We all know mansplaining is a thing. Chances are everyone has been mansplained at some point in their lives (yes even men get mansplained, I watch it happen to my O.H.), but the facts are women get mansplained at a lot more often, and with more ferocity.
Well, yesterday I got mansplained at, and I acted shamefully. I smiled and agreed with him. I was so angry at myself afterwards. I thought I was angry with him (I was!), but I realised that I was more angry with myself than anything, for not setting him straight. But my genuine reaction in the moment was…..”I can’t be arsed, it’s not worth it”.
“It’s not worth having this conversation. It’s not worth arguing with this guy who is so clearly cock-sure in his limited (and wrong) knowledge. I just want to finish making my coffee, I don’t want a weird tense thing happening at work with this large intimidating, socially angry man.”
What happened was this: Somehow in an awkward, small talk situation around the kettle, the subject of my being a vegetarian came up. I said to him that I had been a vegetarian since I was a baby, as my family were vegetarians, (read, this is not a passing phase).
He mentioned that that was ok, because at least I could eat fish. I said that no, I could not and did not eat fish. He said “Ah, so you’re actually more a vegan than vegetarian.”
In my life, I have encountered this a lot. I always get asked if I eat fish. No I do not. I am a vegetarian. I do not eat fish. “Some vegetarians do.” No they don’t. Pescatarians eat fish. Vegetarians do not. If a vegetarian eats a fish, they are no longer a vegetarian are they? It is quite a simple, black and white matter. You do not get vegetarians that “sometimes” eat bacon. You do not get vegans that “sometimes” eat cheese. You do not get vegetarians that “sometimes” eat fish.
I smiled at him in the end and said “Yeah, I guess so” because his insistence that he knew more about the issue than me was frankly quite intimidating. He is a least a foot taller than me and largely built, and has a tendency to undermine women at any given opportunity, so I acquiesced.
But I felt angry, angry that I had backed down, angry that I had allowed myself to be intimidated and angry that I felt powerless to do anything in the situation.
It was a trivial matter, but to have someone insisting that you are something you are not, to the point where they want to hear you say it back to them, to validate the fact that they are right and you are wrong, is a weird and unsettling experience.