Explaining Mansplaining

Mansplaining poisons academic environments, especially in STEM

     Often I have a perfectly fine day— going to my classes and doing my own work —when I hear the grating, obnoxious, unbearable noise of mansplaining. Mansplaining, a combination of the words “man” and “explaining,” is when men explain things in a condescending manner, usually to women. In my STEM and AP classes, I repeatedly run into various versions of the same entitled man who assumes he is the smartest person to have ever existed, and wants everyone to know, too. Whether asked or not, he will begin to mansplain on instinct. However, we often accept these attitudes as simply part of life and people’s character. The negative environment mansplaining creates in classrooms is definitely not something we should ignore.

     Math class is the place I’ve noticed mansplaining the most. CV’s math classes emphasize collaboration, so I often ask people at my table how to solve a problem. And since boys vastly outnumber girls in my Calculus class, the one that answers my question is usually a boy. He adopts a different tone of voice, more scholarly, walks me through the problem at an excruciatingly slow pace, and will even throw in extra explanations I didn’t ask for. At the end of it, I am simmering in a quiet rage. 

     Mansplaining’s scientific effects are well established. According to a 2023 article from The Guardian, mansplaining makes people feel that they are “undervalued or not valued… or as though they don’t belong.” This especially affects women because of many social pressures for women to be polite and nonthreatening. My confidence in math throughout the years has been shaky, and I sometimes deliberately decided to not take a math class because I didn’t think I would do well. I can see this in others, as there are fewer and fewer girls in my higher level math classes.

     Mansplaining is the result of centuries of unjust power dynamics between genders. According to a 2020 New York Times article, “there’s a powerful gender dynamic where [men have] often been socialized to feel like [they’re] the authority.” Not only does this make others uncomfortable, but it poisons the environment in male-dominated fields like STEM, creating barriers. 

     Men need to read the room. Instead of launching into an oversimplified, unwanted explanation about something they probably don’t even understand as well as they think, they should be taught how to evaluate whether their input is needed, and if so, to what extent.