#709: Stranger Mansplainer Danger

“But I was reading.” Photo by Ash Hernandez, via Cathy De La Cruz (@SadDiego)

Hello Captain!

I have an situation that I don’t think has been discussed: how do you deal with Stranger Mansplainers when you are a lady doing things normally associated with manliness & they can’t fathom how a lady could figure out how to do such things?

For me: I am a lady & I participate in an activity that involves pulling trailers behind trucks. Backing the trailer into a parking space so you can go participate in the actual event is a frequent occurrence. I’m usually at these events by myself & can back up my own trailer, thank you very much. But I frequently encounter dudes who refuse to believe this is the case. I have had them bang on the windows of my truck, yell at me to stop, & block me from backing up my rig, all when I have a completely clear path & am not in danger of hitting anything. I’ve tried the “thank you, but I’m fine” approach but they refuse to move until I follow their directions. Sometimes they tell me to do exactly what I was already doing, other times they want me to follow a completely convoluted path that makes no sense. Even better, they usually follow it up with something along the lines of “if you don’t get hysterical, it’s easy!”

Other than going to the event management, how can I deal with this? It makes even more fun when the Mansplainers have their own rig that they parked like a Picasso painting, but it still sours the event for me. I don’t have any history with these dudes, they’re just total strangers who see a lady driving a truck & trailer and assume incompetence. Please help.

I’ve Been Backing My Own Trailers For A Long Time, Eff Off.

Dear Eff Off,

I think it’s worth reaching out to the organizers with this to see if they can’t send out some kind of safety reminder, like, “Hey, if you offer to help someone back up, and they say they’ve got it, it means they’ve got it. Get out of the way!” Treating it like a safety issue (which it is), rather than a sexism issue (which it also is) is going to have the cleanest chance of getting through.

You could also try a not-moving standoff. Dude won’t move until you take his directions? You won’t move until he gets out of the way.

But the truth of it is: You’re doing everything right already and there is no way to preemptively get these guys to stop acting like jackasses. You can’t control their behavior at all by phrasing things differently. So what remains is to deliver the message very clearly in a way that (hopefully) amuses you.

To do this, first, decline the offers verbally just as you have been. “Thank you, I got this!

If the interrupter persists in standing behind your truck and waving his arms at you, beckon him over, roll down your window, and hand him this flyer from the stack you keep in your glove box.

A photo of Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max Fury Road that says

Prepare for lots of sadface and “I was just TRYING to HELP YOU you are SO RUDE, JEEZ” pouting. Feel no need to smooth it over. No condescending insistence on “helping” complete with condescending “don’t get hysterical” comments? No condescending flyer!

P.S. This comment rules. Consider it.

459 thoughts on “#709: Stranger Mansplainer Danger

  1. Cosigning what CA said. And just posting to say that I hate, hate, HATE this shit. Like, dude? I’ve been doing X thing likely since you hit puberty. Sit down and shut the fuck up.

      1. I dunno, it’s beautifully meta.

        >Lady Big Rig asks Captain, my Captain, how to deal with pop-up mansplainerbots

        > Captain knocks it out of the park with +4 bat of righteousness

        > Pop-up mansplainerbot proves Lady Big Rig’s original point by banging on Cap’s window and saying “LOL PERIODS! AMIRITE?

        1. And now I’m sad I didn’t to put Lady Big Rig as my handle. That’s brilliant right there. 🙂

    1. That whooshing noise? That’s this entire feminist site going straight over your head.

      Time to re-read the archives and do some thinking.

    2. *awkward shuffle*

      So um… How ’bout them [insert sportball team]?

      Nope, can’t even…

      1. Love it. 😀

        Argh why is it every time you click into someone’s blog and the description says something like ‘I speak my mind!!’ then you know it’s going to be baaaaad.

        1. Haha. He posted on his blog about “silly feminists who can’t take period jokes.”

          1. HE’S SAVING OUR LIVES DAMN IT! Gary is defeating teh icky lady cancerses, supporting our right to equal pay “and all that crap”! Where is your gratitude? It’s not his fault that your ladybrain just doesn’t understand his unique sense of humour! Stop being so reverse-sexist at him! He knows women, they all agree with Guru Gary.

            That was the weirdest post. He apparently doesnt grok that woman=! vagina or vagina=! woman. Nor is he aware that vagina=! period. Considering his swipes at science-deniers, he doesn’t actually seem to have any real proficiency there himself. He sure told us though, I bet all of our female ancestors are feeling the sting of that reprimand.

            I, for one, welcome our new talented, egalitarian, cancer-busting Overlord! Hail to the King!

          2. And the commenters sagely inform him that teh ebul feminists on this site must clearly all be PMSing, and that’s why we’re all getting our panties in a bunch over his joke.

            Can’t make this shit up. It’s like an ouroboros of sheer irony.

    3. I’d respond to this, but I’m actually on my period right now, and diverting any blood from my pelvic area could cause me to become pregnant in my brain.

        1. ooooooh my god this is hilarious. I sense an impending binge on Cameron Esposito youtube videos.

    4. Wow. This must be really embarrassing for you. To have said that. Here.

      1. I apologize to everybody I meant it in jest not piss off every woman. I was just making a bad joke that fell flat. I truly am sorry.

        1. Thank you for apologizing. I do hope you do some reading to make sure you understand WHY the joke “fell flat” and pissed off everyone here who has a period (some of whom are NOT women), so you avoid making the same mistake in the future.

        2. Since you apologized, Gary, here’s a quick breakdown of why your joke was a) sexist and b) not funny on any level.

          – A woman doesn’t need to be on her period to be pissed off, nor should a woman have to be “PMSing” in order to get a man to take her seriously.
          – PMS and “crazy women on their periods, amirite?” is a long-running joke among smug male comedians who have never experienced it and have fuck all idea what they’re talking about. Stupid period jokes are then repeated ad nauseam by our male partners, friends and coworkers when they want undermine a woman expressing legitimate anger.
          – Invoking PMS is more likely to make a man take you less seriously because of the widespread and tiresome stereotype that women on their periods are raging she-hulks incapable of rational thought.
          – Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s 2015, there are still men out there who sincerely question women’s leadership abilities based on the ludicrous notion that PMS interferes with our decision-making abilities.

          So for you, PMS is probably a comfortable and familiar joke, one you’ve heard many times before in almost every situation involving a pissed off woman. For women, it’s a fact of our biology that is used to undermine our legitimate anger and cast aspersions on our competence and capacity for rational thought. This is doubly insulting when you consider that many women don’t actually experience PMS at all, and many more don’t have periods for a variety reasons.

          Repeating well-worn sexist stereotypes is shitty humour. Next time you decide to make a joke, aim higher.

          1. Duly noted ma’am, I actually applaud women in leadership roles my ex wife was a “higher up” in a male dominated industry so I know the struggle is real. Once again I’ll say I’m sorry and it was a bad joke.

          2. Still digging, Gary. You’ve just used a woman’s hard-earned place in life to prop yourself up against.

          3. @oregonbird maybe he is, but I took him to mean that, having seen someone he cared about go through the kind of the thing the LW described, he wants to be supportive, because her experience is one he knows to be true and not just in theory.

          4. Great summary of the problems with the “joke,” particularly how it’s not just not-funny but actually contributes to to the sexist dismissal of women. I will probably refer to this again sometime, so thanks!

    5. NO. You do not need to be PMSing to insist on being treated like a competent human being, and it is degrading to women that you would think this would be funny, honestly.

      1. “Feminists you all really need to get a grip on yourselves. I’m all for equal pay, women’s rights, and all that other crap you supposedly are “champions” for but learn to take a frigging joke! You are a woman every 28-32 days you suddenly hemorrhage enough blood that is the equivalent to a Manson family crime scene. This is a well-known fact of biology, the age old PMS jokes have been around since modern medicine, and you can’t run from this as a woman. Embrace it, empower yourself as a feminists and laugh please. Cold, bitchy, hear me roar woman nobody likes. Except other women that feel the same way you all should go hang out with the Anti-Vaxxers. Get a frigging clue on yourselves.” ~from this guy’s blog written the day he apologized.

        So excuse me if I don’t believe your apology or sincerity. Just because PMS jokes have been around for a while doesn’t mean a) they’re okay or acceptable and b) just goes to show you that we are FUCKING TIRED OF HEARING THEM AND MAYBE ARE SICK OF MEN THINKING WE BLEED OUT OUR SMALL SHRED OF INTELLIGENCE EVERY MONTH. Men always say “just take a joke” without ever trying to understand or even fucking accept that maybe those jokes are awful and have been used to “put us in our place,” so to us they are NOT funny. I love how he is like, you should be feminists like me, look at how feminist I am, la la la, when he clearly does not emphasize with women AT ALL. Yes please, tell all us little women how to properly be feminists because we clearly forget every time we menstruate.

        1. The lurkers support him in email, dontcha know. *eyeroll*

          It’s also cute how he apparently has no idea how many women don’t have PMS or periods, and fails signally to understand the mechanics of menstruation. It’s a shame he’s so emotional about this. I just can’t have a conversation with a man who’s being so emotional.

          1. I know, right? Men can get so hysterical. You just can’t talk to them when they’re like that.

            Also, I haven’t had a period, or PMS, in years. I know some folks have problems with the Mirena IUD, but I love mine.

        2. And it really is a serious problem. I think most men don’t actually believe in PMS, but I also think most men don’t know very much about basic cis female biology, because we act like it’s an impolite subject. Jokes like this help to stigmatize menstruation, which in turn helps to stigmatize female reproduction and sexuality in general, allowing men to continue avoiding any responsibility even as they come in contact with these processes every time they have sex with a woman on the Pill. It also makes it much easier for misogynist culture warriors to enshrine misogyny in law – OTC birth control, for example, or 20-week abortion bans. If you know sweet fuck-all about how pregnancy works, those proposals seem a lot more sensible.

  2. The Captain’s suggestions are spot on.
    Personally, speaking as a huge huge avoider of anything that even looks, feels or smells like it might be in the same universe as confrontation of any kind … I’d be wondering whether I could afford tinted windows. So the leap-into-mansplaining-mode areseholes wouldn’t be spurred into action by my brazen audacity in driving-with-a-trailer-while-female until after I’d finished parking in peace and got out of the cab, and also it would be kind of fun to see their UnPossibleHeadAsplode and bitter tears because then it would be too late.

    1. I love this idea; I would be terrified of a confrontation with the type of men who already think it’s ok to bang on the truck windows of strangers.

    2. My (male) physiotherapist told me about something that happened to him, shortly after I’d started going to see him after I’d been tailgated in a road rage incident (fortunately not shunted.) He was driving over a high bridge on a multi-lane highway, in a car with tinted windows. Saw someone in the next lane looking at him funny and getting closer. Then the other guy cut in front of him. Physio said he immediately thought of my experience and braked, in good enough time that he didn’t run into the other guy, who had also braked, hard. Tinted windows are, apparently, a challenge to some folks.

      I was pretty glad I’d told the physio my story, because he had his kids in the car.

    3. If this is something the LW wants to consider, she should definitely look into whether it’s legal in her state to have the front windows tinted. It isn’t in mine.

  3. Recently I had the treat of watching a very angry and useless man trying to direct his female partner in the fine art of parking a horse trailer. She had a large truck, towing a fairly big horse trailer, and the couple had decided to take their rig into the extremely small parking lot of a local DIY store.

    The woman could probably have gotten herself out of the pickle if he’d left her alone, but he had to run around and shout instructions at her instead, then make incomprehensible hand gestures as if guiding in an airplane, then run around shouting at startled pedestrians to get out of the way. We were in our own car; after we realized the situation, we reversed back politely to give the truck some space. The man banged on our window and shouted at us for adding to the woman’s emotional pressure.

    So I laughed at him.

    The man turned white.

    Then I POINTED and laughed at him. He left off haranguing the woman and came over to shake his fist at me. This was, of course, hilarious.

    Then my husband started to giggle.

    I made eye contact with the woman, pointed to the man, and indicated how hilarious he was and how blessed I felt to have this free comedy show.

    The man began to scream and wave his arms again. I took out my phone, wiping tears from my eyes, and began to film him.

    The man was now pinioned by this problem! And, as it turned out, he actually COULD control his emotions if a camera was watching him… and if it was clear that all of his incredibly macho posturing was not the righteous anger of an alpha male but the childish flailing of an inadvertently funny toddler … in fact, he suddenly realized, it was EMBARRASSING public behavior!

    The woman unfolded herself and pulled out of the parking space.

    I would only recommend this in broad daylight with social backup.
    But it felt so sweet.

    1. You are my hero.

      (Seriously, women who own trucks and horse trailers and the horse(s) in it? Usually know damn well how to drive the fucking thing. And will take your head off if you try to drive for her, because she’s not trusting her horse’s life to anyone else. Seriously.)

      1. I don’t know how many horse-trailer rigs I’ve ever seen that weren’t driven by women, now that I think on it. (for what my anecdata is worth.) Sit down fellas.

        1. SUPPOSEDLY the majority of the Dudes on Horses in The Two Towers and Return of the King are Ladies on Horses With Beards Glued On, because they did an open call for horse people and mostly women showed up. And I bet every single one drove her own damn trailer.

          1. No supposedly about it, that’s absolutely what happened. I spent a loooooong weekend, age 10, sitting in a cave on a soundstage with one such horselady who was now playing her own wife cowering under Helms Deep. Along with her own horse she also wrangled her own 18-month-old, who I held during shooting while we both looked scared. (Me because I was told to , him because he was being held by some weird kid and not his mum.)

          2. @Jack Remiel — I can vividly picture that scene in the movie. I am both flummoxed and delighted that I now am marginally acquainted with someone in it. I would send you a cake for being awesome, but. . . erm. . . I suspect you live in New Zealand.

            **Jedi cakes of awesome**

          3. @ Jane – I really wasn’t that awesome, my Mum’s friend took me to the casting call for extras (her lanky teenage son was an elf extra) after she read the list of things they wanted and realised I fit all of them. People of Rohan were supposed to have red or blonde hair, pale skin, and green or brown eyes. Most of what I remember from shooting was how long everything took, and having to do the same thing over and over, plus not taking enough Goosebumps books to keep me busy during the times where we just had to sit there. Any desire to be an actor ended that weekend.

            I do vividly remember the horse-lady (whose name I don’t remember, but I do remember her toddler’s name was Sam, after Samwise Gamgee) telling me that she was eating lunch with the other riders when Viggo Mortensen sat down and said hello, and he was very startled to realise that the half-dozen men he thought he was talking to all turned out to be women in beards.

          4. Is anyone else picturing horses with beards glued on? 😀

            As a horsey person, I can add that nearly everyone I know who tows a horse float is female.

          5. Entirely true. The cast members discuss it on the Behind The Scenes features. And they showed the beards being glued on.

      2. People who are used to handling thousand+ pound animals have no trouble removing some silly man. Especially if he’s bothering the horse. BTW, I’m not talking physical force.

        1. So true! I am trying to picture a man successfully attempting this with my trainer, who has been shipping and loading horses on her own for 30 years. If indeed the LW is talking about horses, she could say, ‘Thanks but my horse X is a bad shipper, I have to do it my specific way or he’ll freak out and injure himself.’

          1. That could be so dangerous. At the barn where I road, we had this really calm, laid back colt and he was easy to ride (a little lazy) and normally easy to handle…unless he randomly freaked out. On me, he freaked out once when o was saddling him. He’d never been cinchy before. He freaked out once when I was taking his bridle off (and the trainer was standing there watching me and didn’t see me do anything unusual). And his most terrifying moment was when he was dragging along on the way back to the washroom and stopped at the door. I gave him a gentle tug and he exploded and jumped back until he hit the barn wall. The terrifying part was that my horse trainer’s five year old daughter was with us and for one horrible moment, I thought she was behind the horse. And the weird part was that he would have these freak outs out of the blue and calm down a few seconds later, so someone who hadn’t seen a meltdown would think you were crazy. So if someone was trying to trailer this horse and a mansplainer jumped in to “help,” it could end very badly.

            On the plus side, that horse was a great lesson. People can warn you about horses being unpredictable all they want, but until you’ve seen a completely calm and laid back horse go from half-asleep on his feet to “OH NO! I’M GOING TO DIE! PANIC PANIC PANIC!!!” and then go right back to calm, you can’t really appreciate exactly how dangerous even that calm, gentle, lazy horse can be.

    2. Your story made me feel all warm and good inside. Nothing like shaming rude behavior out of people with ridicule.

    3. Ye gods, it’s true – men really think the worst thing that can happen is women laughing at them. Still, you’d think they’d be used to it by now…

    4. So. Beautiful.

      I have a sudden urge to write a mediaeval style ballad!

      #Oh hark to the tale of Elodie Under Glass,
      Who holds no truck with the posturing ass.
      She knows how to put a mule in his place,
      With a stare, then a laugh, in his blustering face.

      Hey nonny nonny point and laugh
      Hey-ho pull out your camera
      Hey nonny nonny laugh and point
      We’ll sing of this day ever after! #

        1. Now I’m not sure whether that’s:

          -“oh my god. oh wow. oh no she didn’t!” and sentencing me to life in the Crucible of Mansplanations (or reddit) for my crimes against music.

          – “oh my god. oh wow” In the sense that we need to form a band of roving Awkstrels to go far and wide, singing cautionary tales about men that make PMS jokes. We could perform ballads about mothers snooping, called ‘Yon cuppeborde, and the thynge therein which buzzeth like a bee

    5. I love when I have Mr. Bells in the car because dudes will get road-ragey, pull up alongside me and see a large, hairy, bearded guy in the passenger seat and just … deflate. The angry gesticulations become half-hearted waves. And Mr. Bells will just smile and wave back because he is actually the most non-confrontational person ever, he just LOOKS scary.

    6. I am so 100% on board with this, and you are amazing. That said, I laughed at a man once, and he, um. *deep breath* Yeah. He bit me. A man once bit me for laughing at him. He bit me on the neck. He didn’t break the skin, but the mark was still there the next day. And this was in broad daylight. He was an acquaintance, and we were standing with a group of mutual friends, and he said something stupid and I laughed at him and he bit me. So. Just. Be careful.

      1. Oh my god, Leonine. I’m so sorry.

        I love all the snarky responses people have suggested here, but I also would really like to support people who are afraid of being confrontational. It’s okay. Your fear is perfect legitimate. Like. . . there are men I know and love who I would not trust to not behave threateningly in response to being laughed at by a woman. People who have absorbed a lot of toxic gender role shit are A. not trustworthy and B. hard to identify from a distance.

      2. Wow. I can’t believe you don’t have, like, 10000 replies all going “holy shit, WTF!!,” because holy shit! That… happened? I mean, I’m having trouble seeing how he even get his face in there. Like, did he put his hands on your shoulders and bent down to your neck, and bite? Like a vampire?

        And you were standing in a circle of friends? How did your friends react? Did anyone say or do anything to shoo him off and get you to safety?

