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I can't promise to be PG13. In fact I promise not to be PG13.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday, at our weekly writing get-together, a fellow female postdoc, Phylofemme and I talked about one of the things that we thought women scientists were more prone to than men scientists - the need to explain yourself.  Or as I like to call it bean'splaining.

Bean'splaining is not the same as "mansplaining."  For those of you who don't know -  mansplaining is word for men who "delight in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that, of course he's right, because he is the man in the conversation." (Urban Dictionary).

This is the exact opposite.  A bean'splainer provides unnecessary and detailed personal information that justifies a particular behaviour or lack of action.  We felt that women were more prone to this than men - of course this was based on a depauperate sample size (N=5).

An extreme example of bean'splaining could be something like this, your former supervisor writes you an email regarding data for a manuscript and it takes you a week or so to write him/her back.  In the email that you eventually write, you say something like the following:

"Dear Dr. Dr.:

I'm sorry I haven't been able to get you that data, but last week was crazy.  On Monday, I had to wait for a plummer to come and deal with a backed up toilet (can you say shitstorm?), Tuesday the balcony on our apartment gave way and crashed onto the sidewalk below (no one was hurt), Wednesday my cat had an altercation with the neighbourhood skunk and I had to take her to the vet.  Sadly, on the way to the vet, I was hit when turning left at the signal and the car was totalled.  I'm okay but my cat is dead.  At this point, I won't be able to get you that data for at least another week.



Bean'splaining can be as simple as - you are asked to give a seminar but as it happens you are busy that day.  And instead of simply responding unfortunately, I'm busy that day.  You explain why you are busy.  Obviously in some cases explanations are required but we both felt that we shouldn't for the most part have to explain ourselves. Shit happens and we're busy.

To up the ante, every time one us bean'splains, we owe the other a beer.

What do you folks think, is there gender bias in this type of behaviour?  Secondly, how do you view an individual who bean'splains?

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Blog Comments
Barefoot Doctoral

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This is something my partner constantly gets on my case about. He usually responds with something along the lines of "sorry, I got eaten by a grue. I'll get it to you tomorrow," while I usually spend a long time agonizing about how not to write the above example e-mail.

I've noticed a lot of male academics do this as well. But I tend to think of it as a feminine trait.


Guest Comment

I think FSP once commented that  when a dad academics is leaving early to attend their kids function they will say they can not attend a mtg and leave it at that, while the mom-academics will explain they have to attend a kids function.  I know I bean'splain alot before and am now consciously trying not to.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I used to do this a lot too.  I quit somewhere in the middle of graduate school though once I realized that I shouldn't feel guilty for having a life outside of lab.

Dr. Girlfriend
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I have to make a deliberate effort not to do it. Now I acutally find it quite empowering not to explain myself.

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I figured it was a trait that highlighted a person's lack of confidence.   Perhaps the reason it may seem like a female trait is that men are much better at hiding their insecurities/ imposter feelings.   The good news is that I find I'm explaining myself less and less.   Although I used to do what you did Barefoot Doctoral, spending hours agonizing over an email, phone calls, interactions etc.  I don't have time for that anymore.  Now -  its take me as I am or just frac right off.

Alyson Kelvin

Guest Comment

This is an interesting discussion.  Someone pointed this out to me while I was doing me PhD.  Now I make it a point never to appologize, as that was the first sentence in your email and would have been in mine.  I don't know if this is gender related but in science my rule is to just get it done.

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Same here I catch myself doing it all the time. This is what I am doing and why I am not working hard enough etc etc.. but better like today for example, I left at 3pm said goodbye and will email protocols to my undergrads tonight... enough said. But I tend to do it.. but I also had a boss that assumed everything that took you from work was deligtful fun and should be stopped... :) Nice Post!


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