Man sits next to woman in her car. Manologue begins. About how she should shift gears, the airconditioning, the right streets and wrong, or the better FM station. Why oh why is he doing this? Punk band Fiji 13 gets into his head in their song on mansplaining: “Help me baby if you can, I don’t know how things work because I am not a man.” That’s what he must imagine she thinks. For him, it is not just that she needs to be mansplained things. Because he believes her emotions are obscured by her blood flow, Mr Very Important will tell her how she feels too.
Or as pioneering essayist Rebecca Solnit points out, it’s like billions of women must be told that the truth is not their property, that they are not reliable witnesses to even their own lives. The scientist who has found out that she is carrying the BRCA1 mutation made famous by Angelina Jolie, being mansplained not just cancer but also breasts by her colleague. The wife who has made the family dinner for decades, but still gets cooking instructions from her husband every night.
Not all men are guilty but too many are. In boardrooms, at academic conferences, on social media. In movies male characters get most of the lines. Men suck up an unfair share of the oxygen in almost every setting, on the assumption that women carry lesser knowledge. This is fiction not fact, it must be womansplained.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.