Over at the mansplaining thread, you can read literally hundreds of hilarious, annoying, frustrating, heartbreaking stories of how women are constantly subjected to intrusive, incessant, insensitive, inane mansplaining. Interspersed you will also find comments from d00dly d00ds whinging away about how awful it is that women are talking so MEAN about men, and their mansplanations about how mansplaining doesn’t exist. Then some douche tried to coin the phrase femsplaining.
Femsplaining, as best I can tell, is a phenomenon that arises in the following manner:
That mansplainer thread just won’t quit – it is the gift that keeps on giving. Well, if you can call continuing recitations of the endless ways women are constantly mansplained by the d00dly mainsplainers of the world a “gift”. Along with the mansplainer d00ds who show up to mansplain how mansplaining does not exist, should not be called mansplaining if it does exist, is a benign and non-sexist practice if it does exist, and anyway, I THOUGHT THIS WAS SCIENCEBLOGS WHAT ABOUT THE SCIENCE DEAR GOD WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE POOR SCIENCE????
Which brings us to Ace’s most excellent and apropos comment:
Is there another word like manventing for conjuring elaborate situations in your head that explain away any situations that contradict your “facts”? Ex: I was mansplained to that the reason one of my homework questions was wrong was not because I had simply lost track of a wayward negative sign, but because women cannot understand physics with their poor tiny non-spatial brains. Yet when I pointed out that that I had scored roughly 20% higher in physics on our (non-curved) graduation exams than he, he manvented the “fact” that the government adjusts womens’ scores in math and science to make them feel better. Or something. Because I didn’t actually write a perfect exam, I just scored higher than the rest of the inferior females.
You cannot make this shit up. Oh wait, you can. If you are a manventer.
Ladies of the mansplainer thread, I am happy that you have found community, and a word for that which has so plagued your existence. Naming experience is so very important – once we can give a name to what is happening to us, it has a little less power over us, at least a little less power to make us feel so crazy about it. There’s a whole category on this blog called “naming experience” to reflect that importance. I’m just sorry that there are so many of you, and that your unhappy mansplaining experiences are so varied and many.
Here’s hoping all your mansplainers, with their manvented facts, develop a long-lasting case of laryngitis. I’m talking years-long. May you enjoy the sweet sounds of mansplaining silence, at least for awhile in this month celebrating women’s history.
I warned Jon, I did. D00d, that thread is for MOCKING MANSPLAINERS.
Now, here I will repost Jon’s mis-directed comment. Zuskateers, you may feel free to read (warning: contains mansplaing) or skip right over to the comment thread and post your own examples of Men Who Cannot Follow Clear Directions From Women.
I used the word “system,” for a reason. I’m not opposed to the idea that there’s a particular kind of gendered condescension on the part of males in response to females.
The problem I have is the way it’s being discussed, in the sense that there are a number of conceptual problems with how the behavior is being described, and what constitutes such a behavior.
The other issue is how criticisms are treated. Take for example the response that I’ve just written to your comment. It’s an explanation, isn’t it? I mean, I’m pointing out what I see as a flaw. I could have started off with that instead of my “passive-aggressive” response, but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere with it based on the reactions I’ve seen in this discussion.
I doubt I’m going to get anywhere with it now either. You can just keep pounding on the idea that I don’t know what I’m talking about or refer back to any number of examples of ad hoc reasoning in this discussion.
I know, I know, I’m mansplaining. Who am I after all to point out conceptual problems? Who am I to come into this discussion and treat it seriously when it was meant for fun? The freakin’ audacity!
Here’s a thought experiment for you. Let’s say that I agree with the premise that there’s a particular kind of male behavior that is condescending to females.
Now, let’s say that while I agree that this behavior exists and has certain identifiable qualities, more conceptual clarity is needed, in that there needs to be some sort of boundary around this behavior.
For the sake of argument, let’s also assume the following:
(1) that not everyone has a clear idea of where this boundary is and some of their examples may not fit the initial definition.
(2) the possibility of error, i.e., that some of you are potentially incorrect in identifying certain behaviors as mansplaining when they’re better described as some other behavior (may or may not be related).
(3) a male is actually able to participate in this discussion and disagree without being a mansplainer and the same goes for a female without being a FemaleMansplainer
Okay, if you agree with that I’ve written, I want to you imagine your perfect interlocutor, presumably someone that’s well-informed about the issues and the arguments. Imagine that this interlocutor nonetheless disagrees with some or all of your arguments. What criticisms would they offer?
