There are plenty of neologisms going around sparking online gender wars. Women accuse men of everything from ‘mansplaining’ to ‘manslamming’, and men counter them by calling women ‘feminazis’ and ‘man-haters’, saying they are hallucinating bad behaviour by men everywhere. Before delving into both sides of this convoluted debate, let us see what these terms mean.
‘Mansplaining’ is a man explaining something to a woman in a condescending manner, often under the wrongful assumption that she is ignorant about the subject.
‘Manspreading’ is a neologism used to describe a man sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat.
‘Manterrupting’, rather self-explanatory, means unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man.
‘Bropropriating’ stands for a man taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it.
‘Manslamming’ describes a man who is oblivious of or unwilling to make way for a woman coming from the opposite direction, and slamming into her if she doesn’t move away in time.
‘Manderstanding’ is when jokes or banter is exchanged in social settings that only men will understand or agree with, leaving all the women confused and left out.
Several men have since hit out saying that all these terms are inherently unfair since women also indulge in similar behaviour. For example, the term ‘hagbagging’ is used as the equivalent of manspreading, to describe women who use up an additional seat on public transport for their bags or other personal items.
Detractors also say that feminists conveniently ignore the fact that many of these bad behaviour indulged in by men are not just against women but also against other men. According to psychologists, there is an innate difference in how both genders approach conversations in social occasions. Men mostly tend to establish their dominance by talking about a topic they are knowledgeable in (or can pass off as knowledgeable in) so that they can wrangle a place at the top of the hierarchy in that setting. Women, on the other hand, try to establish a connection with the group by talking about common interests and themes.
But what happens when these differences flare up in a work setting. When large groups get together for meetings or brainstorming sessions at work, many women find it difficult to get their point across. Of course, it is unfair to stereotype the sexes in this manner since there would be several reserved and soft-spoken men who face the same problem. There are also several women who do not face these issues either. But in workplaces where women are a minority in terms of numbers they do face higher chances of being manterrupted and even bropropriated. Often, women who face such behaviour stop contributing their thoughts and ideas, and retreat into a shell.
So what can women do to deal with these situations?
If you are trying to be heard in a loud group trying to out-talk each other, sometimes all that is required is raising your voice a bit and enunciating clearly when you have an idea or opinion to share.
Do not start with phrases like “Not sure if this makes sense but…” or “I am sorry, but…”. Instead, state your opinion or point firmly. For example, “I am of the opinion that the best way to deal with the situation is such and such.”
If you maintain passing eye contact with most members of the group, you are more likely to be heard.
If you are talking about a subject you are confident about and feel that your opinion can bring about a positive difference, but you are interrupted while speaking, be firm and say, “Please let me finish.”
A work culture where everybody, man or woman, is supportive of each other and discourage interruptions, say, by telling the interrupter, “let her finish,” pre-empts the need for a larger intervention or strategy.
Body language and human behaviour are fascinating subjects and knowledge of the same can help in transforming offices into environments where healthy, respectful interaction between all employees is the norm. After all, a happy workforce is also a productive one.