Many women are familiar with the term “Mansplaining.”
It’s when men explain things to you rather than ask you questions about whatever it is that they assume you don’t know.
Now, let’s be clear, not every man is a Mansplainer, not every man thinks I’m a dimwit, and certainly not every man is out to get me.
But a man explained comedy to me last night.
After three months of consistently going to the same open mic and trying to get to know as many comedians as I could, this one had no idea I existed.
I walked up to him as he was talking to my roommate at the bar, who had the courage after me peer pressuring her to get on the stage for the first time.
She slayed it by the way.
The Mansplainer was giving her some advice. Then when I joined the conversation, he gave me some advice too.
“You just have to find your voice, you just have to be comfortable in your own skin up there…”
Sound advice, good sir.
Did you know I actually practice my stage presence every day in front of apathetic teenagers?
“Wait, did you get up there tonight?” He asked like a moron.
“Yes, yes I did.” I smiled.
“Oh, congratulations!” Yes, how very bold of me.
“I’m actually here every Friday night, so is she…” I motioned to my roommate, my perpetual groupie and witness to every rough open mic I’ve ever had.
The problem with this situation wasn’t that he asked me these questions, it was that he assumed that I had no idea what I was talking about.
Comedians are known to not pay attention to each other. Hence the uncomfortable silence last night at even my best material.
Comedians aren’t always the most supportive audience members. They sit in large groups in the corners, talk while others are on stage, and have probably heard your jokes before.
They’re not impressed.
The Mansplainer was also not impressed by me. The bulk of our conversation revolved around him explaining improv and comedy schools of thought to me as I smiled and nodded.
I kept waiting for him to actually ask me a question; maybe to find out more about my 6 year comedy experience, running an improv troupe in college, or taking a UCB class last summer. Maybe he’d ask me about my writing. Maybe he’d be interested to know that I write for comedy daily and hardly ever do the same material.
“That’s the biggest mistake new comics make…doing new material every time. That’s how I started out. Big mistake.”
Oh, really? I’m expected to stick with my same Luke warm material to recite back to you chumps every time and keep playing the same old tune like all of you?
I’m sorry. But I’ve seen your A material. And your B material. And even your C material when you’re feeling bold. It’s the same jokes. On the off-chance that a comedian works out new bits, I listen to them.
Because I like to think I’m not an asshole.
I give them laughs when I can and I make eye contact.
Hence my extreme frustration when Mansplainer did his whole sh-peel. Throughout which I smiled some more, nodded again, and tried not to be too abrasive when I inserted my own knowledge of comedy into our conversation.
I finally got too frustrated with trying to prove myself worthy of comedy to the Mansplainer and moved on to another conversation with a comedian sitting next to him, a fellow teacher.
Now this is where shit got cool.
Me and the teacher comedian talked for easily half an hour as Mansplainer tried to insert his knowledge into a conversation that he clearly knew nothing about.
“So wait, you like go to teacher school?”
“Yep, social studies certified. I teach U.S. History and Geography. High school.”
Could it be possible that I was smarter than him in this content area? Could it really be?
I pretty much ignored him for the rest of the night because I was way too excited to talk to another teacher comedian who taught abroad in China and had some really cool insights.
It was so refreshing to feel like we were speaking the same language. And more importantly, that this man was not Mansplaining teaching to me, but rather asking me about my experiences and genuinely listening to what I had to say.
This, my friends, is how you shut down a Mansplainer. Right then and there we successfully turned the tables.
But this is hard to do, especially if you don’t have an advocate. Someone who can stand up for you and point out that you do indeed deserve to be a part of the conversation, and you might actually know a thing or two about the topic at hand.
We should be our own advocates too.
Too often I smile and nod when being talked down too; afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or wrecking my reputation by being honest with someone.
People are shocked that my spunky personality works with high school students and not infants.
People are shocked that despite my youthfulness I have a teaching certificate, Bachelor’s degree, and also drive a car.
The Mansplainer’s eyes went wide when I brightly told him and the teacher that a good day in the classroom was 60% attendance, having a single pencil to loan out, and not having wads of paper fly past my head.
Being a teacher makes me extremely qualified to be a comedian.
I wish more teachers would do it. Who else could relay stories about 5th hour’s daily behavior? Who would tell the story about El Chapo, the classroom plant, or Eli’s fascination with my relationship status?
I’m a teacher, comedian, writer, and lover of cheeses.
I’m a lot of things.