"I love it when random men approach me to give unsolicited advice," said no woman ever.
Sharp was at the pool minding her own business and reading Rebecca Solnit's incredible essay collection, Men Explain Things to Me, which places a strong focus on what often goes wrong during conversations between men and women. (Spoiler alert: Mansplaining is a huge part of the problem.)
Sharp writes that she was approached by a "balding man, maybe 65 or 70 years old, with blue, bloodshot eyes, drinking from a bottle of Ensure, wearing designer swim trunks" who was eager to strike up a conversation...as long as your definition of "conversation" is a combination of mansplaining and harassment.
The man asked Sharp what she was reading and she responded "a book," which is a pretty clear signal that she wasn't in the mood to strike up a conversation with him. Undeterred, he asked what it was called. When Sharp told him the title, the man in question responded "so it's a book about men mentoring women!"
Cue all the face palms in the world.
Sharp began to explain to him what Solnit's essay collection is really about, but he cut her off to ask "What do you do, young lady? Do you work, or do you have kids?" She explained that she's a freelance writer who focuses on memoirs and he was quick to make a sexist joke about how most women specialize in writing about themselves. He also repeatedly and disrespectfully referred to Sharp as "young lady," despite the fact that she explained she's 47 years old.
But wait, it gets better: The unidentified man thinks he'd be the perfect person to mentor Sharp in her writing career because he has experience running a chain of corner stores. (He's "not much of a reader," but no big deal.)
In what will probably come as a surprise to no one, the man's mentorship offer was essentially his way of trying to score a date. He also offered this cringeworthy piece of advice: "You should put a photo of yourself in that bikini on the cover of the book! I bet you didn't even think of that! OK, don't work too hard, young lady. That's your first mentoring lesson from me, young lady! Don't work to hard! And, don't think too hard!"
When he asked for her name, Sharp responded "Gloria Steinem." Shockingly enough, this mansplainer failed to recognize the name of one of the most iconic feminists in history. But don't worry, he had a suggestion: He should think of a new last name for Sharp, because Steinem is "Jewish sounding."
Women can't even read books about sexism in public without dealing with harassment and mansplainers. Sharp's story has gone viral because it struck a chord with so many women who are furious – but not especially surprised – that this type of intrusion is par for the course when we dare enter a public space.