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#439: The dynamic duo of mansplainers

Bratman & Snobbin

“Don’t let the fact that we wear our underwear on the outside mislead you; we know more than you about everything.

Dear Captain Awkward:

This should be a quickie, at least to ask. I have two friends (they’re dating) who constantly argue with me about the field I’m studying in graduate school. They challenge my knowledge about it, and honestly about most everything, up to and including outright telling me I’m wrong about something I just took a class on. They don’t, however, argue with my boyfriend. It’s driving me crazy – I can’t be around them without wanting to pull my hair out and scream because of their constant arguing, getting frustrated with me as if I’m being stupid for disagreeing, and even just plain yelling.

These two are great friends of mine, or at least their friendship is very valuable to me, and while one has never been the easiest to get along with (just one of those people), the other hasn’t really been that bad. They’re also partners, and both male. 

The arguing is actively interfering with every aspect of our friendship, because (1) I hate arguing – which they know, and (2) they do it EVERY TIME I see them. Every single time, and if by some miracle they don’t argue with me about my field of study, they find something else, something innocuous, to ask me about and then vehemently disagree with me. So far, I just leave the room/take a walk/play games in the bathroom when it gets too bad, but then I wind up being tense and out of sorts for hours from the argument, so it’s just not working for me anymore.

Basically, I want them to stop arguing with me. It’s one thing to ask a question about something I know (like the color of the sky), say “Oh, I thought it was fuschia today” and then drop it, and another entirely to say “No, you’re wrong, it’s not blue, it’s fuschia, I know because of my extensive knowledge in knowing and your study of this subject is clearly wrong because I say so,” and then continue asserting said position in the face of any and all evidence (including referring them to the clearly blue sky). Sorry, but I’m just so tired and angry from all the arguing. I just want a way to be reasonable, calm, and tell them that they’re driving me crazy and they need to stop this moment. Except . . . I don’t think just saying that will cut it.

Thanks for whatever help you can offer,
Argued Out

Dear Argued Out:

I doubt that these guys have the self-awareness to grok Rebecca Solnit’s great piece about mansplaining, so sending them a link and saying:

Seriously, this is what you do whenever we hang out. It is sexist, it is annoying, and I want it to stop.

…is likely to just get you a long explanation about why it’s not really sexist and you’re being oversensitive and stuff. (I do not know for sure that you are a lady, actually, but the fact that these guys don’t treat your partner the way they treat you makes me think that you might be. Correct me if I am wrong, please!)

My honest advice is that whatever it is that you like about these guys, it is not enough to put up with the behavior you describe, and probably the best thing you can do is to put the energy you’d put into hanging out with them into finding cooler people to hang out with. You could make one last ditch:

I value our friendship, but the constant arguing is wearing me down and making me not want to hang out with you. Is there any way we can cool it? If not, I think it’s better if we stop being friends.

Since the survival of the friendship actually is at stake, I think you lose nothing by being very, very blunt. Normally I would suggest that the next time they start the arguing thing, say “New topic, please. I don’t want to argue or listen to you argue about this.” Or, “Actually, of the people at the table, I am the expert on this, and I am done arguing about it. New topic now.”

If When they refuse to change the subject and keep arguing, leave. Oh wait, you’re already doing that, right? You are leaving and then feeling out of sorts and annoyed after you see them? Have you ever tried asking them to leave, if the hanging out is taking place at your house?

I don’t like how you are talking to me, and I would like you to leave now.

Friends who make you always feel tense and annoyed and dread seeing them, friends who browbeat you and yell at you and ignore your stated wishes, friends who treat you like you are stupid, friends who make you hide from them in the bathroom(!)….maybe shouldn’t be your friends anymore. I know you want to preserve this thing, but what if you took a few months off from any contact with them and gave yourself a break? Maybe you’ll find out you don’t miss them, or maybe you’ll find out that they make fine small-doses friends.  I think you owe it to yourself to give yourself some distance and a break from the verbal abuse.

Maybe after taking a break, you can try hanging out with the nicer one without his partner. Sometimes couples bring out the worst in each other in social situations, and these arguments might be some performance of their relationship that is more about them than it is about you. I think if that were true it would still be very bad juju, but if you think that one of the guys is treating his partner the way he treats you (or using the way he treats you to browbeat the partner and keep him in line), you might try hanging out separately and see if things are less tense and awful. It’s okay not to do things “as a couple” and seek out the company of only the person you like. You don’t have to denigrate his partner to him or make it about excluding his partner, but “I never get to see just you anymore, want to get breakfast and catch up?” might be a good way to ease yourself back in and see if there is something worth preserving. But do this AFTER taking at least a short break, ok? You come first.

Let your partner go hang out with them if he wants to, but make it clear to him that they are not invited to your house and that you don’t want to be around them for a good while, and he is not allowed to pressure you about that. What does he say when he witnesses this behavior? Does he back you up on getting you to cool it, or does he take their side or join in? That seems like it might be the potentially stickier wicket.

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351 comments
  1. dawnofthenerds said:

    Oof, this is timely. My ‘friend’ will jump into a conversations to tell me all about how he doesn’t like pretty much every single book, movie, or television show that I do. He goes on at length about his preferred media, but has nothing but negativity and condescension for anything he doesn’t like. It’s exhausting and frustrating to be in the same room as him, never mind trying to carry on a conversation. And thanks to the wonderful Captain and this here community, I’ve figured out that even though everyone else might think it’s really minor, it doesn’t matter. I don’t like it, and that’s more than reason enough to avoid him or at least minimize contact.

    People who get your hackles up like that are not acting like friends. If these guys know that you don’t like arguing and they pick a fight every time? They’re not acting like friends. They’re being assholes, and they’re trampling all over your feelings. The fact that you’re still worried about theirs means you’re a kind and good person, and I hope that everything works out for you.

    • Maggie said:

      My husband used to sort of be like this (and also occasionally did the I Am Right About All The Things, even if he isn’t), and it IS really obnoxious.

      What helped in our case, though, is that 1) he is actually a very caring and sweet person and 2) we got more explicitly feminist together. Things like how everything “girly” is terrible, etc, has been noted and he applies that shit to himself. So he’s cut it out with the X Pop Music Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad.

    • Ethyl said:

      ::nodnod:: I am actually no longer friends with two of Those Guys in my former friend group (omg the geek social fallacies you guys, I can’t even). The first one ultimately made a seriously distasteful rape joke on the book of the face, and it was just the last straw. Of course I was subjected to a tirade of BUT WHYYY and Here is Why You Are Wrong, all over Facebook, my blog, and into mine and my friends’ inboxes. ARGH. The second one thankfully initiated the breakup because I was no fun anymore (spoilers: it was because he was a horrible misogynist). So not worth it.

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        Isn’t it amazing how often “no fun any more” overlaps with “no longer willing to put up with your horrible behaviour and attitudes” in the minds of Those Guys?

        • Ethyl said:

          SO WEIRD.

          Ugh these guys.

    • Anon For This said:

      I’ve had to talk to SO about the difference between “{X Interest} is not really my thing” and “{X interest} is stupid” as in.. yes, I’m going to get mad when you say “X thing is stupid” when X thing is something I am interested in. I don’t get mad when you don’t like something I like, because THAT IS TOTALLY OKAY. I get mad when you say it’s stupid, because that implies that I am also stupid for liking it. He was fairly dumbfounded when I pointed this out as he didn’t see the correlation. He’s getting better about how he words these things, thankfully.

    • manybellsdown said:

      My mother is a lot like this. Things She Likes are perfectly sensible things to like, and Things She Does Not Like are “stupid” and she doesn’t understand why anyone likes them. Video games are “stupid”, despite the fact Mr. Bells has been making them for 15 years and they pay for her cell phone and her plane tickets to see us. But then she joined a “Wii Bowling League” and bought a Wii and suddenly that’s not “stupid” anymore. Although, she did say that it doesn’t actually *count* as a video game because “I’m not killing dragons.”

      • I sympathise 100%. My dad does this too. If he doesn’t like something, it’s “rubbish”. Even if it’s Bach, who’s generally reckoned among the greatest composers of all time even by those who don’t like him.

        Every now and then, I try to have the conversation. “No, Dad,” I say gently. “That’s not rubbish. It’s just something you don’t like. How would you like it if someone told you that Beethoven was rubbish?”

        “Well, they’d be quite wrong, because he isn’t,” says Dad.

        *headdesk*

      • dawnofthenerds said:

        *nods* He pulls this logic too. He claims he only likes movies etc that are ‘intellectually stimulating’ and yet he loves B movies, some of which are horribly misogynistic and racist, because he’s ‘just analyzing the socio-cultural milieu that led to this cultural artifact.’ So basically, anything he likes is soooo intellectual, and everything else is shallow, infantile, and boring.

        • Julie said:

          This was my entire experience of graduate school. So demoralizing.

          • dawnofthenerds said:

            Ha! Guess where I am right now!

        • It would be easier if people could be more comfortable owning their affection for objectively terrible things. Sometimes, it reflects something terrible about your inner self or whatever, but sometimes it doesn’t, and there’s all kinds of ways to come to terms with that that isn’t “well I only watch it in this terribly intellectually ironic way that nobody else does”.

          Just like what you like! Acknowledge the problematic parts, decide how you want to deal with them, but if you like it, like it! Sheesh.

          • Xenophile said:

            I love this blog post: http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2011/09/how-to-be-a-fan-of-problematic-things/ I have a really long list of movies that I love that are also effing racist. If someone tells me they can’t stomach Lost In Translation because, surprise surprise, Japanese people aren’t actually a bizarre alien species in real life, or because the protagonists’ ennui is really a product of their own privilege and elitism, I have to concede the point because they’re totally right. But I still own the DVD.

          • manybellsdown said:

            I believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Because I choose to. I don’t care if it’s dumb or silly or childish or even if it can’t possibly exist.

            I also like Barry Manilow. SO THERE.

          • ReanaZ said:

            I used to think all art criticism was stupid (slightly cheeky blanket statement? but also my real feels) because most of what I was exposed to was this hyper-“intellectual”-and-if-I-and-this-narrow-paradigm-don’t-think-it’s-awesome-and-you-do-you’re-swine variety. And then I stumbled across the New Sincerity movement page on wikipedia and felt better about the world.

        • … do we know the same person? This guy annoys the shit out of me but his girlfriend is my best friend so sometimes he’s hard to avoid D: Whenever he talks about something or someone (“intellectual”, of course) and you don’t know who/what it is/you haven’t read that book/actually you’re not really that interested in existentialist philosophy at all can we please change the topic? CONDESCENSION ENSUES. My god, you are such a PLEBE, how could you not know! I SHALL MAKE YOU ASHAMED OF YOUR IGNORANCE.

          • Possibly? But this guy doesn’t actually make me feel stupid for not knowing about the stuff he likes, it’s more that he’s very assertive in recomending stuff that he likes to me, but when I try to recommend something that I think he might like, then of course, he’s heard of it, doesn’t like it, and goes on at length about how terrible it is. This especially sucks because I’ve usually recommended something I’m a fan of myself, and he winds up making me feel defensive and ashamed for liking, say, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Harry Potter, or Doctor Who. Actually once told me that his opinion of me went way down because I think Channing Tatum is good looking, and Obnoxious Dude think’s he’s dumb as a post, and apparently that makes me totally shallow. Gah!!

          • Does it really matter how intelligent an actor is? You’re not assessing them for their neuroscience skills or something, you’re… watching them act. It’s perfectly reasonable to like them for how they look or their voice or the way they form their vowels or how they always play a particular character type that you’re fond of or WHATEVER REASON YOU WANT and their personal intelligence is really sort of completely fucking irrelevant to that.

          • Arguably, it is even a sign of groundedness to recognize that a celebrity’s intelligence has nothing to do with you because you don’t actually know them, and your “relationship” is never going to consist of anything more than you enjoying pictures of them!

          • You guys are the best. Seriously, thank you.

      • Commenter said:

        But if you could kill dragons with bowling, wouldn’t that be GREAT?

        …I went slightly off topic there. I apologize.

        Yeah, I’ve also known a few people like this. It’s incredibly frustrating.

        • SOMEONE MAKE THIS GAME. I WILL PLAY IT ALL THE TIME.

        • Grumpy Cat said:

          Sometimes I kill zombies with bowling. It’s very soothing.

      • Yes my mom is like this too! “Let’s go swimming, it’s wonderful!” “But I don’t like swimming…” “But it’s so much fun!” “For you, not for me.” // “Can we listen to something with a pretty melody that isn’t stupid?” “Those are subjective things, *I* don’t think the things I listen to are stupid, but sure, I’ll try to pick out something you may like.”

      • I have this problem all the time, but in reverse.
        I am a girl who plays online video games. I don’t like PvP (player vs player) aspects of games and I do not play them. When I’m playing an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game e.g. WoW) no matter what guild I’m in, who I meet, at some point I’m invited to join them in PvP.

        I politely decline and say “No thank you, I don’t enjoy PvP but I’d be happy to join you in any PvE (player vs environment e.g. computer stuff and not fighting real people) activities you do later.” I am then told that, why not? PvP is great. PvP is objectively awesome and fun, and I absolutely WILL LIKE IT if I try it, and the only reason silly little me thinks I don’t like it is because I haven’t tried it in this game, in this style, in this version in this game, in this role in this game, with them, in this role with them, in this version of this game in this role with them – etc. Everything will be fine. They know what I like and what I will enjoy better than I do, if I would just stop being so obstinate and let them tell me what’s good for me, stop being a spoilsport and join in, they would be able to open me up to entire worlds of enjoyment my silly female brain couldn’t conceive of.

        It is so incredibly infuriating and it happens quite literally with absolutely everyone, every guild, every online gaming community I ever join. I am then ridiculed or treated as weird, pressed to reasons why I don’t like PvP/don’t want to join in, even though I’m totally upfront and say look, this is just a thing I don’t enjoy. It’s fine that you enjoy it, I’m glad that you do, but I do not want to take part, so no thank you.
        This, apparently, either makes me a lesser class of being (a “carebear”, someone who only dislikes PvP because they are bad at it, a drain on the gamer society who isn’t helping the team, etc) or someone so stupid I simply don’t understand why it’s fun because I haven’t done it properly, and everyone but me knows what I will enjoy better than I do.

        I’m sorry that turned out kind of ranty, but it drives me nuts. Why is it so difficult for people to see that just because something is fun for them, it is not necessarily objectively fun for everyone else? Or to just accept my word when I say I know what I enjoy and it isn’t that?

        • Kevin S said:

          I’m a male MMOer and I honestly can say I enjoy PVP as much as you do. I’m not a hyper competitive person, I’m into most games for their stories. I don’t tend to get much flack for it, but maybe that has to do with the guilds I join.

          • That’s interesting! I’ve had the same reaction across US and EU servers, on every MMORPG I’ve played, from every guild I’ve been in for years – and I would look for PvE raiding guilds with a strong PvE focus!
            I wonder if the difference is just difference in communities, or if people are more willing to take your word for it that you know what you like because you’re a guy.

        • I have also had people bug me about PvP, but fortunately not the the extent they bother you.

          My response – I don’t like to lose, so I never pick on anyone my own size. I prefer to kill cows and chickens.

          This, for some reason, always gets a laugh, although there is SO MUCH truth in it. Seriously, bosses? Why bother? I hate trudging back to pick up my stuff after I die. I don’t like to play it close. I like to play it easy.

          As for only doing PvP against people who are on the same level of cows and chickens, well, let’s just say I remember my noob days, and don’t want to do that to other people who may, if left alone, eventually grow up to be good in-game buddies of a similar level to me, or even higher. My sister, for example. I begged for her to play with me, and eventually she joined in for one evening, just to shut me up. She was immediately hooked, and now is far, Far advanced beyond me. Had I been mean to her, while she was a noob, she would not now me giving me awesomesauce gear that I can’t make or afford, yet.

          See? Kindness to noobs and cowardice against people of the same or higher levels is a successful game strategy!

    • Laura Jane said:

      Yeah… He sounds like a jerk. Just like my ‘friend’ in bible study… want me to slap him with fish?

      • With many frozen fish! Just for the halibut XD

        • Not tonight; I got a haddock.

    • Neddy the Stylish said:

      It’s particularly depressing when all of this starts up in the middle of an established friendship. As a teenager, my best friend was a boy, and he was the best. Until. . . I swear it’s like he woke up one morning when he was about twenty and realised that he was a guy and male privilege kicked in and suddenly he thought his (and other guys’) opinions on everything were way more valid than mine or any other woman’s. I had to listen to him bitch about how unreasonable his girlfriend was for wanting to double up contraceptive methods to be extra safe (seemed sensible to me) when “No, the Pill definitely is 100% effective. She’s just being an idiot.” Another friend was “stupid and sentimental” for choosing not to abort an unintended pregnancy. And he’d get actually angry if I had the nerve to disagree with him. Yeah. Friendship went rapidly downhill after that.

      I haven’t seen him for years. He’s a doctor now. That scares me.

      • *nods*

        A guy I’ve known for years – also a doctor, what a coincidence – is like that.

        I do social media / information networking. I manage Twitter accounts professionally. I cannot help noticing, as Doctor Guy lectures me on how best to run a Twitter account to gain maximum number of followers, that my own personal Twitter account has 15 times the followers his does – and every professional account I’ve run has added more followers in a month than he’s managed to get in years.

        So, objectively, by numerical measurement, I know more about how to get a Twitter account increase in followers than he does. Right?

        Well, no. It does not occur to him to ask me how I do Twitter. it’s much more important to him that he should tell me.

      • My comment was lost to spamcatcher. :-(

  2. It is an unfortunate truth that most arguments are not about seeking the truth, but about about someone being right. It’s not that they care what color the sky is, it is that they want you to tell them that they are good good boys that deserve a cookie and have the biggest penises.

    If this were actually about facts, then they would acknowledge your expertise and you could have a productive discussion. But it isn’t, it’s about some validation that they get from feeling smart even though they clearly are not.

    Personally, I would probably get very very angry. I know it’s not COOL to be angry, and it’s over the top or whatever, but even though they will act like that shit isn’t personal and you’re overreacting, it IS personal. They are essentially saying that their desire to feel smart overrides your actual knowledge. They are undermining all of your skills and education, that shit is FUCKING INSULTING. You have every right to be upset and even angry about it, because it is a deeply shitty thing for friends to do. It’s probably not JUST that you don’t like to argue, you probably extra don’t like to argue with irrational assholes. (If you wanted to do that there is an entire internet at your disposal.)

    Recently my partner and I had to stop being friends with another couple. We enjoyed many of the same activities, and had similar hobbies, and early on in our friendship we got along. But gradually we realized that their view of reality was more…. fluid… than my partner and I prefer. (We like to stick as close to the actual truth as possible, not to the truth that makes us feel the most warm and fuzzy.) Their mutual ability to twist events, and even board games into situations where they were the victims was grating, and it made it hard for us to converse about many topics.

    It was especially hard to lose them because we have SO few friends here, we lost 30% of our local social circle when we stopped hanging out with them. But ultimately we are happier, we no longer go to social gatherings and then spend 2 days ranting in frustration about all of the things we hated about our supposed friends.

    Our separation actually started out as a break. A break that has not ended. We see them on facebook, likes are exchanged, but we no longer try to make plans or pretend that we’re going to hang out. I think in the end we’re all happier.

    • staranise said:

      you probably extra don’t like to argue with irrational assholes. (If you wanted to do that there is an entire internet at your disposal.)

      ZING!

      • Nyltiak said:

        Funnily enough, I do sometimes like to argue with irrational assholes, but I do it with friends-of-friends on FB and everyone gets to feel superior and no one gets hurt. I was just saying to Roommate the other day “I wish Friend would post something so we can get in another fun and unproductive argument with his asshole friends”

        • Alex said:

          …is Friend OK with that? Because I know that, despite all evidence to the contrary, when I am Friend in this situation? I feel like I have accidentally let two houseguests who I know will despise each other into the house at the same time and it is AWKWARD and SUCKY AS HELL. (But that might just be me and my damage…)

    • Manatee said:

      I love the way you frame this Shinobi, it’s so interesting to think about this from the point of view of seeking truth and the assertion of matters of fact. In the mansplainers I’ve known what seems to be a common factor is the tendency to treat opinion as if it were fact (therefore you can be WRONG about liking or thinking or feeling something) but then base what they hold to be matters of fact entirely on their own opinions. Utter fucking facepalm.

      • I have been dealing with this with my father for some time now. He also treats facts as if they were opinions. At the end of the day if you don’t agree with him you are some kind of moron who needs to work on their priorities. Though every conversation starts with him just wanting to understaaaand how you came to be so mislead about reality.

        (I once told him that he needed to stop sending me links to Fox News and his response was “Someday Shinobi you’re going to have to learn to live in the real world.” I was too shocked to lol appropriately.)

        • Zen said:

          That’s…my dad to a T, these days, right down to Fox News and telling me that I need to get my priorities (and facts!!!!) straight.

          I was super happy at the most recent holiday visit when he didn’t try to engage me in political debate. That’s pretty much a first for my adult life. It could have something to do with the fact that I sprained my lower back (by sitting in bed propped up on pillows and reading for several hours the day after xmas?!!) and spent the next three days unable to walk without assistance.

