A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

If You’re Arguing With Me, Chances Are You’re a Dude

The Dude

Is this dude aware of his privilege?

This week it finally hit me like a piano out of the sky: nine out of ten* people who argue with me on points of problematic representations/treatment of women in the media and by society in general are…wait for it…dudes.

I’ve come to use the term “dude” (as in Those Dudes) ironically to mean men who are not trolls but are not my allies (though they may believe they are)  and who tend to engage in a thing the Internet has come to call “mansplaining,” specifically in response to women speaking out about sexism and misogyny and anything related to it. They seem unable to understand the concept of differing experiences and perspectives or listening and learning from others, and if they disagree on a point, they a) feel they must convince you that you’re wrong or b) believe you owe it to them to convince them you’re right. Or both. Entitlement issues, much?

So here’s a note to Those Dudes. May they give it some serious thought over their next White Russian, or whatever Those Dudes drink.

To Those Dudes:

I’m writing to you today to ask a question and offer some information and advice I hope will be useful to you in your endeavor to be a decent human being.

Here’s my question: Why is it so difficult for you to understand that experiences exist outside your own; that your perspective is yours alone; that you can’t know what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin—a woman’s skin?

Because you just can’t. You can say that you empathize, but that only goes so far because it is actually impossible for you to walk in our shoes. And most of you wouldn’t if you could. (If you bristle at that, I dare you to challenge yourself to pass as a woman in public for 24 hours, because that’s as close as you’ll get, and I guarantee you it’ll change your life.) And because you can’t know what it’s like to be us, you’d think that logic (that thing you’re always telling me my arguments are lacking) would dictate that you cannot be an expert on us, on being us, on how to be us, on how things affect us, and all that stuff you always want to advise us on. I’m really hoping that if you give it some serious, logical thought you’ll understand how your telling us how wrong we are when we talk about how we experience the world doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And yet you crawl up out of the woodwork every time we speak to tell us we’re mistaken and misguided, that we’re not seeing things clearly, that our perspectives are out of true, that we’re far too sensitive and emotional and are just creating “drama”–that because you don’t see it the way we do there’s nothing to talk about and why do we make such a BIG DEAL out of everything.

This behavior has a name. There was a time when I didn’t use the name because frankly, I didn’t want people to think I’m one of Those Feminists who hates men. I don’t want to use gender-specific terms to describe bad behavior if I can help it. I’d rather just say “That guy’s a pompous ass.” But there came a day when even I had to admit there’s a damned good reason that term exists, and that’s because it’s a fucking problem. The problem I’m talking about is “mansplaining,” and the word describes what so many of you engage in when you try to sit us down and tell us how our experiences as women are not what we believe they are and that the issues we feel passionate about are the wrong issues and that we’re going about all this in the wrong way and that you’ve got all the answers.

rothman_mansplain_post

So, here’s my advice to you, Dudes:

Stop.

Stop telling women they’ve got it wrong** when they speak out about the problems they see in the world. Stop telling us we’re thinking, writing, and saying the wrong things. Stop telling us the things we see as problems aren’t—your belief is not required, and your disbelief doesn’t magically erase an issue from existence. Stop insisting on our time and energy like needy children—if you’ll read the fine print, you’ll find we don’t actually owe you a debate, a conversation, or even a hello. Stop pretending you have any idea what it’s like to be us, and for Petunia’s sake, stop whipping out your “woman-friend-who-agrees-with-me.”

Stop with the fucking mainsplaining, and I promise I’ll stop using the term. Until then, I’m going to call you on this crap, because I’m sick of dealing with it. Learn some listening skills and some humility. Put some skill points into Self Awareness and Tact and Not Being a Dick.

If you want to be an ally, you’ll take this to heart. If you don’t, you really ought to find another hobby.

Sincerely,
Rosie

*I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote “9 out of 10.” It’s honestly more like 99/100.

**(Added post-publication for clarity.) This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree. There are ways to communicate disagreement that don’t include telling a woman she doesn’t know what she’s talking about (or implying you know better than she does) when she’s talking about woman things or her perspective as a woman. But do stop and consider whether your presence in a given conversation is necessary or you just want to disagree, because sometimes it’s just not. Read some of the articles below for tips. Also, because I feel I must say it: this article is directed at men who exhibit specific behaviors, not men in general.



PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

54 responses

  1. V

    Good post

    March 19, 2015 at 4:43 am

  2. Aaron

    I’m a young man and I know what you’re talking about. Everybody does it. When somebody points a finger at you, the natural response is either to fight it, or to take it and go. Aggressive and passive responses. I don’t mind the aggressive response, but sometimes a finger isn’t pointed at you, but the thing you represent, in which case it can be good to be passive.

    The issue with passivity is when people who don’t care about you are ganging up and pointing fingers. That’s when they can whip themselves into a frenzy because you’re a ‘feminist’, a ‘republican’, a ‘terrorist’, a ‘whore’, a ‘celebrity’. That’s when you either have the influence to protect yourself and aggressively quash the belief, or you run away to escape tarring. Mobs need an enemy, nations need leaders, religions need gods. They’re just ways to elevate humanity beyond being a whole bunch of people trying to find happiness.

    So when feminists stop spreading the word and start pointing fingers, I shake my head because they misunderstand the whole point of feminism. When men point at feminists, I shake my head. When girls point at boys, and boys point at girls, and everybody starts pointing fingers, I shake my head. We’re people and none of us are your enemy. I don’t discredit feminism, but I don’t believe mobs are necessary to make change. Change always begins with people, not society. Keep educating and stop attacking. Seriously, look up how coloured folks earnt their rights back, and how women did, and how the Phillipines started a revolution in 1986. Battles are fought in the mind. Enemies exist only in the mind.

    It’s hard to denounce someone who shows you only kindness and respect. In my opinion, if a minority movement desires legitimacy, it must be respectful, not radical. So respectfully disagree with mansplainers, and respectfully remove the feminists that give feminism a bad name.

    April 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    • Samantha

      Oh my godddddd is a man mansplaining feminism on a post about how not to mansplain? Is this a dream?

      January 26, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      • What about “humansplain?” Or if it comes from a man it is negated?

        January 26, 2016 at 1:33 pm

        • Sorry, did you read the article?

          January 26, 2016 at 2:11 pm

          • Yes. A long time ago. I’ll refresh my memory later.

            January 26, 2016 at 3:10 pm

            • Maybe this could have been a lead sentence? “Also, because I feel I must say it: this article is directed at men who exhibit specific behaviors, not men in general.”

              Even men in general have been conditioned by a patriarchal society for 5000+ years. So have women. Granted, some “Dudes” have their heads stuck so far up their butts, its gonna be difficult to pull them out. There is hope for us all.

              January 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm

  3. BeccaN

    When I was reading through this, I had a specific kind of mans plainer in mind. Those who say things like “well we make rape jokes because everybody does it” or “he’s just acting like that because he was raised that way” etc. But from reading some of the comments, I saw a different kind of “mansplaining” that I don’t agree with.

    I don’t think that someone talking down to someone else is GOOD by any means, but I don’t think its innately sexist. I don’t think that guys are questioning a girl’s knowledge because she’s a girl. just because its human nature to be competitive.

    Nor do I think that a guy not wanting to listen to a girl’s “drama” has anything to do with her being female. I’ve just noticed that most guys and hell, a fair number of girls too (including me) only want to hear about inane issues like “but she/he obviously tripped me on purpose” for so long before we say “hmmm maybe you’re being a tad dramatic”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly a complainer/dramatizer/etc at times (aka a lot of times) myself. But I have realized, regardless of gender, a lot of people really just don’t want to hear it.

    Finally, My way of handing my version of mansplainers (since everyone cares about my expert opinion :P) If its something i find particularly offensive, I just directly say “hey. look. I get what you’re trying to explain away, but I really do find it offensive when he says X/Y/Z. I just would like him to not say it around me.” and then i proceed to tell the specific offensive person to please stop saying it. It usually works (granted i’m communicating with friends or acquaintances who are more likely to listen. But I figure most of us could care less what a stranger spews in comparison to people closer to us). Or if its something less offensive, I make the joke in return. “Make me a sammich” “oh I’m obviously pmsing” etc. Tends to kill the negativeness that I would normally feel, and gives subtle cues about the right time to make such a joke.

    Anyways! Thanks for the post! I definitely agree.

    November 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

  4. Pingback: Sound and silence: who is heard and who is not | beckytamara

  5. Cort Gautier

    I really want to support feminism. But know I am a mansplainer. please help me get past it.

    September 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    • Anthea Brainhooke

      You and other men like you are the future. Thank you for putting yourself out there to ask how to be a better person. I know it’s scary.

      Okay, here are some things you can do.

