I’ve been mansplained

Let me tell you that last weekend I wrote a tweet and it was immediately commented on with a patronising explanation that completely missed my gag. Just from that, you now know several things, starting with how I got mansplained.

And ending with that I’m a man.

Because I doubt any woman would bother to write about this. One man’s unique experience is every woman’s commonplace occurrence.

I would’ve told you that I get that, I understand it. My closest friends are women and I’ve heard the tales. I promise you I’ve never seen it in real life or I’d have a story to tell about stepping in. But I don’t think you can use social media without knowing it happens.

Wait, I want to tell you what I tweeted. It’s an old joke, but it’s my old joke and as small and slight as it is, I’m proud of it as an idea and one day it’ll find a place in a script. Until then, I left it to rest on Twitter.

“If a tree falls down in a forest, and there’s no one there to hear it,” I wrote, “does it swear?”

That’s it. Told you. Slight. But it’s good. Apparently not good enough for someone who doesn’t use his name. For he gave me a quite admirably concise explanation of the physics of arboreal audio. He even included a dig at the self-centred nature of humanity, which I hadn’t known was under discussion, but there you go.

Here’s the thing. While this has never happened to me before, I thought I knew all about it. Men being toddlers, really, I don’t know how else to say it. My iPhone does know how else to say it: that word just got autocorrected from tossers.

Men do this, they look like fools, we all have a good laugh at their expense – and maybe we sneak a sniff at our armpits to check whether we’ve done the same thing.

What I completely missed was the confusion. I read his reply and now I’m wondering whether he’s really being clever. Never meta-tweet he didn’t like, that kind of thing.

Also, chiefly because of this business that he doesn’t use his name, I’m left wondering if my instant longing to retort sarcastically would be a bad idea. Part of this is that I meet a lot of people in my work so while I don’t remember him, he could be someone I know. Could be someone with problems. Could be both, could be somewhere between the two.

So I don’t know whether I’m missing his point or if my retorting would be damaging either to him or to me.

A friend rescued me. Chris Kent did what hadn’t occurred to me and read back through this fella’s other comments on his twitter timeline. Chris reported that the guy believes the pandemic is a hoax.


Man, that was a relief. Woman, I’ve understood mansplaining but in every sense going, I’ve never got it.

I understood the irritation, I got the surprise, I got the despair at how dumb men can be. But I didn’t get the moments after, the moments where you don’t know what to do, when you’re trapped, really. When the best thing you can do, walking away, feels less sensible or noble, and more like allowing this to continue.

The mansplaining itself was a slap, it stung, it made me smart. Thinking about it obsessively made me know I’ve always been dumb.