        • pmsrhino said:

          Is your dad my dad? After my dad became born again in my teens, he became SUPER aggressive about religion in the family. When I started college and started forming my own opinions on things (which were, surprise, not at all like his), visits home could turn into huge religion shouting matches at the drop of a hat. Which was weird, all I wanted to do was discuss things I was curious about or had questions on. Dad wasn’t a fan of questions or curiosity. It was either his and God’s way or no way. I eventually just stopped talking about religion at all with my dad. For a while, I was too worried to talk to him about anything for fear of bringing something up that would instigate those conversations, so I didn’t talk much to him at all.

          He’s thankfully gotten much calmer about the whole thing over the past 4-5 years. I think mom finally convinced him that yelling at everyone wasn’t a good way to be a shepherd for God. We still don’t talk about religion, but it works out. We have a lot of other things in common we can discuss. That’s pretty much how I handle anyone who feels “my opinion is fact, and if you think different you are wrong!” now. I won’t engage, I either change the subject, remove myself, or, if leaving isn’t an option, ignore them until they stop talking about it.

      • Kaz said:

        In the mansplainers I’ve known what seems to be a common factor is the tendency to treat opinion as if it were fact (therefore you can be WRONG about liking or thinking or feeling something)

        Aaaaah my brother when we were teens oh my god. “But WHY don’t you like it?” I tried and tried and tried to get it through his thick skull that taste was subjective and the fact that, e.g., I absolutely despised playing PvP computer games and therefore would not play Starcraft against him* was not something that could be subjected to rational debate so he could decide my reasons weren’t valid. It did not work. ><

        • Kaz said:

          Huh, footnote got lost. My comment was that “but why won’t you play Starcraft with me?!” sounds like a silly issue but was part of a pretty large pattern of him deciding that I was doing my hobbies wrong and whining at me to do them his way until I gave in to get him to leave him alone. He’s mostly grown out of the mansplaining, thankfully, but still has tendencies in the “but you should do this hobby this way!” direction.

          • Manatee said:

            Urk. Not at all a silly issue at all. In a way it’s almost more sinister that someone would be that invested in controlling or ‘being right’ about something as trivial as whether or not you like PVP. As you say it does not speak well for the wider pattern!

    • Moi said:

      “that they are good good boys that deserve a cookie and have the biggest penises.”

      I think I may need to steal that the next time I encounter a mansplainer. “Blah blah blah I am right because maleness blah negating expertise blah.” “Yes, I’m sure you do have a large penis. Now how about you stop ranting about something you don’t understand?”

      Well, I can dream, at least….

      • zweisatz said:

        I read from a probably female person on Tumblr who was standing in line with an asshole who was arguing with the cashier. Everyone had to wait because of his annoying problems. Without thinking about it she said “Excuse me, is this about your penis?” I think she was very embarrassed and didn’t buy anything this day, but she shut him up and is my hero to this day.

        • Moi said:

          That makes me very, very happy. It’s my response when someone revs their engine / honks / cat-calls as they drive past me, but that only serves my amusement (and occasionally that of bystanders). I’ve never said it to a mansplainer’s face. I second the hero-worship.

        • redgirl said:

          I would like to become this person’s friend.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Yes, this!

      Reminds me of a scrap that Spouse and I got into on Facebook with the irritating spouse of a friend about something that the friend posted.

      The main reason Spouse and I engaged in the argument in the first place was that Friend was being belittled by Friend’s Spouse over her opinion on the matter and that just was NOT ON. So we spoke up defending her position, and Friend’s Spouse responded with, essentially, “Peer-reviewed studies or GTFO.”

      I’m a PhD student with a research-intensive day job with the government. The argument was about something directly related to my field of study. Peer-reviewed studies were cited in detail, and Spouse added that furthermore, he didn’t see why Friend’s Spouse was so invested in proving Friend wrong – isn’t your own partner telling you that something hurts reason enough to believe her own lived experience?

      The argument kind of stopped after that, and the public belittling became at least somewhat less frequent.

      • With the best will in the world, it’s really not your place to get involved in other people’s relationships.

        • ona555 said:

          It’s attitudes like this that kept my sister feeling isolated in an abusive marriage for ten years even though most of her friends knew something was terribly wrong. Silence in the face of awful behavior is indistinguishable from complicity.

          • On the other hand, not all ways of “supporting” someone whose partner is abusing him/her are equally helpful. Quietly letting someone know you don’t think their partner’s behavior is ok, letting them know you’d be there for them if they want to talk, or if they need refuge of any kind? Almost always good.

            Getting up in the face of the domineering partner, “on the other partner’s behalf”? That may tell both parties you think the domineering person’s behavior is out of line, but may also lead to backlash when they get home. It’s a rare abuser who will be shamed by a third party’s comments and see the error of their ways… Much more common is to blame their victim for making them look bad, and work harder at separating the victim from any support.

          • Possibly there’s different methods of doing it which could be appropriate to different situations. Like, if he is putting down her argument you can argue with his subject statement and provide evidence against it. Or you can take him to task for being rude and dismissive to her. Or both. Or do one in public and the other in a private message to either or both of them.

        • Jenna said:

          Having a spousal spat on Facebook in the first place is inadvisable. Bringing in peer reviewed studies to back a friend up would seem inevitable once the issue was already public on the Facebook page.
          A friend of mine was called out by his then fiancé on facebook for forgetting to buy her a birthday present on the way home from a business trip. Their business, and really none of ours. She made it public, and therefore ammunition later for any of his in-laws or her friends that would want to remember and tear him down later.

          • M said:

            I think if the argument were a legal one, the technical term there would be “opening the evidentiary door”.

            If I were the Friend — and I know here I am not — I would far rather be supported by peer-reviewed studies on the Book of the Face than by lurkers in email.

            But then again I’ve been told I am “confrontational” like that.

        • I actually do this with a close friend of mine and his gf. He is a very smart guy and his gf is sweet as pie, but definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. However, when they hang out with me, and he condescendingly corrects her or lectures her on something, I always pull him aside and say,
          “Look, I can’t control how you talk to [gf] when I’m not around, but this [gestures to the vicinity of my apt] is a feminist zone, and we don’t talk to people like that here, mmk?”

    • OhMyLanta said:

      Ergh, this is so true– arguments are usually just about who wants to be right.

      In fact, I’ve been realizing that the majority of the arguments I get into (the ones I get into intentionally, anyways), are just because I want the chance to be right, after growing up under a parent Who Is Always Right.

      It’s a really frustrating thing to realize (and try to change) about oneself, to say the least.

      • Maria B said:

        Oh my god. I also grew up under a (single) parent Who Was Always Right. The levels to which this messed me up are still being discovered. It ruined a lot of things in my only serious relationship ever because it took me over a year to realize that the reason I would get into the most pointless arguments and trample her feelings just because I “knew” I was right, was because I had a childhood where I would end up in day-long shouting matches with my mother over pointless things like had I had one or two rolls for breakfast when there was plenty.

      • Hurricane_Ciao said:

        I’m also doing my best to unlearn this sort of behaviour. For my entire young life I lived with the one-two perfect storm of Always Right Parents – my father’s menacing physicality and violent outbursts during even the most minor disagreements and then my mom’s distant, aloof condescension and chilly dismissal of the novel concept that I was capable of observing my world and formulating opinions accordingly.

        I cringe now, thinking about how it must’ve been to deal with me during the earliest stages of young adulthood/independent living situations – when I got my first tastes of Being Right and Winning Conversations. Gugh. The friends who stuck by and allowed me to grow through it deserve medals.

  3. Rocketpants said:

    This is pretty much spot on LW. Most of the men in my family are this way, and unless they are willing to make a change in their behavior [which doesn't happen often, sadly] there’s nothing that can be done about it.

    I’m lucky since my father has, relatively recently, started listening to me when I bring something up a little bit after the fact. He doesn’t always understand it, and he does still mansplain – but he’s starting to change. But he’s the only man I’ve met who does it, whose shown any inclination to change at all. It only came after being alive for 25 years, *and* proving that I do what I’m talking about on different topics several times for each one .

    That’s not something you really want to go through if you have a choice, LW. Here you do have the option not to, if and when you decide you’ve had enough. Maybe they will listen if you say something, and I hope they do if you do that! It would be truly awesome of them, but I’d also recommend thinking about the levels of good feelings they bring into your life, vs the level of bad ones, and if those good feelings outweigh the bad ones.

    All in all, I’m sorry this happening and I hope everything works out for the best, whatever that happens to be. -jedi hug-

  4. popesuburban said:

    Oh my God, I could feel my back knotting up and I knew I was making horrible faces as I read about these two. They are not being friends to you, and I think that maybe they have crossed into territory where the friendship is not going to be valuable anymore? Because if they have committed to a path where they knowingly make you miserable (Because let’s be real here, if you are making someone that uncomfortable or angry, you know it, at least a bit) *every single time* you interact, I don’t see where there is value for the future. If they have committed to be complete dismissive jerks who like to make you feel bad, then maybe that bridge is best left toasted, while you can still salvage all those nice memories of before these two were awful to you all the time.

    I had a friend like that, and I dropped him when it became clear he had committed to being the new, awful version of himself. I didn’t have any regret over it, because we had been close, but that guy was dead and my ex-friend had killed him. I got to hang onto all the good parts without having to witness the bad ones. I still have a friend who can be like that, and I carefully manage my relationship with him because of it. I can still hang out with him, because it’s intermittent, but it definitely does factor into how I socialize with him– and the management makes my life a lot better, and allows me to stay in touch with someone I grew up with and share a lot with.

    I think if I were you, I would start exiting conversations that have gone sour, or asking them to exit. If that didn’t work, or if they asked about it, I would be frank that the lecturing and undermining is bothering me. If they tried to rules-lawyer, well, exeunt, not pursued by pseudointellectual bears. If they cannot or will not get a handle on this, there is nothing wrong with putting your peace of mind first. You’re not being a bad friend; people not wanting to hang with you is a pretty natural consequence of being really disrespectful. If they can’t appreciate you, then they don’t get the pleasure of your company.

    • zweisatz said:

      Also, sometimes getting angry in peoples face helps. I do not say you have to do this or that it’s wrong to just leave them where they are or tell them to get lost. But if you think you could do that, you could tell them up front and NOT try to make your voice calm or your face sweet because we ladies have to do that, right?, “Guys, you are being really rude by arguing with me like that. You know it makes me uncomfortable, why are you still doing it? Either change the topic or this conversation is over.”

      • popesuburban said:

        Oh God yes. I am never afraid to Hulk right the fuck out on people, because if they are not going to listen to my reasonable warnings– and I give many– then they can face the fact that they have made me angry. If that doesn’t bother them, then I know they don’t give a damn about how I feel and that’s curtains with them. Other people are more squeamish about this so I generally don’t bring it up, but if one is willing to be mad? Worth it.

  5. Argued Out said:

    LW here, and first of all, I am indeed a woman. That’s why I mentioned that they were men, and the lack of criticism for my partner, also a man. Especially since they’re both pretty unconscious of their white male privilege; we’ve had a couple fights when I try to explain feminist things to them, and one apparently vents about me to an anti-feminist friend he has, referring to me by an acronym that includes “feminazi” somewhere in it.

    Second, and I’m truly truly grateful that my partner stands up for me (though it can get lost in my haze of anger and their vehement argument). Last time it happened, he said “Dude, you’re arguing [field] with a practitioner of [field].” (stated more elegantly, of course).

    Third, well, I almost cried when I read this. I actually tried talking to them (somewhat) recently, stating my position – arguing with me about what I know, what I’ve taken classes on, is insulting and annoying, but arguing about things in the field that are opinion based, not fact-based, or what we wish things in the field were like, is fun and even encouraged. They said that was fine. And then I hear from a relative of theirs (who is now a mutual friend, and a big part of the reason I’m reluctant to give up the friendship) that apparently I’m being “unreasonable” and going, “Oooh, don’t argue with me, I’ve taken a CLASS ABOUT IT and therefore am the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY ON THIS TOPIC!” (insert pompous sounding tone and sarcasm). And, well, that’s true, except the whole part where I said, “Hey, discussing [these things that I love to talk about and even debate] is great and fun and totally cool with me.” And, of course, I never claimed to be the authority on these topics, just more authoritative than they are.

    Gah . . . sorry for the word dump, but I’m actually obsessing about this because I might be seeing them this weekend (but in a larger group, where other people are very likely to back me up and tell them they’re out of line) and I’ve been letting this anger really stew recently. Maybe having an entire group of people tell them they’re being sexist mansplainers will help? Either way, this really isn’t making me more optimistic about keeping the friendship alive. Oh boy.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think there is value & power in deciding that people do not get to yell at you & berate you and that you will peace the fuck out if they try. “I am happy to discuss x, I do not think I am the sole authority on x, however, the way you talk about x with me is not fun and I don’t like it. If we’re going to hang out, let’s not talk about x. If you can’t be respectful, go stand over there and talk to one of the other people at this party, I don’t give a fuck.”

      And I think your mutual friends are not being helpful by keeping these arguments alive and passing information around. Who cares if they think you are being “unreasonable”? Why should the pressure be on you to make peace? Once someone calls you a “feminazi” for speaking up for yourself, you get to not give a crap about anything they think. So one thing you can say to the mutual friends is “I know you want to be helpful, but x is a grownup and I am a grownup, and if he wants to discuss something he can talk to me directly. Finding out what he said about me to y other person who isn’t here isn’t really helpful, so please keep that stuff to yourself from now on – I barely care what he thinks about me when we are in the same room, I really can’t be assed to care what he thinks about me when he’s not around, and it just creates more bad feeling and conflict when you tell me things like this. Thanks.”

      This one particular guy sounds really mean & nasty, LW. In fact, he sounds like a missing stair. It sucks that he seems to occupy a position of power in your social group.

      • Argued Out said:

        Sorry, I just realized my comment left the wrong impression – the mutual friends aren’t putting the pressure on me to make peace, they were actually ranting about that guy because they told him I was right and he was wrong – he does something similar to them (also women) . . . Oh dear. There’s a pattern here, isn’t there?

        Sounds like this weekend may turn into “Oh dear lord, please stop mansplaining, it’s insulting and aggravating and we really like you when you don’t do this, but it’s getting too prevalent to ignore and it’s driving us up the wall.” And then it may turn into “well, that argument was fun” as we leave.

        • JenniferP said:

          I like that story better. “Enjoy your lonely argument party! We’ll be…elsewhere.”

        • Sheelzebub said:

          You know, I’m not normally one to advocate this, but I’m going to make an exception in this case–stay friends with the relative who’s become a friend of yours. (Usually I’m all about the boundaries to a point that may be neurotic). Put a lot of distance between yourself and these guys. You don’t have to declare WE ARE NO LONGER FRIENDS, HA! But you can stake your claim: “I’m doing more than taking one class about this, I am not the only woman to notice this tendency of yours to talk over women who actually are experts in the fields you’re explaining to us, and you’re being really fucking annoying and arrogant.” And then do not hang out with them. If they are at a gathering of mutual friends, acknowledge them politely, make some small talk, and then go talk to the people who do not act like assbuckets.

        • Lostlastdaughter said:

          When I read your first letter, my very first thought was, “these are not your friends”. After reading this, I’m having the same thought. These people do not respect you. It doesn’t sound like they even like you very much. They treat you badly to your face, and make fun of you behind your back. These are not your friends.

          I rarely say this, but I’m thinking it’s time to abandon ship with these guys. You owe them nothing. You’ve spoken to them, shared your concerns, gave them conversational parameters, and their response was to whine to someone else that you’re out of line? Fuck ‘em. They couldn’t even have the decency to tell you to your face they don’t like your rules?

          With friends like that, you don’t need enemies. They’ll wield the knives that land in your back for your enemies. Ugh, this has got me on a tear, so I’ll stop now. I hope you find a way to resolve it to your satisfaction. Personally, I’d abandon and never look back. And, I rarely abandon what I consider a friendship. But this? Beyond the pale. rant over.

          • AutumnFire said:

            Totally in agreement with Lostlastdaughter in ‘with friends like that, you don’t need enemies.’ These two people are no longer your friends. They are acquaintances. I had to end the friendship of someone decades ago who had the ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ school of thought. I decided it was no longer worth the frustration of dealing with that person and I do not regret it one bit. I wish that person well, and I’m glad to see that person has done well in many areas, but I’ve no desire to spend any more time of my life with that person.

            I also agree that when they whine to others about your rules for no arguments and proceed to do it anyway, that should tell you that those two are not ready for mature friendships. You have so many better things to do in and with your life! It’s time to let them go and find friendships that are more to your level of growth.

      • Max said:

        ‘Once someone calls you a “feminazi” for speaking up for yourself, you get to not give a crap about anything they think.’ Or, as A Softer World so elegantly put it, “Feminist is a great word…”

        • manybellsdown said:

          Yep, “Feminazi” is a convenient shorthand for “Oh good, I don’t have to listen to another word this person says”.

          • Aezy said:

            At some point someone should probably point out Godwin’s Law, in that, by labeling you a “feminazi” they have automatically lost whatever argument they were trying to have. The internet said so. (May also be a useful dismissal if people keep trying to pass on all the things they have been saying behind your back?)

        • Ann said:

          “I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you. I have to go invade Poland.”

          • Sarah in Tokyo said:

            Using only my vagina and a pair of Birkenstocks!

    • Wow. First of all, congrats on not punching these guys in the face, because it sounds like it must be super tempting. Second of all, these assholes REALLY do not deserve the energy you’re putting into them right now. It sounds like they’re starting to drag you down even when they’re not around, which is just so unfair to you. I really would not suggest trying to be friends with these guys anymore. They obviously cannot be trusted to be honest in their interactions with you, they say nasty things about you behind your back, they don’t respect your boundaries, and now you find yourself worrying about their boorish behavior even when they’re not around! These are not the hallmarks of a good friendship. As far as the party this weekend goes, my suggestion would be to talk to other people and interact with these two as much as possible. It sounds like the other attendees are better friend-material anyway.

    • Manatee said:

      Hey LW, first up, solidarity fist bump from another woman trying to work out how to deal with mansplaining mansplainers who mansplain. I’m grateful to you for writing in because I too am trying to work out how you resolve those sorts of problems when any attempt to use your words is dismissed.

      Anyway, while I don’t want to offer advice on the main topic, I just wanted to point out that calling you a ‘feminazi’ is really not ok. Calling anyone a nazi (unless they are actually a nazi of the national socialist variety) is not ok. Reducing nazism to something less than what it is by attaching cute premodifiers is not ok. It is deeply, deeply offensive. (Timely too as it was Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday.) Maybe even if you’re feeling flustered and dismissed about the other stuff, this sort of thing might be concrete enough to be able to take a stand about. Have you tried the, ‘Really? Standing up for the equal treatment of women is the same as genocide? Wow.’ + walk away routine?

      Good luck, they sound like assholes.

      • Zen said:

        Have you tried the, ‘Really? Standing up for the equal treatment of women is the same as genocide? Wow.’ + walk away routine?

        Wow, that’s a really fantastic idea. I’m going to have to try that the next time I hear anyone calling someone a *-nazi of any sort.

      • caryatid said:

        +1000

      • Kaz said:

        I’m going to have to borrow that genocide comment. I’m German and using *-nazi for something that isn’t, you know, actually Nazis gets me really, really angry – with the unfortunate side effect that I have trouble expressing my utter fury in a coherent manner. “So X is the same as genocide?” is a very good way to go NOT ON OMFG, and I’m stealing it.

      • Leela said:

        Have you tried the, ‘Really? Standing up for the equal treatment of women is the same as genocide? Wow.’ + walk away routine?

        I think I’ll start doing this too. I find it a cringe-inducing term in any non-accurate use. Which, you know, should really not be funny (Rush Limbaugh, I’m looking at you. And dry-heaving.)

    • staranise said:

      Honestly, ANY friend who makes a point of trashtalking me to other people loses the status of “friend”. For them to mock you behind your back is Not Okay.

      I hope things go well on the weekend, but I’m kind of apprehensive about hoping it will work out the way you want. Because it sounds like you really, really want these guys to understand what they’re doing to you, and genuinely feel they need to change. So you think, ‘Maybe if I just explained it better! Maybe if my friends joined in! Maybe if…’ and meanwhile, it’s not happening. And whether or not it happens is not a function of how well you present your case; it’s about whether they’re willing to listen. Which it doesn’t sound like they are.

      • Annafel said:

        THIIIIIIS times eleventy. LW, I have so much empathy for you being in this situation and wanting so much for these guys to give you the same respect they give their dude friends. Of course you want them to treat you like an adult with knowledge and expertise! Because that is what you are!

        But they derive their social power from denying women the privilege of being admitted into the boys club of People with Opinions that Matter. If they ever change their shitty opinions of women, it will be because they find the motivation within themselves. I don’t think there’s anything you can do, in trying to remain friends, that will help speed that process along. They may never get there at all. And you have no responsibility to involve yourself in that process – or likelihood of success if you do. I’m sorry.

    • Ellen said:

      LW, I’m going to share something with you that my therapist said to me over ten years ago. I was having difficulty spending time with a friend of mine who made frequent critical remarks about something that hurt me.

      After I had ranted for a few minutes, she asked ‘Do you enjoy her?’

      It does not sound to me like you enjoy these people. You don’t owe them friendship because you used to enjoy them. They are being mean to you and you don’t deserve it, and they haven’t responded well to your attempts to call them on it, so I think you no longer have to take them into account.