      When a woman is telling you about something that happened in her life, or something she’s observed, _listen_. Resist the temptation to tell her she must have misunderstood, it wouldn’t have happened that way, it happens to men too, he didn’t mean it that way, she’s making a big deal about nothing, anything like that.

      If she’s talking about something she obviously knows well even though it’s not a stereotypically female thing, resist the temptation to “test her knowledge” (the “fake geek girl” thing). Resist the temptation to talk over her or try to convince her that you obviously know more than she does about the subject.

      Ask questions that show you are interested in the subject. If you have knowledge to share, share it. Resist the temptation to take over the discussion or turn it around so that it’s About You or all on your own terms.

      Remember that you’ll fuck up. We all fuck up; it’s part of being human. When you fuck up, resist the temptation to get defensive. Apologise for fucking up, and ask how you can do better in the future. Once you know how to do better, follow through on it. Fucking up doesn’t make you a bad person. Refusing to learn from your fuckups just might.

      It all sounds like a lot to ask, right? The path to non-mansplainer-land looks pretty fucking steep. Take that first step, though — the view from the bottom is deceptive. There will be times when it’s not exactly a stroll in the woods, but it’s also not the Cliffs of Insanity. You’ll get there, and when you do, the view from the top is _incredible_.

      September 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      • Thanks so much for answering this question so thoughtfully and thoroughly. I have been chewing on as I deal with other stuff today, and meant to get to it sooner.

        Cort, thank you for asking this question and providing the opening for this response.

        September 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

  6. The issue is that the internet is an open forum in which anyone may pitch in, even those we all wish wouldn’t.

    What the internet has afforded is the opportunity, possible for the first time, for men and women to hear & express views without walls. In that environment we are hearing opinions from a vast number of sources that are shaped by social gender conditioning. I have little doubt that you experience misogyny in many statements. But I as a man daily experience forms of petty misandry both in women’s comments and the media.

    I think on both the part of women and men their is a great desire to express their experiences and hopes, but both perceive that the other doesn’t understand. In desperation the language becomes inadequate and it is like the archetypal tourist in a foreign country shouting evermore loudly in increasingly simplified language in a vain attempt to communicate. All the other hears is some incomprehensible strident gibberish, and interprets it as implicitly offensive regardless of the original intent.

    As a man in my late 50′s, it seems to me that the opportunity to establish a dialogue of equals, in which both could speak and hear the other, was lost somewhere in the mid-70′s. Men had failed to engage sufficiently and the emerging gender feminists were consumed by their own political orthodoxy that ignored the realities for the majority of women & men. Men’s failure to engage has meant that reforms to social structures have been driven forward by gender feminists, the equality feminists having taken their eye off the ball once legal equality was achieved by the early 70′s.

    In UK at least well into the 70′s government “propaganda” encouraged boys to follow the well-worn path and not consider that life could be or would be significantly different to that of their fathers and grandfathers. For girls the message was that there were no boundaries to ambition and choice.
    The problem is that there are vast numbers of fundamentally dissatisfied and therefore frustrated men who lack the tools to understand and express their frustration beyond a largely didactic mode. They are no more listening to women than they are analysing why they ended up where they are. For many it is a profoundly bewildering experience as they feel betrayed. Predictably their expressions are incoherent as they clutch at traditional forms like a crutch.

    Men need liberating by themselves if they are to progress to a state where behaviours such as “mansplaining” cease. But the cost to society will be immense and I see no evidence of any appetite for such change, no matter what some pundits might assert. Sorry this is so long…

    September 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    • I attempt to give both genders a reason for dialogue. Both have been conditioned into their various paths. I point this out as to who , when, and why. Then show what is available. After that, both genders are on their own.

      September 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      • That terribly “D” of you and all that, but to my ears that sounds like “mainsplaining”. For myself I recount my observations and experiences and hope someone might be listening. As for pointing out stuff for others etc etc, it took me decades to begin to know myself and when I achieved that I realised I knew virtually nothing and believed an awful lot.
        I now know less, in recognition that I barely know myself and don’t know anyone else.

        September 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        • I put it out there If you like it fine. If you don’t fine. Most of what I’ve learned is how little we all know, mostly me. And I’ve learned a lot from the opinions of others, some who resonate with me, and a lot from those who don’t.

          September 3, 2013 at 3:24 pm

  7. It seems to me that this is something that both genders are guilty of, and that manplaining and womanplaining occurs all the time. Damnably irritating if you’re the receiving end.

