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Jean-Michel (
Jean-Michel (

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How to Judo Mansplaining

My career-related content is now open-source on GitHub.

Mansplaining, like menstruating, is a regular, unpleasant and even infuriating aspect of being a woman.

💪🏻 The Strength of Mansplaining

The strength of mansplaining is that the dude doing it is usually unskilled and unaware that he is doing it. So if you confront him directly, he will often genuinely believe that you are the bitch who derailed for no reason (he believes) an otherwise (for him) pleasant discussion.

But in judo, you can use someone's strength against him.


My female friends have 4 simple and efficient strategies do ju-do just that.

On the other hand, they are not exactly looking forward to become the center of attention of all the machos of the internet.

But I don't mind. In fact it's an honor to act as the litteral man in the middle.

If the machos want to be upset at me, I welcome their hatred!

🥋 Beat them at their own game

I am condescending not you
I have been often pointed to this tweet from Ellie Schnitt.

And indeed it's a great strategy to keep your calm in this shitstorm.

If you can't beat them, join them in the condescending game.

🥋 Weaponize Naivety

weaponize naivete

I have a friend who graduated from the best IT engineering school in France, has 15 years of experience in the sector... but is often mistaken as the intern who just reconverted from marketing.

She would have reasons to be upset, but instead she learned to laugh from it.

Better than that, she leverages it for her own profit.

When she arrives in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people who handle her as the new intern, she switches in candide mode and ask naive questions like:

Wow, what you are doing guys looks super impressive.
Do you think you could explain me what you are working on exactly?

And sure enough, they are more than willing to do just that!

And they give lots of details, much more than they would ever have described if they were tasked with writing down technical documentation in Confluence.
And my friend learn things faster this way.

What happens next is that one week later or so, the devs eventually learn who she really is.

And it's a bit embarrassing for them.

But she laughs it off... and makes new allies in the process.

🥋 Call his Bluff

Call his Bluff
The two first strategies to judo mansplaining work well enough when you have no pressure to perform.

But what to do if you are being mansplained on a subject that is in the chore of your professional skillset?

You can't just pretend to know nothing, you have to protect your professional value.

Let say your job is to help companies with their testing strategies. A company does ask you to help them, but then, against all elementary logic, the dudes start to grill you on whether you know that, according to Test Driven Development, you need to write first a failing test before you write the corresponding code to make it green.

You try to talk about the pyramid of tests, but they have better ideas than yours.

Basically they act like if you are an incompetent liar. And that's infuriating because in fact you are not an incompetent liar.

The third way to judo mansplaining is to remember that you can choose to work with good people and skip the bad ones. And those dudes have shown that they not the good ones.

What you do then is that you call their bluff

Look, the more I listen to you, the more I realize that you have lots of good ideas already on how to solve the problems you are facing.
From my side then, my advice will be very simple:
Trust your ideas, focus on implementing them and see how that goes!

If they don't need you, you don't need them.

🥋Setting your Boundaries is More Important than Being Nice

The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefited from you not having any

The judo strategies described above are relatively straightforward and efficient, at least much better than staying infuriating.

Yet, you have an uneasy feeling, you don't want to be rude, you want to be nice, make sure you understand them first?

That's normal, you have probably been educated to be nice and understanding with everyone.

And being nice and understanding is a good default position indeed.
But it's a trap with people who mistakes that for being weak and willing to be benefited from.

When you are in a plane, you are being told than in case of an emergency, you need to put your mask of oxygen first before trying to help and understand the others.

It's the same here, you need first to protect yourself and that means setting and protecting your boundaries.

Whatever are the reasons those dudes are behaving like jerks, it doesn't matter, they are behaving like jerks.

And most likely not only with you.

I too fall in the mansplaining trap from time to time. But when a woman makes me realize I am doing it, I am not upset by the messenger, I apologize like a real man shall do, and we move on.

So remember:

The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefited from you not having any.

