I am pretty embarrassed by all corny portmanteaus, and honestly, "mansplaining" — as useful a term it is — is one of them. However, for brevity's sake, I will use it throughout this article, which will address not just the phenomenon itself, but also a number of witty comebacks to mansplaining. As annoying as the word "mansplaining" is, the actual act of mansplaining is even more annoying — and none of us have to take it sitting down.
For those who somehow missed this coinage, mansplaining is not merely when a man explains something to you that you don't know (that is simply called "explaining" — have you heard of it?); it's when a man tries to explain something to you that you already know. In fact, you're likely an expert in the subject at hand, while he's a novice. But the mansplainer in question won't back down when he finds out you're an expert in this topic; he will still mansplain. Two examples that happened to me recently: A man, knowing that I've worked in the media for years, tried to "explain" to me how media bias works and used his experience as a caterer as his credentials. And, after a barista asked me a question about my experience enduring sexism as a woman, a man interrupted me and tried to explain it himself.
Mansplaining is a particularly irritating habit that self-described alpha men tend to fall into. Do men mansplain to others? Sometimes — I've seen it in action — but it's not quite the same thing, due to the fact that preconceived notions about gender roles aren't in play in the same way. And while I hate to universalize, I never really see women do it, either; they're more likely to downplay their own expertise and couch all their knowledge in apologies and deprecation.
Either way, though, we'll all likely encounter a disappointing amount of mansplaining in our lifetimes — so I decided to come up with some comebacks you can use when faced with mansplaining (because, for the love of God, don't smile and nod. However obligatory the gesture seems to you, it's just going to encourage him). Fine print: As world-weary 6 year olds know, the best comeback is always rolling your eyes and laughing at the person. Try it; it's withering.
1. "Ooh, Do You Have a Doctorate In That?"
I'd say this in a sexy, breathless, over-the-top voice, like I want to bang this professor of the Telling-Me-How-To-Read-An-Effing-Subway-Map Department at the top university of your choice.
2. "Would You Look At That: This Guy Reads!"
Best said in a mock Brooklyn accent for some reason? Like you're a mob guy pretending to be amused? You can add things like, "Paulie, come over here and check out the brains on this guy!" and, "He's a regular Joe Harvard!" until the mansplainer gets uncomfortable with your commitment to the character bit.
3. [Incomprehensible Jargon]
This guy wants to go on about HTML headers when you're a C++ coder, does he? He asked for it: Start getting technical as hell. "Of course you're right about changing the background color on a Geocities webpage, but also local variables are created as the point of execution passes the declaration point. If the variable has a constructor or initializer, this is used to define the initial state of the object. Local variables are destroyed when the local block or function that they are declared in is closed. C++ destructors for local variables are called at the end of the object lifetime, allowing a discipline for automatic resource management termed RAII, which is widely used in C++." I don't know what any of that stuff after "Geocities webpage" means, by the way, I took it word-for-word from Wikipedia. But hey, you're the expert, you can do better!
4. "Your Beliefs Seem Pretty Emotional and Idealistic To Me."
This is known as "trolling." When a man gets up in your face about your political beliefs and then tries to explain why you are just, like, scientifically wrong about supporting a woman's right to choose, try dismissing him using the same types of insults frequently lobbed at women when they express an opinion: He's "shrill," "not rational" "hysterical" "crazy." Now, this is a powerful weapon, so use it wisely. Don't lob it during respectful disagreements. Lob it when you're arguing with a man who is condescending and who thinks your well-researched point-of-view is childish. Also, try to goad him into pronouncing Ayn Rand's name, because he'll probably do it wrong. But that's just for fun.
5. "Wow, Your Diploma Must Be Very, Very Big."
You know, a penis joke.
6. "Hmm, That Sounds Pretty Vague to Me. Can You Be More Specific?"
A classic mansplaining tactic is for the man to cover up his lack of expertise through a use of vague buzzwords. It may sound counterintuitive, but actually asking him a question about something highly specific is a great way to shut him up. Especially if you follow it up with, "I happen to be an expert in this field and everything you're saying is obvious or nonsensical." Sometimes you just have to channel your inner Scully and be direct, professional, and merciless.