Men Explain Things To Me…

Best of Tom Dispatch

One evening over dinner, I began to joke, as I often had before, about writing an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me.” Every writer has a stable of ideas that never make it to the racetrack, and I’d been trotting this pony out recreationally every once in a while. My houseguest, the brilliant theorist and activist Marina Sitrin, insisted that I had to write it down because people like her younger sister Sam needed to read it. Young women needed to know that being belittled wasn’t the result of their own secret failings; it was the boring old gender wars. So lovely, immeasurably valuable Sam, this one always was for you in particular. It wanted to be written; it was restless for the racetrack; it galloped along once I sat down at the computer; and since Marina slept in later than me in those days, I served it for breakfast and sent it to Tom later that day.

That was April 2008 and it struck a chord.  It still seems to get reposted more than just about anything I’ve written at, and prompted some very funny letters to this site. None was more astonishing than the one from the Indianapolis man who wrote in to tell me that he had “never personally or professionally shortchanged a woman” and went on to berate me for not hanging out with “more regular guys or at least do a little homework first,” gave me some advice about how to run my life, and then commented on my “feelings of inferiority.” He thought that being patronized was an experience a woman chooses to, or could choose not to have — and so the fault was all mine. Life is short; I didn’t write back.

Young women subsequently added the word “mansplaining” to the lexicon. Though I hasten to add that the essay makes it clear mansplaining is not a universal flaw of the gender, just the intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.

The battle for women to be treated like human beings with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of involvement in cultural and political arenas continues, and it is sometimes a pretty grim battle. When I wrote the essay below, I surprised myself in seeing that what starts out as minor social misery can expand into violent silencing and even violent death. Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to women, two Liberians and a Yemeni, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Which is to say, that safety and full participation is only a goal…

Complete article here


Patriarchy is a social disease.


Thank you Rebecca. On the other hand, you have women who are competing with other women so tremendously that we undermine each other on a constant basis. It starts with a girl’s first heady surge of sexual power and goes on and on. We need to expose the causes that allow the status quo.

Please give some consideration to this idea. It deserves to be discussed and written about.

    Indeed! I would like to see some discussion about this. Gerda Lerner, in her book The Creation of Patriarchy addresses this somewhat.


I have never read this book, but it sounds interesting. Gender plays out in our lives to a mind-boggling extent and yet it is all neatly tucked away – out of sight, out of mind. Especially by the younger generations. Maybe they are still ‘soaking it up’ and haven’t realized that there is no light at the end of tunnel….

Trial opening line:

In a cruel twist of fate the locomotive engineer of the speeding passenger train was deceived by the reflection of his own train’s headlight in the wet rock wall at the end of the blind tunnel.