My feminist book group read Men Explain Things to Me this month. I enjoyed the book but I have to confess that mansplaining–as it’s called–doesn’t much happen to me except in academic contexts, among men in my field. One tried to explain an argument in a sub-discipline in ethics to me recently, completely ignoring/not knowing that I was a major author in that particular debate.
The academic genre is so common that it even has its own tumblr: Academic Men Explain Things to Me
New to all of this? Wondering what mansplaining is? Here’s Urban Dictionary’s definition:
to delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversationEven though he knew she had an advanced degree in neuroscience, he felt the need to mansplain “there are molecules in the brain called neurotransmitters”
I was shocked to encounter bicycle mansplaining at the Epic Tour a few weeks ago. I had gotten a flat and at the next rest stop was looking for a floor pump to fully inflate the front.
I saw the pump and got to work.
Enter this middle aged guy. He didn’t look like a bike mechanic. Just a regular helpful guy. I’m not even sure he was a cyclist.
When I got this far into the story with my partner, Jeff, he said that of course he wasn’t a bike mechanic.
A bike mechanic, said Jeff, would notice that it wasn’t a new bike. I’d likely owned it for a few years. The mechanic would notice that some of the components had been upgraded and that the wheels weren’t the ones the bike came with. That’s probably true. Mechanics are observant that way. And in my experience they’re mostly not condescending.
The meaning to be helpful guy then proceeded to try to show me how to inflate the tube.
How did he think I got air in it that morning? Every morning? For the past ten years. But never mind that. It gets worse.
“Oh, I see why it went flat. Your valve stem is open.”
“Yes because I’d started to put air in it.”
I then got a mini lecture about leaning my bike against things that could scratch the frame.
“That’s a nice bike, you know. It’s made of carbon fibre.”
I didn’t say but after thought I could have had fun with it.
“Is it? Is carbon fibre expensive? Is that why it cost so much? I thought it was the pretty paint job.”
Anyway, I didn’t. I was speechless. I let him put air in it and off we rode.