I came across a new word today. Mansplaining. It’s a word that was coined to describe men who lecture women on things the woman already knows. Sure, we used to just call that sort of behavior condescending. But apparently now, it’s called mansplaining, especially when the subject being discussed is how sexist attitudes affect women in particular. A man engaged in mansplaining is a mansplainer.
Now, in the post on facebook upon which I was introduced to this topic, the woman accusing one of her male friends of mansplaining provided a really nice graphic explaining mansplaining. Here is a link: https://morewomeninskepticism.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/mansplaining-flow-chart.png )
If you follow this flow chart you will notice something very important. And that is that a man basically has two choices. He either agrees, sympathizes and/or empathizes with the woman in question, or he is mansplaining. Any questions, disagreements, suggestions that the man who offended the woman might have not intended to be such a dick, or that perhaps whatever happened was misinterpreted is mansplaining. In fact, any disagreement with the woman and her conclusions about the problem of sexism is mansplaining. Which effectively means that whoever came up with the term mansplaining, or at least this graphic explaining it really does not want to have rational discussions with or disagreements with men about the problem of sexism. Apparently men, who aren’t sexist, have no right to discuss sexism with women.
And I have two problems with this. 1st: I think it is sexist. Seriously. Just because they have penises and haven’t experienced the crap we women have to deal with doesn’t mean men aren’t capable of having a rational discussion about the problem of sexism. Just because they don’t agree with you because they haven’t experienced whatever it is you as a woman have experienced doesn’t mean they don’t have something constructive to say.
Which brings me to the 2nd problem I see with this whole, mansplaining thing. And that is that by labeling comments by men you don’t agree with “mansplaining” you are effectively writing off what the man said, not for any logical reason you might have about the content of what he said, but simply because he’s a man. And yes. That’s sexist.
It’s also a defense technique to prevent yourself from having to listen to what might otherwise be considered a logical and valid argument. If you aren’t interested in having your mind changed, than you don’t have many choices, except to dismiss out of hand what the other person is saying. These strategies to “rationalize” away and dismiss the validity of the arguments being made are often called “logical fallacies.” In this case, it’s a type of ad hominem attack known as poisoning the well. Specifically, since the guy, by virtue of being a guy can’t possibly have experienced what a woman has experienced, his opinion can’t possibly considered valid.
Look, it is entirely possible that the man in question is being a total dick. But you should still be able to run logical and factual circles around him without having to write off his opinions as “mansplaining." As far as I am concerned, any sister who uses this term is denigrating herself and her intelligence by stooping to such sexist and fallacious thoughts in order to not have her ideas challenged.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the term – mansplaining. I do. I just think it should be applied to different scenarios entirely. And those scenarios have nothing to do with disagreements about public policy relating to women’s issues. Nope, mansplaining is the perfect word to describe the attempts men make to rationally explain their behavior when they have no good reason for doing what they did.
Here are several questions to which any answer a man gives a woman will be mansplaining
- Honey? Why did you put the bottle cap in the draw and not in the trash?
- Honey? Why did you put our son’s clothes on backward?
- Honey, were you aware that you put my new magazine in the trash?
- Honey, why did you dress the boy in shorts when it’s freezing outside?
- Honey – why is there lipstick on your collar?
There are obviously a ton of questions that women might ask in a relationship that men don’t like to answer because they have no good answer. And when these situations arise, most men resort to mansplaining.
But are men mansplaining when they are disagreeing with a woman about women’s issues and politics? No. They are just disagreeing with a woman and perhaps being condescending in the process.