Mansplaining: What It Is & 25 Ways to Spot a Prick Who Likes to Mansplain

Being spoken down to by a man? It happens all too often to women. You’re a victim of mansplaining, and it’s time to cut the crap.


What is mansplaining really? Before we get there, let’s make the distinction between mansplaining and actually “explaining” something clear.

The very act of explaining means to make something clear by describing it in specific detail. This includes providing the necessary ideas or facts.

Typically, an explanation comes without any intonation, just matter of fact. It is also often littered with examples to better help the other person understand properly.

However, mansplaining is entirely different. If you’ve never heard the term, it is used to describe the way that a man explains something to a woman in a condescending and patronizing way.

This type of man explains things with the biased belief and assumption that he’s more knowledgeable on the topic being discussed than the person he’s talking to.

The term was inspired by the essay written by Rebecca Solnit in April 2008 called “Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way” In Solnit’s essay, she wrote that mansplaining “crushes young women into silence” and that “it trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”

Since then, the usage of the term has increased, especially in feminist and anti-feminist blogs. Then in 2013, Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defined it as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.”

The mansplain definition appeared in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2018.

It happens more often than you might think, and it’s nothing short of annoying. In the worst cases, it shows a severe lack of respect and care for the woman being spoken down to. No more! It’s time to spot the signs of mansplaining and cut the crap today!

[Read: 15 signs of a lack of respect in a relationship that you can’t ignore]

What is mansplaining?

Mansplaining is a way that a man shows his supposed “superiority” through the use of a patronizing tone while talking to a woman.

Used in any social situation, it is unmistakable to anyone within earshot. It’s clear that a man is trying to put a woman in her “place”.

This is either by the words he is saying or the way that he is saying them. Firstly, no woman needs to be put in any place. Secondly, a man is not superior just because he was born with something else between his legs. Mansplaining is nothing short of wrong, disrespectful, frustrating, and egotistical.

The tone and what is said can differ, but its intention is to make a woman feel subordinate and, in some instances, stupid. Don’t internalize mansplaining or think it has anything to do with you. It isn’t about you, it is about your gender. That is why you have to either call it out or just let it go.

Of course, if you let it go, the guy is just going to carry on doing it to other women, assuming that he is better than everyone else. [Read: Dating a narcissist: How to teach them to change for the better]

The most annoying signs of mansplaining you can’t miss!

You could argue that mansplaining is a phenomenon that has been going on for generations. This probably dates back to the old-time idea that men were somehow superior to women. We’re talking about Victorian times and beyond when women were supposed to be seen and not heard.

Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then, but many lingering gender issues still remain. It’s something we need to address before they go on to bother our future generations too.

For that reason, it’s vital to understand what mansplaining is and the signs of mansplaining so you can call it out when it’s happening.

1. He talks slowly and enunciates as though he thinks you’re going to miss the point

A guy who is mansplaining will often talk really slowly on purpose. They may also look at you after every word. They want to make sure that you can “keep up” with the complexity of what they are saying.

In their mind, you’re not intelligent enough to understand the concept. That’s why they need to speak slowly, so you don’t miss it entirely.

Since you are apparently so simple-minded, they don’t want to leave you in the lurch with their very complex explanation. [Read: Male privilege – What it is and what it looks like in real life]

2. It feels more like he is talking to a kindergarten-aged child

The point behind someone mansplaining is to make you feel stupid and ignorant. That robs you of your power and gives it to them.

This is much like explaining something to a kindergarten-aged child because they just don’t have the maturity to understand what is so obviously above their head. A guy who is trying to mansplain you will, often uninvited, over-explain and bore you to tears.

3. They use remedial words because they think big words go over your head

Instead of using all the “big” words, he feels the need to “dumb it down.” He feels it’s his duty to simplify it so that you aren’t left scratching your head with all the verbiage that is way over your intelligence level.

The truth is that you probably know and understand far more vocabulary than he does.

4. You aren’t sure why, but you feel embarrassed and belittled as they’re talking to you

They make you feel embarrassed and belittled, but sometimes you aren’t even sure why. This proves that they’re pretty good at mansplaining and have obviously had practice. The whole point is to make you feel this way.