        1. We were at a fancy-dress reenactment event (yay Dickens Fair!), and he said something stupid, can’t remember what, and I said something smart, and everyone laughed. He went to leave, and as he was leaving, he came in like he was going to kiss me on the cheek. I turned my cheek toward him, which exposed my neck, and he leaned in and bit me. I was surprised, and I kind of laughed and said, “He bit me!” and everyone kind of laughed. I didn’t really realize how just awful it was until a few hours later when I found myself calling my sister and crying about it on the phone.

          The (*ahem*) interesting thing is that when I talked about it later with the women who were there, they were shocked and sad and sorry that they hadn’t realized at the time exactly what had happened; the men who were there, on the other hand, didn’t even know what I was talking about. They had no memory of the event, and I’m pretty sure they don’t exactly believe me. So. Interesting.

          1. Okay, Dickens Fair sounds awesome, but maybe not awesome enough to balance that particular bit of weirdness. I hope he matures and feels ashamed of himself for many years to come. Jesus, what a dick.
            Also. There’s a weird hint of something sexual there. If I were angry and wanted to exact revenge on someone, I probably wouldn’t choose to do this… vaguely intimate? thing.

          2. That is SO FUCKED UP. And the really fucked up thing? From the way you described it, it sounds like he spent a little time carefully thinking how to hurt you in front of everyone else. He couldn’t exactly throw a punch but omg, somehow he still found a way. I’m so sorry that happened to you. And I’m sorry that some didn’t believe you. 😦

      3. That’s horrific. I’m so sorry it happened to you. I hope that the rest of your acquaintance and you were able to shun him. If not, then I hope he has learned to be a civilized person who doesn’t bite people for laughing when he slips on a mental banana.

      4. What the f**king f**k?! He BIT YOU? That’s some kind of f**ked up animalistic pack behavior. A “nip” from the supposed Alpha to remind you of your “place” and chastise you for embarrassing you. Designed to humiliate and intimate, all under the guise of an affectionate gesture so the people around you aren’t sure of what happened and think it might be a joke.

        That. Is. F**KED. UP.

        I don’t blame you for reacting like you did and not going all confrontational. You were in shock! Who would think that a grown ass man would suddenly adopt the coping mechanisms of a damn dog?

      5. I laughed at a dude once and he shoved me to the floor, yanked his cheap, dull mall katana off his wall, and held it to my neck and growled in his “demon” voice at me.

        This was so fucking funny, despite being dangerous, that I sat there trying desperately not to laugh because I knew if I did I might be in real trouble, while two of our friends talked him down. It was so ridiculous that I wasn’t even shaken by it.

        (Is anyone else surprised that dude later physically and emotionally abused at least 2 women?)

      6. Wow, thanks, you guys. It happened some years ago, and I still look back with horrified amazement that it really happened. At the time, I thought about going to security, but I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me or wouldn’t take it seriously, and I just wasn’t up to adding insult and injury to insult and injury. Meanwhile, that guy was a well-known jerk. He eventually got permanently kicked out of that fair (he was a participant–I was just a customer, but I have participant friends), and I believe he got banned from a nearby Renaissance fair as well. I don’t know what he did to get kicked out, but I know that it involved being a hideous, disgusting jerk to a woman, and that no one was sorry to see him go.


        (But yes, another caveat if it helps: men don’t like it when you laugh at them and may react accordingly…)

    7. I am way late to reading the comments thread, but this, this was the equivalent of eating a massively satisfying meal. What you did was so amazing and delicious.

  4. My car has a dent in one side because I listened to this variety of idiot.

    Him: It’s OK, you can turn here, I’ll guide you out.
    Me: Um… I was just going to reverse out…
    Him: No, turn around, I’ll guide you.
    Me: OK.
    Me: Are you sure there’s room?
    Him: Keep going.
    Car: crunch.

    Thanks, mansplainer.

      1. I’m a fairly new driver and every time I go to fill up, I’m always worried some man is going to come over and try and show me how to take the cap off the fuel tank or use the pump or something. :/ I know perfectly well how to do it but it’s an old car and the fuel cap is stiff and sometimes takes a few attempts. I hate being approached by strangers at all times anyway but the added element of ‘young women maybe doesn’t know what she’s doing!’ sucks especially.

        1. I had a guy yell across a gas station parking lot something to that effect. I THINK he wanted to know if I needed help getting my gas cap off (in that oh so helpful way of guys panhandling in gas station parking lots… wasn’t the first time I’d seen him there) but what I really needed was something thin enough to get between the gas cap door and the car body to break the ice, cuz we’d had freezing rain and it was frozen shut.

        2. A few years ago I was pumping gas, and I was about 20 years old at the time. An older man on the other side of the pump noticed me and said “That’s not a lady’s job! You need a prince charming to do that for you!”

          And I was like “pump… gas?” Honestly, I was more bemused than anything else. In the moment, I just sort of laughed it off but looking back I wish would’ve responded by falling over and saying “OH NO I’VE GOT THE VAPORS.”

          1. When I moved for grad school, at about 23, I started dating a local guy who was a friend of some friends where I’d moved from. I told him that I was so surprised by how, every single time I pumped gas, at least one attendant would run out and insist on doing it for me. A weird chivalrousnes, I though. Boyfriend started laughing and explained that in New Jersey, there was no self-serve pumping.

          2. I was stunned when I realized how many women actually do rely on their husbands or boyfriends for everything car-related, including filling up. My dad made me learn how to pump gas, check and refill the oil, put air in the tires and so forth before I even got my license, so I figured those were just things that everyone did (assuming they were physically able to).

          3. I once had a bike mech start teaching me how to clean my jockey pulleys, and get a little pissy when I cut him off. “I KNOW how to degrease my drive train. I work forty hours a week and I’m tired at the end of the day, and taking my bike apart and back together is satisfying but exhausting. That’s why I’m paying you to do it.”

          4. @VG: It’s a situation where a lot of girls and women are actively prevented from learning how to do those things. Where I grew up cars were Men’s Things and women/girls who showed any interest in the were clearly lesbian feminists (as an insult). And even if I had accepted the social stigma I would still have had to find a man willing to teach me and be associated with lesbian feminists. Oddly we would also have had to face ‘obviously there’s something sexual involved’ despite the lesbian thing.

            Long story short, I didn’t learn to take care of a car until I had moved away from there.

          5. @VG I’ve known a lot of older women who may have known how to drive in their youth, but let their husband do all (and I mean ALL) the driving. When husband died, they didn’t have the confidence to drive (and might have even let their license lapse) so they were basically at the mercy of friends and family for rides because our area has no mass transit. It’s a really, really sad thing to see.

          6. @boutet

            I know exactly what you mean. My dad happily included my little brother in all things cars and maintenance, but I was excluded from all the handy stuff. I don’t think he did it intentionally, but I definitely expressed interest more than a few times with no luck.

            I can check my oil and add more, check my tires and air them up, but that’s the extent of what he taught me. I can do more if I use the manual and I have no problem asking for help or directions, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

          7. My dad is an amateur mechanic and I grew up helping him work on our cars, and I would really feel weird about letting someone else pump gas for me. Every time a guy has offered, I’ve been like, nope, why don’t you wash the windows instead. One of my exes made a big deal about this (like how WONDERFUL that woman was willing to pump her own gas!!! AMAZE). He turned out to be an abusive jerk. Anyway, let me pump my own gas and don’t make a big fuss about it, please.

          8. In December, one of the women living in our building went to the concierge desk asking for help with a flat tire: she’d moved to town a couple of months before from — somewhere in South America? — didn’t know anyone, was excited to go Christmas shopping before getting on a plane home a couple of days later, came downstairs and ARRRRRGH.

            “I’m so sorry: all of the maintenance staff have gone home and I can’t leave the desk. If you don’t have emergency assistance I can call the company that handles our towing, but it’s after 7 and it would take them a while to get here. Or, if you wouldn’t be uncomfortable with this, I could call my mom and ask her to come down and help you.”

            Yeah, the guy’s folks (mom and stepdad, but he introduces them as “the parental units”) live in the building. She came down, showed the woman how to do it, gave her directions to the tire shop up the road and told her who to ask for.

            I don’t know, it just made me grin.

        3. When I took my driver’s license, the driving school had night classes in the theory stuff you’d need to pass the test. And one of the night classes was a “garage class”, where you’d learn to change tires, check the oil and stuff like that. Notably absent from that one class were pretty much all of the male classmates. Because obviously they already knew this stuff due to the knowledge being transmitted from generation to generation within the testicles, or something.

          About half a year after I’d gotten my license I was walking home from work, and saw a guy standing by his car by the side of the road. The car had a flat, and the guy had no idea how to change it. I helped him get the spare tire on.

          I am still amazed that I managed not to laugh in the face of the guy when I recognized him as one of the ex-classmates who’d not taken the garage lessons…

          1. I have a lawn tractor. I’ve been driving one since I was 12 because there is a lot of grass out here. I have had to learn how to put the belts back on/replace broken ones, switch out the attachments as needed, change the oil, clean the spark plugs, clean the air filter — all that stuff. Most of the information on how to do this is in the manual. Yes, I RTFM when I need to.

            One early winter’s day I was at the place where I buy oil for the tractor and there was an older man there. He asked me why I was buying a 4l bottle of oil and I told him that I needed to change to the winter oil before I put the snow thrower on. That startled him a bit but then he asked me if I would come home with him and teach his wife how to do that. I knew it was a joke so I did the whole “ha ha, you sir, are soooooo funny!” weak laugh thing, paid and left. All I was thinking was “then what the hell would she need you for?”

          2. My ex once tried to change a flat tire. He jacked up the car and THEN tried to loosen the lug nuts. Of course, the suspended tire kept spinning and he couldn’t, so he had his friend wrap a coat around the wheel to try and hold it still. 3 hours and one ruined coat later, they made it home.

        4. I also have an old car, and some of the newer pumps with the vapor sleeves don’t like to stay in my tank. So it’ll pop out and the pump shuts off unless I’m holding it juuuuuust right. Dudes always want to help me with that, or tell me my tank is full (after 2 gallons) and that’s why it’s shutting off.

        5. I used to be an aircraft mechanic, so my go to with any “helpful” dudes is to ask them about variable pitch rotation and listen to them bullshit. XD

        6. I actually have a good story about being a ‘young woman [who] maybe doesn’t know what she’s doing!’: when I was a new driver, I encountered a gas station whose set-up was different from what I was used to, and I was a bit flummoxed by it but I didn’t want to reinforce negative stereotypes about female drivers by asking any of the staring men to help. Fortunately, the lady at the next pump over noticed my distress, and politely asked me if I wanted her assistance. I said yes, so she showed me how to work the machine and even gave me a pointer on what to do with my handbag while I was pumping gas. Thanks to her matter-of-fact attitude and kindness, I’ve never again felt as embarrassed, nervous, or out-of-place while filling up at a gas station.

    1. I got a nice gash in the side of my last car that way. When I looked at him incredulously, he shrugged and gave me a “hey, what can you do” look.

      I have no depth perception, so unlike the LW, I’m happy to receive this kind of help in principle. It works out better if the person offering actually knows what they’re doing, though.

  5. Cap’s advice is probably best. I think it would be kinda funny to sorta channel Clint Eastwood. Y’know, minimal reaction, squinting slightly, a long slow breath and an even “……Son, you wanna step back.” (Use of the word “son” is variable on the situation of course. Or preemptively tell them, in the most calm, even tone, that they need to calm down and not be hysterical. Turn it around on them first, y’know (because they are being RIDICULOUS).

    Seriously, though. Your problem is mindboggling and infuriating. Sorry you have to deal with that.

  6. It’s way more rare that these jackholes point this at us fellow men but it happens sometimes. I just fall back on “no thank you” repeated over and over again. “Let me direct you.” “No thank you.” “I’ll watch your blind spot.” “No thank you.” “I’m just trying to help.” “No thank you.” “I just don’t want you to hit my car.” “No thank you.” “What’s your problem?” “No thank you.”

    It’s possible that this will work less well for women; these sorts consider it devaluing/enraging that a woman might dare not listen to them. I wonder if blowing your horn at them while waving them off would help. Elodieunderglass’ story is a reminder that these folks are also fragile about looking stupid or as if they’re doing things wrong.

    1. Yes, I can verify that this works less well for women. Being repetitive and firm tends to enrage these guys, and then they start screaming obscenities at you.

      1. I feel like I wouldn’t have a problem with telling these people I’ll hit them with my car if they don’t stop. “I’m just trying to help!” “Unfortunately, when I get distracted or someone else tries to interfere things don’t go well and then I’ll be at more risk of hitting something. Just leave me alone and it’ll be fine.” I can’t even back properly into a parking spot if I’m being watched, so… I can do it just fine otherwise (but then I do drive a small car).

    2. This is hilarious to me. I cant speak for all WoC but this almost never happens to me. Black guys will stand there, quite openly staring, until they are certain you have no clue what you are doing, before stepping in to help the damsel in distress. (Sometimes not even then!)

      Not that Black men don’t or can’t “mansplain”. My brothers do this to me all the time, so I know they possess that skill.

  7. I’d go for a not-so-passive aggressive lean on the horn until they move. Isn’t that what you do when someone is in your way? Press the horn, dead-eyed stare, don’t respond to anything said, just calmly press the get-out-of-my-damn-way button until the embarrassment of a loud scene gets them to move. Back up as per usual, get out, and maybe a casual “It’s kinda dangerous to stand in someone’s way like that” and keep walking. It isn’t your job to educate those dudes, and I wouldn’t waste my time with it.

    1. Yep, if you feel safe doing this, I’d go for it. Someone who won’t accept a polite no thank you needs to get out of the damn way so you can park your truck. Leaning on the horn and starting to move the truck sends the signal that negotiation is over and it’s time for him to move now.

      1. Can you buy an airhorn? You know, those fracking, loud, jeebusgawd horns that will scare the snot out of you? If you do and use it I will loan you my firstborn if you film and post to YouTube the results.

        1. Ok, sorry. I finally read the rest of the comments and noticed that you can’t sound the horn due to not wanting to scare the horses, but hey. We can all dream about you startling the liver out of someone, can’t we?

          1. I wonder if there is an annoying tone within human hearing that horses don’t register? Install *that* horn, and lean on it good and proper!

    2. Seconded! Also why is he touching your truck?! There is no non-confrontational way to handle this kind of nonsense. If mansplainer were doing this to some dude, you better believe a healthy serving of truck horn with a side of what-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are-doing and a dollop of I-haven’t-got-time-for-this-BS would be forthcoming.

    3. Love this, would be my approach as well though I’d probably substitute a “What they hell do you think you are doing?” or the death glare as my friends like to call it, but I understand it isn’t for everyone to go this route. What a pain it is when you run into this attitude about driving or any of the various other sexist-driven attitudes about women + whatever.

      My husband and I like to target shoot, but we’ve stopped going to any ranges because there are always multiple sexist asshats there who want to mansplain to me how to work a firearm, no thank you! Or my personal favorite is when retail store employees try to mansplain something to me that I know way more about than them because of my job and training and it isn’t just that they don’t know as much, they are flat out wrong and either making things up on the spot to make a sale or have been told something incorrectly by someone else and are repeating it. Anyway, I feel your pain LW and agree you are handling it really well already.

      1. Imagine being so determined to insert your unwelcome advice that you were actually willing to annoy a woman holding a firearm. The mind boggles.

        1. This. My husband likes to tease me when I am chopping vegetables. I have pointed out to him it is probably not wise to annoy someone who is holding a knife.

        2. Well, I guess if they assume that she doesn’t know how to actually use it, they may not feel that unsafe.

          Although I suppose you don’t actually have to know what you’re doing with a firearm to harm somebody.

          But, yes, I can’t imagine what must go through a person’s mind to decide that they know better than a total stranger, and to accost them while they’re holding a weapon. How incompetent must they be thinking that the other person is to not think that the other person could manage to actually use said weapon against them if they are made to feel unsafe with the harassment? It’s amazing. Although I could see perhaps where this would arise from: if they’ve never had to feel unsafe based upon behavior that is held up as totally normal but is actually quite threatening, they may be totally clueless as to what they’re actually doing (which doesn’t excuse it, by the way). There’s definitely some privilege wrapped up in all of this.

      2. Oh, dog, yes, especially the young hotshots with hand-cannons and silhouette targets at 25′. But it is fun to see their expressions when you run your little target in from the farthest point with better groupings than they got.

        I really feel for their female companions they’ve brought along to “teach” to shoot, and are clearly uncomfortable with the size of pistol and recoil they’re seeing. I offered once to let one lady use my .22 which I was bench-shooting with (for the non-shooters: small caliber, not as loud, almost no recoil, propped on sandbags so no need to hold large heavy thing at arm’s length). She ultimately declined, but I think watching me helped her confidence.

        We’ve since found a better range, where I shoot from the shotgun/rifle sheds. There may be twerps in the pistol shed, but I’m out with people who assume I know what I’m doing, with bonus fewer cordite fumes.

      3. I had a store employee in Canadian Tire once tell me, when I was inquiring about the location in the store of a product they actually sold, and had to sell per the agreement with the manufacturer of the other thing they sold, that they didn’t have it. I said “excuse me, but per your agreement with $Manufacturer, if you are a retail store selling $Product, you must also sell $Accessory”. He looked me dead in the eye and said “We’re not a retailer.”

        [Pause for all the Canadians to laugh incredulously.]

        I said, “I don’t usually like to do this, but I have advanced degrees in philology, and if you are an establishment that buys goods at wholesale prices for by-the-piece sale to the public at a markup, you are by definition a retailer.”

        1. I have never, ever heard of anyone pulling rank as a philologist before. It makes my heart happy.

          1. Novel, that’s beautiful! I like to do the same when nit-picky brits (I’m also British) get all superior about the pronunciation/spelling of alumin(i)um. 🙂

        2. Canadian story time! (we’re not a retailer — wiping eyes).

          A friend of mine, an immigrant to Canada, has a favourite story about her early time in the country: somehow she got the names of Canadian Tire (Advance Auto Parts plus Lowe’s, sort of?) and the Canadian Superstore (kind of a Cdn Wal-Mart) mixed up. For several weeks she was telling people about all the delicious meals she was cooking from things bought at Canadian Tire, to very nonplussed looks (people, of course, were too polite to press her about it….)

        3. Snnnnnrrrk. I’m pretty sure that’s the store near me.

          Canadian Tire, the only place I know I can find a discount metal chicken at a moment’s notice.

        4. My husband is basically a recently unfrozen caveman. He does not get technology at all. He thinks the internet is a series of tubes. Yes, it is that bad. Fortunately, I’m pretty handy with computers, TVs, internet issues, the toaster, etc., so I’m the household’s chief IT person.

          We both needed new laptops and decided to check out a sale at the Big Blue and Yellow Store* on the exact models/brand we wanted. My husband basically just needs a fancy word processor while I needed a bit more memory for work related programs. While I was looking at the laptop display, delighted to find they had both models we needed for the right price, my husband got distracted by a shiny object and wandered off. The clerk came over and I told him we needed one XYZ model and one LMNOP model out of the locked case, please and thank you.

          The guy rolled his eyes and started asking me questions like, “Do you mostly want to use it to store and edit videos of your kids? Because there’s a better more expensive model over there that will do the trick.” and “You do realize there’s not enough memory on this to use those scrapbooking layout programs, right? For that, you’re going to need the ‘super lady, crystal encrusted model with wings’ over there”

          I got so tickled by the idea of me trying to scrapbook, I started laughing.

