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Notes to self

Globetrotting writer Gaby Doman reflects on the everyday ups and downs of being a modern woman

  • By Gaby Doman
  • Published: 17:00 February 22, 2013
  • Tabloid on Saturday

Someone introduced me to the made-up but oft used word “mansplaining” the other day. Most women you mention the word to laugh as soon as they hear it because most of us have experienced it a fair bit. But, in case you have a lack of highly irritating men in your life (lucky you), it’s a term to describe the habit some men have of explaining everything to women in a highly patronising way. Usually something that doesn’t need explaining.

I was introduced to mansplaining after a few frustrated visits to the gym and a few annoying tweets I received. As a girl who works out in the weights room (usually full of grunting men who work out their chests and arms to the point of imbalance) I am often seen as quite a novelty. Men often start a conversation with me, which is lovely. I like making new friends. But more often than not, these men turn their conversation to unsolicited advice about my workout.

“Why do you do weights?”, “Why do you need to be strong?”, “You should do yoga instead”, “If you want to lose weight, you should do spin”, “Do you want to be big and bulky like a man?”

I don’t pretend to know everything, but if I have a question about anything I generally ask someone whose opinion I respect. You know, an expert rather than a guy with a gut in the gym. For my gym questions, I generally ask women who have reached the goals I am aiming for.

I suppose I’m extra sensitive about opinions on certain things; the things I think I’m good at (including gym stuff, buying jewellery, writing about girlie things, etc)

I never tell any of them what my goals are or what my workout schedule is, and I certainly never mention weight loss to any of them. They just all assume I have made a wrong turn in the gym and have no idea what I’m doing. I never see them do it to even the most confused looking men in the gym. The irony of the fact I am fitter and stronger than them (it’s always the chunky ones with no definition who have all the advice) doesn’t seem to register with them. Mansplaining.

Even my personal trainer, who I gave a lot of money to and told him my goal was to “get stronger”, wrote down “lose ass” as my goal on his notes. Men know best what a woman wants in the gym, I suppose. We’re so silly and helpless; it’s a good job we have these kinds of men there to explain to us how to do things and what we really want. When I confronted him about it after seeing his notes, he explained to me that getting a smaller derriere was achievable. As if that was my problem with the situation.

It’s not just in the gym, of course. I know men like to be problem solvers. I think it’s sweet. I often like to indulge my ex by asking him computer questions or something else I am not remotely interested in learning for myself but need to know. When I need advice though, I ask for it.

However, mansplainers have the habit of shoving their explanations down your throat when it’s clearly unwanted. If I haven’t asked for weight loss advice, please don’t offer it. I am likely to get very angry. A good friend of mine gets just as riled when guys try and give hand gestures to help her park her car. She’s the best driver I know, and could probably park a monster truck in the same spot those guys could squeeze a Mini.

I’m pretty sure that even when I can tell people I am a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist, they’ll still be men without any experience who insist on explaining to me why I’ve got it all wrong.

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