It's 2016, and despite the fact that for the first time in history women are more likely to have a college degree than men, mansplaining is still alive and well. Women face mansplaining every day — in meetings, at parties, on social media, or in line for coffee. This irritating occurrence is difficult to escape. It doesn't seem to matter if you have a PhD in neuroscience, that won't stop some dude from assuming you are ignorant on the subject and carefully explaining what he learned in his high school bio class. He got a B+ so he really knows his stuff!
When someone starts mansplaining it can make you feel trapped. There are two choices: either you call the guy on his condescending behavior and risk being rude, or you have to wait till he's done with his uninformed diatribe. The longer you wait, the more frustrating the situation becomes, and the worse you feel.
The portmanteau word "Mansplain" gained popularity in 2008, when an essay called "Men Who Explain Things" (which detailed a particularly glaring incident of mansplaining) was published in the Los Angeles Times. The slang was first used on a LiveJournal blog soon thereafter, and achieved meme status around 2010. It's since been tied to male politicians such as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the scope of the word has reached new heights this election cycle. However, just because mansplaining has gained more public awareness, doesn't make it any less upsetting. Being talked down to can positively make your blood boil, and this anger response can have long lasting effects on your health. If you are wondering why you have sweaty palms, tense muscles, and clenched fists — this is what happens to your body when someone mansplains all over you:
Your Brain Tells Your Body That You're Annoyed
Mansplaining can trigger feelings of annoyance and frustration that slowly build over time. When you are in a team meeting and your male coworker gives a pedantic speech, the part of the brain that processes emotion is triggered. The amygdala, located deep in the temporal lobes, sounds the alarm and lets the rest of the body know that you are upset. The reactive amygdala would have you slap the condescending mansplainer right then and there if it wasn't for a blood flow increase to the left section of the frontal lobe. This meanwhile stimulates the part of the brain over the left eye that controls reasoning, and inhibits an immediate anger response.
You Get A Rush Of Adrenaline
Your body's hormonal response to some dude boring you with his mansplaining is the same as in a fight-or-flight situation. The adrenal glands, located right above your kidneys, kick into gear when they sense a stressful situation and produce a variety of hormones such as adrenaline, testosterone, and cortisol.
Your Heart Rate Increases
This surge of adrenaline encourages you to spring into action — increasing your heart rate and pumping more blood into your muscles and brain. Your chest may feel fluttery, and your hands shaky, but you're trying to keep it together. The longer the man prattles on, the greater your urger to interject grows. When you speak the volume of your voice is louder and you speak faster than usual thanks to all that lovely adrenaline coursing through you. The more you try to get in a few quick words, the more your heart rate increases, fanning the flames of frustration further.
Your Testosterone Levels Rise
Women naturally produce testosterone, which not only helps with our energy levels, muscle building, and bone density, but is closely tied to sexual health and arousal. As your heart rate and blood pressure increase, so do your levels of testosterone. Testosterone has been notoriously linked to aggression and anger, so you will begin to huff and sigh. While you may not have a "come at me, bro!" moment with the mansplainer, you will probably become more assertive and feel the need to take back control of the conversation.
Your Facial Expression Changes
When you're upset your face takes on a negative expression which acts a social cue to those around you. Your eyebrows narrow, your forehead wrinkles slightly, and the corners of your mouth turn down. Studies show that children as young as six-months-old can tell the difference between happy and angry expressions. This social behavior warns the mansplainer to back the f*ck off... though he's probably not paying attention.
You Get Motivated
A 2010 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior found that anger activates an area in the brain's left hemisphere usually linked to more positive emotions, which should produce feelings of closeness. While anger is a negative emotional experience, these feelings can urge us to get closer to the source (perhaps to eliminate the stimulus). You may at this point be tempted to scream in the mansplainer's face, and while I can't professionally encourage that, I can't say he doesn't deserve it.
It Can Have Lasting Effects
Studies have linked chronic anger with higher risks of coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Research suggests that stress is indirectly linked to higher cholesterol levels, leaving an unhealthy build up in your arteries over time. A lifetime of listening to mansplainers could have serious repercussions. If you find yourself at the mercy of a mansplainer... just walk away. Who cares if it's "rude" — it's for your health!