          The clerk got flustered and said, “I’ll just wait til your husband comes over so I can answer his questions.”

          And I started laughing harder.

          That didn’t help matters.

          My husband came over and the clerk (with much indignation) explained to my husband that he was trying to help me, but clearly, we needed to wait for my husband so we could get a better idea of the family’s technology needs.

          And my husband started to laugh.

          The clerk turned red and got this really pissy expression on his face. Fortunately for him, another clerk walked by and I asked him to please remove one XYZ model and one LMNOP model from the locked case so we could purchase them. The second clerk shot the first clerk a confused look, but did it and we purchased the laptops through the second clerk.

          We’ve learned that when making tech purchases, it’s easier for me to just go to the store on my own. I still put up with the stupid, gender-biased questions, but the transaction goes faster because the clerk isn’t waiting for my husband to come along and vet my purchase decisions.

          *With apologies to the employees of Big Blue and Yellow Store who are polite and helpful.

          *Also, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t laugh at a man and escalate the situation. It was involuntary and if the guy wasn’t in a clerk/customer dynamic, this could have gotten ugly

          1. I’ve been on the other side of that. During my time at Uni I worked at a local Staples. I was an associate on the side of the store that sold PCs, office equipment like faxes/copiers etc. Despite being part time I was the best salesperson on the team, the most tech savvy, and (per my manager” “a freakish memory for specifications and features”.

            If I had £1 for every man that refused to interact with me because I was a young woman, I’d have my own private island. I could fix anything, sell snow to polar bears, and refused to rip anyone off. Mad skillz. Some men seemed so unsettled, even freaked out, if it seemed like I knew more than them, or could fix things that they’d failed to. One stands out though. He was browsing the PC section, so I approached him with the standard ” Hiya! Are you managing okay?”. He looked me up and down, settled his gaze at ooh… a few inches below my shoulders, and said “I need one of the computer blokes”. Uh-oh. ” Yep, I can help you out, are you looking for something in particular??”. He barked out “Yes. A MAN!”

            Aiiieeee. I did not take well to disrespect. I spotted our newest associate, a gawky 17 year old of questionable intelligence, with the cocky arrogance common in young lads that have been soaking in entitlement. The problem was that he knew very little about interacting with different kinds of people, and his tech knowledge was nowhere near the level he thought it was. He spoke to every customer, sorry, spoke AT them, in exactly the same way. He yapped out buzzwords and jargon at warp speed, confusing and irritating would-be customers. Perfect. “Lee, could you come and assist this gentleman please?”. I set off with a smile on my face.

            I stayed in the vicinity helping other customers, occasionally catching snippets of Lee’s fabulous patter. ” Oh yeah the AGP slot is the way to go because your VRAM gets buffered through to your…..printer into the SCSI port and daisy-chain a scanner into the parallel port for…oh sure, refrigerating your cartridges will double your ink yield at 5% coverage assuming 640dpi”. Fifteen minutes later the customer started to give me pleading looks, full-on puppy dog eyes, a pained grimace. I strolled over sloooowly. “Everything alright chaps?”. The poor guy just squeaked out ” I’m so sorry, I really am. Please get rid of him -no offence son, but you’re a gobshite!”. Ah sweet schadenfreude. Lee just looked confused, like a dog who’s just tried to bite a snowball.

            He became a frequent customer at the store, and if Lee went anywhere near him he would practically bolt up another aisle to get away from the lad.

          2. “Also, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t laugh at a man and escalate the situation.”

            Which is so screwed up – that a woman should have to worry about laughing at a man. Those few insecure jerks who can’t take it make the decent men look bad.

          3. I once dragged a male friend along to a computer store while I was in the market for a big beefy gaming laptop. Despite the fact that I was the person who was like “Hello, I am here to find out about gaming laptops!” and I was the one asking detailed questions about specs, the salesman could not stop pitching to my friend. I would ask a question, the dude would start answer, but his gaze and his stance would start to drift away from me until I was basically staring at his shoulder while he explained the merits of various graphics cards to my friend, who has zero interest in both computers and games and was utterly baffled by the whole encounter.

            A year later, I invited a young man over after a date and my big beefy gaming laptop (which, shocker, I did not end up purchasing at that store) was sitting out on the table. Young man says: “Oh wow, you have an Alienware!”
            “Yes, yes I do.”
            “Why is it weird?”
            “Well, it’s just that people usually use that brand for playing videogames.”
            “Yes. That is what I use it for. It’s a gaming laptop that I use for playing games.”
            “… Oh.”

          4. ‘ ” Yep, I can help you out, are you looking for something in particular??”. He barked out “Yes. A MAN!” ‘

            I don’t think I would’ve been able to stop myself from saying, “Well, we don’t sell any of those here, but there’s a bar down the street you could try.”

            So it’s probably just as well I don’t work in customer service anymore. Sometimes they pitch you softballs like that.

          5. That’s such a funny story! I am sorry it happened, tho.

            I often end up having to pull the “er, I have a degree in computing, I know what I’m doing, thanks” card, which I dislike cos it makes me sound arsey, but at least it shuts them up.

          6. @ThatHat That was exactly what I thought when I read that. Also “Well, if you have a smartphone, there’s an app called Grindr….”

          7. I wish! As flattering as it is to be thought of as a recent student this was, in fact, in *whispers* 1997. So old. In fact, we sold some of the very first Pay As You Go phones. I spent about half of my wages on phone top-up cards! My first phone was about as long as this Nexus 7 is. My dog used to carry it on our walks. Smart phones would have been seen as the stuff of speculative fiction. My first PC only had a 1.6gb hard drive, and I chatted to women on CompuServe’s for a. Young ‘uns dont today with their Grindrs, and their Tumblrs, and the Twitter!

            I actually gave up the snappy comebacks at work after one ‘gentleman’ tried to grab my throat. Retail was a dangerous business in that area back then. Lots of very scary, dodgy characters in that neck of the woods. Guns and shootings. In the UK. In a former industrial town. The fact that our staff was 95% girls and women made us an attractive target for theft and intimidation.

          8. “Which is so screwed up – that a woman should have to worry about laughing at a man.”


            “Those few insecure jerks who can’t take it make the decent men look bad.”

            … no, that is not the problem here. Really. Not. The. Problem.

      4. I had a guy try to mansplain firearms to me. I’m a combat vet with almost twenty years in. Women tend to remark on my posture and “get it.” Certain types of guys, though…..

      5. I handed my Mauser rifle to a guy on a range once, to try it out. Now this was a friendly little group of people, no mansplaining! But I figured the guy would know by the size of this weapon to be careful. Well, it sounds like a cannon and has a similar kick, and I thought he was going to start crying! I actually felt bad for him, but do you think he would have even listened to me if I said, “watch out for the kick!”

        1. clearly he could not “on sight, tell a Mauser rifle from a javelin” 🙂

          1. Someone else who quotes Pirates at every opportunity! Oh, my heart. Thank you for this.

      6. Yeah, I’ve had to start leaving my boyfriend at home when I go buy parts for his bike. I’m the family bike mechanic but any time we walk into an unfamiliar shop, some man does this:

        Sales:What’s the problem here
        Him:*shrug* ask them *point*
        Me: I need a 68×113 square taper BB and a 165 left-side crankarm. And a tube.
        Sales: OK, so I’ll just gonna direct you over to the mechanics, they’ll measure your BB and let you know what you need

        Flaaaaames! Flames on the side of my face!

    4. I love this idea as long as the activity in question does not involve livestock or horses who could be spooked by the horn.

    5. As an accessory to this, the LW might try wearing sunglasses, especially in a bigger, “masculine” style like aviators that cover more of her face. I’ve found people of all stripes are less likely to approach, or more likely to back off, if they can’t see your eyes. The inability to make eye contact freaks people out. I’ve used this to dissuade the public from approaching me at festivals I’ve worked at in technical roles – otherwise everybody wants to talk to the young woman lugging camera gear around, instead of walking fifty feet to the help table staffed with friendly volunteers!

      1. WOAH. Is that why no one harassed me when I went to OSHEAGA by myself? I was super nervous about getting approached by randoms but nobody who didn’t know me from school or work talked to me at all. Definitely getting a spare pair before my next solo adventures.

      2. Approve of this. I have to wear sunglasses outdoors and driving, pretty much all the time… I definitely get less “gruff” when wearing serious/sporty sunglasses than when I’m wearing my more casual ones (that have flowers on the ear bar thing)

    6. Horn actually just means “I am here”. I figure they know that already. And if in UK, it’s illegal to sound horn while stationary.


      1. A quick toot on the horn means “I am here.” A long, melodious blast on the horn means “What you are doing right now is PISSING ME OFF and I would be very appreciative if you would go do something else.” Unfortunately, it does spook the horses.

      2. I’m curious…if it’s illegal to sound your horn while stationary, what do you do if you’re at a light and the person ahead of you is daydreaming and misses that it’s gone green?

        1. You are expected to wait. The Highway Code states:

          “Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn

          while stationary on the road
          when driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30 pm and 7.00 am

          except when another road user poses a danger.”

          You’re stationary, and the other person is annoying, but not endangering you. Therefore, no horn. In reality, a lot of people will do a brief beep, but they’re not supposed to.

          1. I would say that most states in the U.S. have some law limiting the use of horns on the books. In my state, it’s:

            >Every person operating an automobile or bicycle shall sound the horn or sound device whenever necessary as a warning of the approach of such vehicle to pedestrians or other vehicles, but shall not sound the horn or sound device unnecessarily

            It’s rarely, if ever, enforced, though, so no one really heeds it.

        2. This is what the UK Highway Code says about horns:

          “The horn. Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn:

          – while stationary on the road
          – when driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30 pm and 7.00 am

          except when another road user poses a danger.”

          I wish people actually obeyed this law a lot more – I live near a nightclub, and that’s fine (it’s well soundproofed so I can’t hear the music and I can sleep through people outside talking, and even singing and screaming doesn’t bother me much) but the taxis and other cars who pull up to collect people at closing time love to use their horns repeatedly at 4am. 😦

          To the OP, I wish I had some useful advice. Mainsplaining is so frustrating, and this is an area where men really need to step up. Of the suggestions above I like the flat repetition of “no thank you” and the sunglasses the most, but good luck with whatever you try.

      3. I don’t drive but I looked this up because I was curious. It looks like they take it mostly on a case by case basis and I think she’d probably be ok to honk if the guy is actually blocking her from safely backing up. If any police are in the area she might get in trouble for leaning on the horn though.

    7. YES. I grew up on a dairy farm, and drove a truck with a 24′ goose-neck stock trailer almost every day. I also drove lots of heavy equipment, very large tractors, etc. When I took cattle to auction, I would often have to back the stock trailer between two big-rig cattle haulers. You should see how fast a big man can move when he sees a girl (I was under 18) backing a trailer within 3′ of his rig…

      I cannot second the very straight faced “MOVE. You are in my way.” enough. I’ve also said things like “I hitched this trailer, loaded the cattle, and drove it 15 miles to get here. What makes you think that I’d need your help for the last five feet?” in an exceptionally bitchy voice.

      1. I like that: “What makes you think I’d need your help for the last five feet.” With the caveat, of course, that this is a little bit more confrontational response, so everyone knows their own situation and should apply as appropriate.

        The whole thing sounds very scary to me. Guys who won’t take no for an answer harassing me under the guise of “helping”-I’d be afraid of escalation if they didn’t like my response. If I was arriving, I’d be a bit afraid upon getting out of my vehicle, and I’d also perhaps feel too intimidated to roll down my window to tell the guy to back off. There isn’t one right answer, and unfortunately no one right way to diffuse the situation and get these guys to leave you alone. It really sucks that sometimes the answer is to have male backup, since that’s the only thing they’ll “respect”.

    8. SInce you can’t blow the horn, can you get a loudspeaker setup for your radio? Then you can get on the speaker and say, “Please step away from the truck. You are in the way.” in a very official-sounding cadence and inflection.

      And I like the idea of sunglasses. Even if you only put them on when you go to back up the truck.

  8. I would stop, lean out the window and very calmly ask, “Please tell me why you think you know more than me about how to back this truck up?” He’ll probably say, “I’m just trying to help” to which you ask again, “But please tell me what makes you think I need your help?” To every other response he gives, continue to calmly ask “Why do you think I need….” or “Why do you think you know more than I do…” At some point he’ll back off. I did that once in a similar situation and the guy got about halfway through his answer of, “Because you’re a girl…” and then he realized what he was actually doing to me and mumbled something and walked off.

    Sometimes when people are asked to defend stuff like this, they realize pretty quickly that all they’re really doing is making some pretty bad assumptions.

    1. I like this. This is the equivalent of the “what makes you say that” approach to racist/sexist/anything-ist conversationalists. That bloke reached his own revelation, kinda beautiful.

    2. I love this approach. I’m going to have to try it at work. (Lady in IT, etc., and while my work environment is actually pretty kickass, there’s always That Guy.) It’s the perfect mix of polite and take-no-shit.

    3. the problem with this is I know some people who will out-and-out say “because you’re a woman and women can’t drive”, and then what do you do?

        1. Do it like a child:
          “But why?”
          “But why?”
          “But why?”
          “Because I said so!”
          “For realz? But why?”

  9. We had a utility trailer and a couple of vehicles capable of towing it when I was growing up, so part of my own education as a driver included driving (and backing) a trailer. It’s really not that hard.

    And yet when my family was visiting my uncle, and we went to the lake for a family outing, my uncle insisted that my BROTHER back the boat trailer down the launch ramp, despite the fact that my brother had never launched a boat and had two years less driving experience than me. Probably my lady parts would have gotten in the way.

    1. Maybe: “don’t worry, I had my breasts reduced so I could turn the wheel better”. 😉

  10. I vote for the “wait them out” approach. You’re in your nice, comfortable car, sitting down, with your music and some climate control. You hold all the cards.

    Related, there was a great article reprinted on Longform about trans vets and the work they’re doing to get appropriate medical coverage from the VA. One woman mentioned that she now gets unwanted male help when she opens the hood of her car at a gas station. Nothing, of course, has changed about her ability to put washer fluid in her car or check the oil, just her outward gender presentation.

    1. I popped the hood on a used car I was buying once and pulled the dipstick. Just because I obviously would like to know where it is and how easy it is to check the oil. Salesman said “I’ve never seen a girl do that before!”

      God, I should have walked right then. I bought the car. Huge mistake.

      1. Future reply to “I’ve never seen a girl do that before”:
        You still haven’t. I’m not a child, I’m an adult, I’m not a girl, I’m a woman.

        Extra snark: If you do see a little girl doing x, let me know. She sounds cool!

        1. I believe I gave him side-eye and said “I’m just pulling the dipstick, it’s not rocket science.” Still, should NEVER have bought that car.

          My tactic for buying cars now is to a) pretend I have no sense of humor and never smile, and b) if I can’t get the salesman to stop trying to sell me something I don’t want, I ask if they have it in a stick shift. They rarely carry those on the lot, and guys are STILL baffled that women can drive manual somehow.

        1. Kinda mean towards women who don’t do “masculine” stuff…because we get shit for not being feminine enough. Please don’t enforce the double-bind.

          1. Same sentiment, different wording: “You must not get out much, then, Bub.”

      2. My dream response: Well, I’ve never had a dipstick try to sell me a car before. A day of firsts all around.

    2. My wife transitioned on the job as a programmer. A senior programmer, with other people under her direction. After transition, she seriously had guys working under her mansplain things to her that she had personally taught them a few months before.

      1. I just facepalmed the biggest facepalm of my LIFE in the middle of a clinic waiting room. The mind boggles. How did your wife handle this?

        1. Wowwww. Is that… good because it meant they regarded her fully as a woman, or terrible because it’s terrible? I think maybe it’s terrible. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so terrible, though.


            (Thanks. It wasn’t a painful facepalm, only a profound one. Because that is some extinction-event-level fail going on.)

      2. This is the worst. But to me it sums up the entire “in the world while a woman” It just sums it up in one 3 sentence anecdote. Sad, but so true.

      3. Okay so somehow when I read this the first time around I missed the “transitioning” part of it so I thought “geez do these dudes just have selective memories or what?” Then I reread it and wow. WOW. That adds a whole new dimension to the fucked-upedness.

    3. I bet! I’m a cis woman that typically presents as Very Feminine (high heels, skirts, long hair) and men come out of the wood work when I pop the hood of my car. It’s usually amusing and most of the dudes who offer to help are polite and let it go when I decline, but I do occasionally encounter adamant White Knights who have to be aggressively discouraged from thinking I need help with washer fluid.

  11. Wow, that’s really, really dangerous mansplaining. Like dude, you could get hit! Has no-one ever told these dudes that distracting drivers is fucking DANGEROUS?

    Also, this is a bizarrely common thing in some places, from what I’ve seen. One of my friends gets at least TWO of these dudes trying to mansplain to her how and where she should park her minivan every single time she moves back into college, despite never driving dangerously and being quite capable of figuring it out herself. I think it’s related to that creepy sexist idea of ‘women can’t drive’.

    1. The “women can’t drive” thing is really so pervasive. I have an otherwise intelligent and well-meaning friend who spent about ten minutes trying to explain to me that no, it’s not sexist, it’s just that women on average have worse spatial reasoning than men. NO REALLY THEY DO IT’S JUST BIOLOGY OR SOMETHING.

      1. Oh, THAT explains why I only scored 99th percentile on spatial reasoning and three-dimensional visualization. If I had a Y chromosome, I’d have gotten that last percentage point, and I’d be perfect at this stuff, right?

        IOW – Pfft. Somebody needs to teach him exactly what average means about the person standing in front of you.

          1. I’ve had people pull this on me–I actually am really bad at spatial and visual reasoning, my brain works almost entirely in words. So I’ve had condescending comments like “it’s ok that you’re bad at this, women don’t tend to be naturally skilled at judging distances (etc)” To which I reply “pretty sure it’s not my gender so much as the fact that I’m blind in one eye and literally have no depth perception…”

          2. I got 99th percentile on everything except the spatial reasoning. I did not do well at only – only 80%, I think – on the one where you are supposed to figure out, from various drawings of an unerected box, what the box would like like folded up. The irony is that I spent eight years working for a company that makes corrugated boxes! Fortunately, they did not have me assembling and designing them.

        1. 99th percentile here, too! Freaked out my high school guidance counselor, let me tell you.

      2. I once had a similar conversation, in which I brought up gender disparities in auto accidents and death. If men are the better drivers, why are they so disproportionally the cause of crashes? Dude wasn’t even fazed. He just continued to argue that regardless of actual behavior, facts, or measurements of reckless driving or the damage caused by it, the gender that is supposedly slightly worse at spatial reasoning has to also be worse at driving because reasons. Sexism is a hell of a drug.

        1. spatial reasoning is also a learned skill, not an instinct or genetically encoded.

      3. Right, that’s why ladies pay such a high insurance premium for being ladies.

        Wait a minute…

        1. Here in the UK car insurance used to be considerably cheaper for women, purely because they’re far safer drivers than men, and therefore make fewer claims.

