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A woman's born to weep and fret

Bush the Destroyer of English (miggy)
Mansplaining!

Such a great word. I expect most of you are already familiar with the term, but because every time I think that someone proves me wrong, and because I think it's fantastic, I elaborate.

Mansplaining isn't just the act of explaining while male, of course; many men manage to explain things every day without in the least insulting their listeners.

Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate "facts" about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.

Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!

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?

That dude is a mansplainer.

Sadly, many of these dudes are our bosses or supervisors or other authority figures to whom we cannot give much crap. But if it's someone you know in a social setting, etiquette experts agree that the appropriate thing to do is to roll your eyes and say, "Oh, please, mansplain to me some more."

You are doing him a favour. Friends don't let friends foster mansplaining.

ETA: Follow-up talking about why I don't think a gender-neutral term accurately describes the privilege behind this behaviour.

No one seems to know who came up with this term - I myself saw it in several places prior to writing this post - but the most likely antecedent is this article by Rebecca Solnit.

Comments

( 47 — comment )
morbid_curious
May. 7th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
I earnestly hope that if I ever do this, someone (verbally) smacks me. I've seen the behaviour, and it makes me cringe often.
karenhealey
May. 7th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
You know, as a man, you can also grab a dude, pull him aside, and say "Hey, man, do you know what mansplaining is?"

V. USEFUL, male feminists!
morbid_curious
May. 7th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm sure I'm going to get use out of the term.

I must admit I'd probably prefer to call it blokesplaining though, even if that term's not as universally understood across cultures. It seems to fit the stereotype of "blokeish" attitudes rather well.

The urge to rename it may of course be due to wanting to distance and separate it from the "man" I want to identify as - which actually strikes me as a good reason for not doing so. Better to own it, continue to be uncomfortable with it and work to fix it from the inside rather than relabelling it away.
lauredhel
May. 7th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
"Dudesplaining"? Or even go genderneutral, with "douchesplaining", but it does seem to be a particularly strong dynamic with the men-explaining-to-women thing. Or, perhaps white to person of colour, TAB to PWD, and so on.

props to you for facing that discomfort.
veejane
May. 7th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)
I don't know who coined it, but it's definitely a useful word. I've seen it around for... at least the last 6 months, anyway.
veejane
May. 7th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
Some sleuthing: Rebecca Solnit, April 13, 2008, does not use the word itself that I saw, but a link to her from someone else on May 31, 2008 uses the word, and does not seem to be coining it or particularly expecting her readers to think it's a new word.

A quick perusal of google hit dates suggests that its prominence rose in April 2008; I haven't found any earlier hits yet, but it may be buried in a blogging thread someplace.
karenhealey
May. 7th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I wondered if it stemmed from that article! Such an excellent piece.
lauredhel
May. 7th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
karenhealey
May. 7th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
Yup, I did the googling. I can't find the originator, is my problem.
elneclare
May. 7th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
I love the word Mansplainer and adding it to my vocabulary to use on several dudes I know. If Nancy of Nancy Buttons doesn't have buttons about Mansplainers at Balticon 43, I'm going to have a few created for Me and my Daughters.
puritybrown
May. 7th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
I think it may have originated in fandom_wank...? At least, that's where I first saw it (and there were icons!) but Google and the FW wiki are reticent on the matter. Bah.
brown_betty
May. 7th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do seem to remember a “thanks for mansplaining it to us!” there, more than a year ago"? But FW is unindexed by google, tragically.
lady_ganesh
Aug. 11th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
More tragically still, it's not in the wiki.
troubleinchina
May. 8th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
On F_W, everyone sees your icons.

Some dude came into the comm to explain slash or something equally stupid.
eziekialjones
May. 7th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
I've seen this sort of behavior transcend gender and race so I think something along the lines of douchesplaining may be more appropriate.
msconduct
May. 7th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
I'm puzzled by this "douche is gender neutral" idea (the second time it's appeared in this thread, so it's obviously a common cultural concept, at least in some countries). Since a literal douchebag is something used only by women, therefore implying something that touches women's genitals is the lowest of the low, I see it as a pretty sexist insult. But it's not from my culture - am I missing something?
opheliastorn
May. 7th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
I know that it is used as an insult by some feminists because a douche is a sexist item - something you're supposedly meant to use because your vagina is filthy. So, calling someone a douche is ... calling them an anti-women thing?

