Mansplain: A man explains to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Maybe it was because I was standing glued to the same spot for a few moments or I was a woman standing in the paint aisle of a hardware store, appearing out of my depth.

Whatever the reason, he approached me and asked “pink out of stock today?” before belching out a laugh. It was supposed to be a joke. I didn’t find it funny. My response was a weak smile and feigning indifference. I had made a mistake by pretending to humour him.

The next two minutes was an in depth explanation of the difference between water-based and oil-based paints. It ended with an awkward “thank you” from me. I didn’t get the paint. Instead I rushed out of the shop, angry with myself for not not telling him to “f*ck off” after the pink remark.

Women encounter this on a daily basis - unsolicited advice from men. Call it mansplaining or whatever you want, but men don’t go around doling out unwanted advice to their guy friends, so why do it with women?

Professional dancer, author and blogger Rebecca Britghtly calls it out for what it is - mini patriarchy. “These men are deer overgrazing the egos of women, eroding the hillsides and throwing the whole ecosystem out of balance,” she wrote while addressing the issue in a blog post.

According to her, it’s a gendered phenomenon. “In my extensive experience as a feminine presenting person, men tend to do these things to women more often than women do this to each other.”

To test out Britghtly’s theory, we asked a few guys what advice they’ve given women that they would never repeat to their friends.

“You must work while you’re still fresh.” - Louis Chifundomakala, 29

“Look after yourself. Be careful. Don’t run after other men, but only run after me.” - Charles John, 39

“I like your smile, but you’ll look prettier if you lose weight.” - Sean*, 42

“You don’t always have to have an opinion” - Cameron*, 35

“It’s only natural for women to react with anger, fear or embarrassment when a man gives unsought advice, especially comments that are sexist or that objectifies the woman in any way,” said Durban-based counselling psychologist Rakhi Beekrum.

She explains that even when men brush it off as a joke when they’re called out, their comments are still hurtful and offensive. So how do women address it without appearing emotional or stunned? Beekrum suggests the following responses:

  • How one felt when the comment was made (e.g. ‘I felt disrespected when you said….’).
  • Ask the person to please explain what they meant by making the comment.
  • Telling them not to speak to you in this manner.

She adds that it’s important to speak in a calm, but serious tone. Any smiles, even out of embarrassment may be misconstrued.

“In my experience, some men, when called out on their behaviour, become defensive and turn the focus to the woman overreacting, being ‘sensitive’ or uptight and not being able to take a joke.

“Your feelings as a woman are valid, so do not allow someone who has offended you to make you feel that your emotions are invalid,” Beekrum concluded.

Not their real names