Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm sorry, but you don't understand "mansplaining"

This post has been created to be shared with people who misuse and misunderstand the term "mansplaining." If someone shared it to you in response to your flippant use of "mainsplaining" in an online discussion, then this message is for you.

"Mansplaining" is not the act of a man explaining something to a woman. That's a normal, eventless part of human interaction. Some people claim to know or understand things, and they attempt to explain those things to others for the purpose of enlightenment. Sometimes one role will be played by a man, and sometimes the other role will be played by a woman.

The term actually has a very narrow definition. It is when a non-expert man condescendingly explains something to a woman in a subject that she is an expert it. The concept comes from a famous 2008 blog post by Rebecca Solnit. If you haven't read her story, you should. It will help you understand the concept.

The act of a man explaining something to a woman online is not a scandal. To believe that one must have a low threshold for outrage. If you are one of the people using the term as a cheap gimmicky way to avoid writing a response, shame on you and you look like a fool.

I wrote this piece to bookend my previous post about misuse of the term "privilege." In both cases, there is a legitimate concept that is being misused to short-circuit legitimate discussions for an easy "win."

By the way, I understand the irony that this post, when read by a woman, could be accused of being a case of mansplaining itself. That irony is delicious, I'm glad you like it too.

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