Friday 14 June 2013

Mansplaining the Mansplainer

This is a fantastic story my wife Judith Underwood told me many years ago, posted here with her permission.

Before I go on, let's just clear up the definition of mansplaining:
"The tendency of some men to mistakenly believe that they automatically know more about any given topic than does a woman and who, consequently, proceed to explain to her- correctly or not- things that she already knows."  Urban Dictionary
I was pointed to the "Mansplained" tumblr today by Mikael.  It's fantastic, though wear fire retardant clothes if you are a woman or have ever liked a woman.

By wife once scored a wonderful triumph by mansplaining to a mansplainer.  Here's the story.

When she did her degree in maths and computer science at Oberlin College in the late 80s, they had a computer lab full of terminals.  (In those days terminals would be "dumb terminals", probably a green on black screen with no fancy graphics, but I just mention that for nostalgia.)

One of the terminals in this particular lab had the habit that once in a while it would freeze up.   It would freeze for maybe 15 minutes.  The only fix was to not touch any keys.  Every time you touched a key, it would be frozen for 15 minutes. You had to walk away and use another terminal, and 15 minutes later it would come back to life. All the CS students knew this, but other occasional visitors would get caught.

One day Judith was in the lab and a man came in and started using this terminal.  It froze up.

The guy started expressing exasperation.  Judith told him he had to leave it for fifteen minutes. The guy started banging keys.  Judith told him he had to leave it for fifteen minutes. The guy started mansplaining to Judith that there were various things he could try.  Judith told him he had to leave it for fifteen minutes. The guy started banging various other keys.

Judith just said to him: "Just leave it for fifteen minutes, and don't worry your pretty little head about it."

She walked away and he looked dumbfounded.  He'd been mansplained.

I love my wife.

As a coda, purely for fun, here is a picture of me and my wife, a few years after this story happened but so long ago that a digital camera was super cool, in black and white only, and in research labs like at Cornell where she did her PhD.  She still has the same great hair, and I don't.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of when I went up to the till in James Thins (Dundee, then by City Square) once, with a programming book. The young bloke behind the till said something along the lines of that will be a bit technical, are you sure you will follow it? I glowered, and said I do have a degree in computer science. He looked a bit stunned, shut up, and served me quietly.