😤 HIPPO: Highest Paid Person's Opinion


Let me end on a personal anecdote:

I understood how infuriating mansplaining must be for women the day I made the connection with a similarly infuriating phenomena.

At Amazon they tell you that when taking decisions, you need to beware of the HIPPO, or Highest Paid Person's Opinion.

What happens in many companies is that there is an important decision to be made, so you research the subject, try to find good practices, then discuss with people to see what objections they have, finally try to find a reasonable solution to them. Basically you do the work.

But then at the day of the decision, a suit that is paid significantly more than you just walks in. He has thought about the topic at hand for at least 5 minutes, and armed with his high confidence decides that no, we are doing things his way or the highway instead. Why? Mostly because he likes it better.

And oh boy, that's infuriating.

That's also an inefficient approach to decision making.

But honestly, it's first and foremost infuriating.

🤦🏻‍♂️ WHY are you paying me an engineer salary if you don't give a damn about whatever I might have to say?

Top comments (9)

brense profile image
Rense Bakker

Its not a gender thing though... Everyone can be arrogant, condescending, or a know-it-all. Women too. What matters is to what extent you're willing to betray yourself, to be part of "the club". Maybe that's generally easier for most men, but I don't have enough examples (yet) of majority women teams in tech, to draw any conclusions. If we treat everyone as individuals i'm sure everything will be alright. Sadly that goes against human nature I guess 😕

Btw, a lot of times if someone is "mansplaining" something, they don't mean to be condescending at all and they genuinely don't realize you already know what they're explaining... 9/10 if you reply with: "yes, I know that", they'll just move on to explain the next thing.

flkdnt profile image
Dante Foulke

Did you just mansplain mansplaining?

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (

I'm not a woman, but he was good illustration of my paragraph The strength of mansplaining.

For those who wonder:

Nobody claims that there is a binary distribution of being condescending. Because those making the claim are not stupid.
The claim is that the distribution is bimodal.
Which means it happens much more often from men to women.

That doesn't mean there is no other factor of people being condescending.
That means it would be quite dumb to not see that gender is an obviously important factor, just as it is for height.

Thread Thread
brense profile image
Rense Bakker

Correlation is not the same as causation though. For example, you don't want to start drawing conclusions based on prevalence of a particular race of people in jail. You want to look at the actual cause why someone is in jail, or why someone feels the need to be condescending. If you look at the setting in which mansplaining or condescending behavior usually happens, that tells us a lot about the reasons behind it: a means to assert dominance, to improve ones perceived position within a group. Take the group away and some people's personalities will change 180 degrees. Knowing the cause also brings us closer to a solution (if there is one), instead of creating a larger divide between sexes.

Thread Thread
jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (

The cause is that boys are educated to dismiss what girls say and they don't even notice it

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel ( • Edited

Being tall is not a gender thing either.

I have a male friend who is 1m60.
And when I lived in Berlin, I have seen 1m80 women.
(That's 5"2 and 5"11 respectively in freedom units).

brense profile image
Rense Bakker

Tallness is mostly an inherited factor though. Behavior is mostly taught, so it depends a lot on what someone experiences in their life.

ant_f_dev profile image
Anthony Fung

I think the important question then is how would I know if I'm guilty of mansplaining, or not explaining enough?

I've been in a situation before where I've suggested an alternative way to approach a situation. My colleague nods and says yes. I notice a while later that they continued to do things as before. When I asked (gently) about it, they exclaimed in an outburst that they didn't know how to do it.

I assumed from the initial response that they knew, and that any further explanation or questioning would be come off badly. However, in that instance they genuinely didn't know.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel ( • Edited

The thing to understand is that it's not about you, it's about them.

Imagine a situation when you feel infuriated, and imaging how square infuriated you would be if someone told you that you being infuriated is not valid

It's not a big deal if you make a mistake. I did one just two weeks ago.
What matters is how you react to it.

If they feel infuriated, give them space and try to understand why.

It's not about being guilty.
Nobody is guilty of the education they received. But it's good to grow from that when that education it doesn't help.