Mansplaining, Man Buns, and Manspreading
I introduced the first installment of Random Topics for Mixed Metaphors, Oh My! in October 2015 as follows: “As a blogger, I mine my daily life for topics to write about. I set out to find something timely and meaningful, something that my readers can relate to, a universal message or lesson to discover in my lived experience. I’m often left to choose from the mundane, or subjects that pique my curiosity. When this happens, the only common theme is the randomness of my choices. Today, I offer three random topics with absolutely no connection or relation to each other at least that I’m aware of at the outset of this essay. Perhaps as I write, I may discover the subtle relationships that bind them together. Life is like that.” For the most part, the same is true for this new offering in the series, Random Topics II, except man is at the root of every story. It could be more precisely titled, Almost Random Topics.
Before I begin — let me just state clearly — I do not hate men. I am not a feminist man-hater, or a lesbian separatist, however, there have been times in my life that I’ve sought women-only space — because I’ve needed it. There are also men and boys in my life who I love wholeheartedly. Having said that, I can now go on a little guilt-free rant. Please join me!
Definition: (of a man) explaining (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. “I’m listening to a guy mansplain economics to his wife”
About a week ago at work, I was attempting to support one of my male colleagues, a manager. First, a little background. I’ve held many managerial and leadership positions throughout my career in fields that require communication and relationship skills including sales and marketing, public relations, and publishing. I’ve worked over 50 years and have earned the respect of both clients and colleagues. Now, for the organization I’ve worked at for almost 10 years, as I near the end of my working career and am working part-time, I hold an administrative support position. Among many of my duties including sales analysis and internet lead management, I’m also the system administrator for several of our web-based tools.
Full disclosure: I’m also, due to my age and educational background, a late adopter of technology, yet over the years I’ve learned and mastered skills in the workplace that some days even surprise me. In this particular work situation, my male coworker enlisted my help to solve his problem. It’s my job to do so, and I was eager to deliver on the mission. For the next 15 minutes, because he was frustrated, he continued to talk over me, interrupt, assert that he knew the solution if only I would listen, and when I tried to remind him that I was there to help and had the tools and ability to do so, he then focused on the frustration in my voice and proceeded to berate me, finally stating he would find a male colleague more experienced to help him with his problem. Oh my!
To reinforce that this was not an isolated incident, I followed up with another male manager as I was leaving work that day. Earlier in the week, he had enlisted my help. I spent time investigating his problem, identified a solution, drafted a thorough process for resolving the problem which required a couple of action steps on his part. When I asked if he was successful, he indicated that he didn’t follow my recommendations and again wondered aloud if there was someone else who could help him and dismissed me from his office because he was too busy to talk with me and questioned my ability to do my job. It was the end of the work week and as I left, I had one more job to do — I needed to let go of the toxic treatment I received.
These unfortunately are not isolated incidents, or experiences unique to me. They happen every day to women in the home, in school, in personal relationships, and most often in the workplace and in public by strangers. It’s pervasive. As we’ve seen lately, it also happens in boardrooms and Congressional chambers.
In this Age of Trump, women are increasingly losing the respect and trust of their male counterparts, as we’re being treated as objects, our bodies are legislated, unprotected, and sometimes violated by men. As we’ve seen too often, we’re not invited to the table, or when we are, we’re not paid the full attention or given the authority we’ve earned.
Definition: a man’s hairstyle in which the hair is drawn back into a tight coil at the back or top of the head. “the actor wore blue jeans and a polo shirt, pulling back his hair into a very hipster man bun”
There are many fashion trends that years, or decades later, seem a little ridiculous and elicit a response of “What were they thinking?” Now in all fairness, before I judge another gender, let me just say that I too have been guilty of embracing some questionable fashion trends including hairstyles. In 1971 after seeing Jane Fonda in the movie Klute (which I recommend and consider one of her best performances), I rushed out to get her razor-cut, “shag” haircut. Later in 1976, Barbra Streisand appeared in the remake of A Star is Born. I sported a curly perm for my shoulder length hair like hers for a few years, until the 1980s — when I admit — I had a mullet, and like many lesbians, wore it for too many years.
Today, there are a number of hairstyle trends for men and women, though from my point of view, the man bun is the most radical — and ridiculous. The man bun has been embraced by hipsters, actors, musicians, celebrities, and feminist men.
Man buns have now been offered as an optional choice for a Mattel’s Ken doll. This week man buns have even made the cover of New Yorker magazine, a pleasant respite from the spate of Trump covers, which begs the question for me, “How would Trump look in a man bun?” Yes, someone else asked the same question and rendered it.
I suppose that it’s only fair that men fall victim to fashion too from man buns, to kilts, grommets in their ears so large you could push a hot dog through them, and questionable and regrettable tattoos. Years from now it will in fact beg the question, “What were they thinking?”
Definition: the practice whereby a man, especially one traveling on public transportation, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats. “a campaign to discourage manspreading or using an adjacent seat as a footrest”
I’ve always believed and experienced first-hand, that men take up more space than women. I’ve found that while in public, they they are often reluctant to yield public space to women (and often other men) walking on sidewalks, driving on roads, and sitting, while traveling in public transportation.
Researchers who study behavior have concluded that men who manspread are displaying their social dominance and sexual attractiveness. The phenomenon has become so pervasive that according to Wikipedia, “The Oxford English Dictionary added it as a word in August 2015.” Public transit authorities in large metropolitan cities have introduced public relations campaigns to educate the public and encourage men to share space.Some men in the defense of their behavior have complained that women are guilty of “she-bagging,” taking up additional seats with their bags. When women spread their legs, researchers indicate it makes them more vulnerable. According to The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a Canadian men’s rights group, it is “physically painful for men to close their legs” and that campaigns against manspreading is comparable to “[forcing] women to stop breast feeding on busses (sic) or trains…”.
Connecting the Dots
At the outset of this essay, I admitted that at the core of these seemingly random topics was man. I cheated a little from my original Random Topics blog post which featured three topics with absolutely no connection or relationship to each other, yet what I discovered while looking at the three issues in this essay, they plot a continuing evolution of man (the gender, not the species), and prompt a discourse about the proverbial “battle of the sexes.”
Related Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!