Mansplain to Me

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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141 Responses

  1. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    You are asking this question in a space dominated by men. I’m not sure if you really want an answer, or if this is just a clever way of dismissing the concept and sneering at it, without actually being obvious.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      I actually want an answer.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      I’ve asked here because I do not have another forum and because I tend to believe that the commentariat here is capable of either answering the question or pointing me toward an explanation that will make sense to me. I assure you I’m not attempting to dismiss the concept, although I will admit (as I did in an update that I attached as a result of your comment) that I am dubious that what we’re seeing is somehow gender specific and not just generally inappropriate behavior. That though could be a function of my desire to boil all concepts into simpler ones, so in this case I create a world in which there is dickish behavior and not dickish behavior.Report

  2. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Here’s my understanding of it: Mansplaining is when a guy takes it upon himself to explain to women something that they don’t require his explanation for.

    The most typical type is a guy ‘explaining’ what does or doesn’t constitute sexual harassment, rape, sexism, or other things that women – due to experience – are generally more familiar with. The ur-example is the “let me explain to you why the thing you experienced as sexism wasn’t actually sexist” comment.

    Something else that may qualify – I’m not sure as I don’t follow the terminology closely – is a guy explaining something on the assumption that a woman, due to being a woman, wouldn’t understand about it – comic books, video games, what have you. (This only counts if the assumption is being made – I’ve frequently asked questions about comic books on Jaybird’s subblogs and am grateful for the recommendations because I actually don’t know much at all about them.) Female geeks find this annoying.

    Characteristics of the mansplain are that is is always from a man towards a woman/women, and is generally patronizing or comes across as such.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      I hope I can ask follow-ups:

      I certainly recognize that what you’re describing is patronizing. But wouldn’t it be patronizing regardless of gender? Is the assumption that the patronizing behavior is fueled by an animus toward women, rather than perhaps a general animus, fair? How, for example, can we know that the jerkoff who insists upon explaining the nuances of a stupid Batman comic to a woman wouldn’t do the same to a man?Report

      • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

        I think the issue is that it happens intergenderally with enough frequency that it becomes itsw own special kind of patronizing. Part of a larger and particularly aggravating pattern.

        (Which is not to say I understand it all, or more particularly how to avoid it, but that’s my best understanding of it.)Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        This is all an element of the particular type of assholery called “I am the priviledged person, and therefore I know everything.”
        Seen when a white person says how “that’s not really racist, and you shouldn’t be upset about it”, or explaining what racism is to a black person.

        It’s flagged as mansplaining, because “go back to your hole and THINK, and maybe talk to some real life people” is what we mean. not that I tend to use the term.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      Way to hit submit too early: I also meant to thank you for your answer. The concept of being patronized to helps.Report

    • Avatar Matt says:

      But shouldn’t a man–or anyone, for that matter–have a right to an opinion about something that directly affects him? Accusations of sexism, sexual harassment, etc. are very serious matters among people who count. So if a man believes he is being falsely accused of these things, doesn’t he have a right to refute or at least address the charges?Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I am routinely regarded, particularly by those who don’t know me, as a jerk.

    With me it’s the opposite.Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Mansplaining is disagreeing with feminists on a topic on which they believe themselves to have special insight.Report

  5. Avatar stuhlmann says:

    Is there a woman’s version of mansplaining – women patronizing men?Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      In my opinion? Not really; at least, not anything common enough to need a moniker.

      Due to the way society works – due to the fact that a woman isn’t going to get anywhere if she’s unable to communicate with men, due to the fact that there’s a better-than-even chance she’s employed by men, due to the fact that most of our media is produced by men and features male protagonists and is from a male perspective – your average woman is going to have a much better understanding of men and male experiences than your average man has of women and female experiences. Not because women are smarter or better than men, but because we’re living in a world where the male point of view is the default one.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        Katherine,

        Can I offer a possible inverse example? I was a stay-at-home father for a year and a half. The number of times women expressed a general disbelief that I was able to keep my son alive and well (and changed and fed and bathed…) was too numerous to count. Nevermind the repeated questions about whether or not I had done things “right” – whatever that meant. Would that be a similar situation in reverse? Or was that standard, patronizing behavior?Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Yup. Unless you’re being asked about things that you might legitimately not know, with a legitimate “let us fill you in” tone. (aka white parent being told how african-american hair works, and how to groom it properly. Probably NOT “dress your black girl in pink so people don’t think she’s a boy” unless it’s put particularly well).Report

        • Avatar bookdragon says:

          Sympathy. My husband was a stay-at-home-dad for 2 years and did an outstanding job of it, but got his share of that sort of nonsense. Of course, he also got lots of sympathy and kudos for doing what any stay-at-home-mom would have just been expected to do, so the double standard sort of evened out for him.

          I, otoh, got sort of annoyed at all of the people (men and women) who seemed to think that I should be upset/worried that he was the one at home. First, I married someone who is a great father. Why would it worry me that he’s doing that full time? Second, I’ve never seen a guy asked if he’s jealous that his wife is staying home with the kids.

          Not really sure what sort of ‘splaining that falls under.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW says:

          Yes, that certainly sounds like an example. There’s the same characteristic as the second type of ‘mansplaining’ I mentioned: assuming a person knows nothing about a subject because it’s traditionally associated with the other gender.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Harris says:

        “due to the fact that most of our media is produced by men and features male protagonists and is from a male perspective”

        At one time this was the case, but today This common trope is less and less accurate. As someone who spent seven years toiling away in the bowels of such companies as Viacom and Time Warner I can assure you that most media is, in fact, produced by women and gay men. The obvious exceptions to this being most films produced by Hollywoodand old-school news divisions (print and t.v.). Since I don’t have any direct knowledge of the gender dynamics of the blogosphere I won’t speak to that. But the field of marketing and advertising, categories that fall just inside the media umbrella, are also dominated by female and gay voices.

        (Now, there might be an interesting side discussion about whether gay males deserve to be lumped in with the so-called male patriarchy, but I’m not going to do that here.)

        What I think is interesting about this paradigm Katherine, is that despite the prevalence of women working in media, the messages put forth by the media have been slow to catch up to the gender realities of the workplace. Women are thus employed to reach other women with messages aimed at selling products to them, whether based on appearance or as the central purchaser of household goods.

