She Explains ‘Mansplaining’ With Help From 17th-Century Art


This story begins, as so many do these days, on Twitter.

Last May, Nicole Tersigni, a Detroit-based writer, logged onto the social media platform at the end of a long day. She was tired and frazzled from looking after her 8-year-old daughter, who was home sick at the time.

“So I go online just to kind of scroll through Twitter and zone out for a little bit,” she said, “and I see a dude explaining to a woman her own joke back to her — something that has happened to me many times.”

In the past, Tersigni had let those kinds of irritating conversations go, but this one sparked something in her. She Googled “woman surrounded by men” (“because that is what that moment feels like when you’re online,” she said) and stumbled upon a 17th-century oil painting by Jobst Harrich of a woman baring one breast in the middle of a scrum of bald men.

She combined that image with the caption: “Maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me.”

Within days, an agent got in touch, suggesting she turn her tweets into a book. Two weeks later, they were meeting with editors, Tersigni said, and struck a deal with Chronicle Books.

“I remember I got it, looked at it and just cracked up,” said Rebecca Hunt, editorial director at Chronicle Books, who works on pop culture and humor books.

“When it was time for me to share it with our editorial team, I printed out a lot of the pages and spread them on the table. We all didn’t even need to say anything, we were all just reading and laughing,” she said. “That’s how you know right away that something will resonate.”

Just over a year after that first tweet, Tersigni’s vision will leap from social media to print with “Men to Avoid in Art and Life,” to be released on Tuesday.

Each chapter of the coffee table book, which brings together works of art and razor-sharp captions, explores the different “types” of men that Tersigni and many women encounter on a regular basis. She describes five of them, with some examples from pop culture, here.

“The mansplainer explains things in a condescending way,” Tersigni said. “Their thoughts are always unsolicited. Nobody is asking for them. One of my favorite jokes that I used in the thread and also in the book for the mansplainer is, ‘Let me explain your lived experience.’”

Concern trolls approach women with a sense of worry about something they are saying or doing, but it isn’t sincere, Tersigni said. “They use their faux worry to undermine or criticize you.”

Think Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast,” who feigns concern for Belle’s well being when he sees her with a book (“It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas — and thinking!”).

In the real world, Tersigni said, “They’ll say things like, ‘I agree with your point, but you shouldn’t use that tone or you’ll alienate your audience.’”



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