive to defeat female opponents. Instead, when knowingly facing male opponents, female players sustained had greater fear of losing. Female players’ performance drop correlates with their fall in aggressive drive to win, but a fall hardly due to females efforts to yield victory to men, and instead due to the females’ cognitive shift toward trying to deflect defeat. Perhaps a better lesson to empower girls is to treat men as they treat women.

  172. Wow. The comments here are a case-in-point as to why she wrote the essay.

    Here is one personal example from my life that repeats itself on a regular basis: as a professional photojournalist, I can’t tell you how many men (hobbyists, even) have tried to explain to me how to use my camera. This often happens to the point where if I am on assignment, they will walk up to me and take it upon themselves to critique my shooting. This sometimes even leads to unsolicited touching as they try to “improve” my technique. My mediocrity and incompetence is assumed, though I have years of experience and have worked for several prestigious papers. A lesser version of this is when men are shocked I can clearly work my camera well.

    And of course this happens in situations unrelated to my profession, but in the same vein of thought.

    Please, LISTEN to women when we tell you this is a real phenomenon.

    If you are a man reading this and commenting, none of this is a personal attack or a comment on your personal character. Many of the comments I have read take this essay and the resulting commments very personally, when really this is attempting to address a cultural norm that is deeply ingrained in society. Please, just take the time to question your personal biases and correct behavior (I attempt to do the same on a daily basis. Do I make assumptions about people based on race or gender that are untrue or unfair?). Only by listening and continually trying to correct our behavior can we make improvements in how we relate to one another.

    1. Shelby, I do think it’s a real phenomenon. However, I believe that it is symptomatic of a broader phenomenon, perhaps more deeply ingrained in our society. That is that people tend to see objective value in class characteristics that they themselves possess, and look down on people who aren’t members of that class (rich people think money is important, religious people think religion is important, men think maleness is important, etc.). And yes, women do that too. Once, when I was standing in with a bar band singing, a woman felt an extreme urge to “correct” my technique with the microphone, interrupting my performance to tell me how to use it. She got pretty angry with me when I didn’t take her advice, too. Now, I’m going to say that her self-esteem was tied up in her perception of her musical accomplishments, and she felt a need to demonstrate them to the world.

      However, if people did that to me all the time, I suspect I would get pretty irritated. And there probably is a particularly large group of men who “mansplain” as a symptom of this tendency to see intrinsic value in whatever one has more of than others.

      It seems to me that there are two main types of men who would feel driven to do this. One type is men who have an emotional interest in believing that they are more intelligent than average, consequently taking the convenient perception that women as a class are less intelligent than they are, and then needing to “prove” that by showing women what they know. The other is men who believe that their intellect is their strong suit, are attracted to a woman, feel insecure about it, and get the idea that showing off their intellect is the way to make the attraction mutual. I confess to doing that a great deal as a young man, so it might not be as common as I think it is. But yes, I was a “mansplainer,” and sometimes a very annoying one at that.

      As I see it, people do this out of fear, and fear that they don’t recognize. One can feel compassion for another’s fear, or feel annoyance at their unwillingness to see it. The more it’s viewed with compassion and understanding, the less annoying it becomes. And we can all feel compassion for it when we recognize the tendency in ourselves, albeit in some other guise.

  173. Fascinating thread. Though, admittedly, I read only the first couple dozens comments.

    Fact is, there’s no such thing as mansplaining. It’s an idiotic mashup term.

    There is only “explaining” and it comes in two forms: solicited and unsolicited. I’ve seen it happen in both directions, between both sexes, even in same-sex conversations.

    1. With respect, I think you’re missing the point. Of course it happens in both directions, but in my experience the prevalence of men feeling the need to give women the unsolicited benefit of their perceived superior understanding of a given subject significantly exceeds the reverse.

    2. Your mansplaining comment about mansplaining after a whole thread full of mainsplaining, is simply amazing sir. I salute you.

      If you really want to understand how and why it is particular and distinct, you could probably do no better than reread this article, and then see it in practice down this same very comment thread.

    3. Bwahahahaha!!! “I read only the first couple dozens comments” then you feel the need to provide your explanation of what mansplaining is and that it doesn’t really exists. Brilliantly obtuse! You should be doing comedy writing. For the misogynist crowd.

