How to identify a mansplainer

Clodagh Chapman gives us a field guide to identifying mansplainers.

Oh the mansplainer. Truly, he is the hero of the modern age – so committed to explaining the world to the women around him as patronisingly as possible. So often he goes ignored in the name of feminism, or the blood pressure and general mental wellbeing of the non-male population, but it is time to put an end to all that. Here is a guide to identifying the mansplainers in your life, so that in times of need you know who to turn to for some unhelpful advice and good old-fashioned condescension.

The mansplainer is the male acquaintance who will spend three years trying to explain your degree to you, even though he’s on a different course and his main sources of information are AJ+ videos and viral Facebook posts. Any attempts to point out that you might be slightly more knowledgeable about the subject you read about for 40 hours a week will be shot down, because of course you – as a woman – couldn’t possibly compete with his vast intellectual understanding of that topic he once watched a Vice documentary on. How lucky you are to have someone by your side, constantly giving you unsolicited thoughts on topics he knows nothing about.


The mansplainer is the male friend who takes great pride in explaining your experiences of oppression to you, whilst simultaneously insisting that his life as a man is so much harder. Because, as we all know, oppression only exists if it affects him personally. It will take you half an hour to get him to admit that the wage gap maybe sort of kind of exists, and he will never really be over that time you told him that his opinion on #freethenipple was less valid because he is not socially required to wear a bra. He will maintain that all feminists hate men, but #notallmen are sexists. Right you are, thank you for reminding me that as an advocate for gender equality, I have an unbridled hatred for the entire male population. Evidently, not all heroes wear capes.

The mansplainer is the guy in your seminar who constantly interrupts you, talks over you, brushes off your contributions and then explains them back to you 10 minutes later. Oh happy day when you have a man explaining to you things you already know, but badly and slowly and with that all-too-familiar condescending tone that he would only otherwise use when talking to a dog or a small child. His confidence in his ability to formulate ideas without the input of 50% of the seminar group is truly inspiring, but of course, this admiration is misplaced – see, as a man, he is of course going to be more rational and logical than you.

The mansplainer is the man who is incapable of taking instruction from anyone other than another man to the point of inconvenience. How could  you possibly think you know more than him about basic electrics? He definitely knows what he’s doing and isn’t going to let a better-informed woman, or the possibility of setting your 6-bed student house on fire, stop him. At least then you could warm your cold hands, which haven’t been in a centrally-heated house in months, over the flames.

The mansplainer is that male friend who patronisingly breaks down for you why everything you like is below him. The bands you like aren’t real music, the films you like don’t have the right narrative elements in place, and the books you like just don’t have a story arc – but of course you wouldn’t understand any of that because you’re just not as informed as him. Truth is he has no idea what he’s talking about, but he works on the principle that if he peppers his sentences with enough jargon then no one will call him out on it. He’s ‘completely for equal opportunities and all that’ but, interestingly, the bulk of his faux-intellectual criticisms seem to be directed at media engaged with by women. Funny how that works out.

So whenever you lose faith in yourself, worry not – there are hundreds of less capable men out there who are more than willing to patronise you, that you can now identify with this handy guide.

Illustration by Emily Godbold


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