I'll take mansplaining for $500, Alex.

By Claire Gillespie
October 02, 2020
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Mansplaining—when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing (and often inaccurate) way—isn't a new concept. It happens in all walks of life and in every situation you can imagine, and every now and then, a particularly bad case of mansplaining goes viral. 

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That recently happened to 22-year-old Claire McDonnell, a science and finance student at the University of Iowa, who shared a recording of a video call with some of her male classmates on TikTok (shared below by @troublemakersfor good on Instagram). 

McDonnell started recording the call because the men were constantly interrupting her and rejecting her suggestions for their commercial underwriting group project. Since she posted the video on TikTok on Tuesday, it’s been viewed over 2.4 million times. 

“Live footage of a woman in STEM," she headlined the video, joking in the caption, “my male classmates love listening to my input and letting me finish my sentences.” (Just FYI: STEM stands for "science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.")

McDonnell is one of only four women among almost 60 men in the graduate program. "Some of us girls have the top standings in the program, and no matter how experienced we are, none of the men seem to take us seriously," McDonnell told BuzzFeed News.

One of the ironies of mansplaining is that an explanation is often the last thing the women need. In McDonnell’s case, she had the most real-life work experience out of all her classmates in the field they were discussing. "When I recorded that, it was just funny because I've worked in commercial underwriting for years, and [the assignment] was the same thing I did in that role," she said. "I have the most experience [out of] anyone."

McDonnell revealed that this is just one example of the sexism that’s rampant in the department and in the industry as a whole. "This happens on a daily basis," she told Buzzfeed News. "There would be an assignment we [the other STEM women] would help other classmates with, and they would take credit for it. If we present an idea, whether it's theoretical or any type of opinion, it's always like they're very hesitant to believe it."

She added, "And if they do believe it, then they take the credit like, I already knew that, and repeat it to other people and claim it as their own."

Sexism is the last thing that’s needed in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, where female students and employees are massively under-represented. According to the World Economic Forum, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women, and they’re under-represented in every region of the world. Less than a third of female students choose to study higher education courses in STEM subjects. And women who work in STEM fields publish less and often receive less pay than their male colleagues.

You don’t need to be a woman in STEM to feel all the rage during McDonnell’s TikTok, as shown by the comments. "THIS HAPPENS WAY TOO OFTEN AND IT'S NOT OKAY!!!!!" one person wrote, while another posted, "This made my skin BOIL.”

Some viewers gave McDonnell some tips for future video calls. It seems the only way to respond to a mansplainer is just to keep talking. “Do not stutter. Do not pause. Speak as if they aren't saying anything," one person commented. Another agreed, writing, "Keep talking until they realized they've interrupted you.” 

To any of her male classmates who might have seen the video on TikTok or read the Buzzfeed News interview, McDonnell offered some advice. "You can't change the way they view women overnight, but stepping back and listening... If I have something to say, just listen,” she said. “And not just listen, but implement what I and other women are saying."

"From an outside perspective, you almost have to laugh at how awful it is," she added. "It's a very serious issue that brings to light how many women experience it. It's something that needs to change. Men have to be willing to make those 

Many instances of mansplaining have gone viral in recent years. In 2019, Republican congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama tried to explain a piece of legislation on the gender pay gap to his colleague Democratic congresswoman Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, which Wild shared on Twitter. 

In 2018, PhD student Hilary Jerome Scarsella shared her experience of mansplaining on Facebook, following an encounter with a man in an airport. At the time, Scarsella, who holds two Master's degrees, was completing her PhD in Theological Studies at Vanderbilt University, researching the intersections of religion, trauma, and gender-based violence. 

When the man found out Scarsella had been speaking on these subjects at a conference, he proceeded to try to explain them to her. She’s an expert in her field, but that didn’t stop him. 

In Scarsella’s case, a male colleague who had also attended the conference overheard the mansplainer and was quick to call him out, saying, “Dude, you missed an opportunity. You had an expert in theology and trauma sitting in front of you. You say you’re interested in these things but you didn’t ask her a single question. You didn’t try to learn anything at all from her. You know she has advanced degrees and is published but you just tried to show her that you know more about her work than she does. You missed out. Big fail, man.”

Men of the world, take notes—sometimes it's best to appreciate the amount of knowledge someone has on a topic and just listen. 

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