The hilarious art of spotting the tiresome ‘mansplainer’
Women have long suffered men explaining their own experiences to them. A new book has an overdue laugh at it
“Mansplaining” needs no explaining to women.
Nor to many men – and those still in the cave may not want to be enlightened by a new book by Nicole Tersigni: Men to Avoid in Art and Life.
Her hilarious juxtapositions of (mostly sombre) men portrayed in classic paintings with captions pontificating to the women around them have resonated around the world.
Men to Avoid sold out in the first week after it became available last Tuesday, despite having no official launch.
This collection – making fun of the Mansplainer, The Concern Troll, The Comedian, The Sexpert, The Patroniser – is a more graphic guide than any textbook to Chauvinism 101.
In an online interview, Tersigni talks about the concept of Men to Avoid, which struck a global funny bone in the gloomy days of Covid-19.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
Nicole Tersigni: My daughter was home sick from school one day, and I was a little frazzled and hopped on Twitter to escape. When I saw a man explaining a woman’s joke to her – something I have experienced many, many times – I decided to make a little joke out of the experience.
I Googled “woman surrounded by men” because that’s what it feels like sometimes, and a perfect photo of a woman holding her bare breast while surrounded by a group of men was one of the results.
The joke was “maybe, if I take my tit out, they will stop explaining my own joke to me”, and immediately people connected with it.
Sticking with the art theme, I came up with more jokes about situations and experiences we’ve all had with men, and it just snowballed from there.
Q: Why do you think they became such a hit?
NT: These moments are universal.
We all have stories of a time (or times) in our lives when a man has explained our own experiences to us. Being able to find humour in those tiresome moments really connected with people, and they were able to laugh about something that is normally very frustrating.
Q: What, in your view, is mansplaining?
NT: Mansplaining is when a man explains something, typically to a woman, in a condescending or patronising way.
It’s usually something she has more experience with, and it’s always unsolicited. As you can imagine, I’ve heard many, many personal stories from women who have been on the receiving end of mansplaining.
Q: Who is on the receiving end of mansplaining?
NT: Combined with my own experiences and those of my friends, it’s clear this happens across all walks of life.
I’ve heard from women who have had their own jobs or projects explained to them, and there have been many moments where a man has tried to explain a woman’s own research or article to her online.
Women have told me stories about men explaining their own bodies to them.
Online, men have a different type of access to us and we’ve seen how comfortable they are mansplaining to strangers, such as the countless men who have explained my jokes to me. It never ends.
Q: How did you get into improv comedy and why do it?
NT: I’ve always loved improv comedy. I grew up watching Saturday Night Live and wanting so badly to be on it! So when I lived in Chicago I took classes at the Second City Training Center, joined some improv groups and had a great time performing with them.
It’s definitely more of an in-person activity, unfortunately, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play. I’m very rusty! But I would love to get involved again in the future.
I think everyone should take an improv class at some point in their life, because it’s so important in learning how to connect with people and build off their ideas – something I think we can all use!