  174. Lol.

    This unending comment thread, now 6 years later, is a further exploration of this topic to a degree I couldn’t have ever predicted. Dudes keep posting, *mansplaining* against the idea that *mansplaining* exists.

    I’m sincerely grateful to Guernica for letting people continue to comment on this. It’s such a continual exploration of the original article. It’s like a choir improvising jazz from an original piece by Beethoven, while *thinking they’re criticizing* the piece instead.

    It’s freaking magical.

  175. Thank you, Rebecca. When I wrote my history of superheroines, “The Great Women Superheroes,” back in 1996, before the book was published, I had lunch with my editor, and he informed me, blithely and with no qualms, that he had rewritten my captions to make them more “scholarly.” I was too intimidated to object, and all I could do was insist that one caption remain as it was because it was so perfect. I have hated him ever since and have not responded to his Facebook friend requests, although he remains blithely ignorant. I realize now that what he was doing was mansplaining, and that I was still too new in my field and too insecure to fight back. Buhleeve me, this will never happen again!

  176. Actually, women have it VERY easy today compared to white men. It is VERY hard to be a white male right now, and reverse RACISM IS A THING!!!!!!! We are lucky to have such a great man, Donald Trump, running our country, turning the heads of LIBTARDS left and right.

    1. I’d ask, anyone starting to fire up an angry response to Ben, to count down before wasting their breath. Firstly, there are plenty of trolls and they do travel around. Also, those who apply irony on the internets often forget to flag it as such (easier to spot with body language and / or face expressions).

  177. Well if your picture was in the review, or on the dustjacket when they looked the book up on Amazon, the aggressive responses were just because they immediately felt frustrated because they had no chance of actually having sex with you.

    Men are amazingly simple when it comes down to it.

  178. I do believe that many people who “mansplain” are trying to be helpful–at least in their own eyes. And yes, sometimes men do it to other men, or women to other women or men. The vast majority of times though, it is men towards women, and it can be subtle and discouraging.

    I’m not talking about narcissists, or power hungry, domineering creeps. I’m talking about nice people, who see themselves as “liberated,” and maybe even “feminists.”

    I wonder how the average man would feel if the tables were turned, and if most women (not all–to be sure), kindly and patiently explained how to do things that most adults know how to do–repeatedly. Or how they would feel being told that their experience isn’t real.

    Like “reminding him repeatedly,” that he needs to turn left on a route he drives alone every day, or telling him, nicely, that he can’t be hungry, because, “it’s only 3 PM “and we just had lunch.”

    I have been told while crying in excruciating pain, that my ears can’t hurt “from just going up and down a couple of hills,” and that to screw a desk I was building, to turn the screwdriver to the right. (This person knew I’d been putting flat box furniture together for years).

    I agree with the thread referencing solicited vs. unsolicited advice. Just ask the person, male, female, or non-binary, “Would you like some: help, advice, information?” etc. And if they say “No, thank you,” then don’t!

    P.S. I am aware of the non-grammatical writing above–as I did go to elementary school also.

  179. This was a nice essay and introduction, and I’m sure there is much more in the book. Nevertheless, Solnik’s fundamental claim is that there exist gendered patterns of behavior in which men act as jerks (aka. assholes) towards women. From my masculine experience as a man, there are also more than a few common instances of the opposite nature: i.e., of women not taking men seriously and dissing and dismissing them (when they can get away with it). I wonder therefore if in the book (Men Explain Things to Me’) you address methodological issues, or even the basic objection I just raised, therefore. What is the extent to which your thesis about ‘mansplaining’ can be proved ? I.e., Beyond the kind of anecdotes and grievances, which I admit are suggestively persuasive (but only suggestively), Solnick presents in this essay. Some men are assholes. We know that-and some women similarly.

  180. I lived with my sister and her hubby, putting them at pretty much discomfort, only because I had to for about over 1 year. That was the first time I ever had real and true mansplaining from her hubby. He would sit down and drone on and on as if he was educating me and I was very stupid. Other than that, I just have noticed that with men, in order to have any kind of conversation longer than 2 seconds, I have to be the listener to them. As soon as I start to talk, they get bored and tune out and conversation is over. But I don’t go to any real “intellectual society” parties either. Also my mother who considered herself a big feminist was the worst offender on listening to anything I had to say, so there is that too.

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