“Rachel, you have to read this book. It’s called Be Your Own Windkeeper. It’s about how women need to become more empowered.”
“Yeah and oh, and but there’s, there’s wind and the wind can make us Goddesses. But you know who takes out wind? Men, they just take it.”
“Men just take out wind?”
“Ya-huh, all the time, cause they are the lightning bearers.”
This conversation from the popular American sitcom Friends is perhaps a very underrated moment of recognising male privilege, coming from a 90s television series. The three female leads, Monica, Rachel and Phoebe discuss a book which discusses how men take away power from women in everyday situations.
Take, for instance the guys who tell you how to do your job in spite of showing no evidence of knowing it better than you. The men who yell out their expert opinions on your looks in public. The ones who insist on giving you advice on your gym workout in spite of the instructor saying your form is fine. The ones who insist you are attracted to them, you just haven’t realized it yet. The ones who tell you that you’re too fat to be pretty, too pretty to be smart, too smart to be likeable, too likeable to be opinionated, too opinionated to be worthy of love. The ones who take time out of their busy lives to give you “constructive criticism”. They are the gods that we don’t deserve, and frankly, never asked for.
But sometimes they approve of you. Someone told me that I’m too soft spoken, but that’s great because that’s how single young girls should be. Someone told my friend she was good-looking and dressed well, but if she wasn’t so loud she would be much more likeable and approachable. I once overheard someone tell a stranger that she seems like a simple and good girl, and wearing revealing clothes doesn’t suit a “decent” girl like her.
Women have the reputation of being too emotional, too sensitive, too talkative. The way I see it, we’re trained since childhood to walk on eggshells when it comes to fragile masculinity. To constantly be wary of offending men, not conforming to the male gaze, not being able to fulfill their requirements as a woman. And when we fail, there will be relentless complaining and whining from the ‘quieter’ sex.
It’s nothing serious; we tell ourselves and each other. Just ignore it. It’s a petty problem. An omnipresent but relatively unimportant problem. The constant undermining by strangers and loved ones is just something that we must get used to.
In 2017, I started making comics. Apart from being fun and cathartic, they’ve also opened me to a new side of mansplaining. I once made a comic about what it felt like to have boobs and wear a seatbelt, and a man messaged me explaining how I was wrong. I made a joke about men being complicated and at once got responses that said #notallmen. Numerous men have told me that my jokes are wrong, my kind of humour is too negative, my knowledge is insufficient, my art is below par (the last one is true). And yes, it does shake my confidence a little. But then I remember the reason I’m doing this: for myself. And I shall make a comic about what I want, using my dry wit and my terrible drawings.
It has never ceased to fascinate me how men have the confidence to talk down to women about something that they have no expertise on. You say you only have her interests at heart, but all you want to do is undermine her confidence so you’ll feel good about yourself. Even though I know the answer is ‘patriarchy’, let me just pose this question for you: Sir, what gave you the authority? Were you specifically asked for your feedback? If not, then let her be. She is doing just fine without your generosity.
Featured Image Credit: “MANSPLAIN ~ The magazine for women written by men” – this satirical magazine cover was made by Matt Round to highlight misogyny.