        As markets and demographics get sliced thinner and thinner, the expertise needed to sell products to them becomes more and more specialized. The insidiousness of “mansplaining” is that it attempts to revert the paradigms back to a default position, as you excellently put it.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW says:

          It’s still the case, although I agree that it’s definitely less so. Movies, TV shows and books were the main media I was referring to, and all of them tend to have substantially more male writers and male characters than female ones.

          What I think is interesting about this paradigm Katherine, is that despite the prevalence of women working in media, the messages put forth by the media have been slow to catch up to the gender realities of the workplace. Women are thus employed to reach other women with messages aimed at selling products to them, whether based on appearance or as the central purchaser of household goods.

          Yes, it’s interesting. Women in advertising doesn’t seem to have improved advertising in terms of the gender biases (household products are marketed to women; couples are typically shown in terms of gender stereotypes; attractive women are used to sell products to men). Are advertising execs typically female or male?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        In my opinion? Not really; at least, not anything common enough to need a moniker.

        Watch daytime commercial television.

        I will readily submit that there’s a structural difference to, “I’m a patronizing dickhead of a man, who particularly is patronizing to women subordinates, and I’m statistically likely to be in charge of some women” vs. “I watch (and agree with) patronizing dickhead commercials about how men can’t mop and always screw up the laundry.” Huge qualitative difference.

        But there’s a difference between “pernicious sexism that has (this) effect because one sex is over-represented in management in the workforce” and “pernicious sexism that has (this other) effect because… well, it’s just insulting”.

        The difference is in effect. Not underlying dickishness. I don’t think “mansplaining” deserves its own term; it’s describing the “being a dick” as the problem. Women are dicks too, all the time.

        It’s the structural power imbalance that is the big societal problem that can be potentially addressed. Being a dick isn’t something you can really correct for, in policy.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Watch daytime commercial television.

          At least in my corner of the sphere, that does get its own special term: dufus dad.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW says:

          I think the difference here is that what you’re pointing out is an offensive stereotype that’s due to sexism against women but is bad for women and men both. The underlying idea is “housekeeping is women’s work”, leading into “men know nothing about housekeeping”. One effect is that it insults men; the other, arguably more substantive one is that it perpetuates the trend of women (even in families where both husband and wife work) doing more of the housekeeping and being seen as the default people charge of it.

          I don’t think “women think men are idiots” is the fundamental cause of those ads. To some degree, ‘progress’ from the ’50s stereotypes means we’ve gone from “women have to do [traditional female task] because it’s their duty and purpose in life” do “women have to do [traditional female task] because obviously the guys would just screw it up”. But that doesn’t get us away from certain tasks being culturally assigned to women and others to men.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      YES. Mostly when women claim that “men can’t be raped” or that a man being raped is somehow less emotionally traumatizing than a woman being raped.Report

  6. Avatar n says:

    “Mansplaining?” (let you urban dictionary that for me…)

    Your yellow t-shirt photo is small, but in it, you have that “teddy bear” look women supposedly prefer.
    I’m thin at average height, and have similar problem as your introductory paragraphs. I also don’t bother with the charismatic act. We may be “sending visual clues” that our minds don’t hew to the beaten path (metaphorzzzzz)

    Maybe You/I am The Most Interesting Man in the World whom nobody knows. (g)
    I think of ourselves as shock troops for tolerance.

    Another point: not all minorities are visible minorities.Report

  7. Avatar david says:

    As I understand it, feminists often argue that female perspectives are given insufficient consideration. ‘Mansplaining’ is then what happens when a discussion of female perspectives is ongoing and along comes (presumably) a man who says: no, stop, you should be considering my (male) perspective first, with the degree of respect and privilege I am used to, with regards to my (male) preferences and needs*. Hence ‘mansplaining’ about what behavior is correctly considered sexual harassment, as KatherineMW** mentioned above.

    * yes, this is a term most easily understood if you already accept common feminist ideas.

    ** I am aware of the irony of a ‘david’ elaborating what a ‘KatherineMW’ already noted on the topic…Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is an interesting illumination.

      It hugely relies upon this contention: “a man who says: no, stop, you should be considering my (male) perspective first, with the degree of respect and privilege I am used to, with regards to my (male) preferences and needs*.”

      I readily grant that there are men who feel there is a degree of respect and privilege that they’re used to. Sure.

      I can’t falsify that statement, though. Anywhere. If someone points at someone and says, “He’s not being just a dick, he’s mansplaining”, there’s no way for me to disagree, because it relies upon a measure of someone’s internal monologue that neither I nor the person leveling the charge really can claim. The self-referential nature of this accusation is notable: “I can recognize when men are doing this to me, specifically, because the man, in particular, has embedded privilege because he’s a man and he disregards my opinion as a female… because I’m a woman”. There’s four assumptions of special insight there.

      One, that the man is doing it because of his embedded privilege
      Two, that the man’s embedded privilege is specifically canted in this instance towards sexism
      Three, that the woman is capable of accurately assessing, in this case, both of the previous two underlying motivations
      Four, that the male observer isn’t.

      For a complaint that is, essentially, “You cannot objectively weigh in on this topic”, the charge seems to rely quite a bit on the accusers ability to objectively weigh in on four different subjective observations with accuracy.

      I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen with frequency. I’m not saying that the frequency is also high enough that it represents a real problem.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’m not sure this is right Patrick, from my understanding of the concept. I don’t think mansplainin is the act of a man expressing his views to a woman. It seems to me it’s more closely aligned with the act of a man telling a woman she’s a) wrong because b) she’s in effect not adopting the man’s (ie., the correct) pov.

        Which I think is an objective property, yes?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I mean, to flesh it out just a bit: the concept refers to splainin, yes? So mansplainin is the act of a man “splainin” to a woman (eg) how the world works, in what ways her views are wrong, etc etc.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            For whatever this is worth, I’ve seen it used as a stopgap against challenge. For instance, I ran into it in the following formulation:

            -Female author, “I thought the movie said this…”
            -My response, “I thought the movie showed more of this…”
            -Female author, “Thanks for mansplaining the movie to me!”