    For decades I’ve listened to people who claim to represent women’s views informing me how I as someone of vaguely male persuasion perceive the world, interpret various things and act upon them. I have yet meet the woman who actually knew what is to be a vaguely average heterosexual male.

    There are even men among these people ,normally academics, who assert that blue collar working class men experience X or Y with astounding certainty that is aligned with the latest popular view. When in my own experience of those environments, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Or perhaps even more irritating, to listen to someone decades younger than yourself lecturing you on what life was like when you were a young person.

    Perhaps one day we will all learn some humility and recognise that we have really no idea what is to be anyone or anything than ourselves.

    September 1, 2013 at 11:40 am

    • Yes, anyone can be guilty of this type of behavior, but I’m addressing a specific thing that happens when a woman opens her mouth on the Internet. I’m speaking for myself, but also for so many other women who experience this not once in a while, but on a daily basis if they have opinions and dare to state them publicly. This is a problem rooted not just in arrogance and lack of humility (which I agree are part of the issue when any person tells another person what they think, feel, or have experienced), but in sexism and misogyny. It’s a behavior exhibited by men and targeted at women who exercise their voices to talk about issues that effect them. It’s a lot like trolling, only more subtle, because it hides behind “debate” and “concern,” but it’s just as much a form of harassment and bullying, especially when the person in question insists on your attention and then accuses you of not being nice enough when you don’t comply.

      I agree vehemently with your last sentence. Part of empathy, I think, is understanding what you can’t understand. Without empathy, we don’t connect with people, and without that connection, it’s really difficult to find common ground and learn from each other.

      Thanks for being here.

      September 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

  8. I haven’t a clue whether or not “you’ve got it wrong.” Not being a woman, I can’t tell you what to feel. I can sure as hell tell you all the biological things you’ve got going for you, and you can take it from there. Most men, and quite a few women also have no clue as to what is inside you (anatomically) or them, and men are more prone to dismiss the heart, which they are supposed to know something about. Oh well.

    September 1, 2013 at 7:41 am

  9. It’s frustrating what a hotbed the internet has become for men to engage in this behavior, and for people to engage in unkind and downright cruel practices from the safety of their bedrooms. Luckily to counteract all of the idiocy, there are people like you writing brilliant blog posts like this which explain my frustration in a way I haven’t been able to.
    Thanks so much!

    September 1, 2013 at 2:41 am

    • It really is frustrating and can be discouraging, but when I have an epiphany like this one it really helps. “Wait, you’re all full of shit!” Yes, that helps a lot.

      Thank you!

      September 1, 2013 at 7:44 am

  10. I think that from time to time we are all guilty of ‘splaining from time to time. And being female (cis or trans*) sadly does not make us exempt from this.
    Rosie I think you were spot on with your post and I agree with you. We should keep these points in mind if the urge to whitesplain, cissplain, straightsplain, or any other ‘splain comes up then apply them to our current situation. Or if the urge to splain comes up just put your head on your desk till the feeling passes!

    Great post Rosie!

    August 31, 2013 at 8:34 am

    • I think that’s excellent advice! Thank you. :)

      August 31, 2013 at 9:21 am

  11. well said, it’s also a thing white people do. same sorta lack of empathy. white men sure, but also white women, I suppose that’s called whitesplaining or something?

    August 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    • sonofadiddly

      Whitesplaining, straightsplaining, cissplaining… For every privilege, there’s a ‘splaining.

      August 31, 2013 at 12:23 am

      • lkeke35

        Yes, this!

        September 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

    • Yeah, what Lindsey said. You’re absolutely right, I see it, too, and it’s ugly as hell.

      August 31, 2013 at 9:20 am

  12. Le Clown

    Rosie,
    Well, one man had to jump on this train, and open his goddamn fucking mouth about all this… fucking great post once again, even though I will continue my shameless use of “dude” wherever I see fit.

    Oh, and I agree with you, because I can.
    Le Clown

    August 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    • Clown, you are THE man!

      August 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

  13. Britni

    This is the story of my life. My favorite is when there are, like, 17 women on a comments thread saying the exact same thing and ONE DUDE who jumps in to tell every single one of us that we’re wrong and he knows how it really is. And I just want to be like, “If every single female on this thread has had the same exact experience, and you’ve never been female, who the fuck are you to tell us that we’re wrong?” That takes some serious ego to believe that you know better than a mass of people who belong to a group that you’ll never be a part of.

    August 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    • And it happens All.The.Time. Where do they come from? And can they please go back there now?

      August 31, 2013 at 9:16 am

  14. Philia

    Oh god, it hurts how accurate this is…I have a few guy friends that claim they are “women’s rights advocates” or “feminists” but then feel the need to argue me on anything even remotely relating to women’s rights and even worse, will completely dismiss anything I have to say.

    August 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    • Yeah, they keep using that word “feminst.” I don’t think it means what they think it means.

      August 31, 2013 at 9:18 am

  15. Oh, mansplainers. Men who are terrified of legitimately losing some of their privilege exercising their entitlement, calling it logic, patting women on the head and calling themselves allies while they do it.

    I’m so over it.

    August 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm

  16. Amen sister!
    -L

    August 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm

  17. I love love love love the part about logic. Of course it’s logical to think that you can’t understand the experiences of a group you are not a part of! It’s baffling, because so many male allies who claim to understand that women are, as a group, oppressed and treated differently than men, but yet at the drop of a hat you’ll see them tone policing and telling you that your lived experiences don’t count.

    And whenever we challenge them on this, a lot of them will start spewing out the words “logic” and “facts” like a squid squirting ink in defense. But when you’re talking about lived experiences, those words are utterly meaningless. Marginalized people understand that there is no logic to oppression. Which is why it doesn’t surprised me that I only hear it come from straight cis white guys.

    August 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  18. secretlybloggingmom

    Thank you!

    August 30, 2013 at 9:52 am

    • You’re welcome. :)

      August 30, 2013 at 9:54 am

  19. Bravo – every word of what you said is true–and I love your terms for it and am going to incorporate it into my writing–I am not a man-hating feminist either, but I am a feminist and, like you, can see the truth–I do not hate men, but am not crazy about sexist pigs

    August 30, 2013 at 9:47 am

    • And the ones who do this are often not overtly sexist, which makes it even more insidious.

      Thank you. I’m so glad you got something out of it. :)

      August 30, 2013 at 9:51 am

      • and sad

        August 30, 2013 at 9:54 am

      • The problem is that they really *believe* the crap they spew because they have never bothered to *think* about what they are saying, just repeating the Dude Party Line. Now that’s sad…Big ol’ steaming pile of Entitlement.

        August 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

        • Yes: Entitlement. Many levels of entitlement.

          – “I am entitled to disregard your experience.”
          – “I am entitled to believe I know better than you about what it is to be you, and thus, to lecture you.”
          – “I am entitled to your time and energy. I am entitled to the answer to a question simply by virtue of having asked it. I am entitled to debate simply because I showed up.”

          You know what’s the best way to get a dude to show up and demand my time? Announce I’m done talking about something.

          August 30, 2013 at 11:24 am

          • LOL!

            August 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

          • lkeke35

            This describes dude-bro behavior towards every -ism in existence. Feminism, racism, ablism, ageism, sexism. You name it and these same tactics have been used to refute it. It’s really remarkable what an all-purpose tactic it is.

            September 25, 2013 at 11:33 am

  20. Men seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to shut us up/down. As the saying goes, the more flak you draw, the closer you are to the target.

    August 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

    • Some men seem to dedicate themselves to it. And yeah, I know you’re right. I think this post is part of a process of drawing clearer lines. Time was a person had to be pretty vile before I’d ban them–these days they only have to get disrespectful. But mansplaining can be so polite!

      August 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

  21. I think you nailed that one pretty well.

    August 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

    • Why, thank you! :)

      August 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

      • I’m happy I’m too old to be a dude Rosie. I just looked up the definition

        “18- 40 year old guy. Some key characteristics are the following: 1) travels in packs of similar kind 2) restaurant of choice is BW3 or local establishment that serves wings and has lots of tvs for sports 3) always drives a truck even though it’s rarely used for it’s intended purpose 4) plays tons of video games that involve violence or football 5) roots for a college they didn’t attend 6) has been in community college for the last 4 years in “business” 7) lives with their parents or a group of guys 8) wears a jersey out on a Saturday night 9) chews tobacco and always carries a spittoon around (bottle) 10) likes movies that are action packed 11) wears a small gold chain 12) good chance they have a DUI 13) dates girls that have no idea who the vice president is 14) wears boxers and makes sure people see them 15) likes rap, classic rock or country.

        August 30, 2013 at 9:51 am

        • Ha. Well, you know how to listen and seem to want to understand, so you can’t be one of Those Dudes. :)

          August 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

          • Thanks Rosie. I’m also way past 40, in fact my daughter is 45 lol.

            August 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

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