A scholar at my rank but in a different field asked me about my research. I told him I had recently published an article on a political controversy. He explained to me that the really crucial aspect of that controversy was issue X which, yes, was the topic of the article I had just described.
One example of many collected on a new tumblog of the recently (to my knowledge) named phenomenon of “mansplaining”. The core nature and problem of mansplaining is best articulated by Rebecca Solnit in Men Explain Things to Me.
Go read it. I’ll still be here.
I’ll just make two comments on this phenomenon.
First, I am guilty. I’ve mansplained to my wife. I’ve probably done it to other women as well. I do not want to. I want to engage in lively, mutually beneficial discourse, listen to people, and benefit from others’ wisdom, not be a never-ending fount of uninformed opinions.
Dear friends and colleagues: if I’m mansplaining to you, or to someone else in your presence, please call me on it. On the spot, if you want, or drop me a note later. I don’t want to mansplain, and am working to listen and communicate usefully, but am pretty sure I don’t always know how I come across. I invite your help and criticism.
Second, I’m also occasionally the recipient of this conversational anti-pattern. A number of times, I’ve had someone outside my field or profession attempt to tell me how it works. It’s rather frustrating.
I do not say this to belittle or diminish the experience of women receiving mansplanations; if it is frustrating to me to receive the occasional outside lecture on my work, I can only imagine what it is like to be subjected to it semi-regularly in combination with persistent but (usually) unstated assumptions of intellectual inferiority. You have my sympathy, and I hope my listening ear and collegial discourse.
I want my company to be pleasant, encouraging, and intellectually stimulating, not demeaning or belittling.