Op-ed: ‘Mansplaining’ is overused and can undermine true cases of the practice

Madison Boudreau Popovic, contributor

There is no doubt that women have been seen as inferior to men throughout history. There is still work to be done, but we must also recognize the great progress women have achieved with gender equality. As such, we must stop victimizing women with terms such as “mansplaining,” by using it out of context. Mansplaining is “the practice of a man explaining something to a woman in a way that shows he thinks he knows and understands more than she does.” This does happen; however, the term is often taken out of context and used as a crutch when women underperform. When used incorrectly, it undermines instances of true mansplaining.  

Mansplaining in politics has become popular, most recently during the vice presidential debate. Some Americans claimed Vice President Mike Pence mansplained Sen. Kamala Harris by interrupting her. However, Harris also interrupted Pence, but this was not focused on. In total, Pence interrupted Harris 16 times and Harris interrupted Pence nine times. Although Pence interrupted Harris more than Harris did, these additional interruptions are irrelevant given that the two spoke for relatively the same amount of time during the debate. Both candidates cut each other off, but that is merely the nature of a debate. 

Based on these numbers, this is not a case of mansplaining, and Democrats are merely using this term as a crutch for Harris’ failure to successfully rebut Pence’s claims that she did not reform the criminal justice system as she did not have any qualms with prosecuting African Americans on drug charges.

As individuals running for one of the highest positions in the U.S. government, they should both be expected to handle interruptions during the vice presidential debate. Reporter Martha Raddatz said it best, “Kamala Harris is a vice presidential candidate, she should be able to stand up for herself.” It gets to a point when the public must realistically ask themselves: Was Harris not heard because she is a woman, or was it because she just could not handle the presented scenario? It was most definitely the latter. 

It is undeniable that gender equality still has a long way to go. However, by using the term “mansplaining” as an easy excuse for poor performance, women are not held to the same standard as men. By improperly applying the word, we undermine the true instances of mansplaining.

Madison Boudreau Popovic is a first-year political science and business administration combined major. She can be reached at [email protected].