Men explain things to me: The Gran Fondo edition

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 conversation
Even 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.”

Oh, really?

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.”

Oh, sigh.

Anyway, I didn’t. I was speechless. I let him put air in it and off we rode.


5 thoughts on “Men explain things to me: The Gran Fondo edition

  1. Laughing really hard here! My experience is that men who are actually experts in a particular field are usually at least a little less inclined to speak that way at least in connection with that particular field, as they know just how complicated things are and they have a strong sense of the nuances, uncertainties and other approaches which might always be taken in connection with those topics in which they have expertise. But sometimes even these men – if they can’t stop themselves from acting on certain insecurities and want to impress and hold themselves out as something (who knows what? -as long as it makes them potentially appear as confident and desirable, at least in their own minds, so as to compensate for whatever insecurity it was that rose from the depths) – might always start this “mansplaining”. I once golfed with an ex-friend who was actually quite a bad golfer. We were playing in a tournament foursome with a woman he liked. He took terrible shot after terrible shot. He then fluked out and hit a really nice shot in from about 200 yards. He initially looked surprised, and then almost vulnerable like a child who is overwhelmed with joy. But two seconds later, he stood tall, his neck elongated with his nose pointed slightly upward; he puffed out his chest with great authority, like the proudest of peacocks, and slowly looked about with restrained haughtiness and perhaps even mild contempt, so as to confirm that everyone was indeed viewing upon his personage with awe. This I shall call silent mansplaining. I felt a bit sorry for him as I spat out some gatorade laughing.

  2. I’ve had a middle-aged man start explaining derailleurs to me.

    In a “Bike Maintenance 101” class.


      1. I had no idea what to say. I suspect my face gave me away – I will never be a good poker player – as he stopped rather abruptly. (I am told my “WTF is wrong with you?” expression is a bit Gorgon-like).

        My coworkers were horrified and deeply amused.

        We have a plan when any of the members start mansplaining (or refusing to listen) to the women sales staff; the staff person will offer to get a mechanic, and the member always thinks he’ll get to talk to A Man and is quite happy. We really need a hidden camera for their expressions when one of the four women mechanics comes out, greasy bike part and rag artfully in hand, to answer their questions…

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