It's On Men To End Mansplaining And Other Microaggressions
Feminism

An Open Letter To Men On Mansplaining And Other Microaggressions

Men, you have a responsibility to end these microaggressions.

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OK, so women can vote, can initiate a divorce, and don't need their father's consent to marry. Legally women and men are equals. Some would say this means that sexism is an old-fashioned and outdated institution, that it has been buried in the sands of time. That it is over. But ask almost any woman on the street if she believes sexism is still present in society and you will receive an affirmative "YES." And this divide, this lack of communication, of empathy, and of willingness to listen, leads us down a dark path that could very well put us right back in the years when misogynistic witch hunts swept the country. So, as a woman, there are a few things that men should be aware of.

Microaggression: the subtle or indirect discrimination of a marginalized community that is often done subconsciously or unintentionally, but perpetuates the clear and direct discrimination of that community.

Mansplaining.

Take a look around a classroom. Do you see it? The boys with their hands up and backs pressed into the chairs so far that the front two legs are tipped off of the floor? The girls, with their backs sinking forward to offer the chair more room, their arms hesitantly bent at the elbows, their hand flickering up and down, their fingers hovering as if they aren't sure their limbs should be taking up that much space? I see it. There is this incredible reluctance in women in the classroom. And I believe it comes from a culture of "mansplaining," more formally I like to call it "male correction." This is the act of a man/male person responding to a female's comment or statement in a condescending manner that indirectly asserts that she is naive or uninformed.

Often, it is not simply a disagreement, but a patronizing attempt by a man to explain and teach a woman something she already is well informed about. This action completely disregards a woman's intelligence and squanders any possibility of intellectual debate and conversation. It turns a learning moment for both parties into an experience of shame and frustration for the woman and an over-heightened feeling of superiority for the man.

It is often a subconscious act, but it is a very conscious and present experience for women. It makes us feel unseen, unheard, and unimportant. It is a vicious cycle that leads to girls and women not wanting to speak up and share their thoughts in fear of being a put-down, which in turn makes boys grow up believing that women don't want to, or aren't capable of, having discussions about intellectually based topics.

So, to all the men out there, know this; women are incredibly smart and talented, we are entitled to a respectful intellectual discourse, just because you are a man does not mean you need to teach women things, we already know. Instead, just listen.

An example:

A female economics major: "I don't believe tax cuts for the wealthy actually redistribute wealth."

A man with no economics experience: "Well, actually, they do. You may not have heard of this theory I read about, but, it's called trickle down economics and..."

What should happen:

A female economics major: "I don't believe tax cuts for the wealthy actually redistribute wealth."

A man with no economics experience: "That's an interesting point since you've taken a lot of classes about that and have done a lot of research on it, why don't you tell me why you think that. I have a differing opinion, but I want to understand your point of view."

Slurs.

When a man is assertive, strong, and powerful he is a leader. When a woman is assertive, strong, and powerful she is a b*tch. Men aren't used to seeing women in positions of dominance, so when they are, men tend to downgrade their power by using slurs. Why? Well, when a group of people is so used to privilege, equality can feel like oppression. Subconsciously, many men are afraid of the repercussions that will ensue when women are allowed and able to take their rightful positions on the world stage. But, every second that we keep degrading women's tenacity is another second that women believe they are bound to more compassionate and tender destinies. This hurts us.

Men, I ask you to imagine for a moment that you are experienced, you are smart, you are capable, you have done the work, you have done the time, you are powerful. Now imagine, in spite of all this, all anyone ever wants to call you is a b*tch. They don't want to tell you how intelligent, how powerful, how truly amazing you are. No, they only want to let you know that you are not supposed to be the intelligent, powerful, amazing person you are.

That hurts, doesn't it? And women are not only told this when they come into power positions. We are told this in television shows as children. We are told this in school when we try to lead. We are told this early on in our careers when we attempt a promotion or a big project. We deserve better. Men, I know society has conditioned you to think this way, but I urge you to think twice before you say something. I urge you to take a step back

An example:

A female student: "Hey, that's an interesting thought but I'm not sure that will work for our project. Do you guys mind if I take the lead looking for other options?"

A male student talking to his friend: "She tried to control the whole project and insulted me. What a b*tch."

What should happen:

A female student: "Hey, that's an interesting thought but I'm not sure that will work for our project. Do you guys mind if I take the lead looking for other options?"

A male student talking to his friend: "She didn't like my idea, but that's OK, she knows just as much as I do about the topic. She's very opinionated and I respect the fact that she wants to take the lead."

Sexualization.

Women are continually sexualized, and then they are degraded for appearing sexual. From a very, very young age, we are taught not to show our bodies. There are dress codes, there are degrading comments, there is fear of getting harassed or assaulted. It is scary and disgusting. If, as a society, we put forth the idea that women are not to be seen, we will perpetually associate their shoulders, their knees, their stomachs as something prohibited, as something rebellious, as something forbidden. And that, that is the problem. Because, then, we associate women that show these body parts as breaking the rules, and therefore asking to be punished. Maybe if we didn't make sly comments at women and support institutions that degrade their bodies, we wouldn't have women that run to their car with keys between their fingers at night, women that pretend to be on the phone when walking past a man on a back street, women who tug the backs of their shorts down when they walk into a public place. As a woman, I can tell you that the simple act of existing is a continual fight or flight response.

Every decision we make is based on the chance of our own survival. We choose carefully which street to walk down. We share our location with our friends before going on a date. We don't leave the house without pepper spray after dark. We are continually feeling the threat of death all because a few people decided we shouldn't see three inches of thigh. It is terrifying and it needs to end. So, men, let's please stop talking about women as if they are something to be hidden away. Let's please end the idea that women are breaking the rules of society by simply existing. Let's please terminate the fear that we live with each and every day of our lives.

An example:

A man: "Wow, look at that girl's shorts. I can't believe she'd wear something that short. She's just asking for attention!"

Another man: "No kidding, what a sl*t!"

What should happen:

A man: "Wow, look at that girl's shorts. I can't believe she'd wear something that short. She's just asking for attention!"

Another man: "Hey, that's not cool. She can wear whatever she wants. We can't be friends if you're going to talk about women that way."

In short, men, you have a responsibility to end these microaggressions. You have the power, you have the opportunity, do it. For us. Let your friends know that these things aren't OK to say. Women can only do so much. Since men are the ones who continually enforce these aggressions upon us, they are the ones who must alter their behavior. Do the right thing

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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