      Give it a last shot if you feel that is what you want to do. Otherwise, African Violent their asses and free up some time to spend with people who are not a) mean to you, b) sexist and c) taking up valuable headspace that could be used for good stuff.

      PS – In my case, I did still enjoy my friend and we got past it, but she was not doing anything on this kind of scale.

      • griffykate said:

        African Violent was either the best pun or best typo in the WORLD. Yes, African Violent these guys to hell. xD

        • It would make a great Captain Awkward roller derby name.

          • entendante said:

            Captain Awkward roller derby needs to happen.

          • caryatid said:

            I get to be Miss Ingstair!

          • miss_chevious said:

            I call Hausa Evilbeez!

          • Doctor Mead said:

            Can I be Fee Ling Smails?

          • Aunti Disestablishmentarian said:

            Baga Dix!

          • thegirlfrommarz said:

            And obviously the team name would be “Team You”!

        • solecism said:

          I can see the humor, but I can also see the racism implicit in it–cue stereotypes about savage black people (see King Kong as metaphor). Best not to go with that for the Captain Awkward roller derby team.

          • Yeah it really only works with the context unfortunately.

      • Ellen said:

        It was a typo! It was the typo that just keeps on giving. . .

        • Muse142 said:

          I lol’d! :D Commenters, ILU, never change.

    • Mary said:

      Argued Out – is having a list of Really, Really Obvious Bland Subject-Changers up your sleeve likely to work? Just totally not engaging?

      AO: Thing.
      Mansplainers: Thing?!! You’re totally wrong about Thing!
      AO: So have you seen this week’s episode of Africa yet? The baby elephants were adorable, but the thing with the ants was incredibly gross.

      It’s a fairly casual way of telling someone that you are not having the conversation that they want to have, and it doesn’t take much energy on your part – you don’t have to steel yourself for Saying Something Controversial or get a backlash or even that wave of relief when someone agrees with you. You just throw something light into the conversation and people who are your friends will pick it up and keep throwing it.

      If they consistently refuse to take the bait, then they aren’t friends – they are people who want to bait you and piss you off and put you in your place, and it’s bullying. If you think there’s any friendship to save, though, this gives them the opportunity to demonstrate it.

      • Brightwanderer said:

        Not only ants, but the parasitic wasp! The giant bird-eating crickets! :O The evil libertarian bird discarding its ‘spare’ youngster once the other one proves it’s the bigger bully!

        … except they’d probably find ways to argue with that too. It’s not evil, it’s a perfectly viable model of childrearing and all sensible humans should do it too!

        • Mary said:

          The bird that left its spare youngster to die traumatised us so much we were left clinging to each other on the sofa going, “noooooo!!! We’ll look after the baby bird!”

          …See, if you want it to, this *really* works as a distraction device!

          • Brightwanderer said:

            I consider myself a hardened watched of animal documentaries – I love them, but don’t often get sentimental about it, am aware that “how nature works” often seems cruel and pointless, and am happy to be interested in what I see without trying to humanize it.

            … the dying baby elephant made me sob for twenty minutes.

      • They call that “bean dipping” on Etiquette Hell, which I occasionally read for amusement. As in, “That’s nice. Have you tried the bean dip?”

        • goldenpeanut said:

          Thanks for the tip to that site!

          • secretrebel said:

            I also read etiquettehell and the bean dip metaphor is ace – but be warned that the forums overall are quite traditional and can be hostile to change.

      • Nerdlinger said:

        AHAHA – you can have some fun with it and vent your frustration i.e. suddenly bringing up the color of the walls or “WOW! Water is just so damn refreshing don’t you think? I mean, SCIENCE right?”

      • Someone (I forget who) once said on another thread here (I forget which) that zie sometimes uses the conversation ploy “I am not going to discuss [X] with you. If you keep going on about it, I am going to talk about [totally unrelated thing J].” And then you can have a bunch of fun trivia ready about the invention of the disco ball, or why Scotch eggs contain no actual Scotch, or the history of shoelaces.

        This tactic is probably best used when you can’t escape the conversation right away, or with the less awful of the two in the hopes that you might be able to get him to stop being an assclown.

    • Tosca said:

      My personal rule is I am not friends with out-and-proud anti-feminists. Full stop. With family you have to do the small doses thing and suck it up every now and then, but friends? Hell no.

      This guy sounds like a nightmare. He WANTS you to feel un confident in your studies, because they threaten his privilege. YOU threaten it. It’s funny, because as I started reading your letter I thought “I bet you dollars to doughnuts she’s a woman’s studies major, or something similar!”

      Dump this guy. Continue being awesome. Don’t let him shake your confidence. I know it can feel really alone and like you’re the only feminist for miles so you must hang onto even shitty friends or there will be no one left. Ive soooo been there. But that’s not so.

    • Bunny said:

      Oh dude, these guys are not your friends.

      Not only do they constantly mansplain to you, but they talk about you behind your back? Try to start shitfights within your mutual friend group about your attempts to set reasonable boundaries? Call you a “feminazi” and misrepresent your opinions, behaviour and words to others? And the mere fact of you getting up and leaving the room when you’ve had enough of it isn’t enough to make them stop? And they have a history of pulling this shit with, quite specifically, all their women friends?

      These are not friends. They clearly don’t value you or your friendship enough to deserve your time, energy or friendship. They are possibly somewhat-inept aliens trying to discredit future educated professionals in order to prepare the planet for hostile take-over. Or possibly are wasps in human form tasked with forcing humanity back to the stone age by discrediting all the women in it, thereby freeing up all the no-longer-operational-because-humans-lost-the-knowledge air conditioning units for their nests.

      Either way, however great they may have been once, it doesn’t sound like they have anything positive to bring to your relationship with them now.

    • I deal with “I am the absolute authority on the subject” a lot. Mostly by letting them run their mouth, then correcting where they’re wrong, sometimes laughing at how wrong they are.

      These people are being awful to you. However nice they were in the past; however sweet they are when they’re not being contradictory asshats; however nice the muffins they bake are; right now they are being awful to you. You do not have to take this.

      ‘Feminazi’ would be a dealbreaker for me, and has been. It is answered with “Get out of my house/ off my FB/ don’t ever speak to me again without an abject apology for your rudeness” People don’t get to call you that for thinking women are people and should be treated as such.

      You’ve tried talking to them, and they bitched about you behind your back. How mature. Are you absolutely sure these are your friends and not a couple of people who show up at your house to deliberately upset and antagonise you into being a nice little woman who toes the line and never speaks up? It sounds to me like they cannot accept your choice to educate yourself. Your friends should be there for you, supportive of you choices, and if they disagree then they should do it in a manner which doesn’t make you this upset. People who deliberately upset you like this are not your friends.

    • popesuburban said:

      So they’re gaslighting bigots? I’m sure that once upon a time they were decent and good for you. I mean that, I’ve known people who were great until they went rotten and were somehow really proud of that. Those people were, once upon a time, my close friends who helped me out a lot. But then they went rotten, and as with food, I had to put them in the bin. These two have exposed themselves as not-good people in the here and now when they lied to your face and busted out the “hysterical woman” tripe behind your back. Whoever they are now is not sounding like something worth saving, because they’re prejudiced and mean.

      • miss_chevious said:

        Can I just say I love the metaphor of going rotten so so much. Because sometimes people can change and sometimes relationships can be saved, and sometimes a person or a relationship just goes rotten and has to be tossed in the bin.

        • Linden said:

          My friend grows a lot of her own produce, and she keeps squash in her barn and eats them all winter. One of her last squash still looked good on the outside, but when she picked it up to bring it in the house, it melted into a slimy puddle of goo. I often think about that image in the context of relationships with other people.

    • Jiggs said:

      Jesus. LW, these people are not your actual friends. I’m not saying this in an “oh, real friends would never treat you this way!” sense, although that is also true. What I mean is, they seem to actively dislike you. The most glaring sign of this is the acronym for you – when do you use an acronym to describe someone? Usually it’s for your coworker who you hate and call Debbie the Lunch Bitch, right? No one ever says “You know my good friend DTLB?” They also complain about how whiny and terrible you are to everyone they know. At best you have a pair of frenemies, which, who needs that. It’s not worth the memory of what you used to have, or even the faint glimmer of niceness before everything goes south and stays there.

      Look, even if these two were actual sweethearts who loved and valued you as a person, if they came over and were absolutely delightful to you, but then they took a shit in your bed before they left? And you were like “Hey guys, love you but please stop shitting in my bed?” And they ignored you and kept coming over and yeah it was good times but your bed was still shat in at the end? You would put an end to that by no longer seeing them, because no amount of lovely company can make up for cleaning up feces at the end of the night (plus the lingering smell). This is basically what they’re doing except the shit ends up in your brain and you’re not even getting a couple hours of enjoyable company out of it.

      • eselle28 said:

        I agree. Sometimes people are bad friends, but these guys don’t sound like they’re doing any of the friendship stuff at all. People who mock you behind your back and who are so mean to you that you feel you have to hide in the bathroom aren’t friends. Even frenemies are nice to you every now and then. It sounds like these two are just a couple of bullies who happen to have some redeeming qualities.

      • Smilla said:

        I agree with you that these two “friends” don’t seem to like the LW at all. Anyone who treats you with contempt and condescension is not a friend. Anyone who tries to crush you so they’ll feel bigger is not a friend.

        I totally sympathize with the LW. This kind of thing happens so often that it starts to seem normal and not abusive. Women older than me have also “mansplained” me (I call it alpha-dogging, because it feels like the person is verbally humping my leg trying to dominate me), and I know that it’s common, especially in the workplace. It just seems to be how entitled/insecure/threatened people treat women, especially young women. I no longer tolerate alpha-dogs, but it took me awhile to catch on to what was happening and to gather up the courage to deal with it.

        • zweisatz said:

          I am curious, could you tell me how you respond when people try to do that?

          • Smilla said:

            It depends on the situation. For example, a couple of days ago my workplace’s accountant was talking over me and aggressively asserting that he knew more about an issue that I’m very involved with. I said, “to suggest you know best about this situation is completely absurd. This conversation is over. I have work to get back to.” The end. Probably a little rude, but his mansplaining and aggressiveness was much ruder.

          • zweisatz said:

            Wow, that’s really straightforward. I hope I’ll be able to do that one day :)

    • The thing that you seem to want, your non asshole friends back, is not going to happen. You can either let things continue as they are and embrace the role of uppity feminazi or you can remove yourself from the situation.

      I sometimes find going the full Gloria to be amusing. You can choose to accept that anything you say that doesn’t end with a question mark will upset their manly fee fees and enjoy the power that gives you. You can really provoke them the way they provoke you. “I’m sorry, did I just end a sentence with a period? Did that make you uncomfortable? I’ll just go back to the kitchen.”

      Though I would probably still stick to group events where other people will be around to give them the side eye. And if they ask you why you don’t hang out anymore you can tell them that they’ve been trashing you to friends so you assumed they were no longer enjoying your company.

      I’m also reminded of a line from Company:
      “It’s the people that you hate together,
      Bait together,
      Date together,
      That make marriage a joy.”

      It could be that feeling intellectually and genetalialy superior to you has become part of their bonding activities. This is creepy and horrible and totally sucks for you. Unfortunately the only thing you can control is how you react to the situation.

      • Private Jane said:

        > genetalialy superior
        That’s. Just. Brilliant.

    • the_apricot said:

      If I were to make an “Is this person my friend?” flowchart for myself, one of the decision boxes would definitely be, “Does this person describe anyone as a feminazi?” and the yes arrow would lead directly to “This person is not my friend.” (I think “sheeple” would belong in that box too.)

      LW, I’m sorry those guys are being obnoxious, and I’m glad to hear that your partner and your other friends are backing you up. Good luck this weekend.

    • AnthroK8 said:

      Oy. I am sorry- they sound awful to deal with.

      And… I dunno. When nothing at all that you do or say is neutral or right enough to avoid the upset… it seems to me the whole point of the interaction for them is to create upset. It’s not to socialize, it’s not to have fun until they are upset with you for saying whatever. It’s to make sure upset happens, and to make sure you are the cause and sufferer of it.

      That’s not friendship. That’s… icky, is what it is.

      I wouldn’t question one bit if you decided to cut them loose with no explanation.

    • Y’know, I just want to point out that there’s a big difference between being a person who took a class in something once (where their eye-rolling “oh look at Argued Out, thinking she knows everything” would be… impolite but not actively ridiculous) and someone who is doing postgrad studies in that topic. Y’know, which imply that you’ve already gotten at least one degree in something related and are now pretty much devoting yourself to the field in a way that people who are actual experts in the field actively recognise.

      That last one, actually, is something I’ve experienced quite a lot myself. Especially when I try to talk to people about the social science I have my own little MA in. I’ve had people mansplain to me, in fact, that I’m an unreliable source on Social Science Area I Did My Dissertation On precisely because I did a dissertation on it. Because, um… because.

      People who say things like that are people who should probably say those things in a room where you’re not.

      • entendante said:

        Well, I mean, obviously, you’re overinvested in it and have no rational distance, right? (But if you hadn’t gotten a degree in it, then you’d be ill-informed.)

        • LW #396 said:

          This is also why women apparently shouldn’t talk about sexism, nor POC talk about racism, or LGBT folk talk about homo/bi/transphobia. We’re just too close to those subjects to be objective.

          • That’s probably why they figure that LGBT WOC should just not say anything at all about anything.

            Of course, the logical corollary to that is that LGBT WOC would be the only people who get to say anything at all about straight white cis guys. Ever.

          • Elikit said:

            Right?! Like, okay, I knowingly experience and am harmed by the racism/sexism that you unknowingly/unthinkingly dish out and yet benefit from, and I’m the one who can’t be objective in this situation?

            A bag of dicks for you, sir!

        • Yep. Because social scientists never, ever learn all sorts of tools to, y’know, Do Good Science in areas we might have a bit of emotional investment in. This is definitely not a problem people have been working on for, oh, decades. ;)

    • thneedle said:

      Hey letter-writer, I hope you call these guys out, but I suggest that you not use the term “mansplain” or any other label. Instead, just name the actual behaviors (that lead you to call them mansplainers). Labels can be argued with but actual observed behaviors — well, they might be able to say you misunderstood, but they can hardly say it didn’t actually happen. I hope.

      Labels can get people’s backs up. Descriptions can be easier to hear. (Eons ago when I was in college, I told people that I dated women rather than calling myself a lesbian. Because whatever they thought “lesbian” included they would apply to me, but really the only important thing in our conversation was the single fact that I dated women.)

      • Emmers said:

        I have gotten *more* backlash from the term “mansplain…” Agree wholeheartedly – label the actual problematic behaviors. Don’t use specialized jargon – jargon can be ignored or dismissed/minimized.

        • This comment makes me laugh, both because a fella arguing that he was not technically mansplaining is so marvelously mansplainy (“Let me set you straight on what mansplaining is, little lady!”) and because it makes me imagine a world in which mansplaining has legal repercussions (“I’m going to have to charge you with first degree mansplaining, sir!” … “Surely you can at least drop it down to second degree!? How was I to know the little lady wrote the book I was pontificating to her about??”)

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Last time it happened, he said “Dude, you’re arguing [field] with a practitioner of [field].”

      That tends to be the line that Spouse uses when someone tries to do this with me. Now, I realize there is a metric fuckton of arguable points within [field], as is the case in any field, but there are certain basic premises of the No This Doesn’t Work That Way, Stop Claiming It Does sort. And this comes up WAY THE HELL more often than it should.

    • turtle said:

      Wow, I sympathize to your situation so so so much. I am getting a PhD in a field where I am one of very few women, and I am mansplained to all the fucking time. I also have “friends” in my program who insist on arguing about every single thing ever with a special preference for topics that are most emotionally resonant with me, and who furthermore feel entitled to share their “objective” (read: straight, white, middle class, male) opinion on every topic, whether or not they’ve spent more than 30 seconds even considering the issue in their lives. I actually can quite enjoy an argument, but not with someone who treats actual facts as opinions to be challenged, and who dismisses the lived experience of the people he is conversing with. It’s awful.

      to some extent I cannot avoid the mansplainers, because it is important for me to maintain at least civil relationships with people who will be my colleagues. I also find that when I act too angry in response to their utterly infuriating behavior, I’m the “overly emotional” woman and therefore my opinions are invalid.

      the one thing that has saved me is getting involved with the women’s center on campus, and finding a group of feminists to be friends with. it is so so so valuable to have a space I can retreat to where there’s no need for a “privilege 101″ because everybody basically already gets it. It’s also just really important to have my feelings validated. To have others say, “wow, that guy really was being out of line. I understand why you’re so upset.” It’s great that your boyfriend and a few of your other friends do that for you. Spend more time with those friends.

      I guess in the end, my advice is basically the same as the Captain’s: take a break from these people, and make an effort to spend more time with people who don’t mansplain and are happy to call themselves feminists. I’ve found that if I have enough regular contact with my awesome feminist friends, it is way easier to put up with small doses of the mansplainers.

    • M said:

      This is Just My Take – and I’ve developed it because I feel like I’ve had to force myself to become aware that some people do not do what they’re doing out of malice, or because they’re idiots (which is what I originally thought, LOLblush) – sometimes they’re not even aware that they are doing it (whatever the “it” happens to be).

      So if it were me – and I know it’s not – I would look right at them and say “I notice that you interrupt and argue with me but you do not do it with any of the men of our mutual acquaintance. Have you noticed that at all?” and keep looking at them.

      Because then not just *that* they do it, but *with whom* (and thereby, sideways, most likely *why*) is right out there on the table.

      Good luck, whatever you choose.

  6. staranise said:

    It would be really nice if there were some magical interpersonal judo that could make people stop being jerks. My friend’s husband loves to argue as his way of working through a thought, so he’ll jump on basically anything; but if you try to fight him on it, he becomes more entrenched and will defend his position to the death even when any other day of the year, he believes the opposite. It’s SO STRESSFUL and nothing I do to make it stop lasts for very long.

    Mostly I try to hang out with that friend when her husband’s not around.

    • I’m assuming that he won’t stop when being asked politely. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. Maybe ask his wife about getting him politically involved?

      I LOVE arguing as a sport, trying on different sides, debates etc. But I’d never want to make people uncomfortable. Even in my wildest ‘I know I’m right and this is how I’ll prove it’ moments, I still have some sense left in me. I’ve found great release for the fiery beast of argumentation in the speaker’s chair at different political venues.

      • pfcmarie said:

        I know a gal who is super argumentative. It’s fun for her! This is what she likes. And it’s really a part of her personality. We will probably never be close friends as a result, because I hate that terribly. It is a day-ruiner. But she is a decent nice person and I am a decent nice person, so whenever we end up doing a project together, I listen politely when she hits a “must argue” wall and rants for a bit, and she politely takes me up on it after I put out an obvious conversation-changer (“yes, that’s fascinating, by the way, have you heard much about X lately?”).

        Even though me and this girl are not close friends and probably never will be, we still value being decent to each other because underneath her “must argue” and underneath my “must not argue” is a common core of “must get through this life with good connections with other human beings.”

        What I’m saying is, you and these guys aren’t not getting along because they like to argue and you don’t. You aren’t getting along because under that surface level personality stuff, they either like making other people feel bad and dominating them or they do not mind it a bit. You don’t share some very fundamental ideas of what other people are worth, and that’s not going to be reconciled by using your words or setting boundaries, because if you are not a worthwhile person to them, neither are your words or boundaries.

        • misspiggy said:

          This! (Speaking as a must-arguer’ who tries to remember to change the subject when people start shifting about uncomfortably.)

    • Commenter said:

      Oh, this struck a nerve for me.

      I like to think out loud. It’s just something about clarifying a problem to another person (who’s not in the middle of it) that helps me think. It’s especially useful when it’s about something that the other person doesn’t know much about. Because then I have to be really sure that I understand what and why I want to say something, and that the reasoning is explicit. I’ve been lucky enough to have family and friends who are good at the “tuning out while I talk it through”-thing (and who tell me if it goes on too long).

      But my ex liked to argue his way through ideas. And assumed that that’s what I wanted, too.
      It took me a lot of time to understand that when I mentioned something that was a problem in my work (“I’m trying to figure out how to deal with X in Y situation.” or “I’m having some problems with z.”), he saw it as a request for An Answer, whereas I saw it as a way to vent, or a way of clarifying my own thoughts. And I couldn’t clarify my own thoughts with him, because he’d choose one side of the argument, and that would force me into defending the other side. Even if I really considered them equal.
      I’d always had phrases for this before – My friend group clarifies “I just need to vent” before the conversation starts, so that you know that what they’re looking for is a sympathetic “mmm” and not a “But couldn’t you try….”
      But to him, the point of that was nonexistant, and he would get very frustrated that I was just talking at him without requiring a reply. (Which is totally reasonable! It just took me ages to understand that that’s how he felt about it). In the end I had one episode where I suddenly realized that I could never discuss work problems with him again. That was a pretty weird moment.

      He’s a great guy, but this was a huge reason why we weren’t good together. It made me better at spotting this type of personality, though, and better at realizing that I can’t have a close relationship with a person who thinks like that. Not because they’re bad people, but because it makes me want to punch the wall.