            As if simply the act of disagreeing meant that I was lecturing her.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Yeah, I don’t disagree that that happens Sam. The concept only makes sense in practice if you’re on the “being splained to” end of it, so it’s hard for folks like you and me and Patrick – people identified with these types of privilege – to get clear on it. The only time I’ve ever been accused of whitesplainin was when I disagreed with a black woman about the effectiveness of her tactics – I said they were counterproductive – and I was immediately accused of whitesplainin. It took me a while to understand that I could quite rightly have been doing just that, even tho I thought the point I was making was entirely objective and race/gender neutral.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              ask more. sound more open. works wonders.
              I should try it sometime. 😉Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          That’s not the way it was used, the one time the charge was leveled in my direction. It also doesn’t appear to be the way I see it used, more generally.

          Of course, I only dip my toes in feminist blogs, and not all of them touch on this particular transgression.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Yeah. It’s a loose enough concept, especially in use, that it’s probably impossible to come up with a definition everyone will agree on.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          I’ve seen the word used in practice many times, and I assure you that Patrick has the right of it. There may be some platonic sense in which it refers only to men who are in fact acting on an assumption of superiority due to being a man; in practice, accusations of mansplaining are frequently made in the absence of any evidence of a such an attitude on the part of the man.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            What feminists chalk up to “mansplaining” is usually just this.

            I’m linking to that partly because it’s appropriate, and partly because using Randall Munroe’s work to criticize feminists makes me happy.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            The interesting thing about the concept, BB, is that men who mansplain are incapable of determining when they’ve done so. Only the “splainee” can determine that. Which might account for why men are so reluctant to admit it actually happens.Report

            • Avatar James H. says:

              Only the “splainee” can determine that

              So Patrick is right, it’s not falsifiable.

              And I can never know if I’m doing it or not until I’m told so by someone who necessarily has an incentive to claim I am.

              No, that doesn’t bother me at all.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No Patrick isn’t right. It’s that the splainer cannot determine it. A third party, however, could.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                Any third party, or only the ‘splainee?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Any third party who understands what the concept is.

                Look James, the concept comes out of a tradition of thought which criticizes the patriarchal structures in society, one of which is the tendency of men to splain to women how to feel about women’s issues, or women’s role in society, or women’s definitions of rape….

                Women in this tradition believe – not surprisingly! – that they are completely capable of determining their own views on those issues without input from men. I think it’s a pretty easy concept in theory, but it gets tetchy in practice because, as I said, any man who mansplains about these issues, and tells women how their supposed to feel, or think, or whatever, about these issues is completely unaware that they’re doing so.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                So, not just the splainee? Because that’s a very different claim, and I’m far more comfortable agreeing to the any understanding third party claim.

                Re your second paragraph, I’ve said that I agree there’s a real phenomenon. I’m not arguing that.

                Re your third paragraph, I have no doubt women can determine their views w/o male input. I’m also not arguing that. But I am interested in whether they, like the mansplainers, have an incentive to have a view that might not be shared by an omniscient third party. And to the extent mansplainin as a phenomenon is more than just a felt reaction, but a description of an other’s motivation, do they have the capacity an omniscient third party would have to always properly discern the motivation?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But I am interested in whether they, like the mansplainers, have an incentive to have a view that might not be shared by an omniscient third party. And to the extent mansplainin as a phenomenon is more than just a felt reaction, but a description of an other’s motivation, do they have the capacity an omniscient third party would have to always properly discern the motivation?

                If we just leave it at this – mansplainin is a real phenomenon that occurs in the world which can be objectively determined – is that good enough for now?

                All that other stuff is pretty secondary, it seems to me, and I’m afraid that talking about motives for introducing the concept will incline you to reduce it to a psychological property of women rather than an objectively behavioral one.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If I could edit: “an objectively behavioral one of men.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                If you think I’m trying to reduce it to a psychological property of women, then you’re not really accepting my statement that I see it as an objectively real phenomenon. I do, plain and simple.

                But what I’m asking about is who gets to determine when it’s happening? Is an accusation equivalent to a guilty verdict? Can a man ever contradict a woman on whether it’s happening without committing it? Can a male ever legitimately deny the act without thereby proving his own guilt?

                To get more pointed, there seems to be privilege built into the understanding of who gets to determine whether mansplainin is happening in a specific case (not in determing whether it happens in general), which at the least is ironic since it is itself a response to privilege, but even more which creates its own temptations to abuse, as all privileges do.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But what I’m asking about is who gets to determine when it’s happening? Is an accusation equivalent to a guilty verdict? Can a man ever contradict a woman on whether it’s happening without committing it? Can a male ever legitimately deny the act without thereby proving his own guilt?

                Mansplainin can occur irrespective of anyone’s accusation or even recognition that it has occurred. The accusation of mansplainin is true when the criteria are met.

                To get more pointed, there seems to be privilege built into the understanding of who gets to determine whether mansplainin is happening in a specific case (not in determing whether it happens in general), which at the least is ironic since it is itself a response to privilege, but even more which creates its own temptations to abuse, as all privileges do.

                That’s the psychological stuff I didn’t want to get into.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Or, I’ll get into it this much: the concept of privilege applies to mansplainin only as a condition on when it occurs. (And that view was expressed by me, I think, and not either Katherine or Loviatar.) But the accusation of when it occurs isn’t dependent on privilege. It’s just a description of a state of affairs.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                The accusation of mansplainin is true when the criteria are met.

                Trivially true. We’ve agreed on that trivial truth, but it’s not particularly interesting (except to the extent there seems to be less than perfect agreement on the criteria).

                What matters is who gets to decide when the criteria are met? Sorry if that takes us into some psychological stuff, but that’s where the important questions are. (But I vigorously object to the characterization of that discussion as “reducing” mansplainin to a psychological property of women. The issue is how we deal with that objective reality, which involves some issues of psychology perhaps, but by it’s fundamental nature–as a response to objective reality–cannot be reducing it to merely a psychological experience.)Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                Stillwater,

                On your last response, fine, but who gets to decide?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                In one sense, no one: it’s just a fact of the matter.

