July 24, 2024

How to: Speak Up for Yourself


If each year’s new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary — such as “pumpkin spice” and “oat milk” –  tell us anything about our global culture, we are deep in a “dumpster fire” of problems with “mansplaining.” 

By definition, mansplaining is when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially to a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to. 

A OnePoll study found in 2020 that, on average, a woman can expect to be mansplained to 312 times in a single year. That’s six times a week. To put that into perspective, some women will be mansplained to more often than days they’ll go to work. CTE Department Chair Samantha Archer has had her own run in with this behavior in her early years of being the department chair. In her eyes, the male counterpart, who no longer works for the district, did not see her as his equal. “It wasn’t so much the things he said to me, but the tone he used. It seemed to feel condescending,” Archer said. Even as a successful department chair in a large school district, she couldn’t escape disrespect.  She added that this went beyond just a patronizing tone. It went as far as not being taken seriously and looked down upon, despite being clearly qualified as a department chair. “I also felt like a lot of assumptions were made about my understanding of some of the equipment or tools used in applied tech and others would feel the need to explain the function of each when we would discuss purchasing or repair needs,” Archer said. 

Archer isn’t alone in being underestimated or not taken seriously, despite being more than qualified.

 Another study from Harvard Law found that men are 50% more likely to speak in classroom settings and 144% more likely to voluntarily comment at least three times when compared to women. Combined with the fact that Princeton University found that males will dominate 75% of meetings, women are being pushed out of important discussions and their viewpoints are absent in decision-making. All of these women can’t be lying and these numbers don’t just appear out of thin air. This is a real issue. 

 It is important to note that being condescending and patronizing can be unintentional or committed by people from other genders in addition to men.  Sometimes men do not realize that they are doing it or they are just so used to it that they don’t see the aggression in their behavior. There’s no way to ensure this never happens to you. There is nothing you can wear or a way you can style your hair to prevent it. What you can do is correct the behavior as it happens. Maria Minor of Forbes prompts that, “calling out the behavior fosters understanding.”  You need to speak up and call it out, set that boundary for everyone to hear. That’s not to say you should yell at them or storm off, especially since, as previously mentioned, men do it without realizing it sometimes. What’s better is addressing the issue head-on and demanding your respect back. Putting your head down isn’t going to get you anywhere, if anything, it’ll leave room for more similar incidents.  Along with Minor, Kristi Hedges of Forbes also advises the following strategies: 

CHECK YOUR BODY LANGUAGE. Research done by Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor at the University of California, shows that oftentimes your body speaks for you, sooner than your mouth. When confronting someone about disrespecting you, it’s best to seem as confident and strong as possible. All it takes is a little bit of fixing your posture. Straighten up your spine, pull your shoulder back, and keep your chin up. Standing strong makes you look strong. Don’t be afraid of a little eye contact and leaning forward. Be direct. Make sure to avoid fidgeting, you want to seem sure of yourself. 

SPEAK WITH INTENT. Make it your goal to not stutter. If this means you need to rehearse in your head before you speak, do so. It’s not the end of the world if you end up stuttering, but speaking loudly and with enunciation is sure to grab the attention of whomever you’re talking to and make them listen to you more carefully. And ultimately take you more seriously. 

COVER YOUR CONFRONTATION WITH HUMOR. The last thing you want to do is escalate this situation and cause a scene. That’s only going to stain your own reputation and bring you closer to a “is it that time of the month?” comment. Make a joke out of it, keep it light hearted, add in a smile. This way you’re less likely to come off as aggressive and offended. It’s a win win because the man won’t become as defensive and you won’t be seen as over-dramatic or emotional.

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