Inspired by her numerous personal experiences with mansplaining, she decided to turn it into a hilarious book demonstrating everyday instances of misogyny.
Nicole Tersigni is no stranger to mansplaining. Aside from personally experiencing several times over the course of her life, she also gets regular glimpses of it on social media when entitled men indulge in the age-old patriarchal tradition of "putting a woman in her place." It was during one of these times last May — at the end of a long day looking after her 8-year-old daughter, who was home sick at the time — that the Detroit-based writer was struck with the idea of combining 17th-century art with everyday instances of misogyny.
"So I go online just to kind of scroll through Twitter and zone out for a little bit," Tersigni told The New York Times, "and I see a dude explaining to a woman her own joke back to her — something that has happened to me many times." While she usually let those kinds of irritating conversations go, this particular exchange sparked something in her. She Googled "woman surrounded by men" — "because that is what that moment feels like when you're online," she said — and came across a 17th-century oil painting by Jobst Harrich of a woman baring one breast in the middle of a scrum of bald men.
"maybe— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) May 6, 2019
if I take my tit out
they will stop explaining my own joke back to me" pic.twitter.com/WhJ7j21kgk
She tweeted the image with the caption: "Maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me," and it was an instant hit. The overwhelming popularity of the tweet prompted her to follow it up with more mansplaining-in-art posts, all of which garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
"let me explain your lived experience to you" pic.twitter.com/SFekR3M5jB— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) May 9, 2019
"It just snowballed from there because it was just so easy to consume and relate to and laugh about," said Tersigni, adding that ironically, several men chimed in to explain her joke to her or remind her that not all men do these things.
"thanks I'm gay now" by norman rockwell pic.twitter.com/KUIdHJkBoF— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) May 8, 2019
Not long after the thread went viral, Tersigni received a call from literary agent Rachel Sussman, who suggested that she turn her tweets into a book. Two weeks later, they were meeting with editors and struck a deal with Chronicle Books.
"scientifically speaking, females don't enjoy sex. I have to believe this because the alternative is I'm just really bad at it. ha. ha. can you imagine." pic.twitter.com/wHQuDKNJbR— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) May 13, 2019
"I remember I got it, looked at it, and just cracked up," said Rebecca Hunt, editorial director at Chronicle Books. "When it was time for me to share it with our editorial team, I printed out a lot of the pages and spread them on the table. We all didn’t even need to say anything, we were all just reading and laughing. That’s how you know right away that something will resonate."
Just over a year after that first tweet, Tersigni's hilariously relatable Twitter thread has taken the form of a published book. Titled Men to Avoid in Art and Life, the coffee table book explores the different "types" of men that the author and many women encounter on a regular basis.
"...so you see, my joke was very good actually. you just don't understand comedy."— nicole tersigni (@nicsigni) June 1, 2019
"probably because of your lady brain."
"shall I tell it again?" pic.twitter.com/A26Mfhj15N
Speaking to Bored Panda, Tersigni explained that everything starts with the visuals. "The paintings come first, and I write the joke around them," she said. "I think the funniest jokes take details from what’s happening in the painting, so I like to start there and see what I think is happening based on their faces or the scenery. You’d be surprised at how many classic paintings have women directing blank looks at men."
"Occasionally, I’ll have a vague idea for a joke and I’ll scroll through all my art until I find a painting that could work for it, but usually it’s the other way around," she continued. "I’ve spent many, many hours scrolling through art databases and saving any pieces that could potentially work in a huge file on my desktop called 'Paintings' because I’m very good at using computers."
"I’ve had so many people sharing their own stories and experiences with me, and telling me how thankful they are for the book. It’s nice to be able to laugh together about something that’s normally very frustrating." You can get your copy of Men to Avoid in Art and Life through Amazon and Chronicle Books here. Here is a look at what you would find in her book: