Mansplaining the “Vagina”

Mansplaining: a term that has been coined relatively recently, but the behaviour of which has no doubt been around for centuries. Mansplaining is the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner that is condescending or patronizing (Merriam-Webster’s, 2018). Typically, mansplaining is done without the woman asking for the explanation, assuming that the woman does not already have a grasp or understanding of the concept at hand. Even though it may be unintentional, mansplainers generally assume a lack of competence or do not trust the intelligence of the woman. For example:

Woman: Hi, can I use your car to jump start mine.

Mansplainer: Yes, so just pop open the hood of your car and attach the cables here and here, and there you go.

Woman: Thanks, but I just asked if I could use your car, I already know how to jumpstart my vehicle. (Roy, n.d.)

Though this example is a simple one, it is a common one of how mansplaining can look in everyday life; indeed, mansplaining can occur in a variety of settings or platforms. In a recent twitter incident that went viral, a man by the name of Paul Bullen tried to argue with Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a gynecologist, on the correct terminology for female reproductive organs (Shvedsky, 2019). His first tweet challenged The Guardian newspaper, which had just released an article called “Me and my vulva: 100 women reveal all”, to which Bullen replied, “The correct word is vagina”. Dr. Jennifer Gunter then replied to Bullen by offering an insightful diagram and explaining the difference between the vagina and vulva, two commonly mistaken terms, in a non-condescending and playful manner. This is where things start to get interesting, as Bullen then replies in a five-part summary, first trying to discredit Dr. Gunter’s expertise and then making an “empirical claim” that, “in addition to the use of the word ‘vagina’ to refer to the part of the body mentioned in the dictionary definition, the word is widely used to mean something broader”. He then goes onto say “experts are helpful … but they must be used with care”. In this prime example of mansplaining, Bullen refuses to accept that he is blatantly wrong and then tries to argue his position in a disorganized, ranting, and quite frankly, embarrassing manner. Not only does Bullen challenge the correct use of terminology with the female gynecologist, he tries to invalidate her expertise by saying that “this question does not require that sort of expertise” and that it could “in fact be part of the problem”.


There are many underlying issues with mansplaining, especially when it comes to the female body and expected beauty ideals. Of course, anyone has the right to discuss and offer their personal opinions on subjects such as sexism, feminism, and human anatomy regardless of their gender. The problem with mansplainers is that they may declare the lived experiences of women as incorrect or invalid, and often forget that women are inherently experts of their own bodies. The issue of the matter isn’t that they are uninformed; knowledge is knowledge and one cannot learn without failure or attempt to understand. However, it becomes an issue when mansplainers still assume they know more about a subject (such as a woman’s body) when talking to a woman, or for example, challenging an expert in a field in which they themselves are substantially less qualified.


The problem of mansplaining doesn’t just occur over social media, it has been further documented in scientific literature. Research has shown that men dominate business meetings and classroom discussions, and women are more frequently interrupted by both women and men as compared to men (Rutherford-Morrison, 2016). In a study conducted at George Washington University, 20 men and 20 women were paired and instructed to have a conversation (Vernasco, 2014). Conversations were recorded and transcribed, and it was found that women interrupted men only once on average over a three-minute conversation but interrupted other women 2.8 times on average (Vernasco, 2014). Men interrupted other men twice on average, but interrupted women 2.6 times (Vernasco, 2014). Another study demonstrated that men took up 75% of the total speech time during business meetings (Rutherford-Morrison, 2016). As you can see, this is not just a social media trend; this is a systematic problem promoted by a culture that has innately valued a man’s opinion over a woman’s throughout history. The issue of mansplaining, thankfully, is becoming increasingly more prevalent in the press and social media (as it should be). Women are calling out the mansplainers in an attempt to balance the conversation.


Although mansplaining is becoming more and more present in the public eye, the implications it has on impressionable young women may be devastating if it’s not addressed. In another example of how mansplaining marginalizes women, British journalist Pier Morgan tried to invalidate Lady Gaga’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, which she received after having survived a sexual assault in her teens (Solis, 2016). Morgan tried to discredit Gaga’s experiences by claiming that celebrities overuse terms such as PTSD and further stated that this overuse underestimates the experiences of the “real” victims, which he explained to be “solely military veterans” (Solis, 2016).  To make matters even worse (if that is possible!), he questioned whether Gaga had even been a victim of sexual assault (Solis, 2016).  As you may see, mansplaining results in women having to continually prove and justify themselves. And it seems to be rooted in the fact that a person is unwilling to admit they are wrong. Seriously, what is the big deal with being wrong? It should be NBD.