                In another, the person who correctly understands the concept. It’s just like any other concept, I suppose, in that it can be used incorrectly, or misunderstood, or used for self-serving purposes, or may even be denied as a property existing in the world.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ahh. I think I know what you’re asking. Yes, in general (tho I think there are exceptions) the person doing the mansplainin will be unaware that he’s engaging in that behavior until it’s pointed out to him. At that point, he can either accept the description of things, deny that he was doing it, refuse to concede that the concept applies to the real world, try to reduce mansplainin to a pshychological property of women, etc etc.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                So what about the guy who’s not (or at least plausibly isn’t) but is accused of doing so? Can he make a defense that cannot itself just be dismissed as mansplainin?

                I’m playing defense attorney here; everyone’s entitled to a vigorous defense, right?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That was too quick. In a dialogue, only the splainee will be able to recognize when “splainin” is taking place. That’s because a “splainer” is definitionally incapable of recognizing it.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                Then we must have different definitions of falsifiable. And I’ll stand by my concern about incentives.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No. They can tell you the definition of the term, and you can make up your own mind. The “incentive” might be that you refuse to think that the term applies to you.

                Read Loviatar’s definition. Or Katherine’s. Those are fully general definitions that objectively either do, or don’t, apply to phenomena in the real world.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                Sorry, but you just contradicted yourself. “Only the splainee will be able to recognize when splainin is taking place” contradicts “you can make up your own mind.”

                I don’t doubt there is a real phenomenon we are trying to describe, but beyond that everything is getting less clear, rather than more.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “You can make up your own mind about the concept” accords you intellectual agency.

                “Only the splainee will be able to recognize when splainin is taking place” refers to a dialogue, (which is between 2 , and only 2, people James).

                Hence, no contradiction!Report

  8. Avatar Loviatar says:

    I love how within the first dozen comments Brandon tries to route the discussion into how its a “feminists” problem for disagreeing with men explaining things to woman.

    Brandon Berg
    Mansplaining is disagreeing with feminists on a topic on which they believe themselves to have special insight.Report

  9. Avatar Matty says:

    So patronising behaviour motivated by sexism, particularly if it includes the assumption that a man knows more about a woman than she knows about herself?

    That seems a useful if rather specialised concept although in online discussions ‘mansplaining’ seems to be used (like a lot of other ideas that deserve better) as a variation on ‘shut up’.

    Incidentally are there terms for similar behaviour in other cases, i.e whitesplaining?Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      I’m pretty sure ‘whitesplaining’ exists as a term, though it doesn’t seem as widely used.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      I’ve also seen “straightsplaining” used in a similar context.Report

      • Avatar Vijay says:

        My new favorite word extension is “-splaining”. Add this to certain words and you very simply capture the whole cognitive process by which a privileged person is not only able to be oblivious to their own privilege but is also able to dismiss the experience of any person not so privileged. Examples: mansplaining, whitesplaining, richsplaining, straightsplaining, and christiansplaining.Report

  10. Avatar Chris says:

    I always took it to mean a man trying to explain to a woman something about women’s experience. So, when a man says, “This is how you should fee aboutl/react to/think about [insert uniquely female experience here],” he’s mansplaining. I’ve seen the label used effectively and ineffectively on the internet, but it’s definitely a real phenomenon.Report

  11. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Katherine explained mansplaining very well.

    However, when it comes to “real women” in your life not knowing the term, I think that is a sign of internet culture.

    I imagine that the number of people who participate seriously in internet forums and communities is rather small over all. A lot of people probably would still see doing so as being a waste of time. Perhaps I am wrong. Lots of people probably read Jezebel and other sites but how many people take the linguistics and terminology from their sites and subcultures and import them to everyday life.

    Mansplaining is one of those terms that is easy to use or accuse someone of doing on the Internet but harder in real life. The other great internet thing that gets over used is accusing someone of privilege or a first-world problem.

    There also seems to be a lot of connection to the term and geek culture. A lot of women talk about sexism in the gaming community (maybe geek culture overall) because a lot of guys want it to be their own treehouse.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I’ve never heard the term before, and I waste a lot of time on web forums. I know that there is a mini-trend of putting the word “man” or “bro” on the front of every word, but I’ve never run across “mansplain” before. I doubt that it’s even popular among Brandon’s feminists, although from the look of the Jezebel article, the word is just another opportunity insulting men. Then again, what else would you expect from that site?

      Are men more guilty of condescending explanations? Not to my observation.Report

  12. Avatar James Hanley says:

    From the Jezebel link:

    [Mansplainining is] the invariably gendered “confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant.” … the “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of (the male) gender gets stuck.”

    So I was in a meeting the other day, and a female professor in the humanities was complaining about a periodic table of the elements that was in an inconvenient spot in a classroom that she used. She accused the Chemistry department of “territory claiming” and in response to a suggestion that perhaps they actually needed it for their classes, she stated that they used it so little that having it there was not pedagogically justified.

    I can’t see how that person’s behavior does not fit the description of “”confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant” and the “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness.” That is, some portion of the female gender gets stuck there, too. So if that’s the definition, it does come across as an unwarranted criticism of men; not unwarranted because it’s untrue, but because it’s equally true of both genders. Or put more bluntly, I’ve been around both genders long enough to know that both tend to talk out of their ass far too often.

    But KatherineMW’s approach makes sense to me.

    Mansplaining is when a guy takes it upon himself to explain to women something that they don’t require his explanation for, [such as] ‘explaining’ what does or doesn’t constitute sexual harassment, rape, sexism, or other things that women – due to experience – are generally more familiar with.

    Because that does get to something where I think there is a gender difference. This is clearly a subcategory of that broader category of “confrontational confidence of the ignorant,” but it’s one that is more specific to men, because this focuses on that “let me explain why that thing you claim harms you doesn’t actually harm you.” There are cases where a woman could do that to a man, but there’s a whole set of inter-related harms that are so significantly more likely to be perpetrated by men against women, and denied by (some, but too many) men that they stand as a special circumstances. Mansplainin’ in that context makes sense to me.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      Jezebel’s attempt at a definition strikes me as a perfect example of having trouble communicating with anyone who doesn’t already share your paradigm. Translated into colloquial, it seems to be defining mansplaining as “thinking you know far more about what you’re talking about than you actually do (in the context of men talking about gender issues)”, which isn’t necessarily a bad definition either.

