Explaining mansplaining

It’s not a pet hate or anything, but it annoys me to see the word “man” used as a denigrating prefix, such as in “man bag” or “man ‘flu”. Come on, it’s still a bag or the ‘flu, no matter the gender of the carrier.

Sometimes only the first letter is changed to an ‘m’ to create a whole new meaning, like in the word “moobs”. I don’t have moobs yet (I’m working on them), but when I do, I wouldn’t want them to have such a belittling name. I’ll follow Scarlett Johnasson’s example, who calls hers “the girls” and call mine “my bosom buddies”. It sounds almost empowering.

There are plenty more examples in the manuage: “himbo”, “bromance”, “guyliner” – and getting close to being outright offensive, “manorexia” and “boylemia”. Wouldn’t we be just a bit better off without these divisive additions to our vocabulary?

But there’s one man-word I like. Well, not so much like as believe its existence in the modern lexicon is entirely justified – and that word is “mansplaining”.

Let me mansplain explain: mansplaining is completely different from explaining, and it’s almost exclusively done by insidiously sexist men to women. Note that I said “almost”. I was once mansplained to by a woman, (an accountant) who insisted I could be a better columnist if I would just listen to her advice. She was fall-down drunk at the time and, as it turns out, in serious need of psychiatric help (not kidding). So I’m not saying only men do it – I’m just saying that if you encounter a woman who talks like a mansplainer you might want to back away really slowly from the alcohol-crippled mental case before you get hurt.

People explain things to people all the time, but a mansplainer turns what should be a constructive act into a passive aggressive and condescending verbal assault intended to remind you that since you’re a woman, you couldn’t possibly know more about any subject than him. He’ll instruct you on how to do your job, run your life, and what size penis you should prefer if you knew anything at all about owning a heterosexual vagina.  He’ll tell you this with the confidence of a deity, and if you accuse him of being patronising, he’ll deny everything and call you a sexist.

This is a subject especially close to every mansplainer’s patriarchal little heart. They LOVE accusing women of sexism, because it’s so much easier than admitting they might be just a teensy bit sexist themselves.

Have an example: a woman tells her male friends about an advert she felt was sexist and insulting to her gender. Her non-mansplaining male friend might say something like, “Well, I didn’t find the ad sexist myself, but I can see where you’re coming from.” The mansplainer’s response is to tell her in excruciating detail why the ad isn’t sexist at all, how she was wrong to ever feel that way, and suggest that the only reason she was offended in the first place is because she’s a feminazi and probably a lesbian and therefore out of touch with the natural order of things.

And because Women24 is a relatively liberal site that regularly tackles gender issues, mansplainers flock here in their droves. They can’t seem to tear themselves away. They’re the ones authoritatively telling us that rape culture is a myth and all feminists are man haters (if that was true I’d be in a rather awkward position).

Let me try to illustrate how annoying this is… Imagine living with a housemate who leaves blindingly obvious instructive notes on every item in the house, and as you angrily tear them off, each note gives you a nasty paper cut. It’s kind of like that.

So let’s end with a tip: if you find yourself at the receiving end of a mansplainer, perhaps it’s time to add the word to your vocabulary, and use it on them. If there’s one thing a mansplainer hates more than a woman who knows more than them, it’s being accurately described for what they are.

Follow Chris McEvoy on Twitter.

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