Last September, I began my freshman year of college. Within a quarter, I’ve noticed the prevalence of sexist microaggressions in the classroom. How quickly this happened was slightly shocking to me, considering what an open-minded and accepting community UC Santa Barbara is.
Sexist microaggressions in school can be very subtle, and while at first I didn’t notice them at all, after a while I realized that the boy in my assigned group was explaining terms to me in an extremely patronizing way, and seemed to only make real discussion with the other males in our group.
I experienced “mansplaining” for one of the few times in my life. If you haven’t heard of the term “mansplaining” before, it is defined as “a man explaining something to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.” Many women have not heard of this term, but have actually experienced mansplaining countless times in their lives, unaware of what was occurring.
In my experience with mansplaining in class, I was assigned to take notes for our group discussion and one boy in my assigned group continued to snatch the paper from me after I read aloud the discussion question, reading the exact same question in what he thought was a more intelligible way. Every time I tried to ask a question or clarify what we were discussing, he acted like my questions and comments were irrelevant and unintelligent, which made it very difficult for me to continue participating in the conversation. In the moment I was too intimidated to speak up about what was happening, and afterward I immediately regretted it.
After I spoke to other young women and asked them about their experiences with mansplaining, I realized many girls do not speak up against boys who speak to them in such a patronizing manner. One young woman recalled an encounter while working in a group of all girls and one boy during class. During a group discussion, the boy felt the need to explain to the rest of the group what the word “comedy” meant.
Although she felt the male student was extremely condescending in his explanation to the young women, no one spoke up due to the constant putting down of women in conversation and how “normal” it is considered to put girls down and treat them as inferior in our society.
Constantly being interrupted in conversations and put down for stating their own opinions, women begin to question themselves more every day.
In another situation, girls have experienced mansplaining even in common places like the gym. Whether it’s to explain how the squat racks work or the bench press is used, girls who attend the gym daily still experience this constant patronization by the boys who think they’re the only ones who belong at the gym. In our society, men are expected to be strong and powerful, while women are supposed to be weak and submissive; these gender roles are so deep-rooted that women are still not fully accepted when participating in traditionally male-dominated activities like the gym.
Another young woman recounted her experience learning how to work a soundboard. Being the only female in the group, all the boys were quick to respond to her questions, even if they weren’t correct answers or they didn’t know what they were talking about. So many males are unaware of how immediate they are to quiet their female classmates with their own voices, which they seem to think are far superior. While men may be oblivious to what they’re doing, women, including myself, lose the confidence to ask important questions and participate in discussions.
When it comes to politics, mansplaining is extremely apparent; one of my close friends experienced her male classmate explaining to her how women have a harder time in politics than men do, something that my friend obviously knew already, as she has experienced first-hand what is was like to debate her male classmates and get interrupted continually. In so many situations, boys feel the need to explain things to girls who go through them every day. This completely discredits female experiences and causes girls to feel as if their opinions are not serious or significant.
Sexism is so ingrained in our society that many women don’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves. Constantly being interrupted in conversations and put down for stating their own opinions, women begin to question themselves more every day. Unfortunately, most of the time men don’t even realize what is taking place; they aren’t conscious of how quick they are to question what a woman is saying or restate what she says in what they believe is a more intelligible way.
If there’s one thing that should be taken from this article, it is the importance of women to not only stand up for themselves, but for each other. While it may be difficult to speak up, when a woman has the support of her fellow female classmates or gym-mates or whoever they may be, she may feel more certain of herself and her ability to speak her mind.