      (BTW, is your university smallish? Pretty near every campus I’ve been on has separate buildings for the humanities and sciences.)Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        As I remember, his college is indeed quite small. But even at the reasonably large University that I went to, there were humanities classes in the science buildings and science classes in the humanities buildingsReport

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Yes, we’re smallish. Not even a university; just a mere college. 😉 Technically we political scientists and our historians (including the person referenced) are in one building and the chemists in another, but the buildings are attached to each other, joined by a hallway. And the room at issue is the only one on our side of campus capable of holding a class of 60 students, so with our record size frosh class (hooray for us–job security!) the Chemists have had to move the lectures for an intro class into that room.

        For me, that intermixing with other departments is the biggest benefit to working at a small college. An economist has his office directly across the hall from me, and the history department shares our hall. The business department is just around the corner, and past them and into the other building we have our sciences. So on a regular basis I get to talk to historians, business profs, economist, chemists, biologists and geologists. That beats the hell out of only talking to political scientists all the time!Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          No mathematics department?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Actually, yes, they’re downstairs in the other building. Nobody talks to them, though. They’re an odd bunch, and it’s only partly due to their being mathematicians.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              You’d be surprised how much being a mathematician actually matters.

              I was a lot more odd when I practiced.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Oh, I’m not denying that has something to do with it. But there are also some quirks that aren’t really associated with being a mathematician. Which isn’t to say they’re bad people in any way, and I don’t actually dislike any of them.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              That’s what I like about the internet. Nobody knows you’re a mathematician.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                At least until you start mathsplaining.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The problem is that that term leads to an infinite regress, “infinite” meaning “without bound”, or, somewhat tautologically “larger than any finite number”. In fact, we may, without loss of generality, use “mathsplaining” to stand in for “Xsplaining”, where X is any discipline that uses precise reasoning to draw conclusions that do not align with naive intuition.Report

    • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

      This is clearly a subcategory of that broader category of “confrontational confidence of the ignorant,” but it’s one that is more specific to men, because this focuses on that “let me explain why that thing you claim harms you doesn’t actually harm you.”

      Heh. So are there politically-based versions of this as well?

      Liberal-splainin’: “Let me explain why affirmative action doesn’t actually harm you.”
      Conserva-splainin’: “Let me explain why the war on drugs doesn’t actually harm you.”
      Libertaria-splainin’: “Let me explain why rising inequality doesn’t actually harm you.”
      etc…Report

  13. Avatar bookdragon says:

    I think I’ve seen the term used most with male posters who jump into a discussion by women about sexism or harassment and throw out derailing comments, esp. comments that try to depict men as the ‘real victims’ in whatever is being discussed.

    For instance, not long ago there was an incident at a con where a guy harassed and basically stalked a woman. Several bloggers discussed the situation and the con’s response to it. Invariably, you got a number of guys jumping in defending the harasser’s behavior and saying the women were just being _mean_ by, you know, rejecting unwanted attention from someone following them around like a creepy stalker.

    btw, it isn’t always men doing this to women. Several male bloggers who took the side of the woman blogged about it and got mansplaining responses. The difference is that they, being men and not expected to always be ‘nice’, just called the commenters out for being clueless dicks without having to deal with retorts questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      oh, boy.
      Part of the problem is that some of the women at cons are Attention Whores, who really do get high off the power of being suck a goddamn cocktease.
      People are rightly a bit ticked at this.

      There is a large proportion of men in this country who do not get women, do not undersatnd how to attract women, and will never get a girl. Some of them want to turn America into a place where rape is normalized. These are not good people (luckily, they go to their own cons, and say the hell away from the geeks, mostly.)Report

      • Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

        Dressing as they please is in no way “part of the problem” of sexual harassment at cons, and is a pretty egregious example of victim blaming.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          oof. wrong problem.
          sexual harrassment is its own problem, and probably should be tackled as such.
          the problem I was addressing there was why people thought it might ever be freaking acceptable to justify sexual harassment.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Wow, that first paragraph is some good mansplainin’ by Kimmi!Report

        • Avatar James Vonder Haar says:

          That’s a decent subcategory of mansplaining: claiming special insight into someone’s motives, better than they have, owing to their gender. Obviously abstracted this kind of assholery is not uncommon and stretches beyond gender, but the biases and attitudes at play here merit a special term for the situation.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          Okay, good. I’m glad I wasn’t the only person who found Kimmi’s comment HUGELY inappropriate.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            yup. I do a good job of being an asshole enough of the time…
            But you’ll note that I don’t consider “parading around naked in Sweden” to be attention whoring.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon says:

            I’m glad too. I just walked away for awhile because I’m too new to this forum to reply to that the way it made me want to reply.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              yeah, as I stated above, how I put that was … really bad.
              There is always a problem with sexual harrassment.
              It is not the same problem as people being attention whores.

              And life ain’t fair, and life ain’t liberal, no matter how much we wish it to be.
              Wearing a cute red dress and getting into a car (*cough* Amos *cough*) with a strange fan is still asking for trouble, even if by rights it ought not to be.

              Asking for trouble ought never to be punished by actually getting in trouble.
              The world’s not perfect, and, in some ways, it ain’t never gonna be.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                The disturbing thing was the immediate jump to the idea that woman must have been ‘asking for it’ when nothing indicated that she was in any way open to or encouraging that sort of attention. Why assume that she was being an ‘attention whore’?

                A really woman ought to be able to dress in something other than burka without having to deal with that sort of assumption.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                hmm… no, I really wasn’t trying to say that.
                Chalk that up to “I suck at talking” I guess.
                I apologize for any hostile feelings my words created…
                I didn’t mean to say that!

                I’m actually making no assumptions in who the people were who were acting in this particular situation. I am, however, saying that JoeShmuck who chimes in over the internet does so with preconcieved notions. And if JoeShmuck only remembers attention whores at the con (they’re showy, and they stir up his emotional centers), he’s liable to say things that in another context, he would bite someone else’s head off for.

                Law of “What I remember must be true”. Sucks, but it’s human.