          You’ll note that I said “used to”. That was because a bunch of bawling man babies took umbrage at the facts, and starting screaming “NO! TEH SEXISMS!!!!1 Why u discriminate???” while throwing their dodies* out of their man prams.

          Now all is “fair” and we ladypeeps pay out of our noses to subsidise the menz.

          *dummies, pacifiers, binkies, whatevs

        2. No kidding. I actually had to point this out to my supposedly progressive ex-boss the other day, who had just said in a slightly doubtful tone that he didn’t really think women were worse drivers than men.

      4. Men age 18-25 have paid the highest car insurance premiums since insurance was invented, which is how insurance companies say, “Y’all cost us the most in paying for your accidents and damage and general hotdogging. We charge you the most so we’ll, perhaps, continue to be a profitable enterprise.” Hmm, must be a conspiracy among feminist actuaries…

      5. I am a person who *doesn’t* have great spatial reasoning or depth perception. A thing that does not improve my spatial reasoning is someone standing behind me waving their arms and shouting a lot. Nor does that thing improve my mood, or my opinion of the person standing behind me and acting ridiculous.

        1. +1 to this

          Plus, I then get more flustered and upset if someone is yelling at me, which makes me more likely to make a mistake or not do something right, which makes them yell at more more/”ah women, right? Told that stupid lady she needed my help.”

      6. “If women aren’t good at knowing at what 8 inches look like, it’s because men have been lying to them about it their whole lives.”

        1. Eh. . . rather not rely on transphobic humor to put people in their place. Not all men have penises.

      7. This is why the doods on the fire department don’t let me drive the trucks.

      8. I had a fellow intern explain to me that women have worse spatial reasoning, because biology, it’s just true, while we were out at the movies in a town we had both just moved to for the internship. Neither of us were terribly familiar with that part of town, so I told him, “Okay, Mr. I’m-better-at-navigating-due-to-being-a-boy, I will follow you as you attempt to get us home on public transit, and whenever you get tired of being lost, I’ll take us back to the dorm.” Which is what we did. He didn’t even get us on the subway before giving up, and never brought up that “fact” again.

        1. Even if you accept their premises, their arguments make no sense! It could be that women are on average worse at spatial reasoning than men, but that would still not indicate anything about a particular woman’s spatial reasoning ability versus a particular man’s. They also think they’re the logical ones. Snerk.

          1. Oops. Sorry, didn’t realize that this would embed. Hope that’s okay? I’m kinda impressed that you can click through all the slides in the embedded image…

          2. That’s what I’m thinking! I don’t really know anything about the biological side of these things so I can’t really argue for either side. But even if the average is like the other person says, it really doesn’t make sense to just blanket-apply that knowledge to all future interactions and situations. Like, on average, men are taller than women (I guess? My own surroundings suggest that but maybe that evens out over the world/is different in different areas?) but that doesn’t mean a situation where a tall woman meets a small man doesn’t exist.

          3. @Neurite (ran out of nesting) Thanks for the link, that slideshow makes me so happy. It’s a pity that men are so bad at math 😉

          4. In high school (lo, those many years ago!), I took advanced geometry (a 12th grade level class) as a 9th grade lady person, because I tested out of the math for my grade level. One day, we got a young male student teacher from the local university. At one point during the lesson, I raised my hand because I had a question about one of the problems.

            Him: “don’t worry if this is hard for you – women aren’t as dexterous as men so it’s natural for it to be difficult for you to draw a circle with the compass.”

            Me: *blink, blink* Actually, I finished all the circle problems yesterday. I’m working ahead and have a question about triangles. And the compass really wasn’t difficult, thanks.

            I’m sure that wasn’t my first encounter with overt sexism, but it sure was a memorable one.

      9. Ugh, yes, totally pervasive. I drive well. I parallel park well. But if I parallel park in front of an old guy, they invariably remark on how good a job I do parallel parking! They think they are being nice and complimentary! But what they are really saying is “You’re good at that…for a girl.” If it had been a man parking, they just would have expected the parking to be done properly and not done any complimenting.

      10. I wish the “women be bad at driving” trope would go die in a fire somewhere.

        I had to rent a U-Haul truck today (15′ long box truck – we were moving some furniture), and the dudes at the hardware store renting it to me were SO INFURIATING. The reservation was in my name, but my husband took me to pick the truck up. When the guy asked me to fill out the form and “give him the driver’s license,” I clearly ID’ed myself as the driver. He then was like “are you the only driver?”, which I was. So we fill out all the paperwork with me at the counter and my husband browsing a display about five feet away because he’s not the driver in our family and he had no interest in the details of the truck rental. So I conduct the entire transaction with hardware store guy, then we go outside to get the truck, and he HANDS THE KEYS TO MY HUSBAND. Because clearly when I handed him my own license and told him I was the only driver, and my husband stayed five feet away and ignored us the entire time the rental was being processed, that was sooper-seekrit-dude-code for “my husband will be driving the truck, as it’s obviously a penis-operated truck.” My husband just laughed and was like “dude, there’s no way in hell I’m driving this thing,” and passed the keys to me, but still, it was so annoying.

        If I hadn’t been in a hurry to pick up the furniture, I would’ve walked out and found another truck rental place. Also, those dudes are getting the WORST review.

        For OP, I guess all I have is to echo the suggestions of previous posters, which is basically to refuse the help clearly and unequivocally, and then to refuse to move the truck until the mansplaining asshat gets out of your way.

      11. It tickles me that this theory completely ignores all the spatial reasoning that goes into, for instance, making clothing for oneself and one’s family, often without a pattern or any instructions, which women have been doing for literally centuries.

        1. I’ve always wondered whether there’s work to be done on what happens if you teach maths through activities that are coded female. Like, if it’s the case that most examples of fractions and proportions and geometry are things like “two trains are moving at different speeds” and “a bullet leaves a gun at…”, what happens if you teach, “this recipe requires three eggs, Jill has two eggs, how much flour does she need?” or “how much yarn do you need to knit…?”

          1. @Mary: Sorry for a bit of an info dump, but there are actually studies about this (that I know of, in the context of physics education)!  I’ve included links to two of them below (I tried to find free access copies, so hopefully it works for anyone interested).  Also, I couldn’t find the specific study, but when I was in grad school the first time, the first professor I TA’d for told me about a study that was run as follows:  a problem on parabolic motion was given with identical numbers, but two different situations — either a cannon was shooting a cannonball, or a baby was pushing a bowl off of a high-top chair.  After administering the test to two groups, they found that the male students showed no statistical significance between the two problems, while the female students performed statistically better on the baby-bowl question.  And, there was no statistical significance between the male and female students on the baby-bowl question.  Unfortunately, not all of the faculty took the lesson to heart that framing is important to question interpretation, so I don’t know think anything ever happened as a result of that study, at least while I was there. But in general I think this question is really fascinating, and not emphasized enough, at least at the levels I’m familiar with.

            I’m not too familiar with the studies I’m linking below, but they look to be in the same vein.


            tl;dr — Context does seem to be super important to this kind of thing.

          2. From what I’ve seen, both boys and girls like recipe math if the recipe makes something tasty, like cookies. Doubling or halving a recipe is great for introducing fractions. It’s real, there’s an actual reason for using fractions/dividing, and the results are delicious 🙂

        2. Which is my biggest problem drafting patterns, as a someone who sews. I *am* actually bad at spatial relations, so the only reason I can instinctively tell what a bodice pattern piece will look like in 3 dimensions is years of practice. Ask me to make something out of my comfort zone, and I’ll have a very hard time drafting it without an example to work from.

          30 years of sewing and I still need directions to sew crotches, too. I just can’t make my brain visualize them.

        3. Emerging from a long-term lurk to provide the following anecdote:
          I scored 100% on the Science and Technology mock paper when I took ‘A’ Level General Studies. My boyfriend at the time got one question wrong and got in an almighty huff about it being on the paper in the first place because it “wasn’t real technology”. The question asked which of several possible shapes the fabric pattern they pictured would result in. As in, sew two lines, open it out and what do you get. He thought it gave an unfair advantage to people (like me) who’d taken textiles as their tech option, but he thought that all the other, questions were somehow more “neutral” or generally applicable.

      12. That annoys the hell out me me, too. I mean, I actually do have shitty spatial awareness. Guess what? SO DOES MY BROTHER, who can get lost, repeatedly, in his own neighborhood.

  12. Heh. I don’t have any suggestions, but I feel your pain. I am a woman who works in software and just this week, I had a Super Helpful Male Coworker start barking instructions at me about how to reboot my computer.

    It went all the way past infuriating and turned into hilarious at that point. At some point, I’m going to have to ask him what he thinks I did for the ten years I spent in this industry before I met him.

    1. I too am a lady who works in the dev world (web apps), and I have an uncle who likes to explain to me how if I wanted to be using a SECURE web browser, I’d be using IE6. This is usually the point in family gatherings at which I decide my mother must need help in the kitchen and flee.

      1. Oh my. I don’t even…

        A good answer, if it’s applicable, is “but you can’t get IE for [Linux / android / whatever OS you’re using].”

      2. Because the best software is the kind that’s both out of date and unsupported? You know it’s good when the creators of said software are doing everything possible to get you to stop using it?

  13. For a less confrontational approach: headphones and a book. Nothing says GO AWAY quite like headphones and a book. Sit your ass down, turn off the engine, roll up the windows and whip out headphones and a book. Even if it takes them ages to get a damn clue, you’ll still have music and a book, which is nice.

  14. Ugh.
    Allow me to be the first to say that I’m an average driver at best, and a terrible parker. But seriously, having a stranger try to give you directions DOES NOT HELP! Especially if they’re yelling.

    My wolf, bless his heart, has figured out that I really do much better without constant correction unless I ask for help. And he’s learned that not everyone takes direction the same way–something else that Really Unhelpful People never seem to learn. An instruction that seems perfectly clear to him can translate as directions to Narnia in my head, and then I’ll try to follow them and get all messed up and he’s like “How did that happen?” And I’m like “I was doing what you said!”

    Early in our relationship, before we figured this out, I got frustrated once and turned the car off and just sat there. Didn’t say anything, just sat there until I was calm, then I turned the car back in and parked the damn thing without listening to a word he said and it was fine. It was the turning point for the Unhelpful Helping and now he asks if I want help, or waits for me to ask him.

    I quite like the idea of just leaning on the horn, though.

    1. I have yelled at my father before when he was trying to over-direct while I was driving. If I’m in an unfamiliar place, I can handle precisely ONE upcoming direction at a time. Once, Dad was trying to navigate us all the way to our hotel in one stream of consciousness.

      Also, we were in L.A.
      Also, it was rush hour.
      Friends, Drew was quite the bundle of nerves.

      So I lost it. “Dad, I cannot handle all the directions at once. I need to know the NEXT turn, and ONLY the next turn, and I need to know about how far we are from it. EVERYTHING ELSE MUST WAIT.”

      Dad said, “I’m afraid we’ll get lost if there are two turns in a row and–”

      I interrupted (he HATES that). “Then we get lost. It’s a road trip, we aren’t on a schedule, it’s MY CAR, and we’ll figure it out. Getting lost is part of the fun on road trips. That’s what you always told us as kids when you wouldn’t look at a map, right?”

      Dad sulked for HOURS. But he was quiet about it.

      (This is the same father who, TO THIS DAY, wants to give me driving directions over the phone while I’m trying to leave my house. “Dad, I’ve got the address in Waze. It will get me there. Can’t talk, about to drive, love ya bye.” OK, if he knows a shortcut or a way that Waze flatly won’t take me, fine, but I can’t write down directions in my car, so they’re useless [see above], so may as well just let me go the way it’s going to direct me. Plus, we’ve already determined that I don’t do full sets of directions well; I need them step by step, coming up as necessary, or I get freaked out and end up getting REALLY lost.)

      (I love my dad, really, but we do have some communication issues that occasionally bite us on the butt.)

      1. The only reason why I got my driving license (age 20) was because my father’s legs were beginning to give him trouble. I turned into the family’s chauffeur and it drove me nuts. My mother would constantly passive-aggressively point out for me the meaning of traffic signals (for example: “that red sign with white letters means that you need to stop the car”). My father would complain that I was too hesitant sometimes changing the lanes, never mind that it was because he was sitting as the copilot and felt the urge of pointing directions with his arm, blockading my sight on the side mirror. And my under-aged brother and sister would complain that I was driving too slowly and it was taking forever (first year drivers have extra speed limitations in my country). Parking somewhere else than in our parking slot was a nightmare: I bumped into trees twice because of the over-guiding attitude of everyone involved, which were fully into the mantra “women cannot park”.
        So, one day, we had to take an alternative route back home after a trip because of roadworks, and I was already cranky because it was uncharted territory. My father was urging me for the nth time that I needed to “be brave” and change the lane, my brother made another of his sexist comments and my mother sighed a little too loudly. And then, suddenly, I had had enough. I checked that nobody was behind me in the highway, pulled over to the exterior lane, stopped the car the most brusque way I could, activated the emergency lights and then, only then, I began shouting. I remember vaguely saying that they had two options: getting out of the car or shutting the hell up, and that, if they couldn’t restrain themselves of undermining my confidence as a learning driver, I wouldn’t mind getting out of the car right there leaving them behind without a driver because I knew I was perfectly capable of making it home on alternative means and like hell was I going to stay further 20 minutes in an enclosed space with their comments in the background. I gave them some seconds, nobody replied, and then I proceeded to join the traffic. We covered the last 20 minutes of our journey in complete silence.
        From that moment on, I would let them make a few comments and then ask if they wanted me to stop right there, to let them know that they were doing it again. They would groan about it, but they would shout up every time. It worked like a charm.

        1. I should’ve done this when I was trying to drive my family to the Christmas tree farm and my sister was yelling in the backseat when I did something mildly wrong.

          I actually think that outburst is one of the reasons I STILL don’t have a license (at 28).

      2. My dad does this too! He also launches into every other alternate route possible. I don’t drive him many places, thank god, but every time I need to travel he mansplains my ear off for five minutes minimum, when all I needed to know was, “Hey, which would be better, the turnpike or Route ##?” … or when I don’t have any questions at all because HELLO GOOGLE MAPS.

      3. My dad didn’t backseat drive too much, except when he wanted to do something in a bizarre way that he thought was sensible and he’d get frustrated at me for not reading his mind. He did, however, assume that what was comfortable for him was ideal for everyone else so when I got in his car to drive, he would drive me up the wall with things like “Dojt you want to adjust the heat? Is the defogger on? You need to run the windshield wipers faster. You can adjust the seat, you know.” I mean, I really think he meant well, but it’s like “I’ve been doing this for years now.”

      4. My dad, who in many ways was a model of egalitarianism, unfortunately ascribed to the pre-GPS-era reverse-mansplaining theory of “If I stop to ask for directions, it is a sign of weakness.” We once drove aimlessly around Fall River, Mass., for two hours because he just KNEW that on-ramp for the I-95 spur was coming right up. Mom did her best to steer him right, but while her life skills are myriad (chess, tennis, saving people from drowning/choking/potentially fatal allergy attacks), road-trip co-piloting is definitely not one of them. I was 17 when I gave notice that there was a new sheriff in town. We had gone to a family friend’s wedding in Pennsylvania and Mom decided she “wanted to go see some Amish people” … in downtown Lancaster, at 9 pm. Suffice to say that without me and the road atlas, we’d still be driving around downtown Lancaster, Pa.

        Dad was pretty much a Luddite (he could use the computer, but mostly only to book airline tickets), so Waze would definitely have perplexed him … that is, it would have until I showed him the “here’s how you know where the speed traps are” bit.

  15. Ugh, this. With a person you know, you can explain to them that you don’t like it when they do certain things, you can walk out of the room until they stop doing those things, and otherwise generally get them to choose between stopping doing what’s upsetting you or deciding they don’t want a relationship with someone whom they can’t do that thing around. But with strangers it’s so much harder–they can get you at any time, and you sometimes can’t spend time explaining things to them, and even if you have the time and patience to do so, the next day it’ll be a new person and you’ll have to do it all over again! Plus, it’s not your job to teach adults how to function at the minimum socially acceptable level.

    My favourite: “Hey, you should do [thing contrary to achieving what I’m a paid professional in and am having no trouble with]!” Me: “I’ve got it, but thanks, though!” (as cheerily as I can manage). Him: “You don’t need to get hysterical/emotional/upset–I’m just trying to help!” (cue toddler pout and teenage eye-roll) Because basically, any answer other than “Yes of course you know best” is me being a silly, emotional, foolish woman. The notion that maybe they’re wrong, or I’m not interested, simply doesn’t cross their minds, because of my gender. It must be nice to believe that 50% of people who disagree with you only do so because their gender makes them mentally incompetent, rather than because you’re actually wrong sometimes. Probably helps their egos grow nice and big to live in a world where they only think they’re only half as wrong as they actually are.

    1. The framing of women as emotional has me now framing men as emotional when I’m talking to them. If they exhibit any agitated or assertive behavior I describe it as emotional. I might only say that if I’m being a jerk and wanting to genderflip a table.

      1. I am also saving ‘genderflip a table’ because it is perfect and amazing.

      2. I love telling men not to get emotional and calm down. It’s my favorite thing.

      3. Once, my (usually lovely, emotionally supportive) partner told me when I was upset about messing up plans with a friend that then involved me having to go out and ride a motorcycle in the dark, in the rain in wet clothes, in the freezing cold, while tired* that I should just “Put on a smile and make the best of it.”

        Which just took me from frustrated to INSTAPISSED OFF. To his credit, he did immediately recognise that I was actually upset and that he was making it worse and he backed up and asked how he could be more supportive, but he later asked why I had gotten what seemed to him to be pretty disproportionally upset and even after talking about it he still didn’t really understand, which totally had this Over-Emotional-Woman-How-Do-I-Handle vibe to it.

        So the next weekend we were out with friends and he’d had a rough day and the place was too loud and he didn’t like the food and the waitstaff was hella rude to him and scolded him like a child because some of our friends were 5 minutes late to our reservation and he was not having a good time. And I really enjoyed getting to say, “What are you so upset about? Just put on a smile and make the best of it!” and then when he sputtered I got to continue “Why are you being so emotional about this?!” and then he realised what I was doing and glared at me and conceded my point and it hasn’t happened since.

        Men’s emotions: No more irrational than women’s.

        *Spoiler: I actually had a (thankfully, very minor) accident due to the sheer number of adverse conditions, so my instincts that this was a Bad Situation were not off.

    2. “Actually, you’re giving me really bad advice, which is the exact OPPOSITE of being a help. What you suggested would take longer, is more dangerous, and won’t fix all of the problems I’m currently dealing with. Maybe you should leave me alone and let me do my job.”

  16. Being in a male dominated field, I can understand this.
    I am of the mind set that until I specifically ask you to do something for me, do not even come close to my struggling self trying to fix a 200 lb-6 ft equipment.
    What works best for me is: I haven’t asked you for your help yet. I know that the moment might come, but this is not it, and I will be glad to let you know when/if I need it.
    In instances where people is really really insistent. I drop my tools and walk away, only to return when my work-space is alone. They usually get it after that.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I used to say when I worked the overnight shift stocking a big retailer store in college. Dudes would try to lift stuff for me all the time, usually just getting in my way. “Thank you, but if I need help I’ll ask you” came out of my mouth constantly. They kind of backed off after I started getting tagged to unload the truck regularly (heavy lifting, fast work). I guess it proved my skinny girl arms had muscles after all or some shit.

