If a cartoon lands in the forest and no woman is around to see it, does a man still explain it to her? Judging from the reaction to a recent New Yorker cartoon about mansplaining, the answer is a resounding yes. Then again, I probably don't need to tell you that. It's no secret that mansplaining explains itself — literally. Every time the subject comes up, a man spontaneously manifests to inform his unwilling audience that actually, it's not mansplaing, it's explaining, and really, everyone is condescending in their own way.
That's exactly what happened after New Yorker cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein shared one of this week's cartoons on Twitter. The illustration sums up mansplaining pretty much perfectly, showing two people seated at a dinner table. "Let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence," the man is saying, gesturing with his wine glass. The woman, eyeing him wearily, appears to be in the middle of chugging her own wine. If you've been on the wrong end of mansplaining before, which virtually every woman has, it's a familiar situation.
For the uninitiated, though, mansplaining refers to men's tendency to explain things to other people with utmost confidence, even if he is comparatively ignorant in the subject. In the 2008 essay "Men Explain Things to Me," writer Rebecca Solnit gave the quintessential example. While at a party in Aspen, Colorado, the host struck up a conversation about books. After she mentioned that she had written one about English photographer Eadward Muybridge, he interrupted her to inform her that she had to read the "very important" book about Muybridge that had been published this year. He was talking about Solnit's own book, of course, and when she finally was able to inform him that he had written it, he admitted that he hadn't actually read it. Oof.
It's an all-too-common phenomenon, which is why Angela Hanks, the associate director of the Center for American Progress, retweeted Katzenstein's cartoon to her own account on Tuesday with the caption "Cc: every woman who has ever lived."
With several hundreds likes and retweets, it received a modest amount of attention. But the facepalm-worthy — the reason you're reading this article — can be seen in the comments section. Several (apparently male) users replied to the tweet to shout into the void that actually, mansplaining happens to everyone.
"Women do it to men too. It's called bieng [sic] human," protested one user.
But the crowning jewel in the mansplaining crown, the encapsulation of all that is patronizing, came when a man took it upon himself to explain this in more detail.
"This happens to men too. All the time," wrote user Mike Fellman. "People who are truly experts aren't phased by it. I'm a chess master, weaker players challenge my views on the game all the very time. In the end I'm usually right, but my arguments are sharpened."
Good for him, I guess? This is, of course, the very problem to which Hanks was referring. When other users noticed his clueless response, it went viral.
The general consensus? On top of being a lesson in mansplaining, his tweet exemplifies irony.
When Hanks noticed his tweet, her response was succinct.
This isn't the first time a man has unintentionally mansplained mansplaining to the world, and unless human nature undergoes a drastic change overnight, it won't be the last. Head, meet desk. Something tells me you're going to get to know each other well.