Being nice enough, the tone makes you feel like you are inferior to them. It also threatens you enough not to say anything because you feel the hostility that lies beneath the surface. [Read: Should a girl ever dumb it down to impress a guy?]

5. Other people around you become uncomfortable with the exchange

You will notice that when a man mansplained to a woman, those around them will become very uncomfortable.

Most people know that talking down to someone or showing dominance through intimidation isn’t cool, but not a mansplainer. Take heart, if anyone is listening, they are thinking, “man, what a dick.”

6. They talk really loudly, as though you are hard of hearing

Another tactic is speaking loudly. Mansplaining typically comes with a loudness that isn’t necessary. This is because they don’t want you to miss any of their words.

You obviously can’t take it all on board without extra volume! It’s also about showing off because everyone around will hear him “expertly” explain something he thinks he knows. Hint: that is less likely true. [Read: How do narcissists control you so subtly? And why you allow them]

7. They keep saying the same thing over and over

Over-explaining is one of the cornerstones of mansplaining. Since they want to make it seem like you can’t hold a concept in that silly brain of yours, it is their duty to say it many times.

Mansplaining is not only irritating, it can go on and on forever. Children learn by repetition in school, such as singing the alphabet song. He assumes you have the brain of a child, and he needs to keep repeating things. [Read: 16 clear signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]

8. Their tone says, “I’m wasting my breath,” because they assume you’re going to screw it up anyway

Since they know that you aren’t capable of doing anything right, they make it very obvious that no amount of explaining is going to result in what they want.

When guys like this say, “just do the best you can,” they really mean, “I know that you aren’t capable, so just do what you are limited to”.

9. They speak in front of a crowd to avoid wasting their sarcasm

Mansplainers don’t just try to make you feel stupid, they try to show off their so-called intelligence, especially with a crowd watching.

If it were just about you, then he wouldn’t feel the need to make sure to talk to you in such a way.

For instance, a man talks condescendingly to someone, especially a woman, to intentionally let people hear that she is less knowledgeable on a certain topic than he is. [Read: 33 creative insults to intellectually insult someone with sarcasm]

10. You feel angry afterward but can’t figure out why

You walk away from a session of mansplaining wishing that you had stepped in and said something to defend yourself.

But, you aren’t quite sure against what. In so many ways, mansplaining borders on manipulating another person. [Read: How to quickly spot narcissistic traits in a relationship]

11. It makes you question your abilities

A mansplainer’s goal is to make you feel less competent and put you in a submissive position. If you take it to heart, it can make you question yourself.

You wonder whether you have done something in the past to make people question your abilities. Try to remember that it has nothing to do with you; it is about your gender and nothing else. Of course, it’s also about the out-of-control ego of the guy too.

12. It sounds hostile, even if they’re saying it nicely

Mansplaining may seem like “I am just trying to make sure that I am helping you by explaining it completely”. Hostility is one of the underlying emotions behind mansplaining, not niceties.

13. Words such as “sweetheart” or “darling” may appear

Sometimes the condescending isn’t just implied, it’s right in your face. He will show off his very masculine communication behavior by using slurs and put-downs under the guise of being lighthearted. There are times when they call you something other than your name as the biggest putdown of all.

14. Looking you up and down as if sizing you up

As a way to make you feel more insecure, he may give you an up-and-down glance. This makes you wonder what it is that they are staring at. It’s just another tactic to knock you off your balance. [Read: 25 signs of covert narcissism – a different kind of mind game]

15. They invade your personal space to catch you off guard

To add a little more threat to their patronizing tone, they will often get too close and invade your personal space. This is just more inward hostility, so take a step back and try not to let him intimidate you.

16. They use an authoritative tone, regardless of whether they hold authority over you or not

Mansplaining isn’t about having any actual power over you. It is about gaining the power they need to feel good about themselves.

They feel as if they can treat you in a patronizing manner because you are a female and, therefore, less than. [Read: How your own self-respect affects you and your relationships]

17. They pepper their speech with unnecessary large words

Another example of mansplaining is showing off. They will use big words *sometimes inappropriately* or try to get all technical to prove they know something and dominate the conversation.