      1. I have to wonder, do these guys really think we lift things we can’t and will hurt us for funsies? Because I know pretty quickly if I can safely lift something or not. And if I can’t I get help. I don’t have to prove my “masculine strength” by lifting heavy objects. Or my feminine strength for that matter.

        1. I used to say when lifting bags of flour and sugar and things at work that I knew my limits but would ask for help when things were too heavy. 16 kilos of flour out of the basement? no problem. 25 kilos of sugar? Not by myself where there’s steps. After actually asking for some help when i needed it a few times they backed off. The exception, of course, was one of my sorta supervisors (i won’t call him chef, I WON’T) told me that I had to be careful lifting anything really because you know, I could damage myself, you know…. and he waved vaguely at my abdomen. I asked him to repeat himself, laughed at him and then told him I was pretty sure lifting the bag wouldn’t make me sprain an ovary. Thankfully our big boss was happy to back me up when he got all pissy.

          That’s the job I was in when I had my kid, of course.

          1. OMG!!! Lifting hurts your ladybits! I got that one too! I work with all men and we have a water cooler in the break room. Until very recently, I would excuse myself from replacing the water bottles because I had recently had elbow surgery and wasn’t quite up top that yet. So, one day I get one of the guys to help and he tells me that I should NEVER do this myself because my “lady parts might fall out.” I gave him a weird look and he went “No! It’s true! I had to take my mom to the doctor to translate and that is what he told her – she shouldn’t lift things because her lady parts could come out!” He is a sweetheart and means well and was genuinely concerned about my plumbing staying where it should be so I was gentle about it. “Dude, then how do women lift children if women aren’t supposed to lift heavy things?” He literally scratched his head while thinking about that, so I supplied “Your mom is older than I am and has had 6 children … I am much younger and I have no children – perhaps your mom’s doctor was concerned more about a condition specific to her instead of something that applies to all women?” He agreed that must be it.

          2. Carolyn, I recently had a dude ‘splain to me that “all women” (by which he meant cis women and other uterus-havers), if they had “too many” children, would have uterine prolapse.

            No, having kids increases the *risk* of uterine prolapse, but you know. Lots of uterus-havers who have lots of kids never have it and aren’t at particular risk for it personally. Dude did NOT believe me.

          3. So many Lolz! I wish I had that comeback when I was working in a deli and was apparently the only female identifying person to “do the chickens” which entails . . . well I’ll just say heavy lifting to spare the vegans the details. The first time a guy actually ran up to me and tried to grab the skewer out of my hands lest I “sprain an ovary” (to borrow a phrase from Ace above). In my mind it was a competition to get out of waiting on customers (the only task that got you out of helping customers was the chickens) and I was all “nooooooo!!! I need a break from customers – DON’T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME!” It didn’t even register as sexism. Though all the women I worked with also got pissed at me because I “shouldn’t have to do the chickens – who’s making you do that?!?! You should tell a manager the boys are making you do the chickens.” Um no thanks.

  17. This reminds me of a terrible time in my foolish teen years when I was backing up a manual transmission car and it stalled out. My awful male exes both started laughing until I yelled at them and pointed out that neither of them was even capable of driving a manual to begin with.

  18. Oh, I love the leaning-on-the-horn approach. How fast would a crowd gather? “What’s going on?” “I dunno, that guy is blocking her path. Dude! Get out of the way!” Recruiting strangers to help you embarrass the guy ftw.

    *IF* (big if) I were in the mood to laugh it off, I would smile broadly and poke gentle fun. “Wow, I didn’t know you could back-seat drive when you’re not even in the car!” “Hey, when you’re done telling me how to drive, I have a jar in here that I can’t unscrew!” “Oh, thank God, a Man is here to tell me what to do!” This last one needs an especially broad smile, and it helps to get a little wild-eyed at the end. In my experience, making light of the situation with a pointed joke *usually* brings them a glimmer of self-awareness and they back off. Sometimes they get sour about it, but if that’s the case, it was going to go badly anyway. Jerks gonna be jerks.

    1. “Hey, when you’re done telling me how to drive, I have a jar in here that I can’t unscrew!”

      *dies laughing*
      Now I’m fantasizing about super-gluing the lid onto a small jar and keeping it in my purse, to use for exactly this sort of situation.

      1. This is so good! LW should totally keep a super-glued jar of something in her truck and when, she can be like “No thanks, I know how to back up a trailer, but here, you can work on this jar if you want to feel helpful!”

    2. Is it bad that I hear “Oh, thank God, a Man is here to tell me what to do!” in full, overdone Penelope Pitstop histrionic Southern Belle tones? (The sort where “man” is pronounced “may-uhn”). I mean, I think it just adds to the whole performance, really.

  19. Once upon a time I was pulling our largish utility trailer with our largish SUV, something I was capable of, but not entirely comfortable with, and not especially skilled at; but I knew there was no difficult maneuvering to be done between home and where I was meeting Mr. Canadensis.

    Cue accident in my lane of two-lane no-shoulder road, so all traffic was taking turns using the oncoming (to me) lane. I said some grumbly words and pulled over into the oncoming lane to wait our turn. I ended up first in the queue. Police officer (a lady, as it happens) wanted me to pull up farther, I looked at the fire truck I’d have to maneuver around, considered the turning radius of truck+trailer and my skill level, and refused. Cop made a grumpy face and asked me again to pull forward. I a made grumpy face right back, and told her that was not enough room with this trailer. And sat until it was our turn to go. (I wasn’t blocking an intersection, nor did she give me any reason she *needed* me to pull farther forward)

    Erm, I guess I have no real advice, just solidarity that even people who should know better (woman in male-dominated profession) can be know-it-all jerks.

  20. Is there any merit to calling the cops? Seriously… If someone has put themselves in the way of your moving vehicle and won’t move? That’s a pretty substantial safety hazard, and not only to you and him.

    And the refusing to un-obstruct your path until you do what he says….would you *not* call the cops if this were just some person on the street? Doesn’t necessarily seem to me that the fact this is happening at an event changes the essential fact of a person you don’t know (who isn’t event personnel) demanding that you do what he says.

    1. You must not be in the USA. Calling the cops would be a needless escalation that could possibly go horribly horribly wrong.

      1. Honestly my first thought reading this was about calling the cops in certain situations. If the person keeps escalating to the point of banging on your vehicle and won’t leave, higher authority intervention may be needed. Not to say this is a first choice, but if they are that erratic/enraged/etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if they escalated further. Ultimately your safety comes first and if you feel there is a real threat to your safety calling law enforcement is an appropriate action.

        Thinking on this, what I would probably do if the “no thanks, I’m all set” failed is that I would gradually become more curt “this is NOT the first time I have done this, I am ALL SET”, to the point of saying “leave me alone”. If it continued to degrade I would call the event security or coordinator (if possible), but if they started doing stuff like banging on the truck, yelling, absolutely won’t move I would honestly consider calling the police (really situation dependent) or maybe driving off to park somewhere else. Would it be possible to drive away, do a lap around the parking lot and try again either in the same spot, or just moving to a different spot? Not sure how cramped parking is at these events. It’s not a great solution, but sometimes being able to leave is a good option.

        Long term I think the event coordinators need to be made aware of this problem so they can address it.

    2. What Moss said. The days of the friendly neighborhood police officer are long gone, if they ever were.
      *****trigger warning*******

      Googling ‘police assault pregnant woman’ brings up so, so, many results.

  21. Ugh, Driving Mansplainers. They’re very similar to Power Tool Mansplainers and Outdoor Labor Mansplainers. I find that stopping what you’re doing and giving them a withering glare is at least somewhat cathartic, if it doesn’t work for every specimen. I think the horn idea is your best bet for the really persistent jerks, maybe combined with the headphones/book idea.

    1. OMG my dad is a Power Tool Mansplainer and an Outdoor Labor Mansplainer. I asked to borrow his small electric chain saw so I could remove some small trees in my back yard so I can build a retaining wall. He kept dragging his heels, and trying to talk me out of the project all together. He eventually said “Your should really get a couple of guys to do that for you.” So I said “Why? Is the chainsaw penis operated?” He wilted and handed over the chainsaw without any further complaint.

      He means well, usually. Just needs a reminder sometimes.

      I get mansplainers in public at hardware stores a lot too. I keep my big scary looking (but actually sweet) pitbull in the car with me most of the time to deter the especially nosy ones. I was at a lumber yard and backing into a loading zone to get some lumber and this guy from the next loading zone over (not an employee) comes strutting over like had something urgent to say. He leaned down so he could see into my car, spotted my dog sitting in the passenger seat, and immediately turned on his heel and went back to his truck. LOL

      1. My favorite hardware store mansplainer was the time I and a friend were building some furniture, and wanted to check with an employee that our design had sufficient reenforcement. We’d deisned it ourselves for fun, since we were both engineers, but neither of us had built furniture from scratch before. So we go up to the guy, and before we’d quite finished with the question, he goes “oh, so do you ladies know how to use a hammer?” or something to that effect.

        In response, I whipped out the CAD model (for the non-techies, that’s a computer modeled design, complete with measurements and multiple views). He kind of stared for a second, and then started going off in construction jargon. At which point, we were going “ok, great that you now realize we know what we’re doing, but maybe talking somewhere between “helpless damsels” and “construction contractor” would be useful.”

        1. ugh. UGH. This is the worst because he’s still trying to one-up you by using words he knows you won’t be familiar with.

      2. I learned to operate a chainsaw at 14 and spent the next 4 years using it constantly 3-4 months of the year as we had a wood-burning furnace and lived in Canadaland. My dad taught me. Yet to this day he insists on waiting until my brother can help him if something needs chainsawing, despite my brother never actually having handled one more than once or twice in his entire life.

        It’s like the opposite of Dr. Pol’s “take off the balls and the brains grow back” — grow boobs and the lumberjack ability disappears!

    2. I once had to deal with a *gas pump* mansplainer (and harasser). For a regular compact car. The jerk — an employee of the station — basically embraced me from behind and started explaining how to pump gas. I screamed at him to let go and he did the “don’t get excited” thing, but he did let go and walk away. Then when I parked my car against the wall at the edge of the station’s lot to get something from inside the store there (regular spot, not parallel parking), the employees parked another truck right against the driver’s side of my car, with about 2 inches of space. I had to climb over the emergency brake in a skirt to get to the driver’s seat. Sure as hell didn’t go back to that gas station.

      1. I should clarify he wasn’t a harasser in the sense of chronic and following me around for a long time — I had used “harasser” because as I wrote the comment, I could see that he was doing more than just mansplaining.

    3. Oh god, Outdoor Labor Mansplainers are the worst. My mom and I were removing a dying tree from our property, and my mom had just finished cutting it down for me to pick up & carry away when a neighbor dude wandered up and kept trying to get involved with tools he owned, or a different way to remove the tree, yadda yadda yadda. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except I was literally CARRYING A TREE. BY MYSELF. AN ENTIRE TREE.

      Like. How stupid / hubristic do you have to be to mansplain a woman who is SINGLE-HANDEDLY CARRYING A TWENTY-FOOT TREE?

      The mind boggles.

  22. LW here. Elodie Under Glass got it right: it’s a horse trailer at a horse show. So while I LOVE the idea of laying on the horn, it would probably scare the horses. 😦 The events that prompted this letter was that at a recent show, I had no less than 3 Stranger Danger Mansplainers and they all caused me trouble. SDM #1 was the parking attendant who told me to park in the most bizarre spot, then wandered away while SDM #2 did a Picasso parking job and blocked me in. SDM #2 then offered to drive my rig out after I pointed out he was blocking me in, but I declined. SDM #3 was the one who pounded on my window and tried to guide me into doing what I was already doing trying to maneuver around SDM #2. Needless to say, I was not in a good mood for the rest of the day.

    Appreciate the advice Cap! 😀 I shall perfect the Stare of Death and putting my truck into Park with a flourish.

    1. I will admit that in my less confident moments, or if I get myself into an awkward spot at an event, I will sometimes ASK for help watching my back corner or just for someone more experienced than me to take the wheel and fix the mess I have created. The key being that I am the one asking for the help. And seriously, the events I go to 90% of the competing riders are women who drove themselves there so how A Man could think that a woman couldn’t handle towing a horse trailer is just… yargh.

    2. The heck? 75% of the people at my barn is a woman. The bulk of every show we go to, women. Where do all these mansplainers crop up? What the heck do they think we do the rest of the time, wring our hands helplessly?

      Maybe it’s different in my neck of the woods/riding discipline (dressage)/level (casual barn/schooling shows) but c’mon.

      Maybe keep a lunge whip in the vehicle for…encouragement? You an poke it out the window at then. GIT.

      1. I’m used to men at horse shows being husbands/fathers there as accessories to female equestrians who, feeling already at loose ends, feel the need to prop up their subjectively flagging virility by mansplaining to some passing ladyfolk.

    3. So SDM #2 arsed up his own parking job, blocked you in and then tried to mask his own incompetence by magnanimously offering to extract your rig from the mess he created? That’s a whole new level of mansplanation right there.

      1. Yep. Basically he parked in an area where there wasn’t enough room to unload your horse without having your truck nose right up against the driveway. And his truck nose was about 4 feet in front of mine, so if I had tried to exit out the way I was supposed to, I would have damaged his truck and the truck across the driveway from him. But sure, I’ll let you drive my rig after you’ve proven your (in)competence.

    4. Could you add to the livery on your truck, either on the drivers window or just below, the words “if you are approaching to help me with my parking, please know that I am competent, and you should preemptively fuck right off.” or something else which intercepts SDMs before they get to you?

    5. > SDM #2 did a Picasso parking job and blocked me in. SDM #2 then offered to drive my rig out after I pointed out he was blocking me in

      Oh, man. Those are the absolute worst. The ones that create the problem and then try to make it seem like you’re the one with the problem.

    6. That’s where a speaker would come in handy. You can say: “You’re parking me in. Please move your vehicle.” Just be sure to sound very official in your word choice.

  23. I love this thread. This supremely irritating dad at my kids’ school tries to do this to me all the time. Whenever he sees me parking my car, he takes it upon himself to bark directions at me, with a side order of mocking me for being an inept little lady driver: hey-fellas-did-you-see-that-where’d-she-learn-to-drive-har-har-don’t-you-know-what-first-gear-is-for-har-har? There are about 1,000 reasons why this guy is an asshole, but this falls somewhere in the mix.

    His behavior used to fluster me, but I’ve gotten better at steamrolling him. A couple weeks ago I was pulling out of a very crowded parking lot at the school, when he materialized behind me, and started barking out “when it was safe” to back out of a blind corner onto a very busy boulevard. I said, “Don’t worry about it! I got this!” but when he still wouldn’t get out of the road, I completely ignored his advice. I’m never going to back out onto that boulevard, buddy. Not even if I’m driving the tour vehicle and stuck in the tiny hallway like Austin Powers in Dr. Evil’s underground lair. Eventually I did like a 12-point turn to get out of there…but not before he had to leap out of the way of my car, and not before I witnessed the full-scale preschool tantrum he threw because I wouldn’t take his directions! He was actually kicking the ground and scowling like a toddler, saying, “Fine! FINE!” before he stomped away.

    It was hilarious.

    1. “If you aren’t going to let me help you, I’m just going to stomp off and let you do it yourself. SO THERE.”

      1. They do that like they think you’re going to be all disappointed or upset about it. It’s like “Um, that’s what I’ve communicated to you in the first place that I’d like you to do. Why on earth would I be angry that you did what I asked you to?”

        It’s like they just can’t comprehend that anyone wouldn’t bow down to their superior intelligence and ideas, despite what the other person says to the contrary. Like we’re just doomed to failure without them, and will just rue the fact for the rest of our lives that we didn’t let them dictate the way we parked that one time.

  24. The Captain’s advice is fantastic as always, but if you’re not comfortable with the flyer, I think you could replace it with some withering scripts delivered in your best calm and pleasant voice. As appropriate:

    “You’re in my way.”
    “Why are you standing directly behind my vehicle while I’m parking? It’s dangerous.”
    “You’re being very distracting, please move out of the way.”
    “Please stop waving your arms around, it’s really not helpful.”
    “Is there a reason you’re interrupting me while I’m in the middle of parking?”
    “Whoa, calm down! Why are you banging on my window?”
    “Why are you making bizarre arm gestures at me while I’m parking my rig?”
    “Did you need something? Can it wait until I’ve parked?”

    Put a lot of emphasis on the fact that this is your rig, that they are interrupting you for no good reason and that they’re not actually helping. Also, treat them as though they’re behaving very strangely. Like, everything behind your pleasant demeanour should communicate “what the actual fuck are you doing, you utter weirdo?” Also, don’t thank them and avoid phrases like “I’m sorry…” or “Would you mind…?”

    And, if they pull the hysterical/rude card.

    “You seem to be getting very worked up about this. Don’t worry, parking a trailer really isn’t difficult. I do it all the time.”

  25. I had something similar happen with an older car I had a couple of years ago. The battery was draining because there were some shorts in a few fuses, so as a temporary solution (until my dad and I had time to fix it) I had to pull out those fuses when I parked my car. So I was in the parking garage, pulling out fuses, and an older gentleman came up to me and Would. Not Believe. that I knew what I was doing (I was a 22 year old white girl that probably looked like an 18 year old at the time). This guy seriously stayed there for like two or three minutes, even though I told him repeatedly that I knew what I was doing, and it was fine for him to go on his way. I think that I was too polite in retrospect, but at the same time, it’s hard to be rude to someone when you’re in a parking garage by yourself. I think that was the most uncomfortable part for me, that he totally did not get why, as a woman, I would not want to be cornered in a parking garage by an older guy. TL;DR: if a woman says she’s got it, she’s got it.

    1. My mom loved to tell the story of the car that wouldn’t start sometimes because something got loose, and if you knocked it back into position, all was fine. So she kept a hammer in the glove compartment.

      one day the car won’t start and she’s in a hurry, so she gets mad and starts yelling/swearing at the car, and she grabs and hammer, pops the trunk, and whips out the door, all pissed off, to head for the engine compartment. The guy in the car next to her yells, “hey, wait,” because he thinks she’s about to whale on the engine. She smacks the component once and slams the hood shut, and he just froze.

  26. Hello, all. Delurking to say I love this thread, and I feel your pain, LW. Recently I was parked in my very teeny car between two honking HUGE trucks, and when I started to back out a young guy in the driver’s seat of the truck to my right stuck his head out the window and started yelling at me not to scratch his paint. I rolled down my passenger-side window and said, as sweetly as I could, “Don’t worry, sir. My vagina is a really good driver.”

    He rolled up his window and stared straight ahead as I backed out and drove away, whistling.

