Mansplaining on International Women’s Day Gets Very Weird

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March 8, 2016; CBS News

It’s often said that to spark true change in the world, empower a woman. Activists of every kind took to social media yesterday to show their support for women to not only bring awareness to the importance of female empowerment, but also the importance of equality among the sexes in today’s imbalanced world.

Among the most vocal advocates for equality among and dispelling the misconceptions about feminism is Harry Potter star Emma Watson. A few years ago, NPQ wrote about Watson’s influential speech introducing the UN Women’s campaign HeForShe to end gender discrimination. Over the years, Watson has been outspoken that feminism and concepts like International Women’s Day don’t impugn men or men’s rights, but rather show that inequality among the sexes negatively affects men as much as women.

Both men and women, using either the hashtag #InternationalWomensDay or #IWD2016, have been sharing their thoughts and support for the event.

There were also some jokes, all in good fun.

But then there were those male world leaders who took the day as an opportunity to showcase the very reason a day dedicated to women is even necessary. As compiled by the Washington Post, there were several instances of “mansplaining,” or the act of men patronizingly explaining something to a woman. There’s a small portion of the Internet, including this entire Tumblr, dedicated to women’s experiences of men mansplaining.

For example, here’s an excerpt of Vladimir Putin’s incredibly condescending note to Russian women: “Dear women, you possess a mysterious power: you keep up with everything, juggle a myriad of tasks, and yet remain tender, unforgettable and full of charm. You bring goodness and beauty, hope and light into this world. We are proud of you and we love you.” Eye-opening.

Here’s a quote from Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to a roomful of women on Tuesday: “I know there will be some who will be annoyed, but for me a woman is above all a mother.” In the same speech he also advocated for limiting access to abortion and the morning-after pill. These antics are less surprising when we consider Erdoğan said in 2014 that he saw women as essentially unequal to men. More specifically, “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature, because their nature is different.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen took the moment in his speech to argue for the case of men’s rights groups. According to the AP, “Sen, better known for savaging his political enemies than joking about family life, said many men in Cambodia are oppressed by wives who do not let them go to wedding parties for fear that they would eye prettier women. He said he didn’t think he was being extreme in demanding that an association be set up to promote men’s rights.”

As such, Katie Couric and President Barack Obama reminded us that despite our progress, there is still a long way to go.

While these world leaders in no way represent the general male view of International Women’s Day or of the importance of feminism, it does illustrate, as Watson has already said, that we need men to be onboard—it is detrimental to both sexes if men are not.—Shafaq Hasan