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It’s Time to Call “Mansplaining” What it Really Is: Brain Shaming. And We All Do It.

How to deal with brain shamers.

It's not mansplaining. It's brain shaming. And we all do it.
It's not mansplaining. It's brain shaming. And we all do it.

This summer, I attended the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) conference in Singapore to meet other founders and learn more about their adventures scaling barriers to scaling up.

I fell into a most enlightening conversation with my new friend, Lisa Rabasca Roepe, about our experiences with mansplaining. She shared her insights and encouraged me to do the same.

Let’s start with using an emotionally intelligent lens to mythbust mansplaining:

  • Myth – Mansplaining is about men explaining to women
  • Fact – It’s not actually gender specific, or even gender related

Mansplaining feels gender related because of the socioemotional dynamics between men and women, especially in an environment where gender parity does not exist.

The truth is, we all mansplain to each other, regardless of our own gender or that of the other person.

If it’s not mansplaining, then what is it? Let’s call it what it really is:

BRAIN SHAMING.

Now that we’ve renamed it, let’s talk about WHY we do it. 

Assuming we aren’t on a roll because we’re overly passionate about the topic, there are two main reasons we brain shame:

  1. Brain shaming is social peacocking
    • We feel like we have something to prove, or
    • We’re trying to win over the other person’s admiration (often confused with respect) by showing off what we know
  2. Brain shaming is the ego’s defense mechanism for the wounded id
    • We feel either threatened or inferior in some way, which means it has little to do with – and is not the fault of – the one we are explaining to, but rather our own inner turmoil 

After we’ve acknowledged our own tendencies to brain shame, we must then determine how we’ll handle it when someone does it to us.

How to deal with a brain shamer

When I realize I’m being brain shamed, my personal boundaries go up and I metaphorically remove myself from the dynamic. I continue to listen, but without the emotional connection. 

Then, I have two responses. 

  1. If I know the person well, I’ll say “Thank you for that. Are you finished?” and then continue the conversation.
  2. If I don’t know the person well or that response is not appropriate, I’ll simply thank them for the information and politely move on. Everyone deserves grace, but you are not required to tell them you’re giving it.

Is brain shaming irritating, disrespectful, patronizing, and arrogant? ABSOLUTELY. It’s also the natural plight of fallible beings. The trick to reframing our experience being brain shamed is simple:

Embrace the hidden opportunity to learn something new.

If we’re really being honest with ourselves, we don’t know everything about everything. And it is entirely possible that we could learn from the brain shamer, despite their peacocking.

But we don’t have to let them know we did. It can be our little secret.

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