So, you may ask, what is a woman to do when she encounters a mansplainer? Kristi Hedges offers five simple yet effective ways to shut down mansplaining, the first being called the “hip check” (Hedges, 2018). The hip check is a tactic that she describes as setting “subtle parameters” and “adjusting behavior” (Hedges, 2018). Hip checks can be delivered in a non-aggressive manner without calling someone’s character into question. It can be as simple as saying “Mark, I appreciate your comments, but I’ve got this” (Hedges, 2018). Or something a little more forward such as, “Your comment makes me wonder if it might be helpful to share my background” (Hedges, 2018). The second strategy she promotes is using humor to avoid a confrontational tone and show confidence (Hedges, 2018). Hedges offered this comment in response to a mansplainer: “Now John, you know I’m not going to give up the floor until I’m ready so you might as well wait” (Hedges, 2018). A third tactic Hedges offers is called “the redirect”. As mentioned previously, men take up the majority of the speaking time during professional settings such as business meetings and class discussion (Rutherford-Morrison, 2016). To claim more of the “air time”, Hedges encourages women to help each other out by redirecting the conversation to another woman in the room (Hedges, 2018). Something as simple as saying “Thank you Phil, but before we move on, I’d like to hear what Lucy has to say” (Hedges, 2018).  The fourth strategy is “using the outdoor voice”, which is pretty self-explanatory by the title, but can be helpful in a heavily male dominated setting where the culture may be more inclined to speak over one another (Hedges, 2018). And finally, “the call out” is Hedges fifth recommendation in challenging mansplainers: Address it head on. By personally approaching the person and explaining yourself, this behaviour hopefully fosters understanding and reassessment of the other person’s, usually unintentional, habits (Hedges, 2018).


Mansplaining may seem like a rather impossible and unattainable challenge to overcome on one’s own; however, men are starting to step up to the plate and recognize the consequences of their own actions. Justin Baldoni, a well-known actor, director, and feminist addresses toxic masculinity through his social media platform and aims to bring women and men together to redefine this construct. Though Baldoni is very vocal about feminism and women’s rights, he also reveals his own faults. He explains how he has been “unconsciously hurting the women in his life”, in particular, “cutting off his wife mid-sentence and finishing her thoughts for her” (Baldoni, 2018). He admits that although he was completely unaware of what he was doing, he was still silencing the women in his life whom he loves most (Baldoni, 2018). Baldoni had to ask himself: “Am I man enough to just shut the hell up and listen?” (Baldoni, 2018). Furthermore, Baldoni offers several important ideas on redefining masculinity. Most notably, he encourages men to begin looking past their privilege, and understand how their words and actions are impacting the women around them (Baldoni, 2018). Baldoni appears to be a wise man.

Julia Mandeljc, SexLab Research Assistant, Queen’s University, Psychology


Baldoni, J. [TED]. (2018, January 3rd). Why I’m done trying to be “man enough” [Video file]. Retrieved from

Hedges, K. (2018). 5 ways to shut down mansplaining. Forbes. Retrieved at

Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (2018). In Merriam Webster online. Retrieved from

Roy, K. A. (n.d.) A woman’s guide to mansplaining. Scary mommy. Retrieved at

Rutherford-Morrison, L. (2016). 6 subtle forms of mansplaining that women encounter each day. Bustle.  Retrieved at

Shvedsky, L. (2019).  A confused dude on Twitter tried to explain the female anatomy to a gynecologist. Who is also a woman. Good. Retrieved at

Solis, M. (2016). Piers Morgan tried to mansplain PTSD to Lady Gaga, who has PTSD. Mic. Retrieved at

Vernasco, L. (2014). Seven studies that prove mansplaining exists. Bitch media. Retrieved at

Transgender Athletes in Sport – Let the Best Athlete Win

Transgender individuals – people who experience incongruence between the gender with which they were assigned at birth and their gender identity (Jones, n.d.) – experience stigma, transphobia, prejudice, discrimination and violence as a consequence of their gender identity, not only in everyday life, but in sports as well (Jones et al., 2016). The binary categorization of sex assumes that females and males are categorically different and that individuals are either male or female, leaving gender diverse individuals prone to social repercussions and discrimination in sport (Lucas-Carr & Krane, 2011). In the world of sport today, many people are wondering whether transgender individuals should even be allowed to compete in the gender category by which they identify.

To get the ball rolling on including transgender athletes in sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted a policy in 2003 stating that transgender athletes can participate in all future games only if they have (a) undergone sex reassignment surgery, (b) endured hormone treatments for at least 2 years, and (c) received legal recognition of their transitioned sex (Buzuvis, 2012; Jones et al., 2016). Under the 2016 IOC policy, transgender men – women who have transitioned to men – don’t have to undergo hormone therapy to compete as male athletes. For transgender women – men who have transitioned to women – sex reassignment surgery is no longer a requirement and the requirement for the duration of hormone therapy has decreased: transgender women must undergo at least one year of testosterone suppression/hormone deprivation therapy in order to compete in a female division (Jackson-Gibson, 2017).

The change in competition requirements derives from a controversy regarding whether transgender women actually have an advantage over cisgender (i.e., individuals whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth) women. Currently, there’s no research that has directly and reliably found that transgender individuals have or don’t have an athletic advantage in sport (Jones, n.d.). So, the debate continues…should transgender women be able to compete in the female division?



