avatarBette A. Ludwig 🔍 PhD

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Mansplaining and the Screaming Silence of Female Inequality

Understanding “mansplaining” and its broader implications by “womansplaining” it

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Remember the phrase: “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do?”

Well, let me clarify what we don’t need more of. We don’t need more “mansplainin.” You know what I mean. It’s when a man condescendingly explains something to a woman as if she couldn’t possibly understand it on her own.

It’s well past the expiration date to end this unnecessary and unhelpful practice. Not to mention, it’s sexist.

Women are just as capable and knowledgeable as men, and they don’t need someone to “splain” things to them. Women often have unique perspectives and insights that can add value to any discussion or situation. Plus, we tend to be the peacemakers and bridge builders.

Sadly, “mansplaining” is still common in many industries and everyday interactions.

The Bro-Code at work

I remember working in higher education as an academic advisor. With only one male director, who do you think they always deferred to in any meeting we were included in? You guessed it, the only man in the directing room.

He would ramble on for several minutes, never asking any of his female equals for their input. In the end of pretty much every one of his monologues, I sat there screaming in my head, “He’s not saying anything, and he’s just talking in circles.”

I felt like Will Ferrell in Zoolander when he exasperatedly uttered my favorite line: “Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

I would be willing to bet nearly every woman has a tale or two to share about encountering this type of experience at some point in her life. For centuries, our society has felt the impact of male dominance and the suppression of women’s voices.

In the workplace, this can manifest itself in different ways. From being passed over for promotions to having ideas dismissed or experiencing harassment, women often face obstacles to their success. It stems from patriarchal systems and biases that permeate various aspects of society, including politics.

Voting disparities in the U.S.

The gender imbalance isn’t confined to workplaces alone. Women in the U.S. weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920, fifty years after men of color were legally given the same right under the Constitution.

Even today, voter suppression efforts target marginalized communities, including women of color. Enforcing stricter voter ID laws, limiting polling locations in minority neighborhoods, and purging voter rolls without proper notification are just a few of the tactics used. This only further perpetuates the unequal representation of women in government and decision-making.

Women aren’t always equally heard or acknowledged, making working together more important than ever. Beyond the systemic obstacles in the democratic process and in their professional lives, many women also face physical abuse at the hands of their partners.

U.S. violence and women

Dealing with professional and political issues is challenging enough, but there’s an even deeper level of inequality that’s far more personal and intimate. Unfortunately, domestic abuse has been normalized in many societies and has historically been seen as a private matter rather than a public one, including in the U.S.

  • It wasn’t until the 1990s that federal laws regarding stalking, rape, and violence against women were passed.
  • In 1992, the Surgeon General found that abusive husbands were the main cause of injuries in women aged 15–44.
  • Until 1993, marital rape was not considered a crime in all 50 states.

I graduated high school and college during this time, and I am not that old. This was not long ago that women were denied basic laws to protect them from rape and violence, including that of their husbands.

To provide further context, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé were both alive during the entire decade of the 90s.

Yet, despite the laws, violent acts against women are still prevalent in today’s society, continuing the imbalance of power between men and women.

“Crazy Pills” in a broader context

Returning to that feeling of exasperation, akin to Will Ferrell in Zoolander, it resonates not only in workplaces but also at the ballot box and within the walls of our homes. It’s a sentiment many women can relate to. This shared frustration becomes a rallying point, compelling us to examine these disparities worldwide.

The reach of female inequality globally

Representation in leadership: Although there was a slight increase in the number of women in senior positions, with 31% in 2021 compared to 29% in 2019, this still only accounts for a third of all senior VP roles.

Given that women make up roughly 50% of the population, or more precisely, 49.6%, their underrepresentation becomes glaringly apparent.

Gender pay gap: In 2022, women made, on average, $.82 for every dollar a man earns. That becomes more pronounced when you look into specific occupations. For example, in the legal industry, men can earn 59% more than their female counterparts.

Political participation: While women in politics in some countries are higher than ever, and it’s never been more diverse, we still need to do better. Overall, only 26.5% of women globally hold parliamentary or political office.

But it’s not just in the professional world where women encounter difficulties. These power dynamics can affect everyday interactions with friends, family members, and even strangers.

Violence against women: Globally, approximately one in three women have experienced physical or sexual partner violence, non-partner sexual assaults, or both — at least once in their lifetime. That’s a staggering 736 million women, and that number doesn’t include sexual harassment.

Inequality, in its various forms, impacts all of us, including men. Mansplaining merely manifests a broader issue where women’s voices are often marginalized and dismissed. Understanding this nuanced interplay is one small way we move closer to changing it. Remember, everything begins with a tiny step.

Shattering all the ceilings

It’s been clear for centuries that women face systemic challenges when it comes to leadership, violence, and political participation. Mansplaining is just one symptom of a bigger, more global problem. Despite these hurdles, women continue to break through barriers with unyielding grit and resolve.

We have seen progress over the years by organizing, advocating for ourselves, and working together with both men and other women. However, more work is still needed — much, much more.

So, for those who may unknowingly perpetuate any of these biases, take a step back when you catch yourself mansplaining. Stop and actively listen to the women around you. Don’t assume they need your explanation, but instead, that they need you to hear theirs.

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© 2024 Bette A. Ludwig: All rights reserved.

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Society
Inequality
Feminism
Sexism
Womens Rights
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