Hell really is other people.
In particular, for a lot of women hell is other people on public transportation. For many years, I’ve wanted to live in a city with good public transportation, but the more I read about it the less appealing it sounds. This blog post from CaptainAwkward.com is one of the best I’ve read so far on the subject. I think what I like about it is that she’s not talking about a situation where she was seriously threatened (although those are also important), because that’s not really the point. Often when someone has been in real danger the conversation turns into “how you as a woman can avoid having strangers bother you” and “what to do if someone one totally freaks out on you or threatens you”. I’m not trying to minimize the point made in any of these conversations, but I do think they sometimes distract from the fact that we shouldn’t be having them at all. Anyone should be able to take public transportation at any time without being bothered. End of story. No matter how innocent your question/desire for conversation is, that probably isn’t the time or place. At the very least, you need to be very, extremely, painfully aware of any body language indicating that you are not welcome.
On a slightly lighter note, WhiteMalePrivilege is quite entertaining. It’s already inspired another blog post that I’ll be posting another time.
As a final note, here is a comment by atrollappears on this article on Jezebel.com that I think is a fantastic explanation of mansplaining (emphases mine):
“While I agree some of this isn’t gender-specific (aka, anyone can be a condescending ass), mansplaining isn’t just guys explaining stuff. Its guys explaining stuff to women specifically *because* they assume, in the context of a patriarchal culture where the collective and individual voices of men are elevated above the collective and individual voices of women, that they know more by mere virtue of being male. And this manifests itself 1) in the denial or minimization of women’s perceptions and experiences (like the commenter oja points out below) or 2) he presumes knowledge and superior understanding of a subject because he’s male and a lack of knowledge or incomplete understanding of a subject by women–c’mon gals, you know you’ve had this happen! You “misunderstood” something or missed the “real” point, etc. And to pre-empt any trolls: I’m not saying a guy does this maliciously or even consciously, rather what he does, like even so many women do, is internalizes the message that society constantly bombards him with that he’s awesome and better and tough and masculine and cares about “important” things like politics and science and girly stupid stuff like makeup and babies and shit–because he has a penis. That is gender specific, and its not so much a problem with men as it is with patriarchy.”
I think this comment hits the major points on the head, including the note that mansplaining isn’t usually intentional. Society fucks up men and women both, and I think this is one of the ways men get the short end of the stick. It seems to me that men often get a strong message that the world revolves around them (as individuals, not as a group). That (often totally unconscious and unintentional) all-about-me mindset makes it really hard to empathize with other people’s experiences, especially if the experience is something that could never happen to them (it’s easier to imagine your house burning down and suddenly having nothing than it is to imagine suddenly having a female body and risking being harassed every single time you walk down the street). If you can’t empathize with someone else’s experiences, it’s really easy to minimize them.