Works in Progress

“Mansplaining”: Sexist?

Well, mansplaining wraps up the sexist privileged arrogant ignorance in one word and to me is legitimately used when it’s referring to the specific concept of a guy explaining something to a woman (or someone he views as subordinate) out of the assumption that the person does not understand because of their gender. (It can include the self-perception that a person has superior knowledge, often connected to their own male gender, when this kind of explaining extends to another male, probably viewed as inferior.) It is explaining something when no explanation is asked for or no explanation is warranted, offering knowledge as if the other person could not possibly have this knowledge or know how to find it, or instead of explaining what the person did ask about, explaining something very basic or giving lay-person level or pretty unrelated information to show off and/or as if the person is not smart enough to realize you’re not answering the actual question. Often the explanation is offered by someone who does not actually know much about the topic, but either believes he does in what seems like a male privilege superiority complex (esp. or when around females).  And the reason there is a term “mansplaining” now is because it is a recognizable experience. It is so common that women from many perspectives immediately know what someone is talking about who describes this, and that is why the term took so easily. It nice to finally have a word for it, and one that indicates a behavior that’s frowned upon.
There may be audible intonation of condescension, or the “explanation” may be contextually condescending and politically condescending with its sexism. Occurs especially, but *not* always or only covering topics, disciplines, or situations over which male dominance has traditionally maintained a stronghold (cars, machinery, math, film directing, computers, carpentry lawn mowing, politics, business…but also everything else under the sun).
For fairness’ sake, I invent the term “transplaining.”
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Some examples would be:
  • When I asked my male coworker to help hang a large framed picture on the wall over a staircase by holding it in place while I stepped back to get a view of whether or not it is level and by holding it while I marked where to nail in the picture hangers, and he started to ‘explain’ how to correctly nail in a nail with a hammer and insisted that the picture was level while up against it holding it on the wall looking side-line at it from off-center.
  • Two women at a bus stop discussing NASA’s achievements, the history of rocket engines for use in space, decisions regarding funding of space exploration, the shuttle program, the recent New Horizons images and discoveries, etc. A man at the bus stop “informs” them that the first images of Pluto were just taken, and explains to them how a rocket engine works (supposedly).
  • At a café or bar near a high school or college campus, a woman reading Richard III and enjoying her drink looks up to a man standing at her table. “Shakespeare! Best author in the English language,” says the man, nodding approvingly. “Arguably,” the woman says. “Have you read any others?” he asks. “I teach; I’m teaching the Histories,” she responds. “Romeo and Juliet, now that’s the best love story of all time,” he says, then ‘explains’ the plot to her, and how Shakespeare’s plays were the soap operas of their time.
  • See How to Find a Mechanic and Fix Your Car where a “solution” was explained by a mentor missing the point.
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One thought on ““Mansplaining”: Sexist?

  1. Deese Ciel says:

    Mansplaining v Womansplaining
    I would like to point in that when you describe something to one or two people, or to several or many in a group, you explain things differently according to whether you know or don’t know the listeners. You may explain things in a certain way if you “know” that these listeners have a political viewpoint, or have studied a lot of math, etc. I don’t know if women have been condescending to their listeners for the past hundred years. I sure betcha that a lot of women have not been condescending to male listeners, nor have they dared to explain ideas to them in the first place. Sadly, we all know that for decades women have not been “allowed” to speak up in the presence of males in business, education, social situations, etc. Women feel that males become ultra-alpha when addressing other educated males. However, when males “explain” to females, the males automatically assume that the females are ignorant, unable to grasp academic or scientific concepts, and can barely comprehend the baby-step way that the males use to describe any idea or process to females. I feel that most males today still talk down to women in their academic or business workplace. And these males certainly are not inclined to treat as equals those females who are not “attractive” and who are not wearing the latest fashion. And these males probably assume that the flamboyantly attractive and stylish women in their group are the least educated. When will it?

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