Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Art of Mansplaining

Around the feminist blogosphere, the phenomenon of mansplaining has been duly noted as of late. This is also known as the Men Who Know Things phenomenon, whereby some men mistakenly believe that they automatically know more about any given topic than does a woman and will, consequently, proceed to explain to her- correctly or not- things that she already knows.

The mansplainer's problem isn't so much that he's trying to teach a woman something, but rather that he takes it as a given that she doesn't already know whatever it is he is going to tell her.

As someone who lives life as a female human, the sheer numbers of women in comment threads who have recounted experiences of Being Mansplained To is not at all surprising. Despite my general competence at life, dudes mansplain things to me all the time. When I've been in gyms working out, men have offered me unsolicited tips on new exercises to try, despite the fact that I've been successfully working out and lifting weights for almost two decades.

A non-lawyer dude that I work with has several times given me a general overview of laws that I deal with on a daily basis. Despite the fact that I tell him, shortly but not Too Bitchily, that I am aware of what he is telling me, he repeatedly does this anyway.

Before meetings, during small talk, another male colleague will bring up the subject of politics and address his comments only to other men in the room. This enables other men to mansplain, as "helpful" asides, to the women in the room what exactly this politics stuff is that the The Dudely Grownups are talking about.

And, as perhaps one of my all-time favorite examples of mansplaining, one time, my girlfriend and I were eating dinner with a white male human. During the course of this meal, I recounted a true story about a high school in the Midwest whose mascot used to be a racial slur for a Chinese person. This mascot was changed sometime in the early 1980s, due to members of this racial minority group protesting.

After I told this story, at which many members of the dinner party were quite horrified, the white male human dinner companion misread what, exactly, everyone else was horrified about. Instead, he replied, with perfect certainty, "Now that is what you call Political Correctness Gone Awry," and then proceeded to continue eating his Man Food, assuming that the conversation was over now that he had sufficiently mansplained the travesty that had occurred.

His lack of empathy aside, it was that deadly combo of dead certainty that his point of view was completely objective coupled with that incompetent assumption that he was automatically more In The Know About Things than all women present that pretty much defines the art of mansplanation. Yet, the privilege of his race cannot be discounted here, either. Oftentimes, whiteness and maleness work together to exponentially increase a man's propensity to mansplain.

And so this instance, was also a classic case of whitesplaining, whereby a white person whitesplains how a person of color is "wrong" about something being racist against people of color. It's the same basic idea as mansplaining- as both are grounded in the privilege of one's identity being considered society's default and, therefore, more objective than the experiences of Other identities.

Whereas whitesplaining is the result of the white experience being "normed," mansplaining, is the logical result of men possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life. If white people and men, and especially white men, are not aware of it, they are incredibly likely to wrongly assume themselves to be more competent than women and people of color at pretty much everything, up to and including what it means to live as a female or person of color in society.

Enjoy the related links and commentary:

From Karen Healey: "Think about the men you know. Do any of them display that delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with the rock-solid conviction of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation?"

From Zuska: "You May Be A Mansplainer If..."

From IBTP: "Mansplaining — you know mansplaining, right? It’s that loud, annoying, repetitive alarm call that men emit whenever they perceive a lower-status person challenging their authority."

From Kate Harding: "Here’s a thing about mansplaining and why I care a lot about it: it is annoying, and frustrating, and insulting, and deeply rooted in institutionalized sexism, and often profoundly harmful to women."

From Rebecca Solnit: "Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world."

1 comment:

Antifeminist said...

mansplaining = a whiny, immature diversion tactic feminist use when they have no honest rebuttal.

This is similar to how feminists cry misogony whenever you disagree with them, and in the end both are nothing but tactics that fems have to use (after all where would feminists be if they couldnt use shame language in a debate).

LOL pathetic.