What constitutes the best possible argument against this idea of the Mainsplainer? Can you play devil’s advocate and come up with arguments? What would they be?
Posted by: Jon | January 25, 2010 4:56 PM
Jon followed up with:
Not sorry Zuska, already posted.
P.S. I’m female. I posted under a friend’s name to see what my response would be. Oh, I know, I’m terrible for abandoning the sisterhood. .
You’ll have to post the thread as “snooty women who cannot follow clear directions from other women”
Posted by: Not Jon | January 25, 2010 5:05 PM
Oh, Not Jon. You haven’t abandoned the sisterhood. You have to locate, comprehend, and join the sisterhood before you can abandon it.
Mansplaining. We’ve all had to endure it, on the internets or IRL, so frequently we are often overwhelmed with the desire to hork up serious chunks on the mansplainer’s shoes. And yet, you can’t always do that. Maybe the mansplainer is your boss. Maybe he’s mansplaining on your blog or your Facebook page, and you just can’t get at his shoes. What to do?
First, some clarification. Just what is mansplaining? I like this definition.
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.
So, herewith, I open the official TSZ “You May Be A Mansplainer If…” thread. Feel free to post your favorite examples, though I expect there may be a certain loopy repetition after awhile…
Keep in mind that if you post a comment with more than one link in it, it may get caught in the spam filter. If you feel you are not making your way out of spam as fast as you’d like, shoot me an email. I try to check as frequently as I can but sometimes life gets in the way.
I will start us off with a few recent examples. Many, many thanks to commenter Michael Hawkins for these delightful examples of You May Be A Mansplainer If…
1. You MUST explain why everything I said is beside the point, and wrong, and silly.
2. You MUST explain why you are not a mansplainer, then re-explain things to the wimminz. Also, call them sexist.
3. You MUST explain that you mansplain because you assume that blogs are written by men, then re-explain things to the wimminz AGAIN.
4. Ignore everything everyone says, then accuse everyone else of being sexist to you. Follow this with some SERIOUS explaining! Teh wimminz are slow, but they will surely understand someday! Because you are a MAN! And you are SPLAININ’!
I’m speaking from experience, people, having had most of these lobbed at me one time or another. Please feel free to add to the list in the comments section.
1. “When is the baby due?”
I’m not pregnant, you douchebag. I’m fat. If I were pregnant, I’d probably be prancing around telling everyone and her goddamn sister about it because that’s what we do in our society. Or, if I were pregnant, and afraid I might lose the baby, maybe I wouldn’t want to talk about it. In any case, if I were pregnant, and you haven’t heard about it yet, wait for me to talk to you about it. Otherwise, STFU. Now move out of my way and let me at the food in the buffet line, because I am so going to need more chocolate after your insensitive remarks. Oh yeah, DON’T follow up with, “Oh…you looked pregnant…”
2. “Wow! You’ve lost so much weight! You look GREAT!”
Yes, you douchebag. I’ve lost weight because I’ve been SERIOUSLY ILL for the last year and unable to eat almost anything. But thanks. I appreciate your comments and sure, I’d be happy to share my miracle migraine diet with you. It goes like this: First, have a stroke. Next, start having debilitating migraines every two to three days. Lose your job. Become unable to eat anything containing peanuts, yoghurt, bananas, chocolate, and the least trace of onion or onion powder (including ketchup). Try every preventative medicine in the pharmacy, and experience a fascinating and alarming array of side effects. Keep this up for one to three years. You, too, will lose thirty pounds like magic! If that doesn’t work, try cancer.
3. “When are you/you two going to get pregnant?”
When Mr. Z and I lived in Kansas, we used to get harassed ALL THE TIME by the neighbors on our street about when were we gonna reproduce. I mean, it was vigilant social nagging to have babies. We were one of only two couples on the street without kids, and the only couple who had not expressed a desire to have kids. Finally, one day, when there were a bunch of us in a circle out on our front lawn hanging out, and the “you ought to have kids” crap started up again, I just said, “Did you ever think, when you tell people that they ought to have kids, that maybe some people don’t have kids because they can’t have kids?” They STFU and never bothered me again. Mr. Z and I never actively wanted to have kids, though if we had gotten pregnant we would not have been upset about it. I just can’t imagine how I would have felt with that incessant nagging if we had actually been trying and not able to conceive. I hope to hell those idiots will think twice before they start in on other women who have “failed” to pop out babies on a socially acceptable timetable but who knows how long the lesson lasted. DON’T BE THOSE PEOPLE!
4. “You are SO LUCKY to get to stay home all the time!”
Thanks, moron. I am sure you work your ass off at your job and would love to have a break. I feel your pain. So take a goddamned vacation already. But please – do not distance yourself from your fear of what happened to me by telling yourself that it was really a lucky break that I had a stroke and lost my job and “get” to stay home all the time. Seriously.
5. “Everything happens for a reason.”
In the same vein, please do not tell me that it was God’s mysterious will that I have a stroke and lose my job so that I would be available to provide care for my mother just at the time when she needs me. I am sure that is comforting to you and your world view but frankly, it makes me want to blow chunks on your shoes. Maybe God could have sent me a winning lottery ticket instead, so that I could just be independently wealthy and not need to work – and then I could take you out to dinner, too! I think that would have been a lot nicer and more thoughtful of God than sending me a stroke, but what do I know.
6. “So, was it the high blood pressure, or the high cholesterol?”
I can’t tell you how many times people I barely know have probed me for the moral failing that caused my stroke – even after I have told them that it was caused by a migraine. When I tell these nosy douchehounds that I had neither, they reward me with looks of disbelief. Surely I must have been a bad person in some way, to have earned such misfortune (despite it having been God’s will, see #5 above).
People – really – you have got to stop this kind of talk. Bad crap happens for no good reason. Peoples’ bodies are their own business. Repress the urge to comment on their appearance and what they are or are not doing with them. Stick to things like “hi, how are you doing?” and then actually listen to the answer. Please. For the sake of my sanity.
Thank you. That is all.
I have an acquaintance who works in what some of you professorial types jokingly refer to as the dark side – administration. Ha ha ha. Yeah, I was an administrator in academia myself, you know, and let me tell you, you should be grateful to your administrators, if only for the fact that if they didn’t spend their days attending all those meetings, you’d have to do it yourself. Somebody’s gotta do that administrative crap while you’re out there doing the whizbang gollygee fun stuff in the labs.
My acquaintance knows both sides of the story, for she herself is a tenured full professor in the field of -ology. The type of administrative position she has now is a standard issue administrative position, and she’s got to deal with all the usual administrative stuff. She’s also, in the normal run of her daily business, got to deal with managing diversity.
Recently she reported to me the following:
I just spent half an hour talking to a male department head about one of his untenured women faculty members, who had been in to talk to me about what she perceives as unequal treatment by the head. I talked about how perceptions are important even though he feels as though he is being fair. I talked about accumulation of disadvantage. I talked about how if
they ever want to diversify their department it is important to have not just successful but
happy female and minority faculty members.
And at the end of the half hour, I think that he walked out convinced that he was right and everything was fair and hunky dory and he need only apologize for one kerfuffle that involved [one particular incident].
My work here is obviously not done, but I am not hopeful that it can be done. Worst of all, this…department head [is] a younger guy with (I think) a professional wife…the kind we hope that get it and are our allies.
FSA is not new to the business of dealing with diversity issues and trying to educate her colleagues. She is quite an expert in this area. So it’s not that she doesn’t know how to talk to people about this stuff.
It’s just that she is tired, oh so very tired, of banging her head against the giant wall built of Nice Guys Who Just Don’t Get It. The guys who listen, and then say “Okay, I’m sorry you got so upset over that.” The people who are all for including women and minorities, as long as nothing substantive about longstanding departmental culture really has to change. The folks who think that if women are not being accosted in the hallways and hit up for sexual favors in the lab, then everything must be, well, hunky dory. The scientists who think that there is absolutely nothing that social science can teach them about how to create a better, more equitable scientific culture. The Nice Guy Knuckleheads who believe with all the faith that a creationist believes in an Intelligent Designer that Science is a Meritocracy.
FSA, I feel your pain, and if I could I would go right now and puke on your Nice Guy Department Head’s shoes. But I have the feeling he’d just look up in bewilderment and say, “Now why in the world would you do that? I’m such a nice guy!”
Female Science Professor has a great Q&A post, So They Had To Hire A Woman. Here’s a sample:
Question: So you’re going to get a Ph.D.? Couldn’t you find anyone to marry you?
Answer 1: Why would I want to get married when so many men are just like you?
Answer 2: That’s right, and I want to be a professor so that there are fewer people like you saying things like that.
I much prefer the first answer. Heh.
But really, once you start perusing the comments, it’s absolutely stunning how many women report having some variant of this question thrown in their face. Like this comment from Professor in Training: