Why do men believe they can tell women what to think?
A few years ago, a Caltech study found a relationship between testosterone and men thinking they knew the answers to questions on a test — even if they didn’t. Apparently, testosterone made them too bold to rethink their wrong answers or check their work.
That sounds familiar. We’ve all been in that meeting where Chad or Trey goes on and on, telling everyone how things work. It you are a woman, there is only one thing more infuriating than his grandstanding; it’s when he tries to school you.
For some mysterious reason, there is always somewhere a man with an urge to tell a woman what are the right opinions (his opinions, of course).
That guy can’t just disagree. He has to bulldoze any possibility that her opinion has any weight at all. His argument is not: “I disagree, for X, Y and Z reasons.” It’s: “You’re wrong, and I’m right.” And any attempt to convince him otherwise is just politically-correct pablum to him.
I had some recent experience with this, twice in one week. And on LinkedIn, no less — the tapioca of social media.
I had posted a link to one of my earlier essays from this site, to share it with some of my fellow writers and marketers. It was a rather non-controversial bit, about my objections to people who ask “Where are you from — originally?” within seconds of meeting me.
One commenter in particular seemed remarkably upset at my ideas. He left long screeds in the comments, going on about my “attitude” and concluded “the issue isn’t so much people asking you where you’re from, but rather the steam blowing out of your ears.”
Mind you, this is a rando I can’t even recall meeting, if I ever did. (Although I hear from other women who have been harassed on LinkedIn, I have never had that issue. I often get requests on LinkedIn from dudes whom I’ve no connection in common and have never met. I don’t know what LinkedIn’s algorithms are up to; maybe they got hacked by eHarmony.)
This self-described “very well-traveled cultured person” went on to hector me about my alleged hostility to “people who may not be as PC as one would like“ and complained I left people “walking on eggshells” — something I precisely addressed in the piece.
“Your attitude builds barriers between people rather than bridges,” he said. “If anything, you should be flattered that someone took the interest.”
Obviously, if I’m writing an opinion column, I expect some readers will disagree. Some will even disagree vehemently; opinions are all open to debate.
What I don’t expect is the condescending dismissal of my position, the casual arrogance of presuming to tell a stranger what to think and the assumption that I’m some overheated battleaxe who needs a “cultured person” to show me the ways of polite society. Tone it down, dude; it’s LinkedIn, not Twitter.
Normally, I just dismiss dinosaurs and block trolls. But, like many other women online, I’ve had enough.
So let’s get something clear: I’m a grown woman. I’m self-employed, I’m single, and my father died a decade ago. I’ve no father, husband or boss. In sum, I can honestly say there is no man alive who would try to tell me what to do. Certainly, no one dares tell me how I should feel or what I should think.
Yet, men seem to project all sorts of ideas onto women they don’t know well, or have even met. For some unexplainable reason, they feel they have some right to second-guess women’s opinions and dismiss their judgements as wrong-headed and ill-informed out of hand, knowing nothing about that person, other than her gender.
A week later, again on LinkedIn, I pointed out that a safety-training video someone had posted showed some outdated gender roles. Again, a man felt he had to school me, first humblebragging about the “huge” staff that worked for him at the factories he ran across the world, the university students he taught and his expansive travels.
“This is the first time that one person is taking this attitude about one of my comments,” he whined. If I was bothered, he said “it’s a different thing. It’s about You.”
The contemptuous tone of injured superiority, the outright dismissal of my arguments, was something I’m familiar with. This was a man in disbelief that a woman dared raise her voice.
Boy, some guys really get worked up when a woman questions their opinions. But they feel quite free and easy to put down hers. Well, they’d better get used to some blowback.
In spite of all the coverage “mansplaining” has gotten, some men still don’t get that women can develop thoughts on their own. In her book, Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit sums it up: “Most women fight wars on two fronts: one is for whatever the putative topic is and one is simply for the right to speak, to have ideas.”
Solnit, who’s credited with coining the word “mansplaining,” reached a good conclusion: “Dude, if you’re reading this, you’re a carbuncle on the face of humanity and an obstacle to civilization. Feel the shame.”
But really, this isn’t about shaming anyone (notice no names have been used) and it’s not about browbeating all men. Most guys can engage in a perfectly normal debate on the merits of the argument, not their God-given right to be right.
I just wish the other men would take a moment before they go on the attack and consider that maybe they’re not all-knowing, all-seeing sages they think they are. I have no problem with people having opposing opinions; I have a problem being told I have no right to my opinion.
It is a strange contradiction: If my opinion has so little value, why put so much effort into shooting it down?
Plenty of women have had to endure similar hectoring. I’ve had to suffer through the same lectures about “attitude,” which is really code for “you disagreed with me.” More often than not, when a man tells a woman to “be nice,” he really means “just be quiet and do what I want.”
I know some men of my generation (and some younger ones in certain industries) remember being in a room where there was only one woman in attendance (that was me, once). She was usually careful when she spoke, almost apologetic. It was easy to shut her up.
Well, as I’ve gotten older, I realized thought leadership is just bullshit with balls. It’s a matter of being able to steamroller everyone else into accepting you know what you’re talking about. I’ve done it myself once or twice lately. It’s a skill women are picking up fast. Like those intersex amphibians in the wild, we’re growing balls when we need them.
So bro, don’t be that guy. Regardless of how much testosterone is running through your system, you need to stop and think before you speak. Accept that the little lady can make up her own mind, and she may school you, too.