There are endless articles and even a book about how often men try to teach women things we already know. Despite being a raft and adventure guide in the outdoor industry for most of my 20s, I often get approached by men half my age trying to teach me how to do things like setting an anchor. It both infuriates and cracks me up that they assume I need to be taught because I’m a woman. Especially when I started climbing before they were even born.
But I’ve recently realized there’s an even more annoying kind of mansplainer. He’s not the “teacher” type, but rather a seemingly curious man who wants to be “taught.” I call him the Faux Student.
Every woman knows this kind of dude. He’s the mansplainer in disguise. Instead of teaching you something you already know, he wants you to spend your time and emotional labor educating him, often on the finer points of feminism. Only, spoiler alert: These dudes aren’t here to learn jack shit.
I hit my breaking point a couple of months ago when I wrote a super-personal post on Facebook about how I don’t trust male doctors anymore. Well, Faux Student had questions about this. That is, after he pointed out that this is a HUMAN ISSUE (all caps!), not a feminist one. Why do I “have to make everything about sexism!!!!!!!!!!” he asked.
A friend of mine jumped in, posted links to this article to back me up and answered all his patronizing questions. She finally got sick of it and blocked him, but I spent a good 20 minutes tap-dancing around his fragile male ego trying to explain that women in the U.S. die all the time because male doctors don’t listen to us. I even gave a dissertation-level argument backed up with hard facts. But Faux Student wouldn’t drop it. He just didn’t understand, OK?
“Dude, STOP,” I wrote. “I’m not explaining feminism to you.” The empathetic (sorry — codependent) part of me that gives people way too many chances finally said that if he was genuinely interested, I could send him links to articles that explain what I and all the women were talking about on my Facebook post.
The next day, he messaged me a sorry-not-sorry apology. But you know what he didn’t do?
Ask for any of those links.
Not a single one.
Because he doesn’t actually care about this issue. He never did.
“Every woman knows this kind of dude. He’s the mansplainer in disguise. Instead of teaching you something you already know, he wants you to spend your time and emotional labor educating him.”
I used to be willing to enlighten any man who asked me about feminism. But in recent years, I’ve learned a much healthier approach from being in Facebook writing groups with women of color.
Like clockwork, every week or so, an ignorant white lady will say something insensitive or blatantly racist. A woman of color will call her out, and the white lady will invariably play the “That wasn’t my intent but please teach me” card, which then requires long, thoughtful responses from the WOC. These women do so with more compassion and patience than the lady deserves. But white lady usually tries to shut them down with the same gaslighting techniques men use to shut women down. The lesson usually ends with the white lady crying her fragile white tears and calling the WOC bullies.
“I’m trying to understand!” she’ll say right before swearing she’s not racist. This despite the fact that all white people have racism to unlearn.
Over time, I’ve witnessed that a lot of the women of color who had been doing all this free labor stop responding with comments and instead just link to articles that explain the topic at hand. Some have gotten so fed up that they’ve started to list their PayPal account info in the comments. After all, they’re saving these white women hours by providing resources they could and should have researched their damn selves.
Some women refuse to engage at all and instead just say, “Google it.”
I’ve since taken this wisdom into my life as a feminist, and boy, has it been a game-changer. Because honestly, I’m too exhausted to spend my time educating the Faux Student.
For decades now, I’ve been reading numerous articles online about women’s issues, taking feminism classes, talking about feminism with women and men, protesting sexism on the streets, watching TED Talks, and straight up living it. I recently spent my whole Saturday with 5,000 women protesting sexual assault here in France while my guy friends slept in and enjoyed a leisurely weekend. I rarely meet men who actively educate themselves about feminism, read books or articles by women, or watch our TV shows and movies.
Think about all the things I could do if learning about feminism (and all forms of social injustice) didn’t consume so much of my time! It’s an endless, exhausting but necessary time suck for us. And that’s just the beginning of our firewall!
“I rarely meet men who actively educate themselves about feminism, read books or articles by women, or watch our TV shows and movies.”
Then there’s all the unpaid labor women do at home, all the efforts we make keeping ourselves safe, the money and time we spend trying to recover from small or big doses of trauma we’ve already experienced. It’s a full-time job just existing as a woman.
In fact, just the other day, a man followed me home from the gym and harassed me the entire way until I stopped at the wrong apartment building and pretended to be going home (more mental energy wasted trying to outsmart the bad guys!). Once I did get home, I was shaking and livid for a good two hours afterward and couldn’t get any work done. He reminded me of all the other men who’ve followed me, sexually assaulted or harassed me, or simply scared the living shit out of me.
See why we’re so tired, guys? And why we don’t have time to educate your asses?
I find it insulting when men who’ve put zero effort into learning about women’s rights, much less fighting for them, ask me to take even more of my time and energy to explain it to them.
These exhausting men have made me realize just how much emotional labor it requires for a marginalized group to educate people outside said group, making me appreciate all the more the many people of color who’ve taken the time and effort to educate me over the years. Like them, I am willing to teach men who are open and respectful enough to have these sometimes hard conversations (I mean, we’re fighting for men too, duh). But I’m too tired, busy, and honestly, have zero fucks left to give those who don’t.
For the Faux Student, I now say “Google it.”
Unless they want to PayPal me. Then I’m totally game.