  7. Jolly said:

    Sidebar: Oof, the word “grok” still makes me shudder a bit. I mean, it is a good term and probably the single best takeaway from that book, but oh lordy the misogyny in it made it SO hard to finish. I still get flashbacks to the tedium (and the ensuing arguments with sci-fi fans about what a piece of unholy shit it was).

    • Maggie said:

      *fistbumps of sci-fi sympathy*

    • wonderbink said:

      I never made it all the way through the book, but it struck me that the word “grasp”–having both the connotations of ‘understand’ and ‘embrace’–would work as a perfectly adequate substitute for the word “grok”, with the added bonus of being understood by anybody with a working knowledge of the English language.

      • Did you get to the part where it also means “to drink” and “to have sex with”? I actually like the word because I think it implies a level of understanding beyond simple comprehension, but a full oneness with an idea, integrating that idea fully into your consciousness. It’s like the difference between learning some french vocabulary and thinking in french. But yeah, the part where people don’t know what you’re talking about totally defeats the purpose.

        • wonderbink said:

          I will admit that I didn’t, but from what you’re telling me, it looks to me that ‘to take in’ could encompass all those concepts (some in perhaps more poetic ways than others) and, again, be easier for People Who Didn’t Read That Book to understand.

    • Will said:

      I went back to re-read it recently, and had to stop when I hit the part where the author (speaking through a female character, no less!) explicitly says that gay people are sexual deviants and women who get raped were asking for it. It was like the bullshit singularity, and if it had been a physical book instead of an e-book on my expensive tablet I’d have thrown it across the room.

      • JenniferP said:

        You know what? I don’t actually even know what book you are talking about.

        • staranise said:

          Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.

          • piny1 said:

            Wait, really? Because I think Norman uses “grok” as well. I am far more okay with people accidentally quoting Heinlein. And that would make more sense….

          • FlyBy said:

            Phew. I’m only familiar with the word ‘grok’ from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I’ve read and enjoyed and don’t remember being horribly sexist, but maybe I missed something…

            Glad to hear that’s not the book you’re talking about!

        • Jadis said:

          Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.

        • piny1 said:

          Oh, boy.

          It’s the Gor series–there were actually around twenty books–but John Norman. It’s about a fictional Other Earth, named Gor, where men are men and women are submissive sex slaves. Because it’s their nature. The books usually begin with a liberated woman getting kidnapped from Earth and taken to Gor to begin her life as a sex slave, where she discovers true happiness.

          The writing is laughably bad (google “House Plants of Gor” if you want a spoof version with no misogynist grossness), and it’s woman-hating as all hell. Plus the sex scenes are clearly written by someone who has never had sex.

          There are fantasy role-playing Gorean BDSM enthusiasts. Lord of the Purity Rings, more or less. They call themselves “Master Tarn” and “His Kajira” and write horrible fanfic.

          • cricket said:

            Bad though Gor is, horrible things though it has brought to the genre, “grok” isn’t from that series. See above. :)

          • manybellsdown said:

            Oh, man, I read “Dancer of Gor” for the pure smut potential and I was very disappointed. She doesn’t even have sex until fully halfway through the book. Instead there were 20-page rants about how the non-sex-slave women should totally be okay with women who WANT to be sex slaves and free will and choices! But the women who clearly didn’t choose that are all deluded and wrong and can’t get laid.

      • griffykate said:

        Me either; what is this awful book of awfulness?

        • internpaul said:

          Heinlein’s Stranger in A Strange Land.

          • staranise said:

            Ever had that embarrassing thing happen where you show up at a party, and someone else is wearing the same outfit as you?

      • I read it for the first time when I was far too young and really enjoyed it. As an adult I pretended it was satire. Because it HAS to be satire. RIGHT? (No. No it does not.) I think it is so unfortunate because some of the concepts in the book are really interesting, I try to look at it as a product of its time, and a book that examines a lot of things, but not at all traditional gender roles.

        • Definitely a product of its’ time. I quite enjoyed it when I read it, but that was a long, long time ago. I vaguely remember that one of his other books bugged me enough that I put it down, though… haven’t read him since. Too bad, really.

          • “Definitely a product of its’ time.”

            It was published only a year before A Wrinkle in Time and two years before The Feminine Mystique. Let’s not give Heinlein any more excuses than necessary.

        • JHS said:

          Heinlein can be a bit like that. I love his ‘The Past Through Tomorrow’ stories, but even as a teenager, the gender roles pained me terribly. And I can’t help but think how much better the stories could have been if Heinlein had been willing to not be sexist! I’m boggled by those people who think you need to be sexist to write a good book…

      • Jolly said:

        Or the part where he has a female character say that 9 times out of ten when a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault? Amazing.

        The fact that it still consistently makes top-ten sci-fi novel lists totally baffles me, and is a pretty good example of some of the Badness in nerd culture. So many people I’ve talked to who read it were like “it’s not misogynist ! FREE LOVE !! SEXUAL EMPOWERMENT !! FEMALE CHARACTERS !!” and then I ask them to reread it with special attention to the female characters, and halfway through they’re like “oh. right. wow that is bad.”

        • Jolly said:

          Also, I use the term “female characters” lightly here, as they are basically all just props and not actually developed at all.

        • mintylime said:

          And don’t forget that, whatever crap he throws in there about sexually open relationships and loving multiple relationships, when it comes down to it, Heinlein deeply, truly, believes that underneath all that, humans pair up in one-man-and-one-woman romantic relationships (generally so women can have all the babies and all women love babies).

          It’s been a while, but he’s pretty explicit about that in his non-fiction writing, and Virginia’s writings back that all up.

          And that’s all on top of the mysogyny and homosexual/bisexual/etc. hate.

          It’s kind of sad, because I do still find some value in that book (just very different than I did 20 years ago), but … I don’t think I could recommend it to anyone.

          • belle said:

            This is pretty much exactly how I feel about SIASL. It’s the only thing by or about Heinlein I’ve ever read, so I don’t have the context you do, but my reaction to it was basically, “Wow, this could be so awesome … if it weren’t so unnecessarily hateful.” I was young enough when I read it that I missed a lot of the ambient misogyny, but that one-line aside about how of course Michael didn’t endorse homosexual sex, don’t be silly! was the last straw. It pissed me off that Heinlein would go out of his way to say something like that, and I sprinted through the rest of the book in disgust.

        • Shaenon said:

          “Stranger in a Strange Land” was my teenage introduction to the lesson that free love isn’t the same as female empowerment, and also that sometimes “free love” actually means “this middle-aged dude would very much like to impress some hippie chicks, preferably redheads.”

          Even as a not-particularly-enlightened teenager, I thought there was something skunky in the way Heinlein went on about the incredible closeness of the group and how great it was that everyone shared everything, especially their bodies EXCEPT FOR DUDE MAKEOUTS THAT WOULD BE GROSS (IT’S OKAY IF THE GIRLS DO IT THO).

    • Brightwanderer said:

      You know that most people who use ‘grok’ do so because they’ve picked it up from general geek culture and not because they’ve explicitly decided to quote Heinlein, right? This feels kind of like responding to someone using the phrase “it set my teeth on edge” with “ugh, that play was so needlessly bloody and unpleasant.”

      • Jolly said:

        Yes, I am aware of that. But the idea that it is ridiculous to relate a word that didn’t even exist 60 years ago with the misogynist, homophobic philosophical rant it was explicitly invented for… well, I don’t really buy that? Especially when the book is still widely-read and considered a “classic” among many geeks? I mean, obviously I don’t automatically assume people who say it have taken his bullshit philosophy to heart, or as you say, that they have even read it (if they had, presumably they’d have a similar reaction to the word). But I don’t think associating a word with the recent, popular work it was invented for is all that crazy.

        Basically, what I am saying is: thank you for your valuable input.

        • Brightwanderer said:

          Right, and I totally agree with calling Heinlein out on his bullshit because wow, did that guy have issues. My point was that you came into this saying “that book” as if everyone should of course know what you meant. I didn’t. I had to google it. I don’t think I was the only one. Sure, bring it to people’s attention! I wholeheartedly back this. “Hey, did you know that ‘grok’ was invented by Heinlein in ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and that actually if you know the context it’s kind of wince-worthy?” – I am totally okay with that sort of education!

          But your original comment gave no context and assumed everyone knew what you were talking about. And – some people don’t. A lot of people don’t. Because it’s a word that has escaped its origin into the geek milieu. So maybe less of the shaming of those of us who don’t ‘get it’?

          • Jolly said:

            I don’t really think my original comment was shaming anyone, but the tone of your post seemed fairly condescending, so I went ahead and adopted a similar tack.

          • Enough already, both of y’all. Since neither of you seems willing to let the other have the last word, how ’bout I have it for you?

      • Not even necessarily geek culture – in Southwest England it’s just common slang. People from Cornwall call people who are not from Cornwall ‘grockles.’

        • Mary said:

          How is that related?

        • Brightwanderer said:

          In fairness, I don’t think there’s any relation between “grockles” and “grok”. (People in Dorset also talk about the grockles. In much the same tone of voice they use for the seagulls.)

          • I’d always just assumed the two were related – I’m sure I’ve heard ‘to grok’ used as a verb down there…

    • Zen said:

      Oh my gosh, yes. I felt so cultured and awesome when I read that book years and years ago, but the blatant misogyny in it frustrated the hell out of me before I even really knew what misogyny was.

      I still, however, love that term and use it fairly often in nerdy company. Bah!

    • clodia said:

      [further fist-bump of sci-fi pain]

      One long-standing argument between my husband and I, now thankfully resolved, was about the misogyny in classic scifi. I couldn’t finish that book because it disgusted me, although I’ve read other Heinlein. For a while, he kept trying to tell me that I should just turn my brain off and try to unsee the misogyny, because he could do that.

      He has since better educated himself, with my help. He now will make sure to advise me if I’m going to be upset by misogyny, and actively refuses to read books that are full of that kind of BS.

      I like classic scifi! Asimov and Bradbury especially are awesome – until they completely fail.

      I have a routine for “Stranger in a Strange Land” that explains why I hated it.

      “Oh, Mr. Protagonist and Author-stand in. I am a helpless, silly, beautiful, intelligent enough to be attractive but not too intelligent female, and I need you to explain how ever we’re going to get out this horrible bind!”

      “Well, little lady, let me mansplain that to you. For I am the ever charming, rougish, Author-Stand-In, and we will be having sex just as soon as I save your fine wilting self.”

      “Oh, Thank you Mr. Protagonist! I never would have figured that out without you!”

      That’s in the first chapter. It gets worse.

      • Jolly said:

        Haha, yeah, honestly a lot of misogyny in sci-fi really doesn’t bother me that much; it’s often incidental to the plot, and just a sort of hokey and ridiculous thing on the side. A little reminder of a fairly dark past that (hopefully) we are slowly moving away from.

        But Stranger in a Strange Land is practically devoid of plot, because the author substituted a substantive plot in favor of laying out a new philosophy. So the whole book is basically JUST this philosophy, masquerading under the guise of open-mindedness, while simultaneously objectifying women to a hilarious degree, and giving you a nice little side-order of homophobia. I just will never understand the appeal of this book, though grokking was an admittedly good concept/fun word.

    • solecism said:

      Friday used to be one of my favorite books as a teenager, yet Stranger in a Strange Land was about the only book I didn’t finish reading at that age. And then as I continued rereading the former, I decided I didn’t like it after all; in my late 30s, I finally picked up the latter again and read it through. The misogyny was awful. I could see it and recognize it at that point–when I went off Friday, I knew it made me feel squicky but didn’t have the vocabulary to express why.

      Then I got into conversation with a friend about Heinlein and how I just didn’t like his works because of the misogyny, and this man was an ardent fan. We had words. He wanted to know if I had a problem with female sexuality. No, no I don’t. I have a problem with female sexuality strictly in service to men and a painfully obvious social agenda that I disagree with. Later in that same conversation, he proudly admitted being a white supremacist. It was all very upsetting to me. We are no longer friends, but admittedly because they moved away and I was relieved, not because I took a stand beyond being appalled at them (the wife chimed in on that conversation too) in the moment. That was my first serious friendship crisis, in terms of how can I go on being friends with someone who clearly has mutually exclusive values from mine.

      No more Heinlein for me. There are so many fabulous writers out there, why bother with schlock, no matter how celebrated?

      • Ann said:

        “I knew it made me feel squicky but didn’t have the vocabulary to express why.”

        You’ve just described my experience with most of the ‘classic’ SF I read as a teen, back when Heinlein and Asimov were portrayed (by male critics, at least) as ‘progressive’ because sometimes they had female characters who were good at math and hardly screamed at all.

        On the occasions when I did have the vocabulary to express why, other fans looked at me as though I had just come from, er, Mars. And had failed to bring the promised six-pack of SexyGrokWater.

    • alwaysanswerb said:

      Ah, yes, the classic sci-fi quandary. It’s awful how often I am made to feel like a failure as a SF fan because I can’t handle the sexism in some of the classics. Heinlein, OMG what are you even saying? Asimov (circa Foundation): have you forgotten that women exist?

    • Datdamwuf said:

      I hope I’m not being tedious, just would like to say that Heinlein was pretty enlightened for a man born in 1907. I read his books as a kid in the 60s, he had women in positions of power, he had gay people and diversity and transgender (albeit via a brain transplant). He wrote about group marriage so women would not be tied to children, and those women were doctors and scientists. And yes the misogyny was gaggingly bad in many of his books, I’ve re-read a couple recently and wow. But knowing the culture he grew up in, he was 54 when he wrote Stranger in a Strange land and said he actually wrote it starting in the 1940s, it’s understandable.

      • Jolly said:

        Oh, yeah, for sure. I don’t really fault him for being a relic of his time. I just find it strange that it still seems to make a bunch of top-10 sci-fi lists (which was why I decided to read it), when to me it seemed like it completely traded in any trace of a strong story, in favor of having a platform from which to espouse a now-out of date philosophy. It was definitely a book that was amazingly of it’s time, and showed to an absolute T the rampant problems among the free-love movement (“hey, hippie chicks! come to my commune! we’re all open to free love, and also, men sitting around while women attend to our every need so that we have time to philosophize!”). Much like the movement, it absolutely had value and served a purpose in it’s historical context, but there is SO much that is bad about it, that I am extremely thankful that we got over it. I am just consistently confused that it still gets pointed to as a Good, Classic novel, when it really, it is a crappy novel. It IS an awesome piece of history, though, that really exemplifies absurdly outdated 1960s philosophy. But reading it is straight up painful.

        I won’t deny that I loved Jubal Harshaw, though, and Heinlein at least gets credit for that. If the book was just “story time with crazy grampa Jubal,” instead of that plus a heaping pile of tedium and objectification, maybe I’d have loved it.

        • staranise said:

          I really wish the Top 10 lists would differentiate between “Best SF Books” and “SF Books that Really Shaped the Field”. Really, really do.

          • Vicki said:

            I also wish that people making lists like that would differentiate between “books I fell in love with when I was twelve,” “books I think a twelve-year-old today would like,” and “books I would recommend to a fellow adult who hadn’t already fallen in love with them.”

          • mintylime said:

            +1 to both staranise and Vicki

            There’s some books that either you picked them up when you were a tween/teen and ADORED or you pick them up as an adult and then put them down because ugh. (Zelazny, I am looking at you. Misty, I am looking at you.)

      • Linden said:

        I read “Stranger in a Strange Land” when I was in high school, so thankfully I was at a developed enough age to recognize its problems. I think the fact that authors like Heinlein put the women in nominal positions of power in a way makes the misogyny that much worse. It’s like they’re saying that no matter how educated or powerful women become, underneath the trappings they’re still just girls who enjoy male domination. In a way, I respect the cartoony books like the Gor series more. They wear their misogyny on their sleeves — they don’t try to sneak it past you.

    • Poly people online often cite SiaSL as The Book that Opened Their Eyes to a New Way Of Living.

      I hadn’t read it until well after hearing that a bunch. I had a very hard time reading it and had to chant things like “product of its time, product of its time” to get through, and still had to do dramatic hate-readings at Mr. Wit to get through some of it.

      But I had picked up “grok” well before that, and find it a useful nerdly word. It is jargony and I would not include it in technical documentation, and of course there’s nothing wrong with you hating it for yourself, but I accept that it has connotations that carry useful meaning beyond the other synonyms you offer — even without the water and sex business from the book.

      What I didn’t expect when I read the book was the awfulness of the religiousity. Just, ugh. Ugh!

  8. shehasathree said:

    My parents love talking down to me/talking over me, even (especially?) when we’re talking about Things That I Study. To be fair, I study the experience of fatigue in chronic illness, and the sociology of sleep and other things close to my heart (and personal experience), but STILL. I have now officially Mentioned to my mother that it is incredibly frustrating when they do this.

    • griffykate said:

      ‘To be fair, I study the experience of fatigue in chronic illness, and the sociology of sleep and other things close to my heart (and personal experience), but STILL.’

      I feel like I’m missing a trick here. It sounds like you’re saying the field you study could almost be an excuse for them being SOME amount of condescending to you, just not THIS much. Am I missing something? Because this sounds like a totally legitimate and complex field of study to me, and not at all a thing that a layperson should presume to have superior opinions about, parents or no.

      • It’s definitely a legitimate field of study (Go you, shehasathree! Thanks for your work!) but I think that our societies still struggle with concepts like invisible disabilities, fatigue, chronic illness, sleep disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc? So she might be getting pushback from that.

        Big topics like Dinosaurs or Cancer are Understandable to Parents & the Public, but lots of folks still believe that celiacs are just picky eaters; people with chronic fatigue just need to go to bed earlier; have you tried eating turmeric? kids back in our days never had food allergies! no, I’ve never heard of lupus, so it can’t be real; clearly your bruises are from domestic abuse! and so on. I have experienced this when trying to discuss research or explain autoimmune diseases, so maybe that’s what’s happening here? The general previous-generation public perception that “these diseases aren’t real” or “this isn’t really science” combined with her parents not granting her authority.

        Of course, it’s no excuse. Shehasa3, what cool research you are doing! I wish you the best.

        Also, Hi Kate! <3

        • shehasathree said:

          Yeah, that was pretty much what I meant. :)

          My parents are aware of the existence of autoimmune disorders (I have more than one myself) but they’re seemingly convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could go back to normal. So it’s a bit of a fraught topic for personal reasons as well.

          It’s also the downside to researching sleep, which is a fairly accessible topic. Maybe I should’ve studied something more obscure and technical. (I suspect that would just result in being told my research was unimportant, though. Since that already sort of happens.)

          • Nanani said:

            Hmm.. I wonder if this sort of thing is related to the dismissiveness leveled at language studies – since everybody speaks at least one language, an actual study about language gets dismissed because how do these experts even know better anyway right?? <– sarcasm

            So similarly, since everybody sleeps, sleep researchers don't get their research-derived insights valued as much.

            Maybe this is exactly what you meant by "it's a fairly accessible topic"? /tangent

          • Moi said:

            Nanani — I’ve definitely had that happen. Within 10 mins of this mansplainer finding out that I was working on my dissertation in English lit, he mansplainer about how English was an ugly language. When I disagreed (and I didn’t do so by saying he was wrong, but that I found it quite beautiful myself), I was told I was wrong because he “had been speaking it [his] whole life, and so knew what he was talking about.” Right, because my being a native speaker and having a few degrees in the study of the language/literature were irrelevant: his take on its aesthetics were factual bc omg he had been speaking it for liek 20 years you guise.

            (My friend who was hosting the party must have seen something dangerous in my expression, as she intervened at that point to change the subject).

            Sorry — long rant I’ve not gotten off my chest before! I think that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter how obscure or accessible one’s subject is: mansplainers gonna mansplain.

        • griffykate said:

          Hai Elodie! ^_^ Are you still hereabouts these Bristol parts? I loved your Scary Horse post. Hope all is well with you! /totallyOT

      • shehasathree said:

        When I’m explaining it to myself, it helps me to make a distinction between understanding and excusing the behaviour. So I guess I feel like the fact that I study topics that are relatively accessible and that everyone has opinions about (in a way that nuclear physics, for example, isn’t) constitutes a *reason* for my why my parents think it’s fine to condescend to me, but not an excuse.

        My mother actually explicitly told me that I would “need to be careful that you aren’t biased” in my research. *facepalm*

        My mother has recently become aware that she and Dad talk down to me and act like they Know Everything about certain topics. She has asked me to (politely) point out when they do it next. Oh what fun; it is entirely entrenched in our mode of interacting, despite my concerted efforts over the past 10 years.

        • Absolutely. This.
          Once upon a time I was a researcher in agricultural engineering and never did anyone try to suggest they knew better than me about my topic. (Eyes glaze over, for sure, but mansplain, never.)
          Now I’m a primary school teacher everyone and her husband knows more than I do about my job. Especially if they went to school over 30 years ago, because Everything Was Better Then.

          And, yes, teaching does take someone of my abilities, thank you for asking, I am not “wasting my education”. /mutter

          • My partner is a first year trainee primary school teacher, who happens to be a man.

            After almost SIX ENTIRE MONTHS of studying the topic, his word is taken as law by strangers, his fellow students and teaching assistants alike. Partly this is because he is good at his job and particularly charismatic, but mostly it is an absurd internalised misogyny that DUDES MUST KNOW BEST.

            Sorry, slightly off-topic, but man… Primary school teaching is tough and sexism sucks.