Then again, you also get the idiots who use the word because of the hurrrr, vagina connection. Can't win!
msconduct
May. 7th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Aha, thanks! Douching is, thankfully, not a common practice in New Zealand, so its attendant terminology and connotations thereof fly right over my head.
opheliastorn
May. 8th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
LOL, I certainly know it isn't common down here - like with my knowledges of circumcision, it's just what comes of being too steeped in primarily American bits of the 'net!
lauredhel
May. 8th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
When feminists use it, they're using it more because it's pointless and bad for women, and based on sexist assumptions about the defectiveness of women's bodies.

Other people use it different ways, and not everyone has to use it, but that's the idea. Sort of a reclamation-in-reverse.
msconduct
May. 8th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
That's fair enough, although personally I still think I'll avoid it just in case of any ambiguity about which meaning I was implying.
jupiter9
Feb. 7th, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
Reclaiming douche is not like any other common reclaiming because you're not taking a word used as a negative and recasting it as positive, as people have with queer, bitch or angry black woman. You're still using it as a negative.

Therefore, there's no way to know for sure whether the negative meaning your audience will gather comes from the (I think hackishly) backformed "bad for women and useless" association some feminists make, or the more primal and common "associated with vaginas and their secretions therefore dirty" association.
karenhealey
May. 8th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
Dude. That right there? The part where you invalidated my experience and then used a sexist insult as part of your proposed new term?

Mansplaining.
sevanetta
May. 8th, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
WHAT NO I had not heard of this marvellous word, Karen! Yet I am so familiar with this phenomenon! If ever a word needed to be coined, it was this one.

Mind if I get cards made up with your handy-dandy definition for the male 'Huh?' moment after I hit them with that snappy one-liner?
nentuaby
May. 8th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Uh? Karen? I'm with you about 99% of the time on these trenchant little observations. But right now you are extolling the virtues of a word which agglomerates a major personality defect directly onto a gender.

Please stop that. It's not pretty.
karenhealey
May. 8th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
I'm not saying condescension and ignorance are exclusive to men. I'm using that term to refer to that behaviour *when men do it to women as an expression of privilege*.

You might like the followup better: http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/781391.html
karenhealey
May. 8th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Also seriously it's not pretty? I was not especially trying to be pretty.
lauredhel
May. 8th, 2009 02:50 am (UTC)
Yes, that gave me my *splorf* for the week! (Sadly, I doubt there will be only one.)
cicipsychobunny
May. 8th, 2009 11:52 am (UTC)
Well God forbid a woman not be concerned with coming across as mainstream-society-acceptable while, you know, critiquing said society.
johnpalmer
Mar. 27th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Hm. I don't agree that it's pointing it at a gender; I believe it's pointing out how gender assumptions and privilege shape the behavior.
johnpalmer
Mar. 27th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
(Gah. Sorry about that super-late-reply - I hadn't noticed the date, and I thought this was a semi-new-ish thread.)
blacksquirrel
May. 8th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
Sinead O'Connor used the word "mantrolling" in her song No Man's Woman. Not quite the same, but that's what I thought of as soon as I saw the word. And only too true
spicebush
May. 8th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
Then there's "manssuming," when the man assumes something really sexist and stupid, like that, though it's okay for you not to wear makeup now, you'll want to in the future after you stop looking so good, or that you'll want to think of marrying soon because you're in your 30s.
spicebush
May. 8th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, or that, you know, it's your 32nd birthday, but you must really wish you were 29, 'cause then you'd still be in your twenties! The golden age of getting male sexual attention!
jamethiel_bane
May. 21st, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
*flails wildly* (Here via friendsfriends) THIS! Last Saturday I was on my way to a party. Took a taxi from the station. I sat in the front, like you do in Australia and chatted. Because that's how I react when someone is driving me around.

We quickly exhausted the topic of conversation of the weather, where he told me that I was wrong with my predictions of what it was going to be like (yeah, I wasn't. But I'll give him that, given that it's Melbourne and you pretty much have a 1 in... however many chance of it being some combination of wet, cold, hot, muggy, windy, sunny, overcast, foggy, or sleeting. Sometimes you can go through all of them on the same day!). So we moved onto football.

We talked about our predictions for the upcoming matches that weekend. About how I feared St Kilda (my team) were going to break my heart again by breaking their winning streak. I mentioned that they were due to win the competition at some stage, as their last premiership was in '66.

"Oh no," said he. "I don't remember what year they last won, but I'm sure it wasn't that. Maybe you're thinking of 76."

Dude, I have been following this team since I was BORN. I know when their last premiership was. I can tell you all the years they got to the finals and didn't win.

