AOC and Maxine Waters took a stand against mansplaining in Congress this week — not a minute too soon

'Please dismiss everybody. I believe you are supposed to take the gravel and bang it'

Melissa Blake
Wednesday 10 April 2019 22:57 BST
'Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee' Maxine Waters admonishes Steve Mnuchin during hearing

Mansplainers, those “let me just explain something to you” dudes we all know and love, have had a pretty rough ride lately. And, honestly, it’s about time.

This morning, the headlines told us of yet another round of mansplaining in Congress between Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). During a hearing on Tuesday, Mnuchin announced that he had another “important” meeting, to which he was already going to be late. After some back and forth, where Waters made it very clear that he was free to leave, Mnuchin began to instruct her on how to end the meeting.

“Please dismiss everybody,” he said. “I believe you are supposed to take the gravel [sic] and bang it.” He then pretended to bang a gavel.

“Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” Waters firmly replied.

This is the second time in less than a week that we’ve seen a male politician mansplain to their fellow female politicians what they think they should do in an unacceptably condescending tone. When former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to give newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) some advice about making it in Congress, his tips weren’t exactly well received – or asked for in the first place.

“She's the youngest person now there. I gave her just a few little tips on just being a good member of Congress, new. I don't think she really listened to a thing I said," Ryan said.

Turns out, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just like us. In perhaps her most relatable move yet, she did what a lot of women do when faced with some unwanted "advice" from a man. She didn't listen.

Ryan was surprised that AOC didn't eagerly hang on his every word, utterly fascinated by everything he had to say; he even appeared insulted that she didn't take any of his advice.

The second I saw the stories about Waters and AOC’s act of deftly shutting down these men, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a long overdue and much-needed victory for women. If Mnuchin and Ryan represent every mansplainer, then Waters and AOC represent every woman who refuses to listen to that nonsense. These exchanges mirror, on a national level, what women all across the country have experienced, in all occupations, not just politics, and in seemingly every area of life.

It’s 2019, but it seems that a lot of men still have yet to grasp that the women in their lives didn’t ask for an explanation in the first place. They operate under the assumption that women are in desperate need of help, that they aren’t capable of completing or understanding tasks themselves, and that a man’s advice will magically save the day.

Yet the women I know? We're tired. We’re tired of being underestimated and not taken seriously. We’re tired of being seen as weak and incapable. I’m starting to lose count of the number of times men have swooped in on Facebook or Twitter to try and "explain" something to me, only to act incredibly insulted when I pushed back; it’s as if they think I’m somehow required to listen.

In fact, I tweeted earlier this week about the incident between Ryan and AOC, saying just how relatable it was, and people, especially women, contacted me to let me know how strongly they related. Then a number of men tried to mansplain to me what I really meant in response to my tweet about Ryan mansplaining. The irony, it seems, was lost on them.

My hope is that all these mansplaining headlines will serve as a turning point. Maybe it will, finally, make men realize how insulting their behavior is. How are we still promoting the narrative that men need to swoop in and "save" women, whether implicitly or explicitly? Thank goodness for women like Waters and AOC for so publicly taking a stand.

Melissa Blake is a freelance writer and blogger from Illinois. She covers disability rights and women's issues and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper's Bazaar and Glamour, among others. Read her blog, "So About What I Said," and follow her on Twitter

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