          • Oh god teachers are getting so much bullshit in my country right now because the govt has all these purely ideological ideas about the education sector like national standards and charter schools. To make things even worse they also want to close a bunch of schools in my city (which is hitting people really hard) and they screwed up the new pay system so bad that we now use the name of it as a synonym for screwing something up really bad. There’s something like $12 million owed to 140k teachers from pay cycles that didn’t go through properly. And they’re all still working. IMO they’re pretty much heroes and I think they know a little bit more about teaching than the people who are trying to pretend they’re not freeing up real estate for charter schools to move into. Coz, you know, there’s absolutely NO evidence from overseas that charter schools are a terrible idea! /sarcasm

            Erm, yeah. I sort of have Feelings about the disrespect teachers (and also nurses) get.

    • Julie said:

      Completely off-topic, but as these are also my experience, I’m fascinated by your studies! Also curious curious curious.

      • As a person who is ludicrously sleepy All The Time, me too! They sound like fascinating things to study.

        • shehasathree said:

          Thanks, Julie and TheOtherAlice, encouragement and fascination are always welcome (and particularly atm, when I am feeling discouraged). And yeah, it is AWESOME to be able to study this stuff FOR REAL.

    • As someone with a chronic illness who struggles with fatigue; thank you.

  9. JT said:

    Delurking (by the way I LOVE THIS SITE! IT IS EATING ALL MY TIME AND/BUT I LOVE IT!) to add my agreement to the assessment that people who cannot respect a “This is not fun, please stop” are not worth your time and effort.

    I used to have a “friendly” colleague who would initiate arguments with me in this manner every single day. One day, as he tried to argue about the ethics of abortion, I said, calmly, in the middle of lunch, “Look, let’s not argue about this. You’re not going to change my mind, and I’m not going to change your mind, and I don’t enjoy it.” He responded by clanging his cutlery onto his plate really noisily and angrily as he ate, and then never speaking to me voluntarily again. It made me realise I had occupied the role of “dispenser of shiny intellectual toy on demand” in his life, and when I refused to play that role, he just sulked. This sounds to me like a similar case.

    Hopefully, explanation will help the wider friendship circle grasp that your comfort in the social space is more important than these two jerks’ desire to play cat-and-mouse with you. But if they can’t, you might consider phasing out of the group entirely. It’s an unfortunate outcome, but if they’re too passive to fix this kind of bullying in the group dynamic when you state it so explicitly, it seems to me quite likely they will let other problems pile up as well.

    • kristinmh said:

      Passive-aggressive cutlery-clanking! That is so childish.

    • Oh man, I had this happen with a coworker once too! He is speaking to me now though. I also had another conversation where I was like “PETA objecitfies women” and a coworker was all “I don’t think that’s true blah blah posturing.” And I was all “I do not care if you think that it is true, because it is, and you not agreeing doesn’t change that.”

      This BLEW HIS MIND. The very idea that I would not need him to agree with me.

  10. hebbyn said:

    I’ve had some success shutting people down by aggressively agreeing with them in a blatantly fake way. “Wow! You’re completely right, and I was completely, utterly wrong to think any other than exactly what you think, and of course, you know so much more about this subject than I do, and because you’ve said this, I’ve completely re-evaluated everything I thought I knew about this, because of course, you’re absolutely, 100% completely right and it’s utterly impossible for you to be wrong.” Wide-eyed and Oh! So! Sincere! Really!
    Which: full disclaimer, Person I Do This With is the SO of a friend -who I do genuinely like most of the time!- so I’m not as personally invested in this, although I do like the SO. My motives are much more focussed on making sure that I can socialize with Friend without SO dragging fingernails down the blackboard of my soul.
    Second disclaimer: my family generally have a “friendly bicker” communication style, so arguments don’t automatically come with bad emotions attached – seriously, we’ve spent car journeys arguing about whether the world was flat or round and who could prove it.
    Third Disclaimer: ‘Splainer isn’t actually doing it to be annoying, which I feel may not be the case with LW’s friends. ‘Splainer operates from a default assumption of personal correctness, which means that if somebody else things something different, they’re wrong and should be corrected. (Intellectually, ‘Splainer will admit to sometimes being wrong… but never in this particular case we’re talking about right then.)
    The reason the approach works for me is that it tells ‘Splainer that firstly, I don’t actually care enough to engage in this argument and that it’s meaningless. This isn’t arguing about whether to get pizza or Indian takeaway, there’s no actual consequence of it. I’m just agreeing to get out of the argument as quickly as possible.
    Secondly, the “victory” is meaningless, because I’ve not lost anything. ‘Splainer knows I’ve not suddenly changed my mind, doesn’t get to feel superior, I’ve not been put in my place* or chased off.
    Thirdly, it tells ‘Splainer that I think this whole thing is frankly just silly. If ‘Splainer tries to go on with the not-really-a-conversation, I cut them off with “Mmm, right, right!”
    Fourthly, this is a technique I got from dealing with my brother. Harnessing immaturity for greater good! Works better without parents there to tell you both off for winding the other up!
    It may be different with you –like I said, ‘Splainer isn’t trying to make me unhappy, so stops when I;m not engaging, which I think is maybe not the case with your ‘friends’- but I figured out that if someone wants to have an debate by themself, I don’t have to provide a stage, podiums and an audience for it.
    *Not saying ‘Splainer’s doing this consciously, but there is a power-balance thing in all this.

    • ‘I figured out that if someone wants to have an debate by themself, I don’t have to provide a stage, podiums and an audience for it.’

      This!

    • Virginia said:

      I do this too. I know it’s bratty, but jeez louise. I am not interested in being the Biggest Dog in the Yard, and anyone playing that game is welcome to feel that they have “won” over me.

      They do not, however, get to be my friends. Because how exhausting.

      Good luck this weekend, LW! May your argument with these petty people be only a small blip on the radar.

    • anon said:

      Yecch. I get that this is a method that works, but it works because it’s incredibly passive-aggressive and bratty and it’s just pointless to try and continue a conversation with someone doing this. My dad does the “Oh well OBVIOUSLY you must be right, you’re always right, excuse me for breathing” martyr act whenever someone has the temerity to challenge his authority, and it’s really obnoxious and immature.

      LW, there are ways to disengage without pulling this garbage. Do those instead.

      • Private Jane said:

        You know, I don’t think you (general you, not you specifically) have to be polite all the time, especially not to people who have no inclination to be polite to you. I’d say, if hebbyn has stated the desire to not have this conversation in a mature way without eliciting the desired result, zie’s entitled to pull all passive-aggressive and bratty shit necessary to elicit the desired result, i.e. not having the discussion.

      • Mary said:

        Well yeah, but if someone is being aggressive and horrible too you, you’re not under any obligation to be charming and mature in how you disagree.

        • AutumnFire said:

          I have to be totally honest here (and no, I don’t mind at all if folks disagree or are horrified), but my first reaction to the ‘she’s all feminazi’ b.s. would be to say, “sorry about your dick, man.”

          Evil, yes. Sometimes, you just feel the need to either say it out loud or in your own head to come to the realization that these people being nasty to you are not necessary to your enjoyment of life. Set them, and yourself, free.

      • solecism said:

        My mom does the same thing as your dad. At this point, I consider it a form of emotional abuse. I get that she’s trapped in these awful communication patterns due to her toxic marriage where they are both deeply invested in being right and expressing their opinion at every opportunity, but it’s not okay when that poison starts leaking into other relationships. It makes me so sad too.

        Not that this has anything to do with hebbyn’s example. Given that the LW’s “friends” are already breaking the social contract with their mansplaining bullying, whatever tactics work best for the recipient should be employed.

      • piny1 said:

        I think this is tactic is okay depending on who’s deploying it and why. When your dad does it to shut you down and make you feel stupid, it’s obnoxious. When this woman does it because friends of hers just will not stop arguing with her, it’s not so obnoxious.

      • Sarah N. said:

        Feigning agreement, even in a passive-aggressive manner, and refusing to engage are legitimate survival techniques though. I don’t think the two men in the letter are likely to become violent, but arguments can escalate and having a strategy that works to disengage, any strategy at all, can be important. Of course, you shouldn’t keep associating with people that make you break out such a strategy, but that doesn’t make the strategy wrong.

      • staranise said:

        It seems to me that one difference is whether or not the fake!agreer blames the arguer. There’s a big difference between “I am agreeing with you because I don’t want to fight” and “I am agreeing with you so I can continue to fight, by insinuating that you are so awful and aggressive that you have completely silenced me.”

        • solecism said:

          Yes! That is exactly what my mom does, and it is so amazingly hurtful and silencing to me! And yet it feels so amorphous that I can’t call it out or resist it while she denies any wrongdoing and accuses me. :Makes note to self of this explanation:

  11. You describe them as ‘never the easiest to get along with’ and ‘not really that bad’ yet you say they are great friends. How does that work? What do they bring to the table?

    They might see annoying you as a sort of sport. Points for making you upset the fastest. Points for making your face get red. Points for making you scream! If you ignore their crap they won’t get the satisfaction of seeing you react. It won’t go away completely in one second, but it’ll get better. Do this if you want to keep the relationship going without taking a stand for yourself. It will probably still hurt you somewhat to be around them.

    Your so called friends clearly get off on arguing with you. They put their needs of being right in front of your need of having decent friends. I ask again; what do they bring to the table? There are real friends out there who value you, opinions and knowledge and all. It sounds like you’re surrounded by people who love to fuel the gossipy flames. If they are marginally brighter I’d send some links to them from CA about minding their own business. Talk to them after they’ve read it, that way you might avoid the ‘I’m just trying to heeeeeeeelp’. They’re not helping, they are making you feel worse. Good luck!

  12. Reading through the letter and comments: first thing I need to say is, my goodness, clearly I have been very fortunate to have avoided this kind of mansplaining in my life. (I think the worst I had was a whole lot of snark from one guy when I took a women’s studies course in my undergrad. He is no longer my friend, though not for that reason specifically. It’s because he was an asshole in general).

    One little comment, though: I think that the field LW studies might actually be relevant to what’s going on here? If they’re studying theology, for instance, the friends in question may have some sensitivities around that. And while, even if this *is* the case, they are still responding to their discomfort in an assholish way, it may be that the LW genuinely has a theological perspective they have major problems with (as gay people? or for some other reason). It’s a long shot, I know. I just wanted to raise the possibility that there is a genuine and legitimate disagreement happening here, that simply needs to be more productively addressed?

    • JenniferP said:

      Whatever the LW is studying, it doesn’t warrant being yelled over and made to hide in the bathroom and called a “feminazi.”

      • Aw, crap. Totally missed that the LW had weighed in on the comments – I completely renege my random speculation.

    • That’s not the LW’s responsibility, though.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I find the mansplaining thing fascinating also, because I don’t think it’s ever really happened to me.* Something about my personality either discourages it or makes me oblivious to it if it’s happening. On the rare occasions where I have had someone vehemently assert that Wrong Fact is TRUE**, I’ve been so astonished that an allegedly rational adult could say something so off-base that the best I can do is just “Uhh … I have to go … be over here now.”

      * My father is the guy who Knows Everything About Everything, but he also changes his mind all the time about what is true, and then claims not to remember that he said the exact opposite last week, so I just let him talk and make fascinated noises.

      ** The phrase “if we evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys??” has this effect on me.

    • Xenophile said:

      The question isn’t, “Could they have a legitimate disagreement?” but “Are they being respectful of her point of view?” It’s totally possible to disagree with someone but not discount their experience or education. To continue your theology metaphor, someone might be hostile towards religion in general or towards a particular type or religion, and they can express that, but that doesn’t give them the right to tell the LW she just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

      • The potential scenario I was imagining was one wherein the LW was a theology student and was claiming something like how homosexuality is a choice, in which case, yes, the friends in question would have a right to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about. Mostly irrelevant, though, since additional info has proven my admittedly wild speculation decidedly false.

  13. My parents do similar things, regarding one particular subject; homosexuality (sorry if that’s not pc) now I’m not exactly where I fall on the Kinsey scale, but maybe a three? Anyway that’s not really the point. I have tried avoiding the topic as much as I possibly could, because it is never a discussion, its always, “homosexuality’s a sin and if they don’t stop then they’re probably going to go to hell” And trying to get me to agree with that nonsense. I mean its crazy. Random statistics from NO WHERE, all kinds of nonsense. I do my best not to engage, but, eventually I end up word vomiting, and then saying, “You aren’t going to change my mind, I’m done talking about this, so lets talk about making muffins/beer”

    But these guys… What if you were to essentially play devils advocate and explain something that you have no way of really have, having that experience, like being a male gay man, and talk about some struggle or some “reason for being gay” and see if they catch your drift. It may be a more antagonistic move, but sometimes I wonder if assholes really only respond to assholes.
    It doesn’t have to be that topic but just something that you know that you could use to show them what they are doing.

    The other thing is, this worked for my father, not mother so far. But maybe they don’t know the difference between a discussion and an argument? A lot of people think that they do, but most people actually treat them as the same thing. So if you have not already asked them that question, maybe see if that’s the problem, or if you have already asked them, maybe say something like, “Are you sure you know the difference between an argument, a discussion, and a debate? Because you say that you do, and then you still keep arguing, so that tells me that you sir, are full of shit.”

    Perhaps not the most brilliant of scripts, but I’m sure you get the idea. And if that doesn’t work. fuck those dickbags and go have a cupcake and some beer.

    • Josie said:

      I’m sorry that your parents are homophobes. That must suck.

    • Vicki said:

      If your parents are standard American Christians, maybe you could start in on long rants about the sin of usury, and that all the bankers and credit card companies are going to go to hell? And that it’s against the Bible to withhold someone’s wages even for one day, and how horrible and sinful it is when companies don’t pay freelance and temp workers’ invoices the day they get them, in order to squeeze out a fractional amount of interest even if it means someone else can’t buy food or heat their homes…

      I doubt you’d convince them, but it might at least work as a subject change, or get them to stop waving the Bible around so.

  14. keysburg said:

    I once worked with a guy who was constantly starting arguments with me. (We had a very long ongoing one about if dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded.) We were stuck together, literally, on a boat, so there was no getting away from him. It got wearing after awhile and I asked him why he did it. His answer was that it was “fun”. But he also told me the only reason it was fun was because I was engaged, and that if I just said “whatever” we wouldn’t be arguing.

    The next time he tried to start an argument, I did just that. I refused the bait, rolled my eyes at him, said “Whatever!” and changed the subject. He was disappointed but dropped it. We still argued over things when I felt like it/ had the energy.

    I feel like the eyeroll is really key here to express your disapproval/disagreement so the “whatever” doesn’t become a tacit agreement, but it also says pretty clearly you are not going to engage right now.

    • pfcmarie said:

      This is a tactic I have sometimes used, to varying success. Instead of engaging, I roll my eyes and make some comment about how absolutely boring this is and walk away. I really try to channel some high-school-mean-girl into it if the situation is nasty enough.

      Once I literally laid face-down on the floor going “Oh my GAWD I’m going to DIE choking on WORD VOMIT and I won’t even care because I’m too BORED TO CARE” but that was for a very special person (who did not try talking to me again, I will note).

      • Manatee said:

        Round of applause! That is amazing and inspiring and I’m totally knicking this to use in times of emergency! :D

      • Grace said:

        My god, that is beautiful. I think I shall memorise it and pray god I never have to use it.

      • Epiphyta said:

        “They should film that and show it every Christmas.”

        • rosal said:

          Hehe Buffy

  15. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, you made me think of this:

  16. Rachel said:

    I have recently had a similar experience of trying to separate the emotion of “This person is my friend” from the emotion of “but I really hate they way they are acting, arguing with me, trampling over my opinions” etc.
    Although it wasn’t a case of mansplaining (the friend in question is female), I think there is a point where you can no longer separate the person from their behaviour. At some point, “acts like an overbearing so-and-so” becomes “IS an overbearing so-and-so,” if they act that way all the freaking time. And the warm squishy theoretical feeling of “ah, my old friend” conflicts with the actual emotion you have on seeing them, of “dear lord, not you again”.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that there are people who are your friends in theory, and people who behave like your friends when they are actually around you, and only the second type of friend is actually any good. It sounds like you have made a lot of effort to communicate your feelings, and these two dudes are not listening. There’s only so much you can do to resolve this yourself. If they want your friendship, let them start making some effort to meet you halfway; if they don’t, you win the prize of not having to hang out with them any more. Good luck with it!

    • Sadly, I know I am one of these people – the only thing keeping me from actually being a mansplainer is not being a man. I think it was my little sister who eventually managed to clue me in… took her ages, though. At least I’m making a bit of progress now. For me, that subject change – it’s brilliant. I need that kind of kick to the shin sometimes to realize what I’m doing. I hope that eventually, I won’t need that either.

    • Grumpy Cat said:

      I had a similar experience with a female “friend” some years ago. Everything I did (professionally or otherwise) was without value, stupid, something to be mocked. I got to the point where I was so bewildered by this treatment that I wouldn’t even engage.

      Thankfully, circumstances have arranged so that I do not need to interact with her again. I don’t think one should have to spend one’s time and energy on people who tear chunks out of one (for fun?). I’m not interested in why she did it; I’m just glad I don’t ever have to put up with it again.

  17. entendante said:

    Ooh, I’ve got (at least) one of those in my social circle, too. Luckily, we’re not actually friends – we share a hobby, and see each other at hobby-related things about twice a month. Still, getting up and leaving isn’t really a fun option when the activity doesn’t happen all that often and it’s your main source of not-at-work socializing.

    What’s worked decently for me, though it’s taken me a while to get there, is the refrain, “Well, [activity] isn’t arguing time,” repeated, as needed, *instead* of a rebuttal to Obviously Wrong Statements. So, for example:

    [blah blah blah, general conversation about languages]
    ‘Splainer: Ugh, and then those X speakers, who keep insisting that X is a language and not just a dialect of Y, because they just have to be radical and special and separate.
    Me: Oh, I actually speak X; I learned it while I was working on my M.A. in linguistics and language ideology. Funnily enough, while I can understand a little of Y, I can definitely tell you they’re two separate languages.
    ‘Splainer: Well, I honeymooned in Y and X looks awfully similar. [increasingly ill-informed calumny against X] I mean, right? How can you disagree with that?
    Me, smiling politely: (pause) Well. (pause) It isn’t really arguing time.
    ‘Splainer: But, I mean [stuff].
    Me: Mmm. Yeah, it’s [activity] time for me, not arguing time.

    We did this again, about my current field of work (which is not linguistics-related), last week. Again, I let it get to the my-head-is-steaming point before falling back on the refrain – but once I dug my heels into it, there was literally nothing for her to argue *against,* so she had zero traction and kind of slid away, conversationally speaking.

    Now, obviously, the Captain and the Army are right: these dudes are not really behaving like friends, and not letting them into conversations/enclosed spaces/your life would probably be the best first option. But if your social circles overlap such that they’ll be at things whether you want them there or not, having the “It’s not arguing time” response in your back pocket might help. (Good luck this weekend!)

    • Mary said:

      I LOVE this. It makes it really difficult for people to go, “Oh hey, actually it IS arguing time!”

    • roramich said:

      such a useful tool! thank you!

    • LOL! Oh well done, this is such an excellent strategy. I can’t wait to use it with my mother’s douchenozzle husband.

      • entendante said:

        Ooh, I want a full report. :c)

  18. ona555 said:

    Ungh, my ex-brother in law was so much like this, couldn’t stand the thought that he didn’t know all there was to know about everydamnedthing. Spouse didn’t believe he was really all that bad until one visit ex-BIL mansplained to Spouse– a man– about his very own job that he’d been doing for 15 years, a job that ex-BIL had never done himself. You know it’s bad when a mansplainer starts mansplaining his mansplaineyness to other men. Spouse was insensed, I had to tell him, sweets, that is *exactly* what he does to me and sis, all. the. time. and that is why she is usually stressed out to the max and why I can’t stand him, this is what it is, that is what it feels like. I didn’t know the term ‘splaining back then, but the first time I heard it? I thought, “OMG BIL.”

    Thankfully, the divorce eventually took care of his presence in our lives and hers. Is there such thing as a friendship divorce? I think there is.

    • Hazel said:

      Is there such thing as a friendship divorce? I think there is.

      There should be.

    • AutumnFire said:

      You know it’s bad when a mansplainer starts mansplaining his mansplaineyness to other men.

      Best. Sentence. Ever.

  19. zandperl said:

    I’m not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but there’s also a slim chance that this is benign. I have friends who enjoy what they call debating so much that they will take any chance to do so, yes even over the color of the sky. It’s possible that these friends of yours are like that and think you are too (while thinking your boyfriend is not). If this is the case, then saying something really would make a world of difference.

    I don’t really think this is the case, but it’s worth considering (for example if the LW is also a man, this seems much more likely than mansplaining, though of course it’s not the only alternative even in that situation).

    • JenniferP said:

      The LW is a woman. It’s not benign, and having her knock her head against a brick wall trying to give them the benefit of the doubt sounds really not fun.

    • Emily said:

      I reaaaaally, really doubt that it’s benign, and even if it was, they’re still being total assholes. It seems like the LW has made it pretty clear that she isn’t enjoying the arguments and that they stress her out to these people, and they continue to argue. If someone makes it clear they don’t enjoy arguing about x, but you still want to argue about x because you ‘just enjoy debating’ (which actually I think is a spurious claim to make anyway and sounds an awful lot like ‘oh I was just being the devil’s advocate, don’t take it personally’), you’re still a jerk, you know?*

      *not you-you, general you.

      • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

        I don’t believe that our LW is such a great actor, or has such an incredible poker-face that these two dickwads can’t see from her expression and body language that she is extremely uncomfortable and unhappy about being spoken to like this. Who the fuck cares why a bully bullies? They’re out of line, and couldn’t possibly have anything on offer that would make up for this level of mean-girl-bully behavior. One of the unfortunate hallmarks of any abusive relationship is when the abused begins to analyze why the abuser might be abusing so that they may then take care not to walk on that particular eggshell. No, no, and NO. She doesn’t need to twist herself into pretzel knots trying to figure out that age-old question: why is that asshole acting like an asshole.

    • staranise said:

      Even if it were benign, that’s not the point. I have a friend who seriously hates being hugged unawares–she has sensory issues so it just really doesn’t feel good. I like coming up to my friends and hugging them. It’s “benign” if I randomly hug her when we’re hanging out. It’s NOT benign if I KEEP hugging her, repeatedly, over days and weeks, even though she says she doesn’t like it and makes an effort to avoid me.

      The LW has said she doesn’t like the arguments more than once. These guys know she doesn’t like what they’re doing, and they think she’s ridiculous and unreasonable for feeling that way.

      • Bittybird said:

        Thank you for this! I have been struggling to articulate how to explain to people that certain kinds of touch are wretchedly awful for me–in fact a large part of why I left my ex-boyfriend is no matter how many times I told him that rubbing my shoulders, “affectionate” circular motions on my arm, really any kind of moving-touch on my body doesn’t feel good, he’d stop in the moment, but it’d be conveniently forgotten the next time he wanted to do it. It feels like NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD to me. I’d convince myself not to get upset, because it was “benign”–he was doing nothing but perfectly sweet traditional affectionate gestures! That made me want to crawl out of my skin and were triggery and upsetting. “Sensory issues” is a good way of putting it.

        I agree that the big point is it doesn’t matter HOW “benign” their intentions may be–they might (though I doubt it) think arguing is good harmless fun (much like my ex thought rubbing shoulders was good and harmless), but they are using the fact that THEY find it fun to willfully ignore that the LW is not enjoying it. (Rather, they seem to take great zeal in the fact that she doesn’t enjoy it). That’s not so benign.

        • staranise said:

          I knew someone whose boss would buy her a huge floral arrangement every year for Admin Assistants’ Day–conveniently forgetting, every year, that she has really bad allergies and flowers set them off. As a way to express appreciation for her, it wasn’t a very good one!

          • I have a friend with several food allergies. Her boss has asked and knows about them. Yet every Friday when it’s cake time at her office, there isn’t one thing safe for her to eat. The social pressure of having a bite with her officemates is still present.

            Now she just brings her own stuff. Her boss is surprised every single week.

        • Ellex said:

          I’ve had this issue with more than one co-worker (oddly, I am female and the offending co-workers have always been female). One co-worker kept trying to tickle me. I asked her not to do it. I had to ask her more than once. “But everyone likes being tickled!” Well, no, I don’t. In fact, I find it very nearly painful; it’s over-stimulation for me. She just couldn’t believe that, straight up denied that it was even possible. Finally I had to bring in a supervisor to explain that (a) don’t touch people if they ask you not to touch them, and (b) tickling is not appropriate at work. But I truly, genuinely think that she couldn’t understand that what she was doing was unpleasant for me. However, it later became clear that she also thought that shoulder-blocking was a sign of affection, and the problem was that she’d been raised in an environment where there was no such thing as unwanted touching. She was also very young, and it was her first job, so I tried to take that into account when dealing with her.

          However, the mid-forties temp who just couldn’t seem to keep her mommy-feels to herself and kept touching me (hand on my shoulder and hugs, mostly) drove me up the wall. Not only was it unwelcome, it was also condescending (I’m only about 7 years younger than her, max). “Oh but you remind me of my 15-year-old daughter” is not a valid excuse for treating me like I’m your 15-year-old daughter, especially after I’ve had to ask you to stop randomly hugging me. She didn’t stop until the day I smacked her hand off my shoulder when she startled the hell out of me, and that resulted in her flouncing off with the mystifying statement “I don’t have to put up with this!”

          While someone’s intentions may be benign, they are still willfully ignoring your stated assertion that you don’t like what they’re doing and want them to stop, and that comes from a particular kind of self-absorption (and possibly de-humanization of you) that has really unpleasant connotations.

          • Quisty said:

            My mom used to have a co-worker who would sneak up on her and grab her just above the knee. There’s a nerve or something there? So it’s really uncomfortable and unpleasant for most people.

            She asked him to stop and he didn’t until she punched him in the nose. Some people.

        • Kaz said:

          Aaaaaaah the thing when people don’t take your sensory issues seriously >< Like Ellex, I can't stand being tickled – the feeling is actually worse than pain in some ways, because light touch can turn into this horrible crawling sensation that lingers ohgodohgod nails on chalkboard and I end up hurting *myself* to make it go away. And certain people just Would. Not. Believe me because hey, pretending not to like being tickled and shouting “stop!” and claiming you don’t want it when you’re secretly enjoying it is just the way it works, right?

          …I actually, and I am not proud of this, ended up threatening extreme violence in order to bring it home that I was being serious. Like, since saying “if you tickle me I will hit you” wasn’t taken seriously, I went with “if you tickle me I will try to claw your eyes out and I will not be sorry.” I wouldn’t actually have, but THAT seemed to get through.

          At least I live in a pretty nontouchy culture overall, so I don’t face these issues too often.

          • Ellex said:

            I’m told that for most people, I give off a pretty definite *do not touch* vibe, fortunately. But for those who don’t get it and won’t listen, I’m perfectly happy to say very loudly and publicly that unwanted and unexpected touching is likely to get you smacked purely as a reflex action. Then anyone who does get smacked (and most of the time it really is an involuntary reflex…but occasionally it’s not) has no one to blame but themselves, because I warned them ahead of time.

            I don’t *want* to hurt anyone. But I have real and legitimate issues with physical contact (which has nothing to do with any abuse or trauma, please stop asking what terrible thing happened to me, I was born like this) and unexpected touching really is over-stimulation to the point that I will automatically do anything to make it stop.

            Which actually leads into the whole “please listen to the words I am saying and stop trying to find the non-existent secret trauma in my past that makes me not conform to your definition of *normal*” issue. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

          • Kaz said:

            @Ellex – I may actually give off a similar vibe – most people leave me my personal space, which I’m very happy about! It was only a few people I had this problem with and I’m not really in touch with them anymore. I haven’t had to defend my no-tickling boundaries in a while, so I’m not sure what I’d do if it happened now. Hitting instead of just threatening it is not out of the question.

            …I have had frequent issues trying to get people to take my auditory sensitivities seriously, though. Holy fuck, is it difficult for some people to understand “a place with that level of background noise is painful for me.”

            And ick, seriously on the “let’s speculate on the trauma that lies in your past” thing?! I was about to say that at least that never happened to me, but actually it did – in trying to get my brother to accept my identity as asexual I tried explaining that I wasn’t fond of some kinds of touch anyway (in retrospect not a good plan, should not have tried coming out while tipsy) and he found that Deeply Worrying and I was clearly Repressed and Traumatised because, idk, our parents hadn’t hugged us enough when we were kids. Blecch. I’m sorry it happens to you. :( I have no idea why people think this sort of behaviour is okay, and the total lack of comprehension that not everyone experiences the world in the way they do sometimes scares me.

            In my case, there’s a very straightforward explanation – I’m autistic, sensory issues are par for the course – but that’s not something I necessarily want to share with random people who refuse to take my word for what causes me pain, you know?

          • Bittybird said:

            Re: sensory issues and trauma: The sad thing is, the expectation that only dire trauma could make a person dislike touch is so strong, *I* got talked into blaming my own trauma! That is to say, I have a history of sexual abuse, and a dislike of certain kinds of touch (motion-based touch oh god it hurts), and at first I didn’t think they were related issues? But I had a therapist who was convinced that my touch-defensiveness must be a result of the trauma (I mean, I had a *lot* of problems as a result, but my gut told me this was unrelated because I’m sure I remember always being this way) and eventually she convinced me to believe her. Which meant that my touch issues were from DAMAGE, and if I let myself cave to them then I was BROKEN, so I had to try and get over it. Needless to say, it didn’t work! Instead, allowing so much nails-on-a-chalkboard-skin-crawling touch started to BECOME triggery and made me PTSD, because having to put up with so much touch I didn’t want and having it become increasingly unbearable–yeah.

            When if I’d been allowed to follow my first instinct, which is that it doesn’t *feel* like my touch issues arise from emotional damage, it feels like a purely sensory issue–well, it’d have saved me a lot of grief. But no one ever let me think that hey, maybe for some people, this is normal and that’s okay.

      • THIS. So much THIS.

        If you don’t know that it bother’s someone, then you get the excuse of ignorance, until they tell you otherwise. Once you are aware that it bothers them, if you do it, you are either willfully TRYING to bother them (so not cool!) or else you have a really bad memory.

        In the latter case, the bothered person can say, “Hey! I told you that bothers me,” and the botherer can say, “Oops! I’m so sorry! I forgot. I’ll try not to do that again.” My father is forgetting more and more stuff these days, my mother has been forgetful for years, and I forget stuff all the time (including on more than one occasion my very own name), so I’m open to acknowledging that people forget things, and I can forget that, as long as they *own* their mistake, apologize for it, and at least try to do better in future. Taking responsibility for mistakes and apologizing goes a very long way to making good relationships last.

        However, in the former case, where they know, and remember, that what they are doing bothers you, and they do it anyway, then they are purposely trying to punch your buttons, and that calls for action of some sort. Personally, I prefer to disengage and stay disengaged from people who push my buttons. Why should I give people who want to hurt and/or bother me *any* of my time or energy? The cut direct is a wonderful weapon, as well a shield.

    • entendante said:

      As an out-and-proud recreational arguer, it’s only fun if the other person is equally into it. If they’re, you know, *leaving the room in distress,* it ceases to be fun-happy-argue-time and switches into “Oh, god, I’m so sorry, I was way out of line” time. And it happens *maximum* once.

      • bluecandles said:

        Exactly.
        I have friend who is a ‘recreational arguer’, and not very good at accepting others’ opinion if they differ from her own, but she will be the first to apologise if something she says visibly upsets anyone & won’t raise that subject again. Because she cares about her friends and doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. Because real friends care.

      • Growing up, we spent a lot of time on road trips, with four of us kids crammed in the back (before mandatory seat belts). There wasn’t much to do, so we came up with our own ways to amuse ourselves. I don’t know who came up with “the insult game,” or “the curse game,” (May all your children be born fully clothed!) but we had a lot of fun with it. There was one hard and fast rule, though: As family, we knew each others hot buttons, and we were NEVER to touch those hot buttons. Warm buttons were OK, but never, Never, NEVER the hot ones. And all the insults had to be blatantly false, such as telling a certified genius that if he blew his nose too hard, his brain would come out his nostrils. It was more about being creative with the words and the images than about anything to do with the people actually participating.

        Sometimes hot buttons change. When I was 18, I absolutely hated being teased about my lack of height. Short jokes were enough to push me into cold-shoulder-land, and friendships were lost because of it. Now, I couldn’t care less. I am short, and it’s annoying that I can’t reach stuff, but I don’t mind you joking with me about it. I have new hot buttons, though, that developed over the course of my life.

        That’s why, if/when I engage in this sort of game, I have to be confident and trust that the other players are not only going to play by the Golden Rule, and avoid the hot buttons, I will only engage in such a game with people who KNOW my hot buttons, and whose hot buttons I also know. So, basically, my immediate family.

        Come to think of it, we haven’t played either of those games in a long, long time. And that’s probably for the best.

    • LunarGeography said:

      They are stressing her and upsetting her. By definition, that’s not benign, no matter what their intent was.

    • drst said:

      No. When someone, especially an alleged friend, tells you to stop doing X thing because it upsets them and you don’t stop, it is no longer benign. End of story.

    • I enjoy a debate, from time to time, but I do NOT enjoy arguing.

      Debating should be a respectful meeting of the minds, and presentation of sensible statements, data, and yes, even opinions, done in a polite and civil manner. There should be no aggressive behavior, no name-calling, raised voices, or belittling of the other person’s position/knowledge/intelligence/rationality.

      There is a big difference between debate and arguing. Ask any member of a good debate club. We want to engage the minds, not the enemy.

      A good debate sparks the synapses, and helps a person think more clearly about their own positions on issues. If you have to defend the logic of your stance, you must understand it, after all, and sometime the very act of defending that logic helps you see the logic more clearly. And sometimes it actually makes you see that your stance wasn’t as logical as you thought it was. If the other side manages to convince you of their stance, it doesn’t mean “you lost.” It means that you learned something.

      A good debate can be quite stimulating. But it should never lead to tears, or anger or so much tension that you have to hide and dread seeing these people again.

      If they claim that they enjoy a good debate, then ask them, “So why don’t you engage in a GOOD debate, then?”

      OP, good luck standing up for yourself. Give them ONE MORE CHANCE to show their true friendship, and if they take it, then you know they were just misguided. If they don’t take it, you know they are not your friends, and THEY broke the friendship, not you. In that case, do not feel guilty, or even sad, that you have to cut them off. Be civil in public, but not warm.

      And I second the suggestion of checking out Etiquette Hell. It’s a fantastic website, and will give you lots of good ideas about how to be civil and polite, without giving up anything of yourself.

      • Also, “enjoying a good (X)” where X is something that involves other people is no excuse for engaging in X with people who didn’t consent to it. If someone is telling you about their day and you decide, but do not announce, that you would like to Debate them on something related to their day, and just start up debatin’ about it… you are not engaging in a debate. You are picking a fight.

        I know a few martial artists who enjoy a good sparring match and none of them would ever, EVER, start punching someone out of the blue without actually asking that person to spar first. They’d get kicked out of their dojos soooooooo fast if they did.

        Consent: it is important for stuff besides sex!

    • Grumpy Cat said:

      I’m sorry, my reaction to this is WHAT THE–? Anyone who calls the LW a feminazi for daring to disagree with them is not fucking benign. Period.

  20. pfcmarie said:

    This all reminded me of an article I recently read:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/arts/people-argue-just-to-win-scholars-assert.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    It talks about a theory that “reason” and everything we assume goes with it (certain styles of acceptable logic or evidence) is an evolutionary adaptation to persuade and win, as opposed to some One True Way to find the truth. This really sort of clicked something into place for me. I have had so many terrible arguments with terrible people who appeared to use Logic to Win!!!!!! and it fills me with rage and hate and despair every time I think of it. But somebody can use Logic for Argument and Asshole for Making You Feel Like Shit at the same time, and I have almost never met a person invested in Logic for Argument who isn’t also invested in Asshole for Making You Feel Like Shit. I know the two things should be able to exist separately in theory, that a nice person should be able to use Logic (TM), but in reality, I have not encountered it. So it makes sense to me that the entire concept of reason and logic may have evolved as a tool for Asshole in the battle of Making You Feel Like Shit.

    I think it’s important to center yourself here, and whether or not you like these people, whether or not you find something fulfilling here. But I also had to think to myself while reading this, I mean, what do these guys get out of hanging out with you? Imagine if you were them, and, like, every time you hung out with somebody you ostensibly liked, they seethed with anger and frustration, asked you to stop talking multiple times, and finally just left and hid in the bathroom. Would you be like, “Wow, that was a super fun time, let’s do that again”? If not, what kind of person would you have to be to think that was super fun, and to want to do that again? Like, what are they getting out of your interactions? Because your entire interaction with them seems to be centered around ending the night with you feeling like shit, so I’m guessing they’re not going home being like, “That one joke we all laughed at together was so, so great, too bad the rest of the night she was clenching her jaw and fists and avoiding us,” or there would be more nights with more jokes you could all laugh at instead of more nights full of clenching. I think what they’re getting out of your interactions is the frustration and anger and defeat and hiding. And, I guess, do you want to hang out with people who value that, who find that fulfilling? Because you’re going to have to continue providing that for them, the same way you expect your friends to provide you with whatever it is you get out of them.

    I feel like this needs to be a new Awkward rule or something: hiding in the bathroom from somebody is, like, officially the first step on your Magical Quest for the African Violet.

    • entendante said:

      “hiding in the bathroom from somebody is, like, officially the first step on your Magical Quest for the African Violet.”

      I would love a world in which that was the *last* step, too.

    • That’s a really interesting article. I find that I’m personally not often arguing with people who use Logic (TM) because we are using the same set of assessment skills to get as close to the truth as possible. I am sometimes discussing with them because they have additional information that informs my opinions, but it’s not usually in conflict. (Like the example of kids reasoning together to understand math problems, once the goal is really understanding and not winning then Logic (TM) wins out. I see my intellectual life as a never ending quest to understand all the math, not a contest at which I would like to be the best.)

      The people who are using Logic + Asshole are either trying to make a case without some kind of objective basis (as in you can’t agree on facts, or they are making up facts, and thereby losing the real argument against Logic(TM)) or they are not that well informed and are still trying to win the argument.

      • pfcmarie said:

        You know, thinking about this, I’ve had plenty of conversations employing logic and reason that were just fine. I just don’t identify them as such because, well, the only time my arguing partner has specifically referenced Logic ™ or Reason ™ is when they’re also being an Asshole. That is, a person who says, “Well, my opinion is (states arguments), so in my mind, what logically follows is X” is a reasonable person for me to discuss with, while the person who says, “Logically speaking, X is correct” is using Logic ™ and Reason ™ and Rationality ™ as codewords to set up any disagreement as illogical, unreasonable, and irrational. And now, instead of arguing the thing I have facts and information on, I am now arguing their definition of logical. It’s like that Mark Twain quote about never arguing with stupid people, because they’ll drag you to their level and beat you with your experience. Once you start the Gaslighting Logic Carnival rides, they will beat you with the long experience of how fun this is for them, while you just feel like puking.

        And yeah, like you said, in my experience, I’m most likely to find the Logic ™ person when I am the more informed half of the conversing duo, but they still want to WIN. They may be factually wrong, but damn it all, I’m the one denying *logic*, so really, isn’t that worse?

        • You’re arguing in a reasonable way just now… :-) But yeah, I guess explicitly referring to how reasonable you are is an asshole move. And when it comes to logic, very few people know what it is (and I’m not saying this as a, uh, womansplainer since I’m a woman, but as a philosophy professor, thus as someone who has some legitimate expertise in this area). The rules of logic are very, very basic. Modus ponens, modus tollens, syllogisms – lots of people who’s never studied logic still have a good feel for it, and will spontaneously call people out when they’re making completely illogical moves in arguments. But logic alone CANNOT tell you what’s true, what’s right, what’s good and so on. There’s no way of life which is more LOGICAL than another way of life. It’s not more LOGICAL to have certain emotions than other emotions, or no emotions at all. GIVEN certain facts or certain normative assumptions logic can tell you what follows from them, but THAT’S IT.

  21. pfcmarie said:

    TW for coming out of left field with a mention of sexual assault, sort of:

    You know, this also reminds me of the predator theory when it comes to sexual assault. The idea that, in many situations, people can recognize an implicit no without any kind of trouble, but when it comes to a sexual encounter, suddenly we all need to be notarizing our “statement of no sex” letters and filing them in triplicate before it’s valid.

    Not calling these guys sexual abusers AT ALL, but i think some of the same social rules are at play here. Really, I am sure there are five million scenarios where these guys would recognize conversational distress and back off. Like, say your grandma just died — I bet you everything they would not perceive this as the PERFECT TIME to argue with you about the metaphysical nature of death and how she’s not really dead at all so why are you crying and also she’s getting cremated UGH don’t you know GREEN FUNERALS are the only appropriate way to do these things now. I bet they might even manage to lay off the usual arguing-like-dicks tactics on a day that you were visibly upset about something else that they considered legit. But once your distress is about wanting to set a boundary with them for any other reason, suddenly they can’t see it and it’s not important distress anyway. When my friend dumped her asshole boyfriend, I was still nice to her because that is hard even if I think she never should have liked that guy in the first place. Who cares if they don’t think it’s legit that the way they argue bothers you? People who want to maintain friendships figure out how to work around the things they don’t understand.

    These guys know when they are causing distress, they know it’s hurtful to you, and they don’t care. Any plausible deniability they’re trying to work with here — that they didn’t realize it was that bad, or that there is something wrong with you that it is that bad — is situational and consciously chosen, because I am 100% sure they could drop that snide bullshit if it was some other conversational situation (i.e. you were upset for a reason they found legitimate, or you went through the teleportation pod with your boyfriend and became Brundleman, who shall not be chased into the bathroom when socializing). They’re not dropping it because they’re choosing to pursue your distress, and they’re relying on the social capital afforded to them by being Logical Men to pretend that your distress isn’t visible or worthwhile.

    • Yeah, I remember a letter here some time ago about a girl who’s sleep got interrupted repeatedly by her BF. When she confronted him, he told her she was ‘cute when she’s angry’ or something similar. And that he knew she wanted to sleep, but he wanted to speak to her now! God, what a cutie.

