It seems Laura Robson had an interesting encounter with a well-meaning passer-by recently (presumably somewhere in the Toronto area)...

Now, I'm not one to interrupt a tennis star while they're enjoying some baked goods, but I was interested to see the hashtag #mansplaining in amongst the replies to Robson's tweet.

If you're not aware of it, the word 'mansplaining' is - to the best of my knowledge - a term used, generally by feminists, to indicate that a man is condescendingly attempting to explain something to a woman who already has a perfectly good degree of understanding of the subject at hand (that's not a wrist pun, by the way).

And I got to thinking - given that no further information was given about this 'random guy' - is it not possible that he was genuinely just trying to be helpful? That maybe, in Canadian coffee shops, people try to help each other out if they're aware of a problem their fellow human being is facing?

Robson's wrist injury is well documented, with around 300 Google News results as of the time of writing. It's not impossible - and clearly was the case - that this guy already knew she was carrying an injury.

I'll get to the point in a moment, but the whole event reminded me of an anecdote relating to the televised adaptation of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels.

Little White Cells

For no particular reason, other than visual effect, episodes often included extreme close-up shots of David Suchet's eyes, in which one particularly attentive viewer spotted a white ring around the edges of his irises - an indicator of high cholesterol.

Suchet sought medical attention, was diagnosed as being at risk of heart disease, and altered his diet and lifestyle accordingly.

OK, so this was never going to be an incident of mansplaining - both protagonists were male (Suchet refers to the viewer as 'that man' in interviews, so it definitely wasn't a female viewer) and Suchet is clearly not as well versed in heart disease as the viewer was.

But are we really at the point where attempting to help a fellow human being is regarded as sexist, simply because you're a man and they're a woman?

This, really, is my point - because I spend quite a lot of my time helping people out. I've helped charities come up with new marketing slogans (for free), I've helped people get their Google Authorship markup right (for free) and I've replied as helpfully as possible to countless tweets too (for free).

Did all of these people have absolutely no clue about the area I advised them on? No, some of them had at least as much knowledge and understanding as me, they'd just got 'stuck' on a specific point. Were they all men? Of course not; if anything, most of them were female.

Who Da Man?

Do I help people purely to re-establish my sense of superiority as part of the patriarchy? There's a two-word answer to that, and one of the words begins with an F.

We're rapidly approaching the stage where men will let women suffer for fear of offending them - we're already afraid to open doors for you or give up our seats on public transport, for fear of being deemed sexist. Now it appears trying to help you overcome injury is out of the question too.

Keep dreaming, feminists - your brave new world awaits. Enjoy it when it arrives.


Before you say it:
  • I'm not suggesting that Laura Robson's original tweet was claiming that the 'random guy' was sexist.
  • I don't care if you think it's 'overreacting' to feel a sense of panic over whether to give up my seat on a bus. I feel it, and I'm not the only man who does. We don't know what the 'right' thing to do is any more, but we're trying.
  • In the meantime, I'll continue to help out the reasonable people, and the rest of you can go to hell.