    1. That’s a beautiful comeback; it packs the maximum awkward, and calls out the sexist bullshit for exactly what it is!

    2. That is awesome!

      (p.s. I love your user name. I always wanted Ole Golly to come and be my nanny)

  27. I’m aware that I’m often not the most tactful person, but I see a lot of “putting him in his place nicely” in these comments. Why the hell do we need to do it with a smile on our face? I think the solution rests in your signature (Eff Off). When men do this shit to me, I say, “No thanks. I got it.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m fine.” “Really, let me help you.” “Fuck off.”

    I will politely decline twice. That’s it. After that, Eff Off. Sometimes I get, “Wow. You’re a bitch. I was just trying to help.” If I feel like it, I say, “No. You were not trying to help. You were trying to let me know that I have absolutely no idea what I need or want because I have a vagina.” But usually I just say, “Yep. I am.”

    1. Why do it with a smile on our face? Fear. Maybe if I’m nice enough while trying to get this creepy mansplainer to leave me alone then they won’t escalate to actual physical violence.

    2. Yes this! I am English, and when I am annoyed my middle class grammar school girl accent tends to come out. People find it very difficult to argue with a posh ‘Oh DO fuck off’ followed by a glassy smile that involves no motion at all around the eyes.

      1. See also: ‘…have you finished yet? I want to get on with parking now.’ because it frames the situation as them ranting and you waiting it out out of politeness, rather than an actual transfer of information.

    3. Sadly, with these sorts of idiots, “rudeness” (i.e. plain speaking, or anything else not interpreted by the idiot as “nice”) can often lead to a physical attack. And even women who are capable of defending themselves would still usually rather avoid that possibility. And that’s not even getting into how hard it is to break out of the socialization we’re subjected to to be “nice” all the damn time. You can do it, I can do it…but not everyone can and that needs to be taken into account.

      1. I was also thinking that, that sometimes rudeness can make the whole thing go from frustrating to dangerous.

    4. I know for me I’m usually nice and tactful *not* because I fear violence but because there’s this big part of me that wants to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt. It basically goes like this “well, is it fair for me to yell at this guy who might really be trying to help? he doesn’t realize that 20 men before did exactly the same condescending bullshit, I shouldn’t blame him for being the 21st…”

      I actually don’t think I could physically make myself say the words to anybody (male, female, young old etc) “fuck off”; it just doesn’t come naturally to me at all. It’s also about not wanting to be perceived as “escalating” or prolonging the interaction or “stooping to their level.”

      Not saying this really makes sense but I know for me, in most of these situations, I don’t fear it escalating to physicality and *still* don’t think I could bring myself to be that blunt!

      1. I could definitely say “fuck off” (and have), but I usually start with a sunny smile and a more friendly version of the same sentiment like “thanks, I’m good.” Also, I find that I have to escalate to “fuck off,” the shift in demeanor from pleasant and smiling to scary and aggressive is often effective at driving off would be assistants.

      2. I also tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I think it makes life a little easier sometimes. I’d probably say “I’ve got it.” and then cheerfully ignore the person’s “help” except that if the person was in my way say something like “I need to park right there; will you move out of the way a bit?”, and I’d say it in as friendly a tone as I could. I guess that makes me sound like a wimp, but for me, sweetness mixed with persistence tends to work – I can get done what I want w/o getting called names.

    5. Yeah, dude has *already* violated the boundaries of politeness; what other boundaries will he push? Smiling increases the chance of deescalation. Also, and I get that this is not true for everyone, but I would rather smile, crack a joke, and laugh at the guy later with my friends than get called a bitch and feel shaky and sad for the rest of the day. I agree that we shouldn’t have to smile, and I don’t always smile, but just as it’s not our job to educate these jerks, neither is it our job to fight every single battle. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor.

      1. I agree. And sometimes the situation escalates despite your politeness. Once I was trying to back out of my own driveway, and an employee of the management company running a rental next door had blocked me in with his truck. The guy was digging a hole for a “for rent” sign. I rolled down my window and asked if he would please move his truck so I could back out. He either misheard me or (more likely) just wasn’t listening. So he shot me a filthy look and then started digging a *second* hole next to the first. I said, “Look, I’m running late. I just need you to move your truck.” He then unleashed a torrent of SCREAMING and obscenities at me, calling me an idiot and a bitch, and demanding to know why I asked him to move the sign (I didn’t) if I wanted him to quit digging, etc. etc. I was terrified, but also angry. I finally screamed back at him, then swerved around his truck and backed off the curb to get the eff out of there. Then my husband and I called the rental management company to complain and provide his license plate number. Turned out his boss was a woman, and she was absolutely incensed on my behalf. I’m pretty sure she fired the guy, but despite the feeling of justice that provided, I was terrified for weeks that he might show up at my house (since, you know, he knew where I lived) to retaliate. So, yeah. Escalation might feel cathartic sometimes, but it’s not always worth the fear and shakiness afterward.

    6. Some aren’t comfortable with/capable of that level of direct confrontation.

      Personally, I also find that maintaining the veneer of politeness and a nice smile keeps me calm if a situation does start escalating towards confrontation. It’s not for the dude’s benefit, it’s for mine. If I let myself get as angry as I feel, I’ll probably also cry, which is not a great look when you’re insisting that you’re a super competent person who doesn’t need any help.

      Also, it’s perversely* satisfying because when a dude starts being like “wow, you’re a BITCH!” when I’ve been nothing but superficially pleasant, especially if there are onlookers involved, and double especially if I get to say “Wow, you’re overreacting, I think you need to calm down.”

      *perversely, because obviously if it’s gone that far, it’s probably already ruined my day.

    7. For me, personally, because it doesn’t matter what I do. I smile, doesn’t get me what I want. I ask nicely, doesn’t get me what I want. I flip them off, doesn’t get me what I want. I back over them, reverse, and back over them three more times, doesn’t get me what I want. Nothing I do will get me what I want. If there was a way, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

      So I gravitate toward the path of least resistance, the one I can pull off with the least amount of wasted emotional and mental energy. For me, working up the courage to tell someone to fuck off and flipping them the bird requires, say, 15 courage units. Asking several times to please move costs me 5 courage units. Headphones and book costs me, oh, let’s say 2 courage units. All of these actions (polite, rude or avoidance) are going to net me the same net result: a huffy mansplainer banging on my window whining and about how rude and mean I am before he storms off in a puff of manpain. You can’t win with these dudes, so why expend the 15 courage units when expending 2 gets me the same net result? I only get so many a day.

      What I’m saying in this ludicrously roundabout way is that splainers gonna splain, manpain gonna splode, may as well choose the path of least resistance. For me, that’s blocking it out completely, headphones and book. I’m fairly comfortable doing it that way. For others, it may be more confrontational. To each his own. But why spend energy forcing myself to be braver (or nicer, or more/less confrontational, or more explosive) than I’m comfortable being?

      I will never be the type of person who is comfortable telling a stranger to fuck off, for many reasons. I’m just not. So I’m not going to lie to myself and pretend I am. These types of dudes are not worth rewiring my personality for.

        1. say ‘no thank you!’, they complain, ‘plain, ‘plain, ‘plain, ‘plain
          till you’re forced to get profane, ‘fane, ‘fane, ‘fane, ‘fane

      1. Yeah, this is interesting because I am confrontation-adverse specifically because I know how to demur and how to yell “FUCK OFF” aggressively and nothing in between. I think in many masculine-hobby contexts being aggressive will work well because that’s the communication these guys are used to (I say from successful experience). But I would never expect anyone who wasn’t comfortable with it to do it.

        As you say, it’s your personality. And it 100% won’t work if you’re trying to fake it. OTOH I have no idea how to rewire my personality so that calmly disagreeing with someone doesn’t feel like volunteering to stick my hand in a fire, with the same result that people see right through you, so there’s that. 😦

        1. Yeah, your personality comes from somewhere. I know part of the reason I’m conflict-averse with men comes from my strictly gender-segregated upbringing and having to be a “nice” girl, plus some abusive dudes in my formative years, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there, and it’s deeply embedded in my personality now. That’s just the tools I have at this point in my life.

          I am slowly getting into the habit of not being nice all the time and sticking up for myself when I need to, but I’m doing it 1) at my own pace, in my own way and 2) because it’s a life change, not a way of dealing with a certain type of asshole in a certain situation.

          I try to be realistic about what I can achieve within my lifetime without expending every ounce of energy I have on it. So no, I will never be the person who gets visibly angry and swears. It’s just not in the cards for me, and I don’t particularly want to do it at all. “Tell them to fuck off” is just not workable advice for a whole lot of people.

          I often get into this sort of situation when I’m working with computers and when gaming. I don’t have many male-coded hobbies, but those are the ones that have the mansplainers flocking in droves. I try to imagine myself telling them to fuck off and unless the transgression is extreme and egregious, I just can’t see it. It’s not me. There’s no perfect solution anyway, so I stick with what makes me the least unhappy while also consciously working on getting my assertiveness up to where it needs to be. You can’t make someone else do anything. The only thing you control is what you do and how drained it leaves you.

    8. Also, it can feel emotionally kind of gross and draining to let assholes like this make you angry and make you express that anger in public.

      It can feel empowering and totally badass to shut a motherfucker down while maintaining your perfectly composed demeanor.

      Obviously, YMMV. But I would not consider myself a very tactful person and I have no problem be confrontational, but I feel way better about an encounter where I Strike A Blow Against Mansplaining or Sexism if I remain unflappably flustered (a least externally).

    9. Because it’s dangerous and I don’t want to get shot.

      Ten years ago during what is probably best termed a “traffic altercation”, a man blocked me in at an intersection, stopped his car, and came over and started shrieking incoherently through my window. When I opened the door and got out of the car and proved to be 5’9″ with the build of a woman who’s about to kick your ass into next week, he ran to his car, fished under the seat, pulled out a machete, and shrieked “I’m going to cut your head off, bitch.”

      He did not cut my head off, but yeah, if you can avoid that kind of thing, you totally should, because after it’s over and the adrenaline hits it is very hard to keep your hands still enough to steer safely.

    10. For me personally, it’s because I’m just not that person. I’m going to remain polite because that’s the standard I have set for myself.

    11. I think it depends on the situation. When I’ve outright lost my temper and stopped being polite it’s usually been times where I felt relatively safe AND I could get away easily.

      I’ve also had guys yelling at me or being incredibly rude in situations where I was very conscious of not losing the sympathy of other people present. I used to work in a local grocery store and during one of our busiest times of day a guy pushed to the front of the queue and demanded I serve him. I told him he’d have to wait in line like everyone else and I kept politely refusing to serve him while he argued with me. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to hurt me in front of a store full of people but I was also aware that if I wasn’t unfailingly polite anything bad that did happen would probably be blamed on me.

      Sometimes there’s no stopping the guy you’re turning down from thinking you’re a bitch but the way you do it can change who’s side bystanders are on (as obviously gross and upsetting as that is).

  28. Not that I’d recommend this for anyone, but once during a stubborn-off trying to out wait an asshole, I turned off the ignition and pulled out something to read until he moved. it was probably not the smartest thing, but ignoring him was super sweet

  29. Ugh, I have this sort of situation crop up a lot whenever I try to get my car fixed. Most of the time, i know exactly what needs fixed, I just don’t have the time to do it, or the shop can do it faster and easier, for not that much more cost. But every time I have to go through the same script of them telling me how I couldn’t possibly know what was wrong and no, they’ll look it over their way, and no I can’t just make an appointment and have them order the part I want, they’ll keep it for a day to ‘check it out’, then order the part, then keep it for another to actually fix it. And every time, it’s been what I said it would be. By this point, it’s gotten to the point where I’ve lived without air for all of last summer because I didn’t want to deal with the guys at either of the shops I’ve tried, and I keep putting it off even though it’s getting hot again. Uggggggggggggggggggh.

  30. Please, please, please, please, please, can the flyers be numbered?

    “Congratulations, you are the 17th person to offer unneeded advice on backing up my truck!”

  31. This “here lil lady lemme tell u how to back that trailer” thing has been annoying me for 20 years. Mostly I tell them it’s not helpful to distract me so I will need them to clear them self out of my way. Then roll up the window and wait. Sometimes an official type person shows up to ask why the delay and I say I’m waiting for Helpy McHelpson to get out of the area I need clear so I can back in.

  32. This same kind of mansplaining happens to me every time I change a flat tire on my car. I understand that some men who offer help are just trying to be nice and chivalrous but it stops being chivalrous and starts being aggressive male posturing when they refuse to go away. I say, “Thank you, but I’ve got this. I know how to change a tire. I have done it countless times before.” Yet no matter how confidently I say it and no matter how well I demonstrate my capabilities by continuing to change the tire, they still say, “Are you sure? Are you really sure? Because seriously, I don’t mind.” Then they frown and proceed to hover around and cast doubts, making it harder for me to focus on the task at hand. I assume that part of what attracts men to the sight of a woman changing a tire is that she’s in a rather vulnerable position and they know it.

    When I think about the flat tire thing combined with this type of scenario that LW describes, I wonder if men are generally afraid that if women know how to help themselves when it comes to operating cars, trucks, and trailers (i.e. vehicles of autonomy and escape), we will be harder in general for the men to catch and control.

    1. Agreed on chivalry and niceness ceasing to be chivalrous and nice in a hurry when the person cannot take “no” for an answer. Bonus points if their insistence on “helping” despite your protestations ends up doing damage.

      My favorite incidence was a guy who had just allowed me to jump my battery from his car (actual, nice help that I had asked for). After gathering up my jumper cables, I got ready to close my hood. Now, my car has a little stick under the hood that you swing up and hook into a loop on the hood so it props up the hood. To close the hood, you have to unhook the stick and lay it flat first. Apparently Prince Helpful was infamiliar with this setup and took my fiddling with the hood for a second as a sign that I was too weak to close my hood by myself, so he reached past me to slam it shut. I yelled “No, wait, please don’t – ” but he apparently figured I was just shy about accepting his Manly Help, went “Don’t worry, I’ve got it,” and forced the hood shut before I could stop him. Neatly snapping off the stick used to hold up the hood.

      When he then went into a shpiel about “see, that was easy for me, no need to be reluctant about accepting my help,” I did point out to him that he’d just damaged my hood. But since he had just helped me, I bit down the “so maybe listen for two seconds next time.” (My mechanic who later installed a new hood prop for me pointed out that it must have taken quite some force to break the stick off, so if the guy had paid any attention, he’d likely have noticed that something was off. He was clearly in a rush to close the hood first, before I could do so, lest I take the “I helped the little lady” trophy from him. Le sigh.)

      1. *Agog*. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a vehicle that *didn’t* have one of those sticks…

        1. Mine doesn’t. Once you unlatch it and lift the hood it just stays propped open on its own. Like the trunk of a minivan. You do just have to slam it to close it. Still though, that guy should have been familiar with that setup, and that was an asshole move.

        2. A few cars have hydraulic supports for the hood. However, anyone who actually works on cars would, you know, check to see which sort it is before trying to slam the hood. Also maybe wait until the car’s owner had gotten her fingers out from under it. I dunno.

    2. I wonder if men are generally afraid that if women know how to help themselves when it comes to operating cars, trucks, and trailers (i.e. vehicles of autonomy and escape), we will be harder in general for the men to catch and control.

      There it is!

      Two years ago, I bought a nifty little machine that inflates tires. (Size of a book. Plugs into lighter. Programmable PSI. Auto shutoff. 20 bucks. Subsequently bought a bunch as holiday gifts for all my friends with cars.) One day, after a cold snap had Tom Bradyed my tires, I plugged it in and was refilling them when my downstairs neighbor appeared. “Got a flat?” “Nope, just topping them off.” “Well. Aren’t you just self-sufficient?” The last bit said in a tone of voice that sat on the border of condescension and outright anger. Me, I’m just minding my own business, and that just pissed him off. How dare I do for myself? It’s not like we have any kind of relationship besides the occasional ‘hey’ in the driveway that he should feel so insulted.

      But there it is.

      1. So to your neighbor, “self-sufficient” is a bad thing for a woman to be? I’d treat it as a compliment anyway:

        “Well, aren’t you just self-sufficient?”
        “Thank you!”

        1. Oooooh, the icy venom that would have overflowed from my “thank you” in that situation! I can feel my hackles going up just thinking about it.

          I’ve occasionally encountered that sort of totally unjustified anger/condescension, and it puzzles me too. Like, would it make him happier if you drove around until you found a gas station with a compressor and put your quarters in the machine? Or drove on half-inflated tires?

          1. A fair number of them hate and fear our independence, Some of them seem to fear their own obsolescence, others just seem outraged at any outward sign of a girl or woman who’s happily self-sufficient. The idea that gender equality is a zero-sum game. They can’t see that the death of gender essentialism and patriarchal socialisation would be a good thing.

            They don’t seem to grasp that the smashing of a status quo built on. male privilege would make life better for us all. Instead they act as if every right and opportunity gained by women will lead to theirs being removed. It’s seen in all civil rights struggles, with the best example being the bigots who screech that equal marriage is “Destroying marriage!” or “Taking [straight marriage] away from us!”

      2. There was one crabby guy on the construction site I worked on for a year that would say things like “oh, you’re an INDEPENDANT WOMAN, never mind!” if I turned down help carrying something. The funny thing is that I routinely asked him for help loading things when I actually needed the help. I still don’t understand why independent woman is such a bad thing.

  33. Ugh, I hate this sort of thing. I haven’t had anyone try to mansplain to me how to do something I know how to do, but I did have a flat once that two complete strangers at the nearby carwash insisted on changing, despite the fact I was capable of doing it myself (and was in fact in the process of doing so). To be fair to them, they never suggested I didn’t know how, but there is a particular strain of Good Ole Southern Boy that thinks they have to do anything like that for a lady (which is still sexist as hell but is tied up in Socially Expected Politeness for the region). The incident made me uncomfortable, but it seemed more prudent to let them do it than put my foot down… which is really sad now that I think about it.

    1. I have never changed a tire. I know how, and am physically capable, but Good Ole Southern Boys have always pulled over to do it for me. Also jumping dead batteries.
      Putting your hood up is like the Bat Symbol. The guy who pulls over will poke around a bit, then call a married friend who does recovery work part-time and will show up with his wife to tow it to your home or mechanic for 25 bucks.

      1. I hate to admit this but… my car is kinda weird. Or, more accurately, I don’t drive it enough to keep the battery topped up because I work from home (which is awesome in many ways). So, I have had a lot of issues with needing boosts and batteries needing to be replaced and being stuck at times when I wasn’t expecting it. I have bought all kinds of rechargers and trickle chargers to avoid being stuck because there is nothing like taking a flight back from Europe in the winter to a dead car at 4am while you’re sick and just want to be home.