I love how he assumed that because he's male, he knows better than I do. Even though I'd said I was a fan, and they're my team, and even though he DOESN'T know and is not sure, I obviously don't know anything about them. *headdesks*
(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
Am I the only one who sees the obvious, classic connection with Rickie Ricardo and the way he spoke to Luci: "I gotta 'splain something to you, Luci!". And the way she made the face and he was just so completely unconscious in his male smugness?
karenhealey
Feb. 2nd, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
Is that from I Love Lucy? I've never seen that show, but it sounds likely!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
Yes, the classic b&w- I'm not certain if it continued in the other versions.
Here's an easy google:
Ricky Ricardo

* Lucy, I'm home!

[after learning about the latest trouble Lucy has gotten into]

* Ai-yai-yai-yai-yai!
* Lucy, you've got some 'splainin' to do!
* Lucy, what do you have to say for yourself?
* And as I recall, it was till death do us part. That event is about to take place right now!!
* Mira que tiene cosa la mujer esta... (Look what this woman has done...okokok

Although the first up are when the Senator said that to Sotomeyer during the confirmation hearings!
BTW, has there been a change in OpenID? I can't use my blogger URL here anymore?
GinBerlin
karenhealey
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
But it seems to be Lucky who has to 'splain, not Ricky?
(Anonymous)
Feb. 2nd, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. But I still think that's where 'splainin' came from, although in it's original usage it's the self-assured male forcing the ditzy housewife to explain her behavior (she starts and then just bursts out wailing, generally, followed by a comforting hug from her husband). Even though I generally thought Lucy had some good ideas, but they were sabotaged through the male complete lack of support for any of them.

GinBerlin
crossablackcat.blogspot.com
Feb. 12th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
I know this thread is almost a year old now, but I have such a great Mansplaining story to share you guys!

I was discussing a scene in Sin City with a male friend, wherein a female cop is disturbed while lounging around her house in nothing but a g-string.

ME: That was total crap, if you wanted to be lazing around the house all day and thought you wouldn't be disturbed, you'd wear the comfiest undies possible!
DUDE: Why? Most girls find g-strings as comfortable normal underwear.
ME: What? But they're not that comfortable. Certainly not in a lounge-around-in-my-undies way.
DUDE: YES THEY ARE. I heard a girl say she found g-strings comfortable this one time!
ME: But... I WEAR g-strings, and you don't, and I'm telling you they're no more comfortable...
DUDE: YES THEY ARE.

So basically, Dude tried to invalidate my experiences with MY OWN GOD DAMN UNDERWEAR.
(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
mansplainin' makes me rabid
That is so classic. I am an American foreign woman in another country and it is way worse, even,where I am living. Most of these men are back in the 1950s. I try to avoid interaction with men here for that reason. They are really atavistic. I recently had one guy (who could have stepped out of a redneck exploitation movie, all he needed was a wifebeater and a six-pack and a dog to kick, LOL, but he was a lawyer) tell me that there were a lot of big important "forts" in a particular American state. Now. At this time, not during the Civil War or something. I said I knew for a fact that this was not true. He said it WAS true. Now, I worked for the military, had a clearance, I know American history, I tested out with an IQ of almost 150, and I know where the larger and more sensitive facilities are. This guy didn't even know there was more than one state with "Virginia" in its name, was not American, and had never worked for the military, but damn he had a PECKER and knew how to USE it. Yessirree bob, little lady! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! throttlethrottlethrottle
gendergappers.blogspot.com
Feb. 25th, 2010 10:45 am (UTC)
IMO Mansplainer correct term
I copied this article to my blog to give it wider access and although I credited Karen, I failed to include the link. This has been corrected now.

My sincere apologies.
karenhealey
Feb. 25th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC)
Re: IMO Mansplainer correct term
Apology accepted; thank you for the amendation.
meret
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:58 am (UTC)
Thank you! I've experienced this more times than I can count, (especially on issues of sexism), but didn't know there was a term for it. I'm linking to this on my LJ and DW. :)
ex_serenejo
Oct. 13th, 2011 02:23 am (UTC)
Hi,

I really want to link to this on my new tumblr (where I'm gonna blog about being a woman learning Minecraft), but it's a disability-friendly blog, and I'm finding the text here (gray-on-white) so hard to read that I'm reluctant to put out the link. I didn't know if I should tell you that, but then I figured you might want to know.
karenhealey
Oct. 13th, 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
Oh, no, thank you for telling me! There's a handy cheat code for any LJ url where you can link to a black text on white version by adding ?format=light to the url.

So the easier-to-read version of this entry is http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/781085.html?format=light

I hope you find that suitable.
( 47 — comment )