• Mon, Aug 27 2012

How Do We Stop Men From Explaining Things To Us?

To be fair, I think both men and women can be unbelievably arrogant. I think being unbelievably arrogant is not just a male trait. But I do think women are forced to hide it better, earlier.

Because if a woman said that “yeah, Citizen Kane is a pretty good movie” ten men in the room would immediately jump on “how she was an idiot.” They’d joke about it. They wouldn’t like, just vivisect her, but it would be said.

Women don’t do that to men, as a rule. It’s kind of mean. Or we’re told it’s kind of mean. And I do think there’s an element of men being trained to let their opinions be heard. That’s seen as an admirable thing, not a mean thing. It goes back to the old saying that “when a man is an asshole, he gets a promotion, when a woman politely requests a promotion, she’s a bitch.” A man will not suffer socially for telling people they’re idiots in the way a woman could. It will just be seen, as often as not, as men being men and joking around.

It is certainly more polite – and it will certainly make people think you are nicer – if you sit back, as the woman in the Salon piece did, and not say very much. But! BUT! We can’t really keep sitting back and letting people explain things. Because the things people are explaining right now are that your uterus has magical powers. This is not the time to sit back politely and let arrogant dolts say whatever they want to say and then laugh about it in private with your friends.

Honestly, I think your only recourse is to become funny. There are certainly men who live in a bubble of arrogance so deep that women’s voices and opinions can register only as a gentle buzzing outside. Humor is a very pointy sword when it comes to puncturing that bubble. Good jokes are heard by people of both genders.

I mean, Margaret Atwood did once say that that “men are afraid women will laugh at them, women are afraid men will kill them.” But if you take out the terribly inequitable nature of responses, there, making people laugh is the strongest response you can have.

And weirdly, it still registers as charming more often than “just being a bitch.” Everyone likes to think of themselves as someone who can take a joke. If you make a joke that illustrates how ridiculous the situation is, or even a joke about them (provided it’s really funny) then they will look ridiculous. And it will not happen again.

Maybe the answer is to stop telling women to be polite, or, conversely, to shout loudly because “being shouty is all we have” but to tell women that we all need to become stand-up comedians. All of us. We need to be able to deliver jokes to diffuse these situations. We need to be able to come up with responses so witty and pointed that people cannot help hearing them. Men have been doing this for ages, but then, people have been doing this for ages. Dorothy Parker did it. Phyllis Diller did it. It’s being done all the time.

And that is why it is worth cultivating a sense of humor, even if men don’t care whether or not you’re funny.

And don’t worry. Your uterus has ways of making this happen. Until it does, stealing a few lines from Dorothy Parker isn’t a bad start.

 

Feminist Pic via Twansphobic

Citizen Kane via Kane Approves

 

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  • BeccaTheCyborg

    This post is amazing. Your use of the Schwyzer meme made my damn week.

  • MollyB

    Loved this!

  • The manlyman

    So, how do I point out the mistakes in this article without seeming presumptuous?

    • Jennifer Wright

      Oh, you do it in private. Contact e-mails for each writer appear at the bottom of every post.

    • The manlyman

      yeah, this is a good reply. I will e-mail you to explain to you how your reply really created tension and uncertainty for the original commenter.

  • Lemona

    Thank you for pointing out this annoying phenomenon, an effect of “men being trained to let their opinions be heard,” as you so deftly put it, in such a concise, non-shouty way.

    *I’m glad you’re also watching TCM at night.*

  • SB

    Do you find that these ignorant lectures are gender specific, or do the same jerkoffs spray both genders with their firehoses of benightedness? I’ve always assumed the latter, but I’m a guy.

    • Jennifer Wright

      I think the big difference is that men feel comfortable saying “dude, you’re being a jagoff, you don’t know Kane.” And women will be more inclined to sit there nodding politely.

  • Suriah

    I can’t tell you how much this article rings true to me

  • Jamie Peck

    I agree with you that humor can be a potent weapon against the patriarchy/assholes in general. But not everyone has the wherewithal to make good jokes all the time. I think we need both kinds of responses to douchebaggery: the people who will make jokes that poke holes in it, and the people who will take it to the streets. Some people can even do both. Maybe even at the same time!

    • Jenny

      Humor is my greatest weapon. This inspires a different conversation though. Sarcasm isn’t “seemly” for women.

  • Sabrina

    Yes.

  • Sam

    I was literally just talking to somebody about how many people believe they themselves are amazing because they are aware of amazing things, as though they themselves directed/wrote/etc. those works. As though their taste makes them better than everyone else–and, of course, they usually assume nobody knows those works the way they do. I’ve worked with so many men that are like this, FAR less than the amount of women.

    I think you’re right on about the humor thing. There’s definitely something about responding laughingly that not only makes them shut up and take themselves less seriously, but also helps you not feel so frustrated about being spoken down to.

  • Kj

    As soon as I read this headline, I thought of the guy that started lecturing me on the subtleties of Farsi grammar… IN BED. As in, he interrupted sexy times to see if I remembered the three lines of vocab he had tried to teach me me during our date the week before.

    I think it’s been kind of “cosmo’d” into us to pretend that mens’ random rambling is interesting and stimulating, just so that they feel flattered and that their precious little egos can bask in the attention of a captive audience. Obviously women ramble too, and demand attention undeservedly, but it’s more of the “look at me, I am great!” as opposed to the “look at me, I know everything! Or at least, more than you!” of men. Ugh.

  • Natalie

    I honestly just thought this was something that happened to me/my friends because we are in our early twenties and before that, teenagers, etc. Now I realize that even some men my own age treat us like this. That our opinion means less because we are girls or our facts are less valid. I’m not sure if humor is the best answer, but it is almost the only one. If we demand to be accepted, we will get laughed and made fun of anyway, so might as well make a joke of it.

  • Katie

    Loved this! So true. Just two days ago, a guy in my study group began explaining where implantation of embryos takes place, complete with a sketch of the uterus. We kept trying to interrupt to tell him we knew what a uterus looks like, but he kept on going until I thanked him profusely for finally letting me know where my cervix was.

  • porkchop

    HA!

    Explaining things is like crack! You can tell by the way drunk people are always doing it. You can’t make it stop except by shouting at them. That is my technique.

  • M

    Oh man. I know this happens to everyone in life at a certain level, but I’m a mechanic and work in an automotive repair shop, both on the cars and in customer service. It is ASTOUNDING how many guys are sure they know more about cars than me. Not gonna lie, there are guys who do [I'm always learning] but generally they aren’t cocky about it; they’ll start light and when they see I keep up just fine they’ll give me everything. And they are frequently my favorite customers because it’s easiest to replicate their problems, I can explain what’s wrong in technical terms without them getting lost, and because they understand why it’s an issue they’ll buy the repair. But the cocky guys, usually they did a little reading on the internet and suddenly they think they’re experts. Seriously, if you know so damn much about it, why are you paying me to get it fixed?

  • Don’t want to bother you :p

    Thanks for the 3 page article in which you explain things.