Crimes Against Humanity: Mansplaining and Hepeating


Illustration by Tiffany Huang

Picture this: It’s midterm season and you’re sitting at a table in Bird Library with a group of friends for a late-night study session. You’ve soaked up all the knowledge you possibly could from your favorite class, Political Theory. You begin writing your midterm paper on Plato’s The Republic. Everyone is diligently doing their work, until your male friend leans over to peer at your laptop.

“Plato? Oh, I read in that in high school,” he says.

“Really? Yeah, it’s an interesting book,” you respond as you continue to type.

“Plato has some great ideas. He’s basically the founder of American democracy,” he chides as he turns the page of his Spanish 101 textbook. “He practically set the basis for social equality.”

You, having studied this book for a month, know this to be untrue, considering Plato hated the very idea of democracy, and believed in the power of a stratified society where people are ranked based on their wealth and education.

“I’m not sure if that’s right,” you suggest. Instead of listening to your take, he attempts to convince you that you’re wrong… even though you’re a Political Science major.

Does this interaction sound familiar at all? Has this ever happened to you, so much so that you just felt like ripping out all your hair and giving up on humanity itself? Have no fear, there’s a name for this travesty, and it’s called mansplaining. Mansplaining, the simple-yet-genius combination of “man” and “explaining,” is when a man talks condescendingly to someone, especially a woman, about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does (as defined by Merriam-Webster).

It is important to recognize that mansplaining is not explaining. Explanations are helpful! Explanations allow knowledge to flourish and help people grow as human beings. If a man knows something that a woman does not, he should by all means explain it to her; however, it becomes an issue when the way the information is presented is patronizing and contemptuous. A mansplainer believes that his knowledge is far superior to the woman he is speaking to, while also implying that she is arrogant and naive. Mansplaining may seem insignificant to some, but really, it can greatly affect how women function in society. In a world where, historically, the opinion of a man is prided and encouraged, but the ideas of a woman are admonished, mansplaining can be detrimental to the female psyche, causing women to believe that they are, in fact, less knowledgeable and subordinate to men.

While mansplaining was coined in 2008 after American writer Rebecca Solnit published her feminist essay, Men Explain Things to Me, another form of disdain was penned just two weeks ago on Twitter by astronomer and professor Nicole Gugliucci. That term is officially known as hepeating: “My friends coined a word: hepeated. For when a woman suggests an idea and it's ignored, but then a guy says the same thing and everyone loves it.” Hepeating, although lesser known, is just as damaging as mansplaining. Hepeating seeks to delegitimize the intellectual property of women. It sends the message that their ideas are invalid, unless of course it was the idea of a man.

Mansplaining and hepeating exist everywhere: in the workplace, on the internet, in politics, and even here on campus. Here are some stories about the times when female Syracuse students were mansplained to:

  • “There’s this one guy in my class who transferred from Newhouse to VPA. He’s a sophomore right now, so he thinks he’s better than all of us. Yeah, maybe he's taken more classes than us, but today I saw him lean over to my friend and talk really loudly about the difference between a monologue and dialogue. And she was sitting there just like, “Oh…” as he was like, “No no no, you see, a monologue is one person speaking and a dialogue is many.” And I was just watching this happen like, are you kidding me? We’ve all spent so much time studying film throughout our education and now he’s just explaining something we learned in third grade. I think anyone who’s read any piece of literature knows what that means.” – Jen
  • “I’ve definitely had instances where my male friend would say a joke or use a metaphor, and would then explain the joke to me. Like, yes, I understand you completely. I have a sense of humor, I’m not dumb.” – Amy
  • “I worked at a camp this summer, and on opening day we try to help the campers move in. A dad was clearly struggling to put a fitted sheet on so I offered to help. As I was literally putting this sheet on for him, he explained to me how fitted sheets work and what the best strategies to put them on are [even though] he literally couldn’t do it and I was doing it for him.” – Maya

So how do we combat these crimes against humanity? Maybe call out your hepeater just as he’s in the middle of hepeating you? (Of course, here he might feel the need to mansplain to you why he wasn’t hepeating you because it’s all just a vicious cycle) Really, it’s up to women to rally together and share the ideas of their fellow females. Bolster the confidence of your sister suffragettes! Encourage women to speak their mind! Give credit where credit is due! Knowledge is power, and women have both.