                There are many things that ought to be true that aren’t. I’ll fight to make sure some of them become true (like letting women go around in shorts and not get glared at, Like I do on a daily basis).
                Some things aren’t going to get fixed, even if we keep on bitching about them. Doesn’t mean bitching isn’t the right thing to do anyway.

                I do apologize, I was attempting to be at least a little understanding towards someone being an asshole. In the process, I appeared to be condoning what they were saying, which I did not mean to.

                p.s. if you had flamed me, it would have been reasonably venue-appropriate, and I hope I would have responded as coherently as I did here.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                Thank you for explaining.

                I’ll say though that trying to be understanding toward someone who is being an asshole is part of the reason they get away with it. If the response from everyone – not just the women who’ve been there and are sick of being quiet and/or understanding about it – was ‘Just stop, you’re being a dick’ more JoeSchmucks would probably just stop. Or at least think twice before whining because a woman didn’t think that the fact they found her attractive meant that she was obligated her entertain them.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                yeah I hear you. particularly the segment whose heads are hard as rocks (includin’ myself in that statement). Sometimes ya hafta shout.

                btw, if you think that I’m one to be shy — stick around. you’ll figure out how mistaken you are. 😉Report

  14. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    It’s been my observation that women talk for different reasons than men. A hundred comedians have made good coin observing these differences. Though I do not have to tell you this: when men communicate, they are attempting to deal with a problem or communicate a fact. Women talk to communicate their feelings, often thinking through a problem as they speak. Women are perfectly capable of communicating in Man Mode. Men are less likely to talk in Woman Mode.

    It’s largely been driven out of us as men: little boys can communicate feelings but somewhere along the line we were told Big Boys Don’t Cry. And they don’t Empathise or Sympathise or Make Small Kindly Noises of a Reassuring Nature. And we’re often miserable as a result, men are. For we do want to play in all the little Reindeer Games and we do have feelings of rejection when we can’t.

    Jerkitude cannot or will not distinguish between these different modes. Like Jerkitude, Mansplaining confuses these modes: a superficial remark does not always require a substantive response. It helps to remember people tell us things because they trust us enough to listen to what they have to say.

    If you have acquired the reputation of a jerk, the protocols of what you call Politician Mode have been violated at some point along the line: some entirely truthful and factual observation you made has escaped into the wild, where it now kicks up its heels and loudly brays and refuses to get back in the Pen of Politeness. Not every truthful thing ought to be said aloud. Everyone you will ever meet is fighting a hard battle and a cutting remark makes people bleed in places you can’t see, as cutting remarks make you bleed in places they can’t see.

    As you are surely aware by now, workplaces are full of insecure people. They are political minefields. Some of those mines are marked, others aren’t. People do talk in workplaces and they’re always talking about the jerks, the poor bastards who’ve had a foot blown off by a mine at some point.

    You say you don’t see the point of Politician Mode in the workplace. The trick to avoiding falsity and obsequiousness is observing with Plato that everyone needs kindness, for we are all fighting a hard battle. I’m a consultant. I have to get people on my side. Often I come into situations where the political fires are still raging. I come in with two strikes against me as a consultant, especially entering a failed project. Well-liked people are clearing out their desks when I’m coming in the door. It’s not a joke. I have about 48 hours to convince people who have every reason to dislike me that I’m on their side and it doesn’t always work. I know what it’s like, not to be invited to the Christmas party. Loneliness is an occupational hazard of my profession. I have to live with it. I do make allies and I can do so with ruthless efficiency. If everyone’s fighting a hard battle, everyone needs allies. Not friends, allies. Friends are a different story entirely and they don’t enter into this discussion.

    The Japanese have a greeting hajimemashite. It can only be said once to someone. You don’t have to use the word, there are other entirely appropriate greetings. Hajimemashite is what you say when you’re aware you’re making a first impression. You’re always making a first impression.

    Take hope, Sam. The fact that it bothers you is enough to tell me you’re not the jerk you think you are. Have you ever gone back to old things you wrote and were somewhat embarrassed by them? That shows you’ve done some growing up in the meantime. If there are people in your life who you feel you’ve offended, there’s no harm done in taking them aside and quietly saying “There are things I’ve done to offend you. They’ve been eating at me for a long time now. [Enumerate specific offences here.] There’s no taking them back, I suppose, but I’m changing, hopefully for the better, enough to know I was a jerk to you in the past.”

    You might be surprised at the reaction you get.Report

  15. Avatar Citizen says:

    Typically women are audio/social oriented while men are visual/mechanical. When you speak you are actually playing more on their turf than yours.
    Here is a tip:
    Never talk to a woman.
    Always talk with her.

    Listen, without trying to find a solution. The nuts and bolts solutions of men will often have to many rough edges.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      I’ve heard this distinction between men & women plenty of times (it’s in the original Mars & Venus book), but I’m skeptical on it. It seems to describe a problem that’s between people with two different personality types more than something that’s specifically male-female. For example, it perfectly describes the way I often interact with my mom – I describe something that’s going wrong with my day, and she immediately offers solutions when I’m mainly looking for sympathy. Similarly, I do know guys who can respond to grousing with “Oh, that sucks” rather than “have you tried [x]?”.Report

      • Avatar Citizen says:

        Gauged reponses, yes thats a problem. The skeptisim has merit in that we are only dealing in probabilities. We take short cuts. Is it a solution we want, or is it therapy? How do you gauge?

        Talking “to” someone is not limited to women. Yes some men hate the patronizing thing as well. We typically just read it as “this guy doesn’t know me so he is assuming we are starting at square one”.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        I strive for “Oh, that sucks,” more often than anything else.

