I am a math grad student, who was recently accused of mansplaining by a female grad student. As I tend to be left leaning, this caught me by surprise. This question is an attempt to perhaps learn more about the term.

I was in a group of two men and two women at an ice cream parlor. Three of us were math grad students, and the fourth was not. We'll name them Man A, Man B (me), Woman A (the one who accused me of mansplaining) and Woman B (the non math grad student). Woman B asked a question about why math is useful. Man A (not me) started explaining about the uses of number theory in cryptography. I interrupted him at one point, and continued the explanation. Woman A laughed, and said that all that we had said was incorrect, and that it really has to do with elliptic curves, etc. I said that I could be wrong, but I had gotten my explanation from a youtube video. She smiled and ignored us.

I then invited Woman A to explain about elliptic curves. She did not respond, and kept smiling at her phone. Later, she accused me of mansplaining. Something to remember: Woman A is doing her PhD in number theory. Man A and I were not. We taken some courses though, and perhaps held an amateurish interest in it.

I did not exactly know what mansplaining was, so I looked it up. Google said that it was the act of explaining something to a woman in a condescending fashion. I messaged her, saying that as I was not explaining anything to her, how could I be mansplaining. She said that I was mansplaining, as I did not invite her to explain about number theory, as she was the expert in it, and I was not.

My view:

I had not started the explanation about number theory. Man A had. It was perhaps his prerogative to invite her to explain about number theory. However, it seemed that he got almost none of the heat. The accusations seemed directed at me, and she said "yes he was mansplaining too" only when I reminded her of his role. We have had strained relations in the past, but it would perhaps be futile to hypothesize whether that contributed to this accusation.

I did invite her to explain about elliptic curves when she disagreed with us, but she did not.

We started arguing about whether I was indeed mansplaining. Woman B (the non math mathematician) also said she didn't think it was mansplaining. But Woman A said that it didn't matter what she or I thought, the "classy" move would have been for me to apologize right away.

My questions are:

How can I determine if I'm mansplaining or not, and what kinds of things can I do to avoid mansplaining?

As a man, is there any practical value to me to arguing if a woman accuses me of mansplaining?

  • You talk about "messaging" Women A. But then you also talk about Woman B contributing to the conversation on mansplaining. When did the mansplaining conversation take place? Was it at the ice cream parlor? Or was this all in a group chat later in text form? – scohe001 Jul 9 '19 at 14:58
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    Hi freebird, unfortunately IPS doesn't take questions asking us to make a judgement call about who was right/wrong - you can read more about what's on-topic and not in the help center. Instead, questions here need to focus on a specific goal - what are you looking to improve about your interpersonal skills? For instance, how you could have stopped things from escalating into an argument, or how to check if your input was wanted, something else? – Em C Jul 9 '19 at 14:59
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    @Upper_Case right now, the last question is still primarily opinion based I guess, and the combination of the other two might make it pretty broad. Freebird, if you had to pick, what would you like to do better next time: Avoid giving an impression of mansplaining, or better handle the accusation of mansplaining? (note, that's not about the practical value of arguing, but rather about what you can do instead of what you did now, to either keep a better relation or make it clear that you're not interested in any interaction with this woman if they act like that, for example). – Tinkeringbell Jul 9 '19 at 17:11
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    "As I tend to be left leaning, this caught me by surprise." What does you being left leaning have to do with it? – James Jul 10 '19 at 13:13
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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. – Tinkeringbell Jul 10 '19 at 13:26

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