        So one time I was very far from home in another country and after I had finished my business, got into my car… which wouldn’t start. I was perplexed because the battery should have been fully charged after the trip to get there but I pulled out my recharger and waited. Tried again, nothing. Repeated with the charger. Didn’t work again. So I popped the hood, which is something I have to do every time I plug it in on the trickle charger so I wouldn’t be in situations like the one I was in… everything looked fine, nothing appeared to be missing. I was just starting to panic about how I was going to get home, how could I find a garage to fix it, would it be better to get towed back and how much would that cost when an older guy seeing the hood up asked me what the problem was and figured it out in a couple of minutes — the battery cable was loose. This was a new thing that had never happened before so I had not thought to check that. (Fortunately, this was broad daylight in front of a well-populated and secured building)

        He didn’t have any tools on him but held it in place long enough for the car to start and I gratefully thanked him and went on my way. And I tightened that thing up with my socket set when I got home. But in retrospect, I should have bought a wrench from the nearest place I could find and tightened it up before I drove 2 hours back, it was kind of a nerve wracking thing, wondering if the cable would just pop out and stall the car somewhere.

        Getting that help when I needed it was the best part of that day.

      2. I’ve had three flat tires in my life. On the first two of these occasions, I changed the tire myself. The third time, I was inspecting the flat with a frown on my face when a young fellow from the Coast Guard station up the street from my apartment passed by and politely offered to change it for me.

        This was perhaps not my proudest feminist moment, but I accepted. He was kinda cute, but that was not why. The real reason was because it was January in Boston, the temperature was approximately 8 degrees F, and the gloves I was wearing were the $3 stretchy kind from Target. I would likewise have accepted if a troop of Girl Scouts came along and wanted to change the tire for me so they could earn their New England Winter Auto Maintenance badges.

        1. But it’s OK to accept help (not being appropriately attired to change a tire in those temperatures counts as needing help, by the way). And it’s OK for them to offer to help you, if you look like you need help (if I’d seen you standing in front of a flat tire and frowning I’d have offered, too, and I’m a woman).

          It’s just a problem if they don’t take no for an answer. And it’s a problem if they ask you if you need help when you clearly don’t (like I’ve had guys stop and ask me if I needed help when I was actually changing the tire).

    2. In re: mansplaining to me something I know how to do: I was teaching English as a Second Language a few years ago. This was at a private language school for adults, and *most* of the students were very nice. Sometimes, though . . . there was this one guy. He was from a “macho” culture, but that doesn’t explain it, because even most male students from “macho” cultures were very polite and respectful students. Anyway, one day, he asked a question about English grammar. I answered him, and he looked at me skeptically and replied, “Are you sure?” Cue the People’s Eyebrow: “Am I ‘sure’? I’m your English teacher. Yes, I’m sure.” He had the grace to be embarrassed and apologized. He was a bit more polite for a little while after that.

      1. You are not alone. I am also an ESL teacher and most female teachers have a story of a male student saying, “No, teacher, the answer is this!” and not even high level students who want to argue about using the subjunctive because they’ve been studying for two years and have never seen it before; think intro students disputing your use of the simple present.

        1. Oooh, I’ve got a combination “Male butthurtedness” and “Teacher, you’re wrong” story. In high school, my English class had a substitute teacher. He erroneously spelled “xenophobia” with a Z on the blackboard. I raised my hand and said, “Excuse me. Isn’t ‘xenophobia’ spelled with an x?” OMG, the snark and spite came off this guy in waves, like B.O. For the rest of the class, he’d sarcastically check with me before writing anything on the board – “Do I have this right? Do you need to correct me again?” By the end of class, my classmates were all rolling their eyes and telling him to get over it.

  34. I’ve always been one that’s very curious about…mostly everything, so learning how to work on my car, drive, etc. was learned and practiced with a textbook to practice diligence. Changing my own engine’s sensors on my old Civic, etc. But something that I run into the most now is being mansplained about computers. I have been using a computer since I was five years old, was taught the basics by my mother, and have basically self-taught myself the rest of the stuff I know.

    When my work computer went down last year, the “tech” guys our company uses told me that the motherboard had gone out and that I needed to get a whole new computer, and then proceeded to explain to me what the motherboard is. These same guys have been very “kid glovey” with me to my persistent rage, which came to fruition when they switched us over to a new email server host and I asked for backend access (which I’ve had for our email the entire time I’ve worked there) and he said, “I don’t know, just be careful messing around in there.” I wanted to strangle him. The assumption is the most annoying part, especially since I have over and over again discussed things with them with intelligence about what I’m talking about. Especially since several times they have been wrong about their diagnoses for computer problems. *sigh*

  35. A suggestion for situations like this where you’re not comfortable starting a confrontation: give him an assignment that will make him feel useful and get him out of the way. “I’ve got this, but could you stand over there and keep an eye on my clearance on that car/truck/other flailing dude/whatever.”

    1. “Sir? Could you stand over there for me? Yes, right there. Now — in order for me to see your directions clearly, I’m going to need you to do them with jazz hands. Hop on one foot? Hands in the air? Hop to the right! Great! Thank you!”

    2. I like this an idea. Redirect them into something “helpful” that takes them out of the way. They can perhaps still feel like they successfully offered whatever they intended to when they first approached you and you get them out of your hair (and, possibly, get them set onto a task that might actually be helpful to you).

  36. Would it be against Captain Awkward rules to start a small “OMG FURIOSA” Mad Max: Fury Road fangirling sub thread? Because *swoon*. I love that movie sooooo much.

  37. There is some slim possibility that the mansplainers make a distinction between:

    a.) “Thanks, I’ve got this” “Thanks, but I’m fine.”
    b.) “No. I don’t want your help.”

    In the first, especially if it’s said pleasantly, they hear the “thanks” and the pleasant tone. “I’m fine” is something people say all the time to strangers when they’re really not fine. It has no meaning. In the second, they may (like I said slim possibility) hear the “NO” and bit of clenched teeth in your voice. For that reason, I suggest starting with B. It shouldn’t be necessary. I’d rather live in the polite world, but just in case there’s a mansplainer out there who’s educable, go with being as clear as clear is possible. After that, go with the stand off advice.

    There’s one other thing that hasn’t been mentioned in the comments so far. That’s how you react to the “don’t get hysterical” insults. It’s natural enough to get insulted when you’ve been insulted, but the one way you can truly win in this transaction is to be so secure in your awesomeness that when some total stranger is a jackass, you let it roll off you.

    Now a question for the men here. Have you ever had a stranger give you advice like in the LW’s situation? If so, what do you do? What’s your reaction? In my imagination, I run this as an experiment in which a paid actor starts telling all the guys at the event how to park. (Some of the actors would be men, some women.) The results of that would be great to hand out on disc. Keep those in the glove box.

    A story of my own from long ago. I was in my early 20s and quite thin. In the supermarket, I’d glanced at the dairy case for a moment until I found the skim milk that I prefer in the size I wanted. An older man, perfectly nicely, showed me where the whole milk was in a manner that would indicate that he was sure I’d accidentally gotten the wrong stuff. The whole idea that I could have the wrong carton was so ridiculous that it took me a second to figure out what he was saying. After a moment of my confused look (what?) and his confused look (I’m sure you want the whole milk because), I told him that while I knew I looked like a pretty young girl, I was actually quite intelligent. That positively baffled him, and I was able to make my getaway.

    1. That’s a good point. People who think they are being SOOOO HEEEELPFUL may think it’s part of their helpfulness to ‘insist’ on overcoming your ‘just being polite’ objections, and there are some who will (willfully) not pick up that that’s a No, but who will back off with a minimum amount of huffing in the face of a “because I don’t want you to”. (The overbearing-but-not-fully-asshole crowd.)

      I had good success the other day with something similar, but it was sort of me on tired auto-pilot and I hadn’t thought of this framing. I was packing up from a public games night I hosted, and I had a few bags. A dude who had vaguely been trying to flirt with me all night came and picked up one of the bags. Normally, I wouldn’t mind the help because I was legit carrying a lot of things but it was way easier for me to get everyone held securely and well-balanced when I was at the table then trying to awkwardly accept the bag from him and re-balance once we were downstairs or on the street. So I asked him to pass it to me, and our conversation went something like this:

      Dude: Oh, no, I’ll carry it.
      Me: Thanks, but I’ve got it. *waits, hand out*
      Dude: Oh, I insist. *smarmy smile*
      Me: I appreciate it, but I’ll carry it.
      Dude: Oh, I’m happy to help.
      Me: But I don’t want you to. *pause* Sorry if you misunderstood my polite deflections. Give me the bag.
      *cue shocked silence*

      He gave me the bag.

      1. “Dude: Oh, no, I’ll carry it.
        Me: Thanks, but I’ve got it. *waits, hand out*
        Dude: Oh, I insist. *smarmy smile*
        Me: I appreciate it, but I’ll carry it.
        Dude: Oh, I’m happy to help.
        Me: But I don’t want you to. *pause* Sorry if you misunderstood my polite deflections. Give me the bag.
        *cue shocked silence*

        He gave me the bag.”


      2. Amy Tan has a wonderful description of this in one of her essays. To my way of thinking, if someone offers help or if a hostess offers a serving of food, and if I say no thank you, then it’s rude for them to insist or offer a second time. I want to be taken at my word. But Tan talks about how in her traditional Chinese culture, the guest is supposed to turn down the offer at least 5x while the host is supposed to offer at least 6x. That would drive me crazy, but that’s the point. I’m not familiar with the ways of that culture. In the case of a man telling a woman how to park her own rig, I don’t think it’s a culture issue so much as a feminist one, but I do think there’s a lesson that can be borrowed.

        1. I grew up in the Midwest, where offerings of food or help among people who know each other must be declined twice before accepting, so as to preserve a sense of “I don’t want to impose if you’re just offering to be polite.” (the conventions among strangers are little more complex, depending on situation) I now live in the East Coast, where no one has time for that, and there are times when i’m home where I’ve gone “I know we’re supposed to do the dance of “oh no, no” “oh, but I insist” but can we just skip that part, and you eat this food I’m offering you?”

          It usually works.

          1. I’m from the Midwest as well and I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s funny, because no one ever taught me the “two no’s” ritual, yet I learned it and know precisely the thinking behind each part of the interaction.

      3. That super creeps me out, because anyone else remembering the horrific story in The Gift of Fear where the dude insistently forces the woman into letting him help with her grocery bags? And how that goes? Yeah. That one. CREEPY.

        1. YUP, very much so, and it made my skin crawl.

          As a side note, ever since my city outlawed plastic bags, having re-usable grocery bags complete with cross-body straps has made my life so much better, because people cannot physically remove them from my grasp in an attempt to carry them for me, and it leaves my hands free for doors etc. I never thought to carry around my own grocery bags before (and there weren’t a lot of great options) but now there’s huge business in them and I can’t imagine going back. Since I don’t have a car, I’m limited to what I can carry, but I can actually carry a whole lot more and still feel safe doing so.

          Amazing what a big difference really small things can make.

        2. See, “remembering” is not quite the right word there for me, because that story has never truly left my mind since I first read it. For me, things like that get two polite “no”s, and then I get assertive:

          1. “Oh, gosh, no thank you, I’ve got it.”
          2. “No, really, I’m fine.”
          3. “I said ‘no.'”

          The third one (surprisingly?) has always been met with polite backing-off.

        3. I finally started reading The Gift of Fear this week, so that incident is fresh in my mind. Yeeeeeesh.

  38. There’s a humorist, name currently escaping me, wrote a whole essay about how every time he tried to back up the boat trailer people would appear from nowhere to advise him. Even if he thought the lake was deserted the minute he approached the slip many men would magically appear and start waving their arms.

    1. Yes, I’m pretty sure it was Patrick McManus…I have a vague recollection of that one.

  39. I think my favorite part of all this is that People Who Actually Back Up Trailers A Lot and people who spend a lot of time around trailers being backed up can watch any trailer backing up and have a real good sense of whether the driver will make it and how they’re about to screw it up if they won’t. Which means these dudes offering HELP NO I INSIST are practically by definition crap at backing up trailers, otherwise they’d see that your trailer is under control.

    /married into a family of truckers
    /has trailer sixth sense now

  40. I’ve used this for a different situation, but I wonder if this will work here. When people like to point out my skin blemishes, I look at them and ask, “what is the opposite of ‘thank you?'”. They usually have nothing to say afterwards. I guess it won’t work for this because the two parties are far away?

    1. I once had an older man I’d exchanged about thirty words with tell me “I think maybe you don’t exercise very much.” I responded with “Thank you, that’s so helpful, since I don’t have a mirror and couldn’t possibly know; thank you so much” as coldly as I could.

      In Arabic, too – it was in Egypt, and I just always felt like I got a few bonus points if I could sass back in Arabic, especially when I’d said that’s what I was here for.

  41. Such a great question, this crap happens SO MUCH.

    I do a few “man” things, especially cutting & splitting firewood with a chainsaw & maul, also some farming tasks that some people consider manly. Working with country men, I’ve noticed, is a bit like learning a new culture (or it was for me.) There’s a certain way of talking that I only do around them. It’s very gruff, and very focused on the task at hand, and quite impersonal. You don’t even look at the guy, you look at what you’re doing. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, LW.

    I wonder if putting on that sort of cultural way of talking might help. Two reasons: 1) it sounds like talking “like a guy” to most people, which may make the sexist jerks decide you are masculine enough to handle the job. 2) and a better reason, it helps to brand you as a Person Who Works. Since moving to the country and taking up manual labor I have so often seen people (well, guys, usually) sizing someone up like “Can I talk to this person on a practical level?” Being a woman usually counts against you; looking like a city person does too, at least around here. But if the guy is reasonable, once you show him that practical, impersonal attitude and that first little bit of competence, he will go, “Oh, OK” and start talking shop to you.

    I mean, you’re probably mostly dealing with assholes, but what I’m picturing *might* work for both? The fact is, you are a person doing a job, and what you need is simply to be left alone to do that job. So what I’m picturing is:

    1) If they’re not in your way, ignore them completely by being super-duper focused on what you are doing.

    2) If they are in your way: gruffly, impersonally and with your eyes on where you’re going, not on them, ask them to do what you need them to do: get out of your way. “Hey, that’s right where I’m heading. I need you to move.” Whatever you do, don’t be polite. You are the person with the heavy equipment. There’s a hierarchy there, and it’s based on safety, and these guys feel it deep down: the person operating the heavy equipment calls the shots, because if someone gets in their way, distracts them or otherwise causes them to screw up, damage or injury can happen. So you are in charge, and you act like it, and that means being neither polite nor rude, but telling people bluntly and impersonally what needs to happen. And that’s for them to move.

  42. Completely agree with the Captain – make it about safety.

    “I’m fine thanks. Please move away, you’re blocking the view in my mirrors” as well as, if necessary, following up with “As I said, I’m fine. Please get out of the way and leave me to get on with it.”

  43. Hey, what if you bought a big floppy dildo like the commenter on letter #497 and kept it in your truck? Then when the Very Unhelpful People show up you can pull it out and say “See? I have a penis. Now get out of my way so I can park this truck.”

    1. I want this to happen. I really, really do.

      If I worked in a startup rather than in IT for a respected, large charity, I would keep a giant floppy cock on hand for all mansplaining incidents.

  44. My wife is pretty aware of car stuff, maintenance, checking the oil, putting in windshield washer juice, and driving in generalpressure. Once our PU truck had the oil pressure light blinking on often, even though the oil pressure gauge showed it was OK, and the dipstick showed it was OK. Obviously the sending unit for the idiot light was separate from the pressurwheree gauge sender, which was OK.

    She goes to the ford garage, tells the guy that the check oil light was coming on, while the pressure gauge showed oil pressure was OK. He told her that Ford trucks don’t have both a check oil light and a oil pressure gauge. She invited him to visit the truck, where he would be able to see the two devices, but he was unwilling to risk being caught in a mistake. He did provide a sending unit for the check oil light, once she posed the question to him, “Are you going to sell me my part, or do I need to call a boss?”

    She was so angry that time. Like you can see the light, and there’s a gauge, what’s to get wrong?

    We do have a little repair shop that we use now, and they’re young guys who are aware that women do enjoy car stuff. Miracle!!

  45. I may be on pain killers and a lot of valium. But I still mean every single word. I love you guys. I really do. The only place that I ever enjoy the comments….often more than the actual blog (sorry Captain…there is just so much awesome below the letters). It makes me happy. I have no advice. I just love you all.

  46. Casual reminder to other commenters that woman plus penis does not equal man, and that a woman with a penis is in no way taken more seriously than a woman without one, so maybe we could refrain from the various “if I had a dick this wouldn’t be a problem” comments?

    1. The point is not “if I had a dick this wouldn’t actually be a problem”, the point is a presence or absence of a penis in no way affects one’s ability to perform the task at hand, and pointing this out with humor to someone whose attitude indicates that they think their gender and/or genitals somehow makes them more qualified to do the task or tell another person how to do the task is a way of pointing out how absurd it is that we’re even having this conversation.

      1. Yes, but it reinforces the idea that penis = man and vagina = woman ideas. Like, seriously, there are better things to say.

      2. “a presence or absence of a penis in no way affects one’s ability to perform the task at hand” also, cool, but that’s not what mansplaining is about. It’s about gender/misogyny.

        1. Of course it is. And this sort of misogyny comes from the same sort of people who automatically believe that penis = man = competence. What anyone has in their pants is no one else’s business, but puling a penis out of one’s purse, glove compartment, or pocket highlights the idiocy of that attitude.

          1. It might do so. But this is not what callmeIndigo or Anyanke are talking about. At least in a space like this, if not in the world out there, it’s not too much to ask to not make statements like “They would treat me differently if I had a penis” lightly.

          2. The idea that transphobia is okay if you’re using it to argue with a misogynist is one that doesn’t make much sense to me.

            And sure, maybe they do believe that, but I fail to see what the point is in playing into their wrong ideas in order to point out that their ideas are wrong. It is actually completely possible to argue with a misogynist without throwing trans people under the bus.

            Anyway, unless you’re doing something very unusual with your car, a random mansplainer doesn’t know anything about your genitals, so there’s no reason to bring them into the conversation.

          3. So we should just *reinforce* the transphobia to help out cis women who are dealing with mansplaining? In what way is that anything but at best ignorant and unfair to trans women?

    2. I don’t give a rat’s posterior what’s in someone’s underoos. But I’ve never had anyone who is female presenting bang on the windows of my truck or get behind my trailer to stop me from backing up for no reason.

      1. Yes. What I was referring to was all the stuff about “this equipment doesn’t require a penis to operate” and all that in various parts of the thread.

    3. Thank you for saying something. I’ve been thinking that this entire thread, but I was too scared to say anything because I knew the responses would be exactly like the responses you’re currently getting and I just don’t have the damn energy today.

    4. This would be bad no matter what, but I feel like it’s particularly obnoxious given the stories of trans women’s experiences with mansplaining we’ve gotten.

  47. There is a startling amount of cissexism in these comments, which is disappointing, since Captain Awkward threads tend to be better about this.

    1. Thank you for pointing it out. It’s been making me uncomfortable but I am always a little afraid to be the one to bring it up.

        1. I don’t think being cis means you shouldn’t point out this kind of thing, especially since other cis people are more likely to take you seriously on the matter. [Which sounds like I’m judging you for not saying anything, but I’m not, I just can’t think of a better way to say that. Just, you know, for informational purposes. Keeping silent doesn’t help anyone.]

        2. Seconding what callmeIndigo said. Please speak up, if you feel up to it! Even if it’s just to say “I’m not sure if this is just me, but…”

        3. Thirding the recommendation. Being cis means you’re actually in a better position to bring it up, as whatever backlash you might get won’t be about your cisness. You might not be an authority on trans issues, but you are speaking from a position of greater safety/emotional energy/perceived credibility.

