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What is Mansplaining? And, Why Do We Need It To Stop This Instant? - M.K. Tramontana

It’s common. It’s cringeworthy. And it’s been documented, some might argue, since at least the 17th century. It happens on Twitter. It happens at work and at Thanksgiving dinners. In barrooms and in classrooms. Famous men do it. Uncles do it. Politicians, colleagues, bad dates, bureaucrats and neighbours do it. (Some of you may do it, ironically, in response to reading this.) Yes, we’re talking about mansplaining.

The portmanteau describes the act of a man’s unsolicited explaining, generally to a woman, something he thinks he knows more about than she does — occasionally at anaesthetizing length — whether he knows anything or not.

The apt articulation of this phenomenon began with Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay, Men Explain Things to Me, which describes a conversation with a man at a party whose “eyes were fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.” After he discovers that Solnit’s latest book was about British photographer Eadweard Muybridge, he cuts her off, to pontificate, relentlessly, on a “very important” Muybridge book he thinks she should read.

Turns out, it was her book. And he hadn’t read it.

By Solnit’s telling, it took three or four interjections by her friend to get through to the mansplainer that Solnit was indeed the author, before he finally heard it. Tellingly, it also took time for Solnit to recognise the book he was referring to was in fact her own: “So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it.”

The word “mansplain” was inspired by that essay. Today, an ever-evolving list of international iterations exist. In German, it’s “herrklären.” In French, “mecspliquer.” Italians have “maschiegazione.” There’s a Spanish version of mansplain, and there’s a word for it in Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Mandarin, Ukrainian, Japanese and dozens of other languages.

Mansplaining illuminates a much deeper problem than the bore of patronising monologues. As Solnit notes, it “crushes young women into silence” by telling them “that this is not their world.” She adds, “It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”

Source: Irish Times


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