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The High Cost Of Mansplaining

It has long been established that I am essentially kryptonite to iPhones.

It’s actually quite creative, the ways my phones have managed to end their relationships with me: tangled up in my bedsheets and sent through the washing machine, crushed beneath the tires of a Dodge Ram, stolen from a Starbucks bathroom in Cuernavaca … the list goes on. But it’s been a few years now since the last time I’ve been rendered phoneless. I was starting to believe the curse had been lifted.

Unfortunately, my winning streak may have come to an end on the beach in Muizenberg yesterday.

After a sunny stroll by the water’s edge, I spotted a jetty of stone steps at the place where the beach meets town. I got the bright idea that rather than trekking my wet feet across the sand, I would walk to the steps, stand near the bottom to let a few waves rinse my feet, then walk to the top of the staircase and watch the ocean while I dried my sand-free feet enough to put my sneakers back on.

Brilliant plan in theory, somewhat less brilliant in execution. Clearly I ought to have watched the waves for a bit longer before deciding where to stand and rinse my feet.

Also, I should have done a better job of listening to my increasingly sharp intuition. I think part of the problem, in this case, is that my little flashes of foresight do not always come far enough in advance of actual events for my rational mind to take action on them, not to mention that I am still in the process of being able to recognize them for what they are when the messages arrive.

Case in point: while standing near the bottom of the seaside staircase yesterday, preparing to take a photo of the ocean with my phone, I briefly noticed a talk track playing in my head, almost like a recording of myself telling the story of how a wave came upon me and soaked me from head to toe, and washed my sneakers right off the steps. No sooner did I consciously take note of this story than, WHAMMO! There I was, standing there being soaked by a wave. And there went my sneakers, washed away off the steps.

Before I even knew what I was doing, I quickly jumped after my sneakers and managed to rescue them from the sea, then climbed up to the top of the stairs as fast as I could. That’s when I noticed my phone had also taken a nice bath in the waves. Dammit!

My immediate thought was that I needed to turn the phone off as quickly as possible, but before I could even start to press down on the power button, out of nowhere a man I’d never met before and hadn’t noticed standing there just reached over and grabbed the phone right out of my hands, and started telling me that I needed to turn it off.

“But I don’t really know how these iPhones work,” he said. “I’m an Android user myself!” And then he proceeded to pull the cover off my phone. “Maybe there’s a way we can pull the battery out of it. Let’s see where it is,” he said, rotating the phone over and over.

At this point, adrenaline already pounding through my system from the surprise of the sneaker wave attack, and feeling increasingly stressed with every microsecond that passed without my phone being turned off, I stood there paralyzed and blinking back a tirade of foul words thundering silently through my mind –

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME right now ?!! Do you REALLY think I don’t know how to turn off my OWN PHONE? What makes you think, as an Android user, you’re more qualified THAN I AM to turn off an iPhone?

If you don’t give me back my phone in about two seconds, I’m going to have to kick you in the kneecaps and take it back from you by force. I mean, I really don’t want to kick you, but I also don’t want to pay $600 for a new phone because you wrecked it while you were trying to be “helpful”…

“What you’ll need to do when you get home…” he started to mansplain to me, while still examining the phone with a quizzical look.

“…is put it in a bowl full of rice for a few days, I know!” I said, finally snatching my phone back from him and immediately turning it off AT THE PUSH OF A BUTTON RIGHT THERE ON THE SIDE.

“I’m sorry, I just need to find some shade and collect myself. Thank you!” … and with that I walked quickly away.

Ladies, I know I don’t have to explain to you how frustrating, and frustratingly common, an experience like this can be. But guys, guys… assuming there are one or two guys out there reading this blog, that is…

Guys, can you allow yourself to imagine for a minute, how it would feel if another man snatched your phone right out of your hands in order to “help” you with the simplest thing?

Would you have the patience not only to restrain yourself from an angry response, but then would you also feel obliged to apologize if there was even a trace of annoyance in your voice? Because, let me tell you, not only do we ladies have to deal with being mansplained to about the most ridiculous things, but if and when we respond to being patronized with anything less than patience and politeness and some demonstration of gratitude, then we’re judged for our bad attitudes, on top of having just been treated like an idiot.

I know that yesterday’s phone snatcher was “only trying to be helpful”, or (who knows) possibly chivalrous – and I know sometimes mansplaining is even used as a flirtation device. But I can’t help thinking this tactic is not a whole lot different than the time in kindergarten when a boy whacked me with his metal lunchbox, and my teacher told me he probably just had a crush on me… Or that unbearably long stretch of time in middle school when two or three boys would sneak up behind me almost every day, one of them would pull backwards on my bra strap and let go, and then they would all start to giggle when it fwacked against my skin – and my mom said that’s just what boys do because they don’t know another way to get your attention.

Can we please teach boys and men how to start a conversation by some other means than insult and injury? And can we teach them that practicing boundaries and showing respect are the best way to build a connection?

Can we create a culture in which men just straight up ASK women if they need help or advice before proffering the explanations and interventions that are more than likely unwelcomed, and possibly even doing more harm than good?

Also, to be fair, can we teach women to stop reinforcing “mansplaining culture” by conflating the genuine need for help with the desire for attention?

Lastly, I’m taking a critical look at my own typical reaction, which is to listen patiently to mansplainers and respond with a smile and a thank you. What can I say to reframe the situation and reestablish my competence in polite but clear terms, rather than play-acting gratitude and swallowing my irritation as best as possible? And how can I know that it’s okay to ask for help when I genuinely need it, without feeling like I just gave up one point for the patriarchy?

I ask, because mansplaining culture might have cost me an iPhone – I’m giving it another day in a bowl of rice before attempting to find out.

But even more worrisome, I ask because we live in a world where males still dominate the fields of technology, hard sciences and entrepreneurship, and these fields are increasingly shaping our world – so I wonder what the cost to all of us will be, to men and women both, if we continue to construct gender roles in ways more appropriate to feudal times than future times.

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Update 3/21 –

Behold, the bowl of rice which saved my iPhone! Ta-Da!


With great trepidation, I dug my phone out of the bowl this morning and plugged it in – and was delighted to see the phone turn on and start charging just fine!

I also greatly enjoyed seeing the photos of my beach splash adventure … Here is the photo I took just before the sneaker wave attack. I think this must have been right about the moment where I took note of the little story playing in my head …

Sneaker Wave - Moments Before the Splash

Here’s the next moment, right around when I realized I was in for a bigger splash than I’d signed on for. Consider this the “oh shit” moment …

Sneaker Wave - About To Strike

And here is perhaps my luckiest shot to date – I wasn’t even trying to take photos at this point, my finger must have hit the shutter button one more time as I was scrambling (unsuccessfully) to get out of the way. BOOM!

Sneaker Wave - BOOM

I wouldn’t be saying this if my phone had been destroyed, but now that everything is fine, this one photo makes the whole phone-in-rice drama completely worth it!

* * * * *
Update 3/22 –

Hat tip to my friend Kena, who shared this hilarious mansplaining video – so many lols!

PARTY OVER HERE | Mansplaining Hotline

Take a break from mansplaining and watch last night's Party Over Here. That way, you'll have more to mansplain about.

Posted by Party Over Here on Sunday, March 20, 2016