  48. I work as a building manager, so I get a lot of boring handy jobs. Owner tells me he lost the key to a door, so I go and get a new knob set before someone can helpfully lock it and the job goes from slight annoyance to huge annoyance.

    So I’m kneeling there with my screwdriver and starting to change the knob and a group arrives. I have never had so many older men gathered around staring slack jawed at me like I was some kind of performing animal. There would be an occasional stammered “Do… you need help?” “Nope! I’m good.”

    I wonder what would have happened if they realized the last time a relative needed to renovate a house they asked me in as free labor and I think I put in a total of around 16 new knobs in one stretch.

    1. My wife picked me up from work one night, and about 2 miles from home our car lurched and we realised a tyre had burst.

      We pulled onto the hard shoulder of the motorway, I put the hazard triangle a few metres behind the car, wifeBox started changing the tyre and made me stand on the verge and shine my torch for her.

      It was pitch dark, about 9pm, and I saw a police Jeep go up the Northbound side of the motorway. Five minutes later he was on our side. He must have raced the four miles to the nearest exit, then turned around to get on the Southbound carriageway.

      So he hops out-

      PC – “Everything OK ladies?”

      Wife- “Yeah mate, I’ve got this”

      PC- “I can…”

      Wife- “Won’t take long, we’re fine, you can go”

      So he stepped back, tiny wife is tiny, and he stood there awkwardly watching her. I heard him do an insurance/car tax/outstanding warrants check on his radio. All clear.

      He shifted his weight from foot to foot, weakly asked “Are you sure I can’t…?”

      Funny, tiny, cheeky wife says “I tell you what Son, you stand there with your torch and shine it right here. Our lass’s arm will be getting tired, and you might as well make yourself useful if you insist on staying here”

      Bless him, he did exactly that. Five minutes later she was done. We thanked him very much for assisting us. We were sincere too, flashing blues are a better hazard warning than a reflective triangle. It’s scary standing there with all the trucks and articulated lorries whizzing past. We were just two women with a junky old Ford Fiesta between us and oblivion.

      It was just so funny though, him practically begging her to let him take over. A lot of men have tried to steamroller her into “assisting” her. It’s not a mistake they get to make twice, she’s like a little terrier – she looks cute, but she won’t take any shit!

      1. I love everything about this story. I once got a flat while a friend and I (both ladies) were driving in a strange city after dark. I parked in a well-lit parking lot and tried but failed to change the tire, so we called AAA. While we were waiting, a man happened past. He saw us there and, without breaking stride, called out from the sidewalk, “Hey, you need any help?” I tensed up a bit, but managed a carefree tone and called back, “No, thanks! We’re good!” He acknowledged this with a wave and kept walking. “Now, that’s how you do it,” I thought to myself. Thank you, good sir.

      2. When I was about 20, and a clearly female-presenting person, I got a flat in a parking lot in the middle of the afternoon. Pulled off to the deserted end of the lot, unscrewed the bolts, jacked the car — you know, all the usual things. Cop car drove up after about 20 minutes. “Need any help, miss?” “No thanks, I’ve got it.” He just nodded, and drove off again. I think he circled back to check just as I was lowering the car down. No commentary, no forced help. He was just checking in. I really appreciated both the checking-in and the belief that I was as fine as I said I was.
        There is yet hope.

    2. “I work as a building manager, so I get a lot of boring handy jobs.”

      You will NEVER guess how I read that at first. NEVER.

      Time for my wake-up coffee.

    3. Ugh. I used to work for the phone contractor at the county jail. One of the aspects of my job was replacing broken phones. Swapping out a good phone for a broken one involved unscrewing/screwing 5 screws and plugging the phone cord. That’s it. And every single time I did it, guys were FLABBERGASTED.

      1. During college, I spent a year sharing a shitty rundown house with three young men. One day, my (taller) female friend was over and when she went to use the bathroom, she was like “Hey, the light is out?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s been out for a while. You know what, would you mind changing it for me? I can’t reach high enough to unscrew the cover.”

        Within seconds of my friend getting up on the chair with the screwdriver, the lads emerged from their various corners of the house and jostled their way into the (not very spacious) bathroom. I don’t know how they sensed that some basic home maintenance was happening at that moment, but they all crowded around, saying completely pointless things like “Hey, I was going to take care of that soon!” “Do we even have the right kind of lightbulb?” “Are you sure you don’t want help?”

        Unfortunately, one of the screws was a bit rusted and took longer than a couple of seconds to wiggle loose, which elicited a fresh chorus of “I’ll handle it, don’t worry!” and (I swear, this was a real thing that was said) “Better let me have a look, you’re probably going to break it!” My friend, being awesome and by no means oblivious to the irony of the situation, kept up a steady broken record of “Thanks, I’ve got this!” throughout.

        Because the hilarious thing was that the bathroom light had been out for nearly a week and I’d explicitly asked the lads to change it after discovering I was too short. I’d even bought the right kind of lightbulbs. I reminded them several times, but days went by and no one bothered. But as soon as a woman was like “fuck it, I’ll do it”, we needed a bloody committee in the bathroom to witness the incredible act of a lady person changing a lightbulb.

        tl;dr Three young men doubt woman’s ability to change a lightbulb after steadfastly avoiding changing the lightbulb themselves for a week.

        1. Sounds like the set up to a joke – how many mansplainers does it take to change a lightbulb?

          1. I think what you don’t understand is that this happens to men too…

            (Either that or, “One, he justs hold the lightbulb and the world revolves around him.”)

          2. Not ALL men…

            (my now-boyfriend told me that joke the day we met)

        2. Ha! My mom moved back to her (very small) hometown after I graduated high school, and ended up spending a lot of time hanging out with her cousin’s wife. One day, Cousin’s Wife complained about Cousin not hanging a set of closet shelves for her–it had been over a month since he had promised. Mom blinked, and said, “I can do it.” Mom installed the shelves that day. Cousin pouted about it for 3 months.

    4. I managed an apartment building for a while, starting in my late 40s. When I’d have to do something like fix a fridge or install a smoke detector the male inhabitant of the apartment would stand there staring at me. Always irritated me. One man tried to tell me how to use a screwdriver. I swear to God.
      On the other hand, a woman from Saudi Arabia (visiting her brother, who was going to school in Seattle) told me the garbage disposal had stopped working and could I get “a repairman” to fix it. I said, “It’s usually one of two things: You either push the ‘reset’ button or use an Allen wrench in the little hole in the bottom of the unit.”
      In that case it was the Allen wrench. She got down on her hands and knees and said, “Show me this again. I want to see it.” I wondered if later on she told other women back home, “Yes, a woman! A woman fixed something! If any of you have problems with your garbage disposals, give me a call.”

      1. Donna – I’m from the GCC area, and your comment is wonky to me? Garbage disposal units aren’t available (like in the sink?) in places like SA because the drains can’t handle it. You get repairmen for all sorts of things in large cities like Jeddah and entire blocks will have their own maintenance managers. Like, forgive me here if I’m wrong, but you’re sort of coming off as this western lady saviour to her?

        1. She didn’t tell the woman to get down and look at it, the woman asked to learn it. How is that being an insulting savior?

      2. She was probably memorizing how to do it for when she returned home. One of my roommates from college married someone from Saudi Arabia, moved there and then found out there were all kinds of restrictions on women in his culture, including allowed to “be alone” with a man, such as a repairman, so she would have to wait till a resident male was available to get something fixed. I can see her loving the idea of being able to fix something easy for herself or her mother and sisters-in-law .

      3. Amazing. I think my dad taught me how to use a screwdriver when I was about 8 or so (I’m female). Not only that, but I got to use the screwdriver to help with a few things around the house.

        I’m not the handiest person around, but I can use a screwdriver or a hammer.

  49. How timely. I just had an encounter with stranger mansplainers. “Thanks, we’re good,” did not dissuade the two of them. “We really prefer to do this without an audience,” did the trick. One of them got all butthurt and grumbled about his 50 years of experience doing the thing we were doing as he left. Yeah, I may have been a little snappy. But you know, two rudes don’t make a right. His reactions told me I did the right thing by getting rid of him.
    Here are my thoughts for these men, which I am sharing with the Awkward Army for any conversations they may have about how women are so meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeean:

    So here’s the thing: When women do things that people don’t think women do, a silent alarm goes off in every man in a half mile radius, and they drop everything and come running to offer their opinion, whether wanted or not, useful or not. Most of these men will not be helpful, and they make things worse by taking our attention away from the thing we are doing to respond to their idiotic questions and suggestions. It’s really not worth our time to talk to every single dude and figure out who is helpful and who is just bloviating. Call it, Shroedinger’s Mansplainers.
    Now, if you really are an expert, fine. To differentiate yourself from the idiots who are not experts, do this:
    Start by shutting up and observing. If the lady in question has got this, then go on your way.
    If the lady in question has not got it, approach in a non-threatening manner, staying well out of her personal space, and say something like, “Excuse me, I am a professional whatever. It looks like you could use a hand.” Then wait for the lady to accept or reject your offer, and respond graciously in either case.

  50. One of the most useful things I learnt as a teacher was to remove any predispositions I had about people and look only at the behaviour. For example, If a 16 year old starts screaming and swearing over a maths test result, throws it on the ground glares at the teacher, and storms out, we say, “Oh, he’s hormonal/disappointed/whatever”. But if a 2 year old were to go through the exact same body motions and vocalisations, we say, “it’s a tantrum”. When you realise the 16 year old is just having a tantrum, and that they haven’t ever learnt to not do that, then it’s much easier to cope with it properly. Do you reason with a 2 year old who is crying and screaming? No, you wait until they’re calm, and then talk things over in terms they can understand. In the same way, there is no reason why a 16 year old who is having a tantrum should be assumed to be able to talk and think rationally until AFTER they’ve stopped screaming and throwing things around.

    After learning this, it’s frankly pretty scary to constantly notice how many behaviours in adults are gender-defined. If a man and a woman both do the same thing, they are described differently, much like the 16 year old and the toddler, despite them really doing the same thing. I’ve seem fully grown men have tantrums in public, yelling vitriol and throwing their fast food container at whomever is unfortunate enough to be on the other side of the counter. I’ve seen women who are firm and confident in a conversation be called an asshole by a man who is doing the exact same thing as her while being seen as normal. I’ve seen adult men do eye-rolls and facial expressions that otherwise belong in a stereotypically bitchy teenage girl. It’s scary just how few behaviours are actually described as what they are, no matter who is exhibiting them. Nearly everything gets described (and subsequently either praised or condemned) based on age and gender. It’s bizarre and is probably holding society back in some awful way, I’m sure.

    Her: No thanks, I don’t need any help. (Not emotional but about to be labelled and thus seen as being so)
    Him: Well, you don’t have to get emotional about it! Geez! (Emotional but no-one notices because of the emotional woman nearby)

    1. This is so true. There’s a video of a talk by Gavin de Becker where he discusses for a while how ‘women’s intuition’ is disparaged and dismissed. Then he says something like, “Men have something much more important and serious — it’s called ‘gut instinct'”. And the audience laughs, because when it’s pointed out so starkly it does sound completely ridiculous. But, as you say, there’s a constant framing of things in terms of gender etc that’s damaging to society as a whole.

  51. I have had the most luck in getting people to stop “helping” by saying “No thanks, I’m fine!” When pressed, I follow up with an awkward stammery “no, no, I’m good, no thanks” and usually they go away. (I don’t stammer on purpose, but I’m usually stressed by then and it just happens.)

    Don’t escalate or things will for sure get worse. 😦

  52. Recently I had occasion to go car shopping. I brought my internet-brother with me as a Stunt Dude, given all the wisdom about car salesmen treating men better than women. I was expecting a certain amount of Treating Him Like The Expert. I was not expecting literally every person we encountered there to address him first. (He was shuffling along after me playing games on his phone.) To the vague credit of the people there, after I started talking about what I wanted in a car, they started addressing me, but the initial leap was always to him.

  53. This makes me think of how whenever my mother and I are doing something around the house that needs a little lifting, my father will show up and immediately take charge, even when he has no idea what he’s doing and insists on using a hundred words where ten will do and explaining every tiny little movement like we’re ten. My mother can go straight from A to D no problem, but my father will take a detour and do things in the most inefficient way possible.

    Usually we just humour him with an because both parents are anticonfrontational and prone to sulking for hours, but once Mum got short with him so Dad stormed off in a sulk. I think he expected us to go back to him begging for him to come and help us, but we didn’t. After he realised we were getting on just fine without him, he slunk back in quietly and went back to his mansplaining like nothing had happened.

    I’m a bit more assertive these days, so next time I think I’ll tell him where he can shove it. Politely.

  54. My boyfriend is interested in all things technical, everything having to do with computers and electricity in particular, but he loves nothing better than figuring out how something works whatever it is. When a man was putting in the mechanism for high speed internet in our neighborhood by going up on each telephone pole, my boyfriend was interested. He was interested in the bucket truck which was smaller than the ones he usually sees. He was interested in the specific tools, how they were carried in a sort of hard plastic apron, everything. So was our (male) neighbor. They both kept out of the way at a safe distance and watched. They were aware of not wasting his time with questions such that he’d be in the position of explaining every bit of what he was doing, but if the guy did have the time, they’d have hung on his every word and asking why it was done this way instead of that way and what was the purpose of this wire and that one. There would have been no level of detail that could have been too much for them. When the installer ran into some wasps and wondered if either of them had a bottle of wasp killer, they did and brought him out the appropriate product. Their interest was out of pure respect and with the wasps a desire to be helpful. In this case, I imagine that if it was a woman doing the installing, she’d have guessed that the guys were there to tell her she was doing it wrong despite her being the one with the expertise and the job. I don’t know what the man was thinking, but he didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t in a position to say “I’ve got this,” since the guys were on their own property out of his way, and just watching.

    My point with this is that in the LW’s original story about being told how to back up her rig, there’s some obvious mansplaining going on, but not every instance of a man taking interest in something a woman is doing is necessarily sexist. Sometimes people are interested because they’re interested. Sometimes their questions aren’t to challenge or catch in a mistake but because they want to know. Sometimes hanging back and keeping an eye on a situation isn’t patronizing protection.

    1. I’m sure the LW can tell the difference. From her story, it probably started when the mansplainer banged on her window to tell her what to do instead of hanging back respectfully to watch something interesting.

    2. “Sometimes hanging back and keeping an eye on a situation isn’t patronizing protection.”

      What I am reading is, “sometimes a situation which is completely and totally unlike the situation described by the OP is actually not the situation described by the OP.”

      Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

  55. Couple of thoughts:

    1. Beautiful responses all around, Cap’n and crew!

    2. Wanted to add: maybe turn it into a safety issue immediately with scripts like “Are you out of your damn MIND?” or “What were you thinking, [standing behind the trailer][banging on the window][waving your arms] like that? You could have [been killed][spooked the horses][hurt yourself]?” It might perk up the ears of any safety-minded bystanders, and it casts you as the One Who Knows What She’s Doing. Obviously doesn’t work in situations where the mansplainer is annoying but not actually unsafe.

    3. Reading the comments, I was reminded of one of those zoo fun facts you hear as a kid: Monkeys don’t smile to show happiness, they show their teeth as a display of anger/fear/aggression. Smiling and saying “F**k off” through your teeth is a perfectly valid warning strategy, per our primate ancestors.

    1. “Smiling and saying “F**k off” through your teeth is a perfectly valid warning strategy,”

      Yep. Especially if you can let the anger/aggression show in your eyes while you are smiling.

  56. I didn’t comment at first because I suck at backing trailers due to lack of experience. Having a spotter let me know when I am getting too close to the line/wall/adjacent vehicle and need to pull forward to start over was always helpful to me, but there’s no way such a person could tell me how to back in any meaningful way. And I’ve never changed my own tire but have entirely relied on passerby/neighbor to handle it. But then, I was driving a beater Ford Ranger, with the spare tire bolted underneath and everything rusted together. I simply didn’t have the strength or leverage while lying on my back to break the frozen nuts out.

    I used to work in male-dominated professions–first as a wildland firefighter, and then doing ecological restoration and invasive species management. I didn’t get the experience of having to back trailers and get good at it because my (gender) identity isn’t tied into being The Driver, so I was always willing to let someone else do that work while I read a book or slept in the backseat.

    I did regularly have coworkers ask me if I wanted help lifting or moving heavy stuff around the job. They always took the no and moved on, which is good, and I never had to deal with the man-splosion at being rejected. But if I *had* accepted the help, it really wouldn’t have been a better outcome. Come to find afterward that they respected me for turning down the offers of assistance. If I’d accepted the help, they would have used that as evidence that women can’t hack it in this field. Mind you, they still had that attitude, despite the women invariably being the last ones standing day after day after 14-hour shifts on the fireline. But I at least took that bit of confirmation bias away from them.

    My most angry-making experience with men and vehicles was the holiday break I spent with friends at a ski resort. In the group were 2 German guys visiting a mutual friend. They’d all flown into the area and rented a car, and we went up into the mountains during a snowstorm. Never got any skiing in because the pass was closed right behind us due to the weather conditions. We spent a few days there keeping the path between the parking lot and chalet beaten down daily during the nonstop snow until the highway was opened long enough to let us get out of there.

    But first we had to dig the cars out of the snow. There was probably a good 3 feet of accumulation that needed to be cleared away from the top and around the vehicles. But no, the German guys were sure that they could drive out without removing all the extra weight as soon as they could get the doors open. So they spun the tires down through the snow until hitting gravel before giving up. Then we were finally allowed to shovel away all of the snow. Even then, it took a neighbor’s snowcat towing us out of the spot to get us going. Plus, I was the one that had to attach the snow chains to all the vehicles. But hey, these guys didn’t need to listen to any of the women, after all, they were the real drivers. Sputter. Still irritates me 2 decades after the fact.

    1. “There was probably a good 3 feet of accumulation that needed to be cleared away from the top and around the vehicles. But no, the German guys were sure that they could drive out without removing all the extra weight as soon as they could get the doors open.”

      Even if they had gotten the car to move, what exactly did those bright boys intend to do when the 3 feet of snow on top of the car slid onto the windshield when they braked? Well, they are geniouses, I’m sure they would have figured something out.

  57. So, they’re waving their hands and running on the street and generally acting strange, don’t they? I would ask them if they need help (e.g. an ambulance, the police, whatever) because I’d “assume” that someone waving their hands and acting a bit dangerous might try to get someone to stop because of an emergency. So, ask them if they need help/if they have an emergency:

    (mansplainer waving his hands.)
    you (in a worried tone): “excuse me, do you need some help?”
    he (nonplussed): “no, why should I?”
    you: “Oh, I thought you were having an emergency because you were standing on the street and waving (optionally: and looked a bit stressed/whatever). Now as you don’t, could you please leave the street? It’s dangerous to jump there.”

    (I like handling potencial emergencies always as life-treatening emergencies, because if it is one, people need help fast, and if it’s none, people stop acting like that if they are often enough asked if they need an ambulance.)

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