Handling Anonymous Mansplaining

It has been a tough couple of weeks in my professional life– if you even want to call it that. Immediate stages of post-grad life have been frustrating and isolating with respect to employment. Applying to jobs feels like entering the tastiest buffet in town, ordering, and never receiving your meal; I’m hungry for an opportunity to flex my potential, but that opportunity has yet to come my way. Though I have wiped away countless angry tears in the past two months, an experience I had recently took the cake for crushing professional interactions.

In a long and deliberate email, an owner of a company superseded HR to tell me, verbatim, not to waste my time with the available position. I was mortified. I did everything I was supposed to: submitted a finely combed resume and followed up promptly and politely. Positions in production are sparing in my area, so I was thrilled to put my name in the ring.

I received a quick response that was an essential rejection. No biggie; I shot back a line thanking this hiring manager for their time and added optimistically, perhaps foolishly, to please keep me in mind should something else become available. Fully prepared to count my losses and move on, I later received an inbox notification from the founder and owner of the company.

This was a scroll-heavy email. Evidently my interest caught some attention. The owner took time out of their day to remind me of my inexperience, suggest my incompetence and let me know what the industry is really like. Details of this person’s identity or business is basically irrelevant; I know about as much about them as they know about me. But knowing this message came from a 50-some year old male was a stinging fact I couldn’t shake. I was anonymously mansplained to and it made me feel like human garbage.

Moving on from that message was sort of stunning. What do I make of these words? Why did he say all that? Should I even try elsewhere? He very proudly told me to move to a “movie town” if I’m looking for cool opportunities, otherwise I could try for work at a “sausage factories” like network channels or my local news station. His advice read like a mean inside joke; a poor amalgamation of his qualms about young women entering the field.

It took some time for me to unpack his words. Obviously I’ve encountered some real first class a-holes in my life, as we all have, but never have I been put down by a male so fervently without any prior conflict. I knew mansplaining involved condescension, but this was my first realization that men who mansplain are truly disillusioned.

With all this man’s success– which he asserted by name dropping and tacking on figures– he must have thought he was doing me a serious favor explaining “what colleges don’t tell you”. I’m sure from his perspective, he was letting me in on wisdom I had yet to discover by mapping out a production assistant’s role in elementary terms. From his perspective, I should be saying thank you.

That’s where the disillusion comes in; I should be grateful for advice I did not ask for, appreciative a male superior told me the truth. My knowledge, education, talent, work ethic and aspiration are all irrelevant– thank you, sir, for asserting what I should want for myself.

At this point, my self-confidence had to burn through his disillusion. If I have to pour coffee or tend bar (his words, not mine) before I get to the next stepping stone in my career, I’ll do it. My experience, personally and professionally, is not one to be oversimplified by persons padded by success and privilege.

This piece is not meant to air grievances about hurt feelings. In the working world, the film industry especially, thick skin is a necessity. That’s what I admire about women in any field: their resilience to overcome. I cannot, in any way, compare this flash of an experience to the systematic abuse and oppression of women in successful industries. I received a mean spirited email while countless other women trying to make it in entertainment endure the worst humanity has to offer. I had the luxury of getting over it while so many cannot.

Therefore, I see this interaction as a peek through the looking glass into this system. After all, if I accepted all unsolicited advice I’ve received from men in my life, I wouldn’t have legs to stand up against the greater ramifications mansplaining and male-dominated industries create.

Females in power positions have the potential to eradicate these shortcomings. In order to promote female production heads and executives, strength needs to come from the silenced. Don’t accept being spoken to like a child, don’t accept inequality in communication and certainly don’t accept doubt cast upon you.

The producer ended his email asserting that I finish my degree and pack my bags for Hollywood or the Marvel sets in Atlanta, adding, finally, that I would not be sorry. His final sentiments solidified to me that mansplaining was his knee-jerk reaction and nothing I should take to heart. Had he read the first line of my resume, he would know I graduated early with honors. Not that I want a gold star for that, but missing a fact I literally emboldened on my application leads me to believe this man knows nothing about who I am.

You’re right, sir, I am not sorry nor will I ever be. Gaining experience any way I can get it is valuable to me, no matter the status of the company or project. If being persistent and enthusiastic about building a career is wasting my time, I don’t care. Perhaps one day I will move to a movie town like countless other starry-eyed kids my age. If I do, I will make it count. That will be my decision. And the only person I have to thank for that is myself.