The consensus amongst many experts and cisgender athletes is that transgender women have an advantage over cisgender women when competing in sport. It is thought that most people exposed to testosterone from puberty and beyond will develop physical and/or physiological attributes that provide a distinct performance advantage in sport over cisgender women (Reeser, 2012). This issue becomes a topic of interest when discussing attributes that cannot be reversed when transitioning which are seen as assets in certain sports, such as height and bone structure (Reeser, 2012). Dr. Ramona Krutzik, an endocrinologist with 19 years of experience studying human hormones, highlights that one year of hormone therapy is not enough to reverse the “advantageous” effects that transgender women athletes have after undergoing male puberty. Additionally, she emphasizes that athletes who grow up as male have already experienced the ability to build stronger muscles and bone mass over the developing years, which accounts for the endurance and strength differences between biological men and women (Jackson-Gibson, 2017). Similarly, Alison Heather, a physiology professor at Otago University who has dedicated her time to researching the changes within transgender individuals in top level sport, believes that there is a potential muscle memory effect for transgender athletes who have previously competed as a man (Caldwell, 2017). She stresses that the increased numbers of myonuclei present in a biologically born male could potentially allow the muscles to train better (Caldwell, 2017). So, are these findings enough evidence to restrict transgender women from competing in the women’s division?



While many people are concerned with equality and fairness of play when it comes to transgender women in sport, several physicians and specialists actually believe that trans women athletes have less of an edge than expected (Jackson-Gibson, 2017). To date, there is no concrete evidence proving testosterone as a reliable predictor of competitive advantage (Harewood, 2017). Some research has shown that androgen deprivation and hormone treatment in transgender women actually reduces muscle mass (Molloy, 2018). With that being said, after approximately one year of hormone therapy, pretty much any advantages that a trans woman athlete might have over a cis woman athlete will have been wiped away (Molloy, 2018). Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and medical physicist, paints a good picture by comparing transgender women to large cars with engines that are too small, she says “the small car with the small engine [a biological woman] can, in many ways, outrun the large car with the small engine” (Jackson-Gibson, 2017). So, contrary to what people may think, transgender women could surprisingly be at a lesser advantage than cisgender women, depending on the sport.

In addition, physical activity is an important asset in anybody’s life, whether you’re transgender or not. Being physically active promotes good physical health and helps manage mental health issues (Jones, n.d.). Transgender individuals often possess high levels of anxiety and depression in comparison to the general population (Jones et al., 2016) so, engaging in physical activity and sport could significantly improve their overall quality of life.

Although higher testosterone levels are still regarded as a “gray area” in sport, they don’t explain why Olympic softball player Jennie Finch can strike out some of MLB’s best hitters, nor do they explain how five-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky beat the men’s qualifying times at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trial (Jackson-Gibson, 2017). Each person (and athlete) has their own strengths and weaknesses when comparing themselves to a competitor standing across from them, so, does it really matter whether they’re transgender or not?



Transgender athletes fight stereotypes every single day in order to compete in the gender category by which they identify. The majority of transgender athletes endure negative experiences when engaging in competitive sports due to the lack of knowledge regarding the impact of their participation, however, this is only the beginning for the inclusion of transgender athletes in sport. At this point in time, the research which suggests that transgender female athletes have an athletic advantage in sport is not reliable or consistent, therefore it is challenging to know whether their inclusion in sport truly does makes a difference. There are several avenues of future research required in order to considerably improve our knowledge of transgender people’s experiences in sport, inform the development of more inclusive sport policies, and most importantly, enhance the lives of transgender people, both physically and psychosocially (Jones et al., 2016). Transgender athletes DO exist and competing on sports teams could open up a whole new dimension to a welcoming and accepting world of sport. There are a lot of transgender athletes, along with cisgender athletes, who just want to play their sport so… let them play ball!


Mikela Lehan, Biology-Psychology, Queen’s University, Class of 2019.

  • References

  • Buzuvis, E. E. (2012). Including Transgender Athletes in Sex-Segregated Sport, in Sexual            Orientation and Gender Identity in Sport: Essays from Activists, Coaches, and Scholars 23.  

  • Caldwell, O. (2017). Professor of physiology says transgender athletes have advantage in speed, power. Retrieved from   physiology-says-trans-athlete-has-advantage-in-speed-and-power.  

  • Harewood, A. (2017). Trans athletes should be able to compete in gender they identify with:        centre for ethics in sport. Retrieved from

  • Jackson-Gibson, A. (2017). Do trans athletes have an unfair advantage in sports? Retrieved from    

  • Jones, B. A., Arcelus, J., Bouman, W. P., & Haycraft, E. (2016). Sport and Transgender People: A Systematic Review of the Literature Relating to Sport Participation and Competitive  Sport Policies. Sports medicine47, 701-716.

  • Jones, B. (n.d.). Transgender people in sport: Is the perceived athletic advantage real? Retrieved from

  • Lucas-Carr, C. B., & Krane, V. (2011). What is the T in LGBT? Supporting Transgender Athletes Through Sport Psychology. The Sport Psychologist, 25, 532-548.

  • Molloy, P. (2018). The next time someone says trans people shouldn’t get to play sports, send      them this. Retrieved from

  • Reeser, J. C. (2005). Gender Identity and Sport: Is the Playing Field Level? Br J Sports Med, 39, 695-699.