This is part 2 in a series on mansplaining and libertarians. See part 1.
In my previous post, I hit the theory angle: What is mansplaining and what it is not. Now I’m here to discuss something even more important: mansplaining and how men explaining things to women in the liberty movement is keeping women away from the liberty movement.
Let’s take the example of my boyfriend and my conversation from part 1. Let’s say that he was a woman and I a man, but our expertise remained the same—my degree in philosophy and poli sci, “hers” in environmental science. And let’s say that, after I asked for “her” opinion on the car culture I interrupted “her” any time global warming was mentioned to insert my opinion about the medieval warm period or say that global warming was a liberal media conspiracy.
Shit like this happens to me all the time—even at libertarian conventions. And if the stories I’ve heard among my lady friends are true, it’s not just me. The phenomena is so present that once, during a seminar for my Koch Summer Fellowship Program (an amazing program run by the Institute for Humane Studies with funding provided by Charles Koch—one of the most prestigious in the movement), one of the presenters, when asked about libertarian women, simply said “If you want more women involved in liberty, stop interrupting them.”
Women are constantly given lots of messages that say their opinions don’t matter. They are interrupted, demeaned, belittled, and ignored. For libertarians—the supposed champions of individuality and merit—to do this to women as well is inexcusable. It’s easy to see how interrupting women to assert your opinion drives them away—but it’s even worse when you’re wrong and won’t admit it. Y’all, this drives people away from our circles. Who wants to be a part of a group when they are implicitly discounted because they are a woman?
Because I know a lot of you want to see more women in liberty, I want to help you out. That’s why I’m writing this, and that’s why I want to tell you:
What to do if you’re accused of mansplaining
Many-a-friend of mine has posted a rant or diatribe about how they were accused of mansplaining and how much they hate being discounted because they are a dude. I sympathize. I really, really hate being told my opinion doesn’t matter because of my gender. In the greatest of traditions, I welcome you to my world.
However, the proper response to being accused of being a mansplainer is not to take to your social media platform of choice and passively aggressively whine about your accuser. When people complain to me about mansplaining, the first thing you should do is ask yourself:
Well, are you?
Are you (1) Asserting your opinion over someone else’s (online, this can take the form of not addressing their points, straw-manning, or using any other kind of attacks to belittle someone)?
Do you (2) have little to no expertise or experience in the matter you’re discussing and does that person have more than you? Maybe they would know more and you should be listening.
If you really, honest-to-the-gods feel that you are listening with due respect, you fully understand your opponent’s position, and you are either (a) adequately knowledgeable in the subject matter or (b) no more so than the person you’re speaking with, then you might be able to make a reasonable case that you are not mansplaining but that you and your opponent have a disagreement. But address the charges on their merits; don’t circumvent the issue by attacking the term itself. Especially now that you have taken the time to really understand what it means.
It’s time to fix this
Libertarians are supposed to be the best at acknowledging people for their individuality and their merit (and are comparatively better at this than other groups of people, I think), so we should be the group of people doing this the least. However, we are all subject to the way society conditions us. Libertarians aren’t exceptions to that, however much we’d like to be. As libertarians, we should be jumping to fix this problem so that we can be better at stepping outside of the statist collectivist claptrap and treating people like individuals—the way they deserve.