        That said: is “Have you tried…” ever appropriate?Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Always. But expect to be blown off 😉
          Expect that they’ve already come up with the solution that you have —
          and are going to bitch about why it won’t work!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Katherine, the empirical research on differences in communication style doesn’t support Citizen’s analysis. He’s basically trading in stereotypes, sort of like the Mars and Venus books do.Report

        • Avatar Citizen says:

          If there weren’t any differences in the communications styles then why does the term mansplain even exist. Or maybe this is Sams point.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            1.) I never said there aren’t any differences in communication styles. I said that the empirical evidence doesn’t support your analysis. In other words, if differences do exist, they ain’t the ones you describe.
            2.) Why the hell would this affect the existence of mansplaining? Mansplaining isn’t a communication style, it’s a communication act.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            I struggle to understand that differences exist. Were I see an example of mansplaining (as have been offered throughout this thread), I immediately think, “Gosh, that guy is a dick!” Were I to see an example of a patronizing woman talking to a man, I immediately thing, “Gosh, that woman is a dick!” Everything reverts back to this sort of binary classification system of dickish/not-dickish. However, I’m not arguing that is right or wrong. I’m simply saying that’s how it works in my head, so that I struggle with the concept of mansplaining, because to me it looks like other offensive human behavior.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              So. People are using a term. These people, presumably women, use this term to rally women (and women-supporting men) to their side against “said jerk”. Is it effective?
              Perhaps you might not use the term (I don’t, myself), but perhaps even if differences don’t exist, the communication is serving its purpose.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Sam, think of mansplaining as just one particular manifestation of a general type of dickishness: men telling women how they should feel about shit that men don’t have to deal with themselves.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Sam, I thought of another example. Do you know any physicists? Have you ever noticed how physicists like to explain other sciences to experts in those sciences? I’ve had it happen several times with psychology. We’ll call it Physicistplaining. It’s like that.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              It’s a tricky concept, no doubt. Here’s my attempt at defining it:

              Mansplainin is a form of dickishness, but it’s a particular type of dickishness, one that unselfconsciously and unreflectingly assumes that the man’s perspective or judgment is the right perspective simply in virtue of being a man’s view. So men – by virtue of being men! – get to tell women how to think, talk about, react to, understand, etc etc the world women live in.

              If you include the concept of privilege – and more importantly, unargued assumed privilege – in your formulation, you’ll get there. At least, as I understand the concept.

              Same goes for whitesplainin, of course. It’s the unargued assumption, based on white privilege, that white people get to tell black people how to think, talk, feel about, etc the world black people live in.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Also, Sam, part of the problem with these concepts is that the person who’s engaging in mansplainin, or whitesplainin, is by definition completely unaware that they’re engaging in that behavior. If they were aware that the perspective they were adopting was only one of many, and didn’t unreflectingly think it was the correct frame of reference, it wouldn’t be possible for that person to mansplain/whitesplain/physicistsplain.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Mansplainin is a form of dickishness,

                Well, duh.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW says:

          Cool, there’s empirical research on this. Do you know any of the main papers?Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Katherine, sure, there’s a ’93 meta-analysis that’s still pretty widely cited, by Canary and Hause (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01463379309369874). Start there, and use Google Scholar for the more recent stuff that cites it, as pretty much everything on the subject will. Much of the research in the last few years has been in CMC, or computer-mediated communication, so if you do a quick search for gender differences in CMC, you’ll probably find some good stuff too.Report

  16. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    My wife’s really friggin smart. Even though she’s really friggin smart, she does encounter the occasional man that assumes she’s not very smart and tries to explain really friggin obvious things to her. Then, when she interrupts them and says yeah, yeah, she knows what they’re trying to explain to her, they get a bit offended. I guess you could probably call them pompous asses, but the implication often does seem to be that she’s a girl and needs extra explaining, so she laughed when I asked her if she’d heard of mansplaining- no, but she likes that one. I asked her if I ever do that and she said, “No, you’re usually so fishing vague that I have to ask you repeatedly what the hell you’re talking about.”Report

  17. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    I think mansplaining is used legitimately to refer to guys explaining things to “the little lady.” However, like other poorly defined and popular internet terms, it is frequently misused to attempt to shut down the other side of a conversation without actually addressing their points.Report

  18. Avatar BrianM says:

    A related term is “male answer syndrome”. See this Eyebeam comic from 1985: http://eyebeam.com/1985/index.php?num=167

    I work a lot in coffeeshops at the nearby campus. Pay attention in such places, and you’ll see lots of individual men talking at individual women who have a slightly glazed, slightly bored expression. The men are almost always authoritatively explaining The Way Things Are. (You can hear the capitals.) It really jumps out at you once you notice it. The reverse is extremely rare.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      One of my favorite Art-related moments was being in line for a popular exhibit in DC and watching the guy in front of me doing just that to a bored-looking woman. When we went in, they put on those big headphones that explain the art to you with recorded messages and, at some point, the guy unwittingly broke wind very loudly, which made about 80% of the room behind him start laughing. He didn’t realize because he was looking at the art, probably learning more blather to share later. That was when I realized the power of art to move people.Report

      • Avatar ktward says:

        No matter how old I get, a good art joke still cracks me up.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Because I am a child who never got over the fact that the word ‘art’ rhymes with that other primal human expression Rufus so delicately refers to as ‘breaking wind’, a selection of appropriate art quotes (insert the letter ‘f’ as appropriate):

        True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.
        Albert Einstein

        An artist is always alone – if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.
        Henry Miller

        An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have.
        Andy WarholReport

  19. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    Late to the thread, but here goes:

    I can’t speak to the instances in which the author has been accused, fairly or not of mansplaining.

    But the term itself is fairly straightforward: it is about privilege. Those commenters above who talk about the existence of “womansplaining” as if a symmetrical situation existed with respect to privilege, are missing the mark.

    Generally the meme works like this: as a speaker, if I am unaware of my position of privilege as I pontificate to others who don’t share my privilege but are aware of it, I am x-splaining. When a Mitt tells the poors about poverty, he is weathsplaining. When white folk in America tell people of color about racism, they are blacksplaining. And when a man speaks to a woman about sexism, he is mansplaining.

    Hope that helps.Report

  20. Avatar fyrstormer says:

    I’d like to work through the logic I see at play in a charge of “mansplaining”:

    Premise 1:
    A woman is not a man, and has never been a man. All of her thoughts regarding men are the result of second- and third-person observations of men, and anecdotes told to her by other women. Because of this, the woman is not influenced by men’s first-person biases, so she has a more informed and objective viewpoint on interactions with men than would be possible if she *were* influenced by men’s first-person biases. This allows her to accurately assess whether a man she is interacting with is “mansplaining” to her.