      That’s not even TRYING to look good. She told him that she need her sleep, her BF didn’t care. Here, we have someone who’s told the offenders that she doesn’t like their behaviour and to please stop, and they don’t care to respect her. That’s three degrees of rape behaviour in my book.

      If I tell you my limit in something pretty innocuous and you don’t respect it, why would I think that you’d respect any other limits I might have?

      • Sarah in Tokyo said:

        Incidentally, she updated us in the winter holiday thread that she’d just broken up with the guy. Hooray! :D

    • I’m going to disagree with one bit: “These guys know when they are causing distress, they know it’s hurtful to you, and they don’t care.”

      I think they do care, in that I think that hurting and upsetting the LW may well be, for them, the point of the interaction. Everything else, I agree with 100%.

  22. If you consider these people your friends, you may want to revisit your definition of “friend.” Shouldn’t “I enjoy their company” and “I respect them and feel like they respect me?” be on the list of must-have qualities?

    On a lighter note, Hilary Clinton deals beautifully with a mansplainer here.

  23. LW/Argued Out, like everyone else, I’m not convinced that these friends make your life better. Honestly, they sound disrespectful, aggressive and stressful. Your descriptions of “dreading” hang-out-time kind of indicate that they aren’t very much fun when they’re not actively trying to strip away your authority. Your comment describing their sarcasm sounds very hurtful, & I don’t like people talking to me this way. I don’t think your ‘Splainers are particularly redeemable based on this evidence. Debate is great! Friends can argue! This is not debate or argument – it’s attacking.

    However, the Captain’s Advice for Redeemable ‘Splainers is great:

    “I value our friendship, but the constant arguing is wearing me down and making me not want to hang out with you. Is there any way we can cool it? If not, I think it’s better if we stop being friends.”

    I’d love to add a few more that have worked for me when dealing with redeemable or inescapable ‘splainers or debaters.

    The Devil’s Advocate: I really hate it when people think that “Oh, let me just play devil’s advocate for a minute!” is a good way to add to a conversation. It isn’t. While constructive criticism and “seeing both sides of the argument” are great in conversation/debate, that’s not what this gambit is about. “Let me just say a stupid, horrible, insulting or incorrect thing that I do not intend to take any responsibility for.” It’s concern trolling in real life.

    I recommend interrupting, actually, with something like “No, actually, I don’t want you to play devil’s advocate. It’s disruptive, it wears me out and it adds nothing to the conversation.”

    “But I just wanted to strengthen your argument!”

    “I strengthen my argument perfectly well in real life, I’d rather not be attacked by my friends.”

    Devil’s Advocate is only ever played to maintain the status quo. If your friends do it regularly to wind you up, it’s a good sign that they don’t respect your ideas, beliefs, research or opinions. If they react badly when you point this out, they aren’t very good at debate.

    The Wall of Text: If you had a perfectly nice friend that regularly threw the “ACTUALLY THE SKY IS FUSCHIA BECAUSE OF REASONS X, Y, Z…” tantrum, interrupt them.

    “I think you’re done,” or “Do I get to talk?” or “Have you noticed that I have actually fossilized, from the geological processes of NOT CARING?”

    They might be hurt. If they have been particularly snotty, you can enlighten them at this point with a brief and illuminating lecture on how it’s important for passionate communicators to be succinct, and to notice cues like “their audience dying of boredom.”

    WINNING AT DEBATE: Where everything you say ever is something for them to score points off.

    Disarm by interrupting or brusquely saying “Sorry, do you realize that you’re not actually on a game show?” or similar.

    Any references they make to “having a nice debate or conversation” or “strengthening an argument” or “discussing your research” or whatever should be quelled with a variant of,

    “We’re not actually having a debate, you’re shouting to yourself. Do you need to go outside to finish your supervillain monologue, while we have pie?”

    Or, my particular favorite: “I’m done with this conversation. Keep going if you like.”

    ILLOGICAL WOMENZ: If a friend starts getting shouty, disarm with a calm: “Please don’t shout.”

    If they continue, and you’re in That Sort of Mood, you may reply “I can’t talk to you when you’re being overemotional.”

    If you were shouting during this argument, you would be accused of bad behavior. Passion is great in discussion; howling savagely at your friends is always rude. (And if they respond to your own arguments with testostifyin’, they aren’t your friends.)

    You can be as charming, funny, smiley, teasy and host[ess]-y as you like during all of these! Don’t worry too much about being OMG!!REWD. They’re being pretty damn rude by trying to find any excuse to claw authority from you.

    And note: these are only for particularly badly-socialized friends that you still value and want to keep.

    • Or perhaps one could make new use of the African Violet of Friendship-ending: bring an African violet to your next get-together. When your “friends” are all wound up on a rant, get up, place the African violet where you were sitting, and tell them it is going to stand in for you from now on, since they clearly aren’t interested in an actual exchange of ideas — and that as an added bonus, they can take it home, so they can mansplain at it whenever they feel the need to let off pressure, without the inconvenience of having to get together with you in person at all. Which you won’t be doing anymore, because you are sick to death of being talked at.

      • zweisatz said:

        A little bit passive-aggressive, but I really like the idea :D

        Also elodie: great strategies!

      • AK, please come to all of my parties in the future. Thankyou.

    • Ellex said:

      There is a world of difference between “playing Devil’s Advocate” and “seeing the other side of the issue”. The first is based in a desire to be obnoxious and control the conversation. The second is an honest attempt to understand the opposing viewpoint through discussion. I’m happy to try to see someone else’s point of view. I have absolutely no interest in listening to someone rant and rave at me while hiding behind the “Devil’s Advocate” cloak of legitimacy.

    • mintylime said:

      One of my favorites: “‘Scuse me, I need to go make some popcorn [to eat while you monologue].”

    • Q said:

      I always, always, always hate the “I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate!!” ‘splainers.

      If I am trying to argue for some feminist theory, or something, and you are a straight, white, cis-gendered male, and you argue for something that maintains the status quo FOR straight, white, cis-gendered males? Yeah, you aren’t actually playing Devil’s Advocate. If that were the case, you would be arguing for my side, and I would be arguing for yours. Which would actually be awesome…if you knew how to debate properly.

    • Also the fact that those who claim to be “playing the devil’s advocate” almost always really have no clue as to what it really means/the real point of being the devil’s advocate. They’re often not even in a position where they COULD be the devil’s advocate, since the devil’s advocate is supposed to come from “within”. Not some douchebag who wants to say complete bullshit just to piss people off and get away with it. I read this post a while ago and your comment reminded me of it:

      http://meloukhia.net/2010/03/devils_advocacy.html

    • M said:

      “it’s important for passionate communicators to be succinct “

      *takes notes* :-)

      When someone who is clearly arguing for the status quo pulls an “I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate”, I’ve been known to tell them

      “The devil called. He doesn’t want you advocating for him anymore. He says it’s embarrassing him.”

      I’ve never had anyone arguing in bad faith (e.g., mansplaining) go on after that.

  24. mint lady said:

    I used to belong to a circle of friends that was full of mansplainers. Over the last year or so I’ve slow faded out of their group and made new friends. And can I say, my life is a HUNDRED times better. I loved the old group and had a few amazing friends in it, but they poisoned our friendship with all their comments. There are so many people out there who are awesome and will not be assholes to you, however casually, so there’s no reason to be friends with people who are, even if they have ALL the other good qualities. For real. Drop these two and don’t regret it.

    And while I think it’s likely that the rest of the group will soon catch on to how awful these two have become, and maybe phase them out of the group (if they are good people, they won’t tolerate this kind of behavior over time), I think it’s a good idea for you to go and make new friends in totally different groups as well. You might be surprised by how wonderful it feels to not have to see those mansplainers at all your social event.

  25. eboxer24 said:

    Two words- fuck ‘em.

    Some more words- these people aren’t your friends. They’re argumentative assholes looking for a reason to get up on their soapbox and display their superiority to everyone with ears, and the fact that they’re trash-talking you behind your back just reinforces that. It really takes a lot of balls to assert your dominance over someone who isn’t even there.

    My sister in law has an ex just like this, except he did the “I am all-wise and all-knowing, therefore you must bow to me” thing to EVERYone. He liked to claim he just liked to debate, or was playing devil’s advocate, or whatever his excuse for the day was. Sister in law was willing to go along with this even after they broke up, because she has a habit of trying to remain friends with exes. She finally broke off all contact after he tried to tell her she was just being oversensitive about Akin’s “legitimate rape” fiasco, and how terrible it was that as a country, we couldn’t talk about these things because it upset people. Insert the same patronizing, obnoxious tone your “friends” are using and you’ll have a good idea of what it sounded like. People like him and these two idiots you mentioned aren’t interested in debate, or understanding another viewpoint, or getting educated on something they don’t know about. They just want to be right, as visibly as possible.

    I recommend the scorched earth strategy on this one. No more contact, no more socializing, no more anything. What we have here is a rare case of Irredeemable Dickhead Syndrome, and you don’t have to feel bad about burning bridges. Throw some kerosene on that bad boy and light it up.

  26. MisMis said:

    Hmm. I get this from my mother, maybe one could call it Agesplaining or PresumedExperiencesplaining.
    I grew up in a region where Catholicism is the default religion of not-choice. I can’t remember personally having a concept of a god or higher being ever in my life. I was an altar server for a few years in my teens but today I really don’t want to support any religion whatsoever (especially after the recent abuse scandals and a few other unbelievably bad things involving the Roman-Catholic-church that happened here).
    I had a few discussions with my mother about how I don’t have a stand on that question whether there is a god or not because that question is of no importance to me. Everybody is free to believe in anything as long as people don’t try to force their views on me.
    My mother was raised in a very religious home and in those discussions I had, her arguments boil down to this: “So you say you don’t need god – just wait until you’re older, you’ll be happy to have something to believe in in times of trouble.” Which I find incredibly annoying.

    I identify as Agender and my behavior seems to be sufficiently androgynous to induce homophobia (which might be more accurately called trans*phobia in my case?) in certain insecure assholes I was forced to meet. I was bullied pretty bad during high school, involving sexual assault.
    And every time we discuss the things that happened during that time, my mom gets sort of I-know-better-what-you-have-should-done-victim-blamey. She is like a broken record: “If you had learned e.g. judo, all this wouldn’t have happened.” Yeah, sure. A scrawny little, scared, sensitive kid would learn some martial arts sport and all problems would have vanished. After each of those conversations, I could go and cry. What I want is some understanding and empathy, instead my feelings, fears and actions get invalidated.

    Long story short: ‘Splainers are toxic. In every variation. Sadly, they can’t be avoided in every case.

    • Ellex said:

      Oh wow, does that hit home. My dad was not a mansplainer, but definitely a “you-should-have”-splainer. Any conversation about something unpleasant or difficult happening to me (or indeed to anyone I knew) would turn into a lecture about “you-should-have” done this, that or the other. At one point I mentioned that this was not actually helpful because hindsight is, of course, 20/20 and it wasn’t like that particular situation was likely to ever happen again, so discussing what I “should have” done was not helpful. I got the “you’re only 18, you don’t know anything” response.

      But my dad was a born lecturer and loved to lecture. At least he actually was very intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable, and under certain circumstances I could have an actual discussion with him. At a certain point, I learned to pick my battles.

      • MisMis said:

        My mom is a teacher. Maybe it’s a professional habit to some degree. If you explain things for a living and you are in a position where you can assume to be more knowledgable than your students practically all the time maybe you start to deal with your family in that way too. :-(

    • jp said:

      Mismis–oh, poor you–it’s like your mom thought your teenaged life was The Karate Kid.

    • Mismis – Next time your mother victim-blames you because you did not learn judo, please refer you mother to this story: http://jezebel.com/5974965/woman-raped-by-teammates-who-said-they-would-take-her-home-safely

      The victim KNEW martial arts, and was raped by her martial-arts teammates! Knowing judo, aikido, karate, jiujitsu, or any other martial art is by no means a guarantee that people won’t hurt you, anyway. It simply makes it a little bit harder for them to succeed at it. A little bit.

      I’m so sorry for what you went through.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Suggestion:

      “Mom, does it really make you feel safer to believe that bad things only happen to people who weren’t careful enough?”

  27. misspiggy said:

    What do they get out of being friends with women at all if they spend their time dissing and annoying so many of their female friends? Are they trying to drive the LW out of the conversation, so they can have lovely manly fun times with her boyfriend? Or what?

    Would it help if the boyfriend, and/or other male friends, started taking some time off from them to signal that this behaviour around the women in the group is Not OK? Because then they might lose something they valued. Don’t know if this is workable, but it seems odd that the LW’s female friends are experiencing similar behaviour from these two, and it isn’t being tackled in the friendship group.

  28. Em said:

    Story time: I was on a week long trip with friends and some friends of those friends. One night, as we were eating dinner, Boy 1 announced that “women only like assholes.” I was in a good mood and feeling generous, so my “Oh really?” was genuinely curious. He’d seemed like a nice guy up until then, so I was surprised. He began to site examples: “My brother is an asshole and he gets more chicks than me.” I resisted pointing out that self-pity wasn’t super attractive and tried to suggest that “only” might be a bit strong. I don’t usually even bother when guys–especially guys I don’t know well–make crap statements like this. I just put “asshole” labels on their faces in my brain and avoid future conversation. But I liked this guy–I wanted him not to be an asshole.

    Enter Boy 2. Boy 2 felt that I was “attacking” Boy 1 and that he needed help defending himself against me and my terrifying use of basic logic (“I am a woman. My boyfriend is right there. He is not an asshole. Hence, women don’t only like assholes.”). Prior to his entry, my conversation with Boy 1 had actually been as polite as such a conversation could go. Boy 1 had total Nice Guy Syndrome, there was no denying, but he was listening to my point of view and not being condescending.

    Boy 2 was condescending and repeatedly suggested that Boy 1 must be terrified of my 5 foot 1 self. Boy 1 grew increasingly silent and just kind of sat there wide-eyed as Boy 2 “helped” him. I was getting annoyed, but the atmosphere was still convivial, so I started trying to change the subject. I didn’t want to “ruin the afternoon” (hat tip, Shakesville). Then Boy 2 said, basically, “if you’d just be quiet, we wouldn’t have had to talk about this at all.”

    I saw red like I’ve never seen red. I had been trying to be NICE and this guy…. I stood up so fast my chair fell over and just laid into him. “You want me to be fucking quiet? You do not get to speak to me like that.” Everyone stared. I ruined the afternoon SO HARD.

    And then I went to my room and cried because I was afraid everyone would hate me. This group was largely conservative-ish friends from the South (where I grew up) and I had no faith that they wouldn’t blame me for being “uncool” and making things awkward, never mind what the guy said to me.

    But they surprised me. I’m not saying they all put on Feminist hats and started talking about Equal Pay, but they told Boy 2 he was being an asshole and that he had to go apologize to me. His girlfriend told him if he went around saying things like that to women who disagreed with him, he wouldn’t have a girlfriend much longer. It was kind of epic.

    LW, this is a long way of saying, sometimes the stress we put on ourselves about that choice–ruining the afternoon–is way worse than the fall out will be for actually doing it. If I’d spoken to my friends in advance and said, “Hey, I’d really like to read Boy 2 the riot act about being a misogynistic asshole,” they’d likely have tried to dissuade me because nobody likes an uncomfortable conversation. But once it happened, they had my back.

    • ZOMG, Once I totally “Ruined the Afternoon” at a wedding. I got about tired of sitting there listening to my partner’s friend talk about hot chicks this and hot chicks that and making derogatory jokes. So I called him on it. And he’s all “It’s just jokes blah blah.”

      So I go on a little rant about how it’s NOT just a joke, because it is reinforcing stereotypes and gender roles and it is gross. In response to my feminist tirade he said “Jeeze, Settle.”

      And I hit him.

      This was unfortunate because he is a police officer, and probably would have punched me back (quite deservedly, and I would not have blamed him, also note I have about a foot and 100 pounds on this guy) if I hadn’t immediately apologized and my very large boyfriend had not been sitting next to him fully prepared to regulate.

      But seriously, “Jeeze Settle” should be like #1 on the list of “What not to say to an angry feminist.”

      • Mimey said:

        Oh my god, I try to avoid violence but I feel like hitting someone right now just READING the words “Jeeze Settle.”

    • Nerdlinger said:

      I love this story! Jedi high-fives to you and the awesome people.

      • Em said:

        Thank you! It was really unpleasant in the moment, but it made me feel pretty good about humanity in the aftermath. And I thought it illustrated something the Captain is always trying to tell us: which is that people themselves control how they react to your anger. They don’t HAVE to make you feel like you’re being “unreasonable.” That’s on them. I had assumed that sort of reaction is inevitable, and in doing so really underestimated my friends.

  29. TwentyKittens said:

    I have 4, count ‘em, 4 mansplainers in my family. I can’t avoid them because I love my family to bits, but I completely refuse to indulge their crappy behavior. Two phrases have made my life so much easier:

    ‘Splainer: Blah blah blah gun control blah blah what do you think?
    Me: I don’t know.
    ‘Splainer: How can you not know? [statistical rant on school shootings and teen suicides! half-assed solution] right?
    Me: Ok.
    ‘Splainer: So you think blah blah?
    Me: I don’t know. Ok.
    ‘Splainer: You’re just ignorant.
    Me: Ok.

    Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s more effective if I pick up my knitting/iPad/child and get obviously engrossed in that while throwing out the “Ok” and “I don’t know”. Because their goal isn’t to have a debate or convince me of their point of view; it’s just to show off and BE RIGHT.

    • Ellex said:

      For just a moment, I thought I read that you were picking up your knitted iChild.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      I’ll do the same thing to ‘splainers. Sometimes with an (I admit, somewhat condescending) eye-roll.

    • Nerdlinger said:

      Ooh – yes. I like this!

      When ‘Splainers get very committed to showing off their advanced degrees in ‘Splain-ish, and having an actual conversation becomes a hopeless dream, I take it as full license to turn into the Dowager Countess to give them an eye and say cold easily construed as condescending vague statements. “Bless.” Or “Wow. You like words don’t you?” Best yet: “I’m ok with you thinking that [about me].”

      • KL said:

        “How extraordinary.”

    • Kaz said:

      My brother has lost some of his splainy tendencies but retains others. I employed this tactic to GREAT effect last Christmas when he wanted to tell me aaaaall about how a book series I’d last read years ago and kind of enjoyed back then was total crap. “Mmhmm”. “Uh-huh”. “Yup.” “Sure.” While very very obviously typing and not looking at him. Took the wind right out of his sails! I felt awkward about being so rude in an Obviously Not Paying Any Attention To You At All way but honestly, he should know better than to demand conversation!! now!! when I’m working anyway.

  30. jenny said:

    My 4-year-old does this all the time. No mommy, the sky is fuchsia, because my 4-year-old friend Vinnie says so. But, she’s 4. She can even get a temper tantrum about it if I debate it too much. About your friends? What the capt’n said. And you can tell them from me that they are behaving like 4-year-olds.

  31. Mimey said:

    I JUST went through this TWICE.

    First, a friend who’s a sweet, talented teacher finishing her Master’s shared some exciting news on Facebook, and some douche who owns a Subway franchise thought it was the perfect moment to mansplain to her that education is a dead-end field and she should start hunting for an MBA now.

    Second, last night a white male classmate spent most of the evening aggressively whitesplaining to the rest of us how blackface is not racist. He actually said to the one black person in the room, “I see what you’re trying to say but you need to understand–”

    OH MY GOD STOP TALKING

  32. There’s a generalizing observation I’ve made over the years. People tend to overcompensate an insecurity by acting over confident and sometimes belligerent. Your “friends” dig their heels in an gang up on you until you leave/give up/cry/barf/etc.

    Here’s a little story about a stressful friend situation I just got through.

    I had a friend who was very very shy, had a bad history with men, and had a very alienated, traumatic childhood. She presented herself as confident to the point of intimidating. She took an avid dislike to any man that was not submissive and would exaggerate and twist situations to make them into monsters. Although I loved being her friend and she treated me very well, I found it tiring to always be on edge. I never knew what was going to set her off. She always had a fresh horror story or an excuse to why she had to quit her job/move/cut someone out of her life forever. Every conversation revolved around her being pissed off at someone and she rarely said anything nice about her other friends (I imagine I got the same treatment when I was not present). It got to the point where I dreaded being alone in her company and had to drink to calm my nerves. I simply couldn’t cope with her hypersensitive critical nature. It came to a head when she lashed out at my coworker/friend in a way that was public and involved my job. We had a heated disagreement and haven’t spoken since.

    I loved my friend and I love her still, but I had to draw a line and make a choice. Even if you understand the reasons behind somebody’s less gracious behaviours, it doesn’t mean you have to constantly be at the brunt of it. It doesn’t mean that they are terrible people and you have to villify them either. You just have to draw out your lines and be clear with what you are willing to put up with.

    I love this place. It has so many wonderful terms. I believe the one that applies here is “Price of admission.” Watching my friend stir chaos in her wake became too emotionally expensive for me to enjoy all of her sweet qualities. Perhaps your friends have drained your wallet of every last “Being belittled” coin you could spare.

  33. Badsack said:

    Although these “friends” (they are not your friends) are not your academic peers, they find themselves in good company in the realm of mansplainers:

    http://mansplained.tumblr.com/

    There is no cure except avoidance.

