Sometimes it isn’t what you think.
When I mentioned Mansplaining to my lover today, he Mansplained to me why men Mansplain. No, really, I didn’t feel Mansplained to at all. Even though his kids gave him a T-shirt for Father’s Day that says,
“I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you,” he is not your typical Mansplainer.
If you are female, I’m sure you have been mansplained to. You are likely of the opinion that the man doing the ‘splaining was being condescending and patronizing. That’s what I thought, too.
But, my lover (let’s call him Morris), is very capable of having deep conversations with lots of back and forth. The only times he has Mansplained to me have been when he fixed something in my house and insisted on a show-and-tell of how he did it.
All men seem to want to do this, whether they are mansplainers or not. I have had auto mechanics lift the hood to show me exactly what they have done (I know my way around an engine. Enough to be dangerous). Guys who worked on my air-conditioning unit wanted to tell in detail how they fixed it. I have had described to me plumbing, electrical wiring, the level they set the lawn mower to get the right yard look, any and all use of chemicals for anything, and the finer points of how to best cut down a tree so it won’t fall on the house.
While all of this would be useful information were I to want to, or have to, do any of these things myself, I prefer that someone magically appear to do them, fix what needs to be fixed, take my money and go away. But that’s not how it works for men. Want to know why?
It really isn’t because they like to pat the little Ms., Miss, or Mrs. on the head and talk down to her. It’s actually (drum roll please), so they will receive affirmation. It’s that simple. They want affirmation. Which, rather than being braggadocio, is a cry of longing for you to affirm their ability. And that indicates your approval means a lot to them. It is the opposite of patronizing. It is them hoping you will say, “Good job.” Affirmation isn’t admiration. It is emotional support.
Morris exsplained the other reason that men Mansplain. They do it to hear themselves talk. But not in the way you may think. It isn’t that they love their own voices and thoughts that much. It is that they need to hear themselves say it out loud as a way to affirm themselves. It’s also a way of working out a problem by talking it through.
The one thing that John Grey got right in “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” book, is that women process out loud and men want to go straight to the solution. I have seen this often in counseling couples. But as Morris sees it, men are actually processing out loud as they mansplain. It may sound like closed statements and direct solutions, but in fact, the man doesn’t actually know whether a solution is a good one until he hears himself say it out loud.
Men have been taught and brought up to know things. Especially how to do things. Sometimes they have to learn how to do things on their own, which may predispose them to seek affirmation for what they have struggled so hard to learn. Once, when I asked my teen-aged son, the child of a single mother, to do something a man might do, He asked, “And where exactly would I have learned how to do that?” I asked, “Didn’t that come in your man manual when you were born a boy?” Nope. We learned to do a lot of things together.
When men learn a valuable skill, they like to show it off by telling you about it. Or maybe they are bibliophiles, and learn as much as possible about as many things as possible. When that happens their brains are on overload and must download some information to you, or anybody around you. My sister calls that “Imparting knowledge.” One man she has dated is particularly adept at this. Perhaps he is in need of constant affirmation. Or maybe his heavy brain just leaks.
When it comes to showing you every step and detail of how he fixed your problem, be it electrical, electronic, engine related, putting in flooring, etc., or simply sharing his knowledge with you, unless he is intentionally using a condescending tone, or actually patting you on the head, he is wanting your approval. Doesn’t that make you feel better?