2.22.2010

Glossary of Mansplaining

So discussions of the mansplaining phenomenon were all over the feminist blogosphere a couple weeks back, and the comment threads were rich with examples of all kinds of mansplaining. So varied were the types of mansplaining discussed, in fact, that I decided I wanted to create a glossary of mansplaining and mansplainers, as a handy reference guide. So here it is: the Glossary of Mainsplaining!

To begin, a quick explanation of what mansplaining is. It is what happens when a person with privilege (I refer to it as mansplaining and reliant on male privilege, but the idea may be equally applied to white people 'splaining to PoC, or currently-abled people 'splaining to disabled people, or cis people 'splaining to trans people, etc. Anywhere there is an imbalance of privilege between participants in a conversation.) takes it upon themselves to condescendingly explain something to a non-privileged person, regardless of whether or not they know what the hell they're talking about, regardless of whether or not the non-privileged person may in fact know quite a bit more about the subject than they do, and they rely on their privilege to back them up and support their right to hold forth.

The subtypes of mansplaining identified so far are as follows. If you have an entry for the Glossary of Mansplaining I haven't covered, please drop it in comments or email me, so I can add it!

  • Task-Incompetence Mansplaining: Where a man takes it upon himself to perform repairs to a vehicle, or make household modifications, that he knows nothing about, over the protests of the woman with which he co-resides who actually knows how to fix the item in question, simply because he is The Man and therefore more qualified to fix things.
  • Task-Incompetence Mansplaining Corollary: Where a man assumes that a woman with whom he is speaking cannot possibly know how to fix her own car/house/computer, because she is a woman, and must explain to her exactly how to do it. Bonus points if he combines it with Task-Incompetence Mansplaining by mansplaining how to fix something you know how to fix, with a method for fixing it that will not fix it at all.
  • You-Do-Not-Know-How-This-Works-Because-It-Is-Man-Business Mansplaining: Related to Task-Incompetence-Mansplaining. Where a man repeatedly disregards a woman's advice for fixing a problem that he feels can only be understood by another man. For example, a man who will not take computer advice from a woman, but who will take the exact same advice from the man standing next to her. Bonus points if he then turns around and mansplains to her the advice he listened to from the man but not from her!
  • I-Know-More-About-Being-A-Woman-Than-Women-Do Mansplaining: Where a man will mansplain to women that really, women *like* to be catcalled at, or that cramps really aren't that bad and women need to just suck it up and quit whining, or holds forth on any other woman-specific experiences as if he knows what the hell he's talking about. May also take the form of "Women like to do X because they think Y!", without a shred of evidence that actual women either like X or think Y.
  • IKMABAWTWD Corollary: What-Women-Need-To-Do-Is Mansplaining: Where the mansplainer will be happy to tell women what they need to do in order to fix what he perceives their flaws to be. For example, the NY Bar Association's panel featuring a bunch of male lawyers telling female lawyers how to fix themselves to be more successful.
  • IKMABAWTWD Corollary 2: My-Girlfriend-Says Mansplaining: Where the mansplainer says that his girlfriend/sister/mother/other female friend does X or thinks Y, therefore all women must do/think the same.
  • My-Manliness-Knows-Everything Mansplaining: Where a subject comes up that the man knows little to nothing about, but he holds forth on the subject anyway, bullshitting like he's some kind of specialist, and expecting that nobody will call him on it because duh, he's The Man in the conversation.
  • Emotions-Invalidate-Your-Argument Mansplaining: Where in the course of a heated discussion, the woman to whom the mansplainer is speaking gets visibly upset, perhaps even to the point of being teary-eyed or actually crying, and the mansplainer takes that opportunity to mansplain that her visible emotional state means that she automatically loses the argument and he wins, because he is able to remain perfectly cool and rational.
  • It-Does-Not-Mean-What-You-Think-It-Means Mansplaining (aka gaslighting): Where a mansplainer will, upon hearing a woman describe some act of harassment or sexism, immediately jump in to tell her it wasn't sexist, or that she was imagining the creepy feeling she got from that guy, or what have you, based on the premise that, as a man, his interpretation of events (for which he may or may not have even been present) is more accurate and reliable than hers.
  • It-Only-Exists-If-I've-Personally-Seen-It Mansplaining: Where a mansplainer will only acknowledge the existence of, for example, sexual harassment in the workplace, if he has actually been a witness to the harassment. Often takes the form of "Oh, that doesn't really happen. I've never seen it happen." as if the two are equivalent statements.
  • Telepathy Mansplaining: Where a mansplainer, upon listening to you say "I think X/I feel X" on a given subject, will then argue with you that you don't really think/feel that way, despite repeated protestations that no, really, you *do* know how you feel about it without being told, thanks.

So there it is, the Glossary of Mansplaining. As I said, if you have suggestions for new entries, feel free to post them in comments or email me!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I get cissplainin AND mansplainin all the time.

WitchWords said...

I would imagine that the 'splaining phenomenon only gets worse the more oppressions one embodies. >.<

CaitieCat said...

Is good post, as ever. Should be Blogarounded. :)

ohands said...

Love this.

WitchWords said...

Thanks, Caitie! I had almost wondered if I might send Liss a link, see if she wants to include the link in the Shaxicon entry for mansplaining...

ohands, thank you!

Aine said...

I know that whining about looking young isn't something I'll get much sympathy for, but I'm 27 and can pass for 16, and this really amplifies the 'splaining. Some days it seems like I've got no hope of getting taken seriously no matter what I say. There are only so many 'little lady' comments you can put up with. Often people (generally male, I must admit) look at me with a vaguely confused expression as I speak, and then don't reply to me, acting as though I'm not there. It's as though hearing 'adult' speech coming out of a young face breaks their brain.

Jadelyn said...

Ageism sucks.  Especially the intersection of sexism and ageism that it sounds like you're describing - dudes getting all "young lady" with you.  My condolences.  :-/

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