If they were secure with themselves, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to convince everyone how intelligent they are by using words that are not even correct. [Read: Selfish people – 15 ways to spot and stop them from hurting you]

18. You feel like you should defend yourself, even though you’ve done nothing wrong

It’s all in the way they say it sometimes and not anything that is actually said.

Very manipulative, they put you in your place and then pretend they didn’t mean anything by it. That causes you to feel like you need to defend your actions or explain what you meant. Save your breath!

19. They physically take you from place to place because you need a visual for the explanation

As if you need a diagram to get from one place to the next! Mansplaining may involve dragging you around to show you everything that they are talking about. After all, you aren’t capable of abstract thought in that silly little head of yours. [Read: Communication techniques to finally get them to open up to you]

20. You recognize there was something more behind the conversation

They make it very apparent that there was something more to the conversation than just telling you how to do something. You also get the distinct impression that you’ve just been called “stupid” without the word being said.

21. They often have a smug and condescending look on their face

You know the way men look when they’re saying something condescending, you want to punch it, but you know you can’t.

When a guy is mansplaining, his face will have that “oh bless you, you poor unintelligent woman” look about it. His body language will also be meek and mild. Of course, his intentions are far from that.

22. He’s telling you things you already know

You already know, and he knows you already know. However, by mansplaining, he’s making it clear that your understanding isn’t sufficient, and he somehow needs to educate you further because he’s the expert. [Read: Loving a narcissist: How to tell if you’ve fallen for a narcissist]

23. When you finally get a word in, he interrupts you

Rude and worst still, he might hold his hand up and do that smug look again. He doesn’t believe your interpretation of the subject is enough, so he has to explain it again. And again. And probably again.

Don’t be too surprised, as studies show that men are three times more likely to interrupt a woman than another man.

24. He belittles any valid point you come up with

When you come up with an idea that you want to put forward in the discussion, he belittles it. He might also pass it off as crazy or insufficient. The idea is probably perfectly valid and qualified, but he won’t admit that.

25. He makes some comment about “women”

It’s likely that if you try to explain yourself and get him to listen, he will just shake his head. He’ll probably make a sexist comment, something along the lines of “you women”. He’s clearly a delusional fool, and your points are wasted on him. [Read: Do men have feelings? Why they act like they don’t care]

So, what can you do when guys mansplain?

If a guy is clearly giving you the mansplaining treatment, what can you do about it? Do you just hold your head up high and be the bigger person, or do you try and take action?

The truth is that no guy who is guilty of regular mansplaining is ever going to admit his mistakes. It’s just not in his nature. He’s one of those annoying creatures that have to be right all the time.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it.

You might never get him to stop, but you can do something to make yourself feel better. A good tactic is to be forceful with your speech back. Make sure that you use language that reinforces your knowledge and intelligence.

For instance, if a guy co-worker is overly explaining a task to you at your workplace, stop him first. Then say, “Dave, thank you for your explanation, it was most helpful, but I’ve got this,” and make sure that your body language is firm.

Make eye contact, nod your head as you’re speaking, and keep the tone and volume of your voice strong. Standing up for oneself can be difficult in the beginning, especially with the ideology of patriarchy inherently getting in your way.

However, remember that mansplaining is rooted in the idea that women are inferior to men, and you know that it isn’t true. [Read: Relationship power plays: What men need to know]

The other tactic is to use humor whilst also calling him out on his behavior. There is the chance that perhaps he doesn’t realize what he’s doing. Yes, some guys mansplain by accident!

In that case, you could make a comment such as, “thanks for mansplaining that so clearly to me, my tiny brain has obviously been exhausted for the day”. Then laugh before walking away with your head held high!

At the end of the day, mansplaining is a tactic that some men use to put women in their “place”. It’s typically done out of the feeling of being threatened. If someone is mansplaining something, take it as a compliment because it means they see you as a threat.

It is an intentional act to make you feel less than and shamed. So, no matter who heard the conversation, hold your head high and shrug it off.

The very fact they’ve felt the need to do it shows that you’re more capable than they are anyway.

[Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

Anyone who watches the exchange of mansplaining isn’t embarrassed for your sake but for his. His obvious lack of character and self-esteem shines through. 

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...