  34. LW #396 said:

    Nth-ing the suggestion to African Violet these guys! A couple months ago I wrote in about my partner’s BFF, affectionately known as Jerkface. Among Jerkface’s many other lovely qualities, he mansplains like it’s his job. I’ve been avoiding him and social events where he might show up since early last summer, and he had no idea I disliked him until we finally ran into each other in November and I apparently gave him the stink eye. (I didn’t mean to! I just wanted to avoid contact with him rather than being hostile, but I guess my face didn’t agree.) Afterwards he asked my boyfriend why I’m angry at him, and boyfriend filled him in on the whole “girlfriend thinks you’re a terrible person” thing. This past weekend, I went to a mutual friend’s party and it was the first time since November that we had been in the same room together. He gave me the silent treatment the whole time, and it was AWESOME. No one trying to explain to me why telling men not to rape is bad and why it’s ok to be racist if you live in a neighborhood with people of color! No one trying to explain Muslim terminology despite knowing about my degree in Middle Eastern Studies and proficiency in Arabic!

    This coming weekend a bunch of guys are getting together to watch UFC and I’m specifically NOT invited. On the one hand, it’s unfortunate because I like some of these other people and I love watching UFC. On the other, in the past Jerkface got drunk and talked a lot about my vagina at the last big UFC party. So I don’t mind making other plans.

    If they stop being your friends after you ask them to change how they communicate with you, that’s a win. Meanwhile, what about your mutual friends? Do you think they’ll have your back? Are you able to be in the same space as the ‘Splainers and talk to other people without them coming over to hijack your conversation? Hopefully you won’t have to give up the entire social circle, but if there’s collateral damage, it could be worth it, especially if other people are enabling or excusing their behavior.

    • I read your old letter. I’m so glad that things worked out for you. I especially like that while Jerkface is giving you the silent treatment, probably all woe-is-moe, you’re all YAY, FREEDOM!

      • LW #396 said:

        The only time he acknowledged my existence was as I was leaving with some male friends. He yelled, “Goodbye and goodnight to all the MEN by the door!” Hahaha omg he is such a child I can’t even.

    • Yay! I remember your letter. I’m glad he’s being silent at you now, and that there’s less and less contact with him in your future.

  35. Reblogged this on Big Blue Dot Y'all and commented:
    This rock solid advice might apply to any interaction you have with anyone who talks down to you. I used to say to students that optimal communication is assertive–clearly articulates its message, but does not stomp on the feelings of others. Aggressive/Passive as an either/or BOTH SUCK. I’ve spent twenty plus years trying to find “assertive,” but it sounds something like this thoughtful response. Bravo!

  36. Zerks said:

    Eep yes. They are very much not your friends. I see no respect or mutual exchange. I am wondering if because they are gay, you are giving them more of a chance? Like gay=more open-minded? I wish it were true. I have found gay guys TEND to be more feminism-savy than most straight guys, but it can still be pretty misogynistic. And some, because they are not worried about attracting women, will really let the misogyny flag fly.

    I had to deal with a really nasty case of ‘splaining recently. I am not sure the right term. Anyway my foster family met up with some friends, and somehow the topic changed to how awful Pakistanis are. Well I am Pakistani (born and raised here tho) and certainly not awful. They would not listen to me about how other Pakistanis are no less intelligent or corrupt than an average person. Then they started in on Muslims. I have actually researched this and talked to Muslim people. They were ignoring my defense of that too. Argh. It got me really worked up. Because they are adults they just automatically know more, I guess, even if it is really racist…

    • Mary said:

      YUK. I’m sorry you had to put up with that. It’s particularly bad if your foster family weren’t sticking up for you and telling them to shut up. That’s really appalling.

      I hope you’ve got a safe space you can go to where you can talk to people who understand how awful that is. Noone should have to put up with that shit, but unfortunately lots of people do. :-(

  37. neverjaunty said:

    LW, you mentioned the mutual friend/relative who seems to pretty much be your reason for talking to these guys ever. I suspect that there is a very strong change the mutual friend/relative doesn’t much like these guys either, and may actually be putting up with them because they want YOU to stick around.

    There’s no reason you can’t hang with the mutual friend while freezing out Mr. and Mr. Mansplainer.

  38. That In A Hat said:

    I don’t know if this’ll help, but it might:

    Dick Wolf.

    My college roomies and I could get into heated conversations or just drag things out too long with the fangirling, or whatever. And we watched A LOT of SVU (it’s a terrible show, but they say everything that happens on screen, so it’s great if you all have art projects to do). And every single episode would have an unsatisfying ending followed by the words: “Dick Wolf.”

    So that became our catch-phrase. If there was a conversation going on too long, or an argument that someone wanted to end, they didn’t have to bring it to a full conclusions or even justify their ending it or say “shut up already” or anything. Just: “Dick Wolf.”

    It started as a joke (and remains one, mostly), but it’s come in handy a few times, just to keep things pleasant. We were all of us fangirls and shippers and maybe didn’t always ship the same things and whatnot,.

  39. meerkat said:

    “Have you ever tried asking them to leave, if the hanging out is taking place at your house?”

    I totally did this once. Although it wasn’t so much a friend as a guy one of my friend group had reached out to in hopes of having more people in our acquaintance circle to play Settlers of Catan. He said something about math and/or philosophy which I disagreed with, he argued, I said “Fine, whatever” and started to go into my room (this was in the shared living room of our college dorm) and he started laughing, so I said, “You know what? I live here, so you leave.” And he left! And at around that time he stopped coming to hang out with us. But it was a different situation because in retrospect we all agreed that, although it was worth inviting people into our gaming circle, that particular guy had turned out to be way too annoying.

  40. All I can say is these two wankers need to STFU. They don’t sound like friends to me, they sound like they’re using you to boost their egos. Not consciously, maybe, but tough – it’s the old “intent, it’s fucking magic” thing.

  41. Gloria said:

    First time poster here, I hope I’ve managed to post this without any problems.

    One thing I don’t think anyone has mentioned is how difficult it is not to engage with mansplainers such as these, especially when the arguments they wield are hurtful and personal.

    It may not be so for you, LW, but it often is for me, and as I’m not very good with confrontations, I inevitably end up a seething mass of resentment.

    While I think that it is important that bigotry be confronted, it doesn’t need to be today, and it doesn’t need to be done by you. You do not have some onerous duty to convert ignorant, cantankerous assholes into decent people. Your first duty is to your own self care.

    It can be really hard to let someone keep on being that wrong, but at some point, someone else will pick up the slack. Or maybe they won’t, and these guys will keep on being assholes – and if they do, that’s not your fault!

    You’re not responsible for these people, and you’re free to regard their words as the meaningless hot air that they are.

    If you need it, I totally give you permission to say “I don’t care what you think”, as bluntly as you please, the next time they start their bullshit.

    • staranise said:

      *wry* I have a lot of difficulties not engaging with argumentative people because I have ADHD, so it’s really hard to keep a continued focus, like, “I will talk with my friend about ponies, and ignore the sexist discussion going on across the table.” The first few times I hear “…only want to date jerks!” I am like “PONY PONY PONY” and then someone refills my cup and I think about what I have to do tomorrow, and then I hear “…all a myth anyway” and forget and go FEMINIST RAGE POUNCE on them.

      It can be hard for a lot of reasons. And the fact that I “encourage” debaters by engaging with them does not make them less of jerks! It just means I mostly try not to put myself into situations where someone is waving stupidity under my nose all afternoon.

      • GPOY on the ADHD and GPOY on the Feminist Rage Pounce. Assholes in bars, assholes on the internet, groups of assholes on the street… It’s a serious problem.

        Like you, I find the only way to avoid Feminist Rage Pouncing is to avoid assholery like its contagious.

      • cassandrakitty said:

        Is it possible to convert the feminist rage pounce energy into feminist condescending snark smackdown? Still venting, but potentially more fun for you. When I do it my goal is to make the person who said something misogynist feel like they’re a dog that just peed on someone’s antique heirloom rug because they were never properly potty trained.

        Or maybe I’m just mean and take far too much joy in humiliating sexist little twerps in front of their friends.

        • staranise said:

          For me it’s more like “intellectual feminist decimation” but I find that specific tactics are really individual. It’s the same as physical tactics in martial arts depending on body type–I have a rapier-and-dagger body type, not a broadsword one. So just how you tackle those kind of arguments depends a lot on how fast you can talk, how quickly you think, how physically reactive you are to upset/embarrassment, or whether or not you look imposing/”cute”. Years of bullying socialized the ability to appear righteously judgmental or flatly furious out of me, and when I tried guys tended to laugh at me because I was short, cute-looking, flushed on a dime and burst into tears fairly easily. However, I’m articulate and educated, so I can summon up a speech and debate background to be intelligent, caustic, and dismissive when I need to.

          • Gloria said:

            Yeah, my point was really that being annoyed by people being assholes is a thing, feeling the need to respond is fine, deciding not to respond is also fine, and feeling guilt/frustration at not responding is understandable.

            After all, who wants to spent time round assholes being assholish? Avoidance is definitely the best tactic, but if that’s not feasible, I find that a polite, ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude really helps make things bearable.

            This learned to use this attitude by spending years of call centre work – if you can disregard their unpleasantness as an irrelevance, and get down to the work at hand. Of course, this works best with strangers, and when you have a task you can focus on.

            I acknowledge that this may not be desirable or possible for everyone, but it works for me.

  42. i am an odd bird said:

    My ex boyfriend was like this. He wouldn’t drop even the littlest things. Made me cry in public once… I had to do these things – Leave his house because he wouldn’t drop a stupid argument and once told him to leave.
    He didn’t change his behavior when I started trying to stop it and I think it’s because what someone like that gets out of the relationship is… someone to bully. They want to feel like they are superior somehow because they win all the fights. I hope you don’t stay as the person they bully because I know you don’t deserve or need that.

    • Keks said:

      I’m sorry, I know what that’s like. Aren’t you glad you’re rid of that?

      I don’t know about you, but the thing that made me maddest/saddest/most frustrated about being in that situation was not as much the mansplaining or the arguing, but exactly that: the absolute REFUSAL to drop it. (In fact, asking to drop it could lead to more arguing as they saw it as ‘trying to win’ tactic on my part, not a genuine request to please stop because this hurts/I don’t want to argue with you/you’re walking all over me and I don’t like it.)

      The refusal to honor an honest request of mine – and the refusal to trust that it was honest! – made me feel absolutely powerless. The only thing I could do was walk away.

  43. zweisatz said:

    Just a side node: I think it’s not okay, because kinda patronizing, to outright state “These people are not your friends.” Yes, I get what you people mean, but LW should be allowed to define that for herself?

  44. duaecat said:

    My dad is a huge, horrible Mansplainer. To the point I nearly hid under the table when he encountered a man at a group lunch who worked in a nuclear power plant and began explaining to him how nuclear power plants were all exactly like the Simpsons and everyone working in them dies after a few years.

    The latest was my husbutt and I, about once a month, run the kitchen for a group of LARPers. I mentioned to dad that we tried being nice last time, they walked all over us. No. One. Else. In. The. Kitchen. It’s dangerous, it’s aggravating. Because it’s a relaxed atmosphere people seem to think it’s ok to just come walking in and start messing with stuff, especially if they’ve stored food back there. So no one else back there, nothing stored back there unless there’s a medical reason.

    Cue about 15 minutes of him trying to mansplain to us that that was Too Harsh. And we should just ask people to be better behaved! And that won’t be a problem again. And what about…. but… if….

    No. No one else in the kitchen. Do they let customers wander around restaurant kitchens? NO.

    After all of that when we were headed back home my husband turned to me and went “Wow, I suddenly understand why you get all worked up and defensive over stuff, even when I agree with you! It’s still annoying sometimes, but I’d be like that too.”

    (I’m bad to – “We should go to the store today” “Sounds good, I’ll get my coat” “Because we really need this, this, and this.” “Uh huh” “And it’s a good time, so the store shouldn’t be too crowded” “Uh huh” “And really, we’re saving money by buying it at the store and not…” )

    So yeah, tl:dr, you spend too much time around mansplainers and it can start poisoning your whole interaction template.

    • Keks said:

      Yay for you husband getting this! Because boy, you’re so right – it poisons things.

      My dad is a mansplainer and LOVES to hear himself talk. He’s a teacher, and he tries to school just about everyone he meets. So I’ve not just developed acute allergic reactions to mansplainers, interrupters and arguers, but I also read This Someone Is Underestimating Me Too in the tiniest remark or explanation. So an honest ‘have you thought of this?’ when I have, can lead to my thinking ‘of course I have – why do you even ask’ and that will lead to snappiness. And because I’ve grown to hate people who try to teach me stuff before they’ve ascertained that I want/need to be taught, I tend to avoid genuine teachers and asking for help. Which is not always the most effective or productive way, to say the least.

      All this – not good for you in the long run.

      And oh, the humiliation! I’ve witnessed my dad put a longwinding argument to someone close to him but not related, about a family conflict they had and why he felt the family should reconcile. This was a conflict with someone he’d never even met before, yet he felt some kind of bond with because they were both fathers and he assumed the guy must feel this and that and it must have been so and so for him… and Principles and The Right Thing To Do and so on. He made assumptions about someone he didn’t know! About a conflict he had no part in! And feelings he didn’t feel! And all the while, he talked over the people that actually Had Part in It! The whole thing was so utterly cringeworthily inappropriate I had to run out of the room.

      I understand hiding under the table so well. So well.

  45. Lostlastdaughter said:

    We have a “splainer” in our friend group. No matter the topic, no matter who says it (but, especially me – she’s known me the longest), she ALWAYS has to be the one who knows it all.

    Last year, my son got married. The maid of honor was a real piece of work who constantly turned things around to make it look like my daughter and I had no interest in the shower, bachelorette party, or wedding. She had sent my daughter asking if she’d be interested in helping to plan the bachelorette, and daughter said, “yes, I would, but I’m in school, and I won’t really have free time until May” (wedding was in June). MOH wrote back and said, “ok thanks for letting me know you’re not interested”. Daughter was understandably a bit stunned by this answer, and told me about it. We hadn’t decided what we were doing about it, if anything, at the time of shower. I happened to mention it to friends group (who were all there) and this one friend insisted that I not get involved. I said daughter and I would discuss and decide what to do. We ended up arguing about it — she kept insisting I stay out of it, I kept insisting daughter and I would figure it out. I finally ended it by saying, “it’s my family, we’ll do what works for us. When you have this issue in YOUR family, you can do what YOU want”, and staring her down.

    It happened again in the car on the way home (same night) – I was relating information my son had given me about their anticipated layover in Dusseldorf on their way home from their honeymoon. To visit the city during the layover, they’d been told they would have to go through security and customs (they were traveling from Italy to Germany to the US), so they were fairly certain they wouldn’t visit the city. Friend ‘splainer lectured me on how they would easily have time to visit the city, and when SHE was traveling throughout Spain, she NEVER had that problem. Yeah, well, she never left Spain. We ended up arguing, and her argument was “well, how often have YOU traveled??”, as if that would win the argument. I don’t think I need to have extensive personal traveling experience to ask questions of people who HAVE traveled to several countries. I ended up deciding not to respond at some point, and just stared at the window.

    She does this A LOT. All the time. Every time we’re together. The friend group is very tired of it, and has begun to exclude her from get-togethers, and ignore that behavior when she starts. It’s started to work, as she now hesitates before beginning to ‘splain whatever it is we’re talking about. They also noticed that I’m her favorite target, and tend to derail her when she gets started.

  46. troisfilles said:

    Splainer Aikido. Step out of their path, giving them the energy & direction to go to avoid inflicting pain. 1 – I agree with many of posters, you don’t owe these guys ANYTHING with the way they’ve treated you. 2 – I once successfully turned a splainer (not a mansplainer, but she was excessively dismissive of EVERYthing me related). So, I leave you with the story of the technique I used; it may or may not work for you, it may be distasteful and not useful. I’m an engineer at heart, I like to fix things, when I can; some things can’t be fixed, and it’s good to recognize that. You sound like there’s some redeeming qualities to the friendship, and you want to salvage that if possible. Whatever you do, I’m sure it will work out for you, LW!

    My situation was different of course; I was part of a tight knit group of guy friends, and she was the proverbial “Yoko” – new girlfriend, OMG split up the ‘band’! I had been friends with these guys for so long, I never even saw that as a female, I was in any way a threat to her, so when she hated EVERYTHING I did, argued every point, I had no idea where it was coming from. First response was to avoid her, but then, she and bff were tight and that meant not seeing bff. So she came into “Price of Admission” territory and I stumbled around for ways to improve situation. Totally by accident, I flirted with her – and..Shock! She was marginally pleasant. I complimented her, I told her she was a genius – sofa king brilliant – at her things that were important to her. WORLD OF DIFFERENCE! Apparently, it’s kind of hard to badmouth someone who thinks you’re awesome. And, giving her the validation she was desperately seeking in this case prevented her from feeling the need to piss all over everyone elses cool stuff (I was the main, but certainly not the only recipient of her ‘splain).

    So, possibly what could be happening in your situation, is dynamic duo is feeling very insecure (threatened?) about your successful endeavors? Perhaps arguing gives them some bizarre satisfaction or temporarily fills their emotional bucket. BEFORE they get to the point of arguing with you, before they even get to a topic about you, keep it about them, and how awesomely dressed they are, genius business sense, musical taste, baking panache, whatever is appropriate … If the topic of conversation is “they are awesome” and they try to argue the point… ah, its entirely up to you to take pity on their vice and argue for their awesomeness, or let them ‘win’ and trash themselves.

    Might be worth an experiment. You could even turn it into your ‘out’ statement. “Golly, you’re so awesome at arguing, I declare you winner now. Let’s move on to non-controversial topic.” For me, for many topics, if it’s a small audience – of me and trusted partner – super easy to let someone else ‘win’ in name only; for some topics, doesn’t matter how small the audience I can’t bear the stupid. It’s a classic aikido move, giving them what they need, and side stepping out of the path of harm.

    For me, it turned my “eye rolling, irritating, argumentative, god when will they break up” splainer into one of my very good friends who loves me and respects my area of expertise, as I do hers (over the course of years, and lots of personal development/maturity for both of us in between) and she did indeed happily marry bff. Big old honkin “your mileage may vary!” Good luck.

  47. AmyJ said:

    Great advice, as always. I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I apologize is this is a repeat of what someone else said. It didn’t show up in what I did read, which was a significant chunk. Anyway: I used to be, if not a mansplainer (because I didn’t talk about things I didn’t know anything about), at least pointlessly argumentative. I’m still very willing to enter into a debate about things, but I’m more careful now about who and when I engage. In my case, it was due to poor social skills — I thought that debating something (arguing) was a universally acceptable way of relating (or, more accurately, I didn’t think at all, but that was my behavior). I was trying to connect, but doing it poorly, and it was obnoxious. When I say I’m more careful now about who and when I engage, I mean that there are some people I know who actually enjoy that sort of thing (for example, my brother and sister-in-law went to some lengths to let me know that they want me to argue with/debate them about various social issues on which we disagree). My rule of thumb now is that I won’t start it — if someone says something I disagree with, depending on the context, I either won’t say anything, or say something like, “I disagree with that — we can talk about it if you want, but we don’t have to get into it if you don’t want to.”

    I’m also more aware of the fact that this kind of thing is often about dominance rather than learning, and I try not to indulge in that facet of it anymore.

    I still have to watch myself around it, but I’m at least more self-aware.

    The beautiful thing, of course, is that whether someone is like I was and just oblivious to their own obnoxiousness, but basically well-meaning, or they’re actually intending to be annoying, the boundary-setting response is the same. You’re either doing them a favor by teaching them how to act right in polite company, or you’re shutting down their attempt to be abusive.

    • [wishing I could delete this after reading more of the comments -- it's all been said before, better than I did]

  48. Manatee said:

    So last night I had to swallow a delightful cocktail of mansplaining, flouncing, and gaslighting from a so called friend who was trying to be there for me when I was down. I’ll be African Violeting the shit out of that, but in the meantime I just wanted to say thanks to the Captain and all the commenters on this thread. Having read this so recently really helped me stick to my belief that I wasn’t the one out of line for not falling to his feet in gratitude at his unasked for, ill-informed, insultingly patronising problem solving.

  49. svk said:

    Better late than never — just for fun:

    My husband does this arguing/not letting go thing sometimes; he is one of those folks who tries to work things out by breaking them, on his good side, and sometimes he’s just a jerk (I am a jerk by yelling and moving on and he is a jerk in this particular way, and we’ve figured these things out & usually make room for temporary but not permanent jerk-dom). I used to always argue if I thought/knew he was wrong. I’m a PhD in a technical field relevant to some of these arguments.

    New tactic when it’s non-life-threatening and has to do with the physical world or mathematics: “Honey, you should try that!!! Let’s test it with physics :)

    He’s grown to be suspicious when I’m really enthusiastic about some of his more hare-brained schemes. It’s great.

  50. fedup said:

    I’ve had lots of mansplainers in my life, especially when I was younger. I don’t know if it was that men explain more to younger women, or that I have better taste in male friends now, or that men get better as they get older. Or that I learned how to intimidate the splainers. But I’ve also had quite a few womansplainers who I let get too close because I wasn’t on guard against splainers of their gender, the last of whom I’ve finally eased out of my life. Spending time with eithergendersplainers makes me feel small, demeaned and bored all at the same time.

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