    Premise 2:
    A man is not a woman, and has never been a woman. All of his thoughts regarding women are the result of second- and third-person observations of women, and anecdotes told to him by other men. Because of this, the man lacks the first-person experience of being a woman, so he has a less informed and objective viewpoint on interactions with women than would be possible if he *did* have the first-person experience of being a woman. This prevents him from accurately assessing whether he is “mansplaining” to a woman he’s interacting with.

    – – –

    I accept that a third-party could detect incidents of “mansplaining” with reasonable accuracy. I do not accept, however, that either party *directly* involved in an interaction can detect an incident of “mansplaining” with anywhere near the same accuracy as a third-party. Everyone has first-person biases, because everyone has first-person experience; there is no possible way to avoid this, living in a universe that works the way ours does.

    In *my* first-person experience, any attempt by an accused “mansplainer” to explain why he isn’t “mansplaining” is interpreted as *more* “mansplaining”. This is because women inclined to use that word assume they have a greater authority to determine what “mansplaining” is, per the logic I described above. Thus, a man who *continues* to argue with a woman from a position of lesser authority — even regarding an accusation of “mansplaining” — is *by definition* guilty of “mansplaining”.

    So whether or not the man was *originally* guilty of “mansplaining”, once he has been accused of it, he unavoidably commits the offense if he continues to speak *at all* after the accusation has been made. That means the accused “mansplainer” has two choices: stop talking immediately and accept the dishonor of being an accused “mansplainer”, or earn more dishonor by attempting to defend himself.

    There is a reason why our legal system doesn’t allow the victim of a transgression to be the judge, or the jury, or the executioner, much less all three at once. This is why; the victim of a transgression will ALWAYS judge the accused offender guilty, because they already consider themselves to be the offender’s victim. Whether or not an accusation of “mansplaining” is deserved, all a woman has to do is issue the accusation, and everything the man has said (or will say) instantly and irreversibly loses all its credibility in her mind — *and* in the minds of anyone else who might believe her accusation. This is a very dangerous scenario for anyone who values rational thought and civil discourse.

    There are certainly incidents of “mansplaining” that I see on occasion, and those are a problem. I do my best to avoid committing them myself, and I correct myself and others when I think a woman is being talked-down-to simply because she is a woman (as opposed to being factually incorrect). However, because there is no established system for people to objectively judge other people’s conversations on a regular basis, charges of “mansplaining” *can* be used by One Woman to silence One Man, possibly as punishment for the past transgressions of All Men against All Women, or for past transgressions of Other Men against her.

    That scenario would be disturbing in an philosophical sense, but not a practical sense, if it were fairly uncommon. Unfortunately, I see the accusation of “mansplaining” used as a silencing tool against men far more often than I see actual incidents of “mansplaining” in my daily life. Of course, I’m a white man in America, so no doubt my viewpoint is heavily biased in my own favor in ways I’m incapable of comprehending, and that’s why I don’t see the objective reality all around me. What a shame.Report

  21. Avatar fyrstormer says:

    There is another problem with the concept of “mansplaining”, as it has been defined in this conversation: it creates a Cartesian Paradox.

    As others here have explained, “mansplaining” is a behavior that derives from the privileged status of All Men in our society. The exact nature and extent of the privilege One Man possesses is unknown, and indeed unknowable, because it is impossible to know every detail of that One Man’s personal history. Therefore it is impossible to determine exactly what that One Man would be like if he hadn’t lived a privileged life.

    Because that One Man’s privilege is impossible to quantify objectively, it is also impossible for that One Man to compensate for it accurately. So he is left contemplating the idea that a force beyond his ability to comprehend may be deceiving him by altering his perception of the world to an unknown extent, from moment to moment — a classic Cartesian Paradox.

    Because he is supposedly incapable of perceiving or assessing the force that may be deceiving him, his only potential means of comprehending and compensating for it is to believe what another person tells him about the nature of that force. But how can he believe what another person tells him about the nature of the force deceiving him, when he perceives the other person’s description using senses that are susceptible to the force’s deception? Not to mention, the other person’s *perception* of the force deceiving that One Man may itself be warped, as a result of a similar force deceiving *them*!

    This is clearly a very difficult problem, and unfortunately it has no satisfactory solution — hence why it’s a paradox. This is why I cannot accept anyone else’s suggestion that some unknown amount and type of privilege is fundamentally altering my perception of reality in ways I can never comprehend. It puts me in a position of complete powerlessness to govern my own mind.

    I have two choices in this scenario: I can accept the other person’s suggestion, knowing that I may be misunderstanding their suggestion, *and* the person making the suggestion may be misunderstanding me, which means I would have to second-guess everything I do for the rest of my life without any solid evidence to consider; or I can reach the conclusion that the other person is actually a manifestation of the unknown force attempting to deceive and confuse me, trying to bring me under its control, and I can reject everything the other person says to protect myself.

    Neither choice is a good one, but the second choice at least allows me to maintain propriety over my own thoughts. Therefore, I must always make the second choice in any situation like this one. However, I would much rather not have to make the choice at all, which means that other people must be careful to avoid presenting me with scenarios that suggest I am incapable of comprehending my own state of being. Accusing me of offending someone in a way I am incapable of verifying on my own is exactly the sort of scenario that must be avoided.

    In conclusion: a different standard for detecting incidents of “mansplaining” is needed, one which does not automatically devalue the thoughts *anyone* involved, including the accused offender. The victim of a transgression must never be allowed to be the sole indisputable authority, not even in their own mind, just as the accused offender would never be allowed to be the sole authority either. There can be no exceptions to this rule if people are to ever be able to trust each other.Report

  22. Avatar zandperl says:

    It really is the patronizing that makes it “mansplaining” – the man is in a position of power and is explaining something that he thinks the woman couldn’t possibly know, while in reality she knows more about it than him. Think of it like “boss-splaining” – if your boss tried to tell you how to do your job, but he was telling you everything all wrong. Your boss assumes he knows more than you about what you actually do every day, and this is just stupid of him. However, he is in a position of power over you, and unless you have a really good relationship with him, you can’t just tell him he’s an idiot. Mansplaining has the additional problem that if the woman does try to call him out on his error, she’s seen by everyone else around as being the aggressor and the problem in the situation.

    Here’s a couple posts I found that do a good job of explaining it.

    http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/781085.html
    http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/781391.htmlReport