Mansplaining is something men and women are guilty of doing

Many years ago I was ordering family dinner at a pizza place in the NSW beach town of Forster, my toddler daughter in tow.

I ordered the adult pizzas then said "and a small cheese, salami and olives for the little one, please."

The woman taking orders looked at my daughter. "Silly daddy!", she said, "little girls don't like salami and olives!"

"No, she does, that's correct," I said. Weird.

Silly business

The woman still didn't order.

Then the clincher, that still enrages me to this day: "Where's mummy?" she says, still addressing my daughter. "Silly daddy's got your order wrong!"

"Please," I say, with more than a little venom, over of the "silly daddy" business.

"Take the order. I know what she eats. I'm her father."

"Children hate olives and you don't seem to know that," she said, evenly.


I lost it.

"Take the order! She eats olives! I'm her father! I feed her every day! For f***'s sake!"

Then a tiny high-pitched voice cuts through the noise. "My! Daddy! Right!" my daughter screams, bless her.

Bad behaviour

I get my olives, and, in an act of satisfying immaturity as we leave, stop at the door, yell, "You want to eat what?" and pop an olive ostentatiously into her mouth, which she chews theatrically.

My problem was I had been lectured by someone who, because of my sex, assumed I knew nothing about a subject that I could be called an expert on. It's absolutely infuriating.

Women call this "mansplaining" when a man condescendingly explains something to a woman, assuming she doesn't know something purely because she's a woman.

Tell me something I don't know

I know men have no business discussing women's issues, but this is different – mansplaining is a man's issue, too.

Now, I'm about as left-wing as an old bloke can get. It's fact women are subjected to endless crimes simply because of sexism – many men simply don't respect them as human beings.

Women are underpaid and under-promoted. They still do most of the housework and mothering. They work and live in fear of assault and endure daily objectification. The #metoo movement has uncovered a stinking world-wide epidemic of harassment women always knew was there.

While social media has provided a perfect platform for discussion and thought to spread, it's also a malevolent shit-storm of fighting and trolling that never ends. There's no doubt the battle lines have been drawn like never before, between left and right, male and female.

Jerked both ways

But I venture that it's not solely men who can be the issue here. I respectfully submit that it's jerks.

Jerksplaining happens to all of us, men and women. I have been Jerksplained to by both men and women all my life. There are jerksplainers, jerk-authors, and jerk offs and they can be both male and female.

When a man has a legitimate point to contribute to a discussion, and he's a man whose ideas might influence other men positively, it's too easy to shut him down with accusations of mansplaining.

If he's being a genuine jerk, however, shut him down for jerksplaining. Otherwise, it robs half the population of the ability to express a point of view.

And that's critical in a meaningful and therefore effective discourse.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher Allen & Unwin. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.

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