You seem to be saying that it isn’t worth delving into whether any given instance of so-called mansplaining is due to bias, conscious or unconscious, because it isn’t as bad as being falsely accused of rape.
Right. Let’s take a slightly more extreme example to clarify my point. So one day at a small college where everyone knows everyone, someone makes a comment calling Prof. Jones a literal nazi. That’s obviously a VERY serious accusation. It could certainly result in Prof. Jones losing his job/career/reputation. It’s entirely reasonable for Prof. Jones to request clarification, ask for evidence, publicly defend himself, provide context, yada yada yada.
Suppose instead that someone makes a comment calling Prof. Jones a pompous old windbag. If he then responds in a similarly defensive/interrogative way; “wait, define windbag! define pompous! I have a right to defend myself against these charges, I think I’m overbearing more than pompous!”; well, it doesn’t really matter whether he’s right or wrong. It just makes him look like a jackass.
And I’d argue that “here is an example of mansplaining” is FAR more like the latter than the former. So yes, it isn’t “worth diving into”, because what’s the point? We don’t have a rigorous definition of mansplaining. We don’t have rules of evidence. We don’t know the context around many of these incidents. There are no stakes. Nothing changes one way or the other if we debate and debate and debate and finally conclude that example #3 WAS in fact mansplaining but example #4 WAS NOT.
One reason it’s worth clarifying mansplaining is that it implies the person is engaging in gender-based
pejorative speech. It’s not really a generic insult. It’s saying that a man is treating a woman as if she’s less important and less knowledgeable. To me, that puts in the class of behavior along with racism, anti-religion, homophobic, etc. Calling someone a windbag is a generic insult, but saying they are racist, homophobic, etc. is a more serious implication and it often has more serious consequences. I think of mansplaining as being different than just being long-winded, overly descriptive, etc. I think of it as having some component of patriarchal superiority over women.
I see what you’re saying, and I certainly don’t think you’re just speaking nonsense or anything. But I think there’s a subtle issue of scale and severity. After thinking about it for a while, I think the clearest distinction I can come up with is this. Suppose I know someone who, in public, espouses generally woke/progressive ideals. They claim to believe in equality of races, sexes, etc. But in private, I witness them:
-using the N word (non-ironically)
-claiming that women should be discouraged from seeking employment outside the home
-casually espousing anti-gay violence
or something else like that. I would view that person as two-faced. A liar. A hypocrite. Someone who genuinely misrepresents their position.
On the other hand, if I witnessed such a person mansplaining, or engaging in other minor microaggressions, I wouldn’t go to “they are a liar/a hypocrite/misrepresenting their beliefs”. I would instead assume “they are imperfect (as are we all) or lacking in self awareness (as are we nearly all)”. And sure, being imperfect on the scale of how-men-treat-women is a lot scarier and more fraught than being imperfect on the scale of just-being-a-general-jerk, because of the connotations. But, to me at least, it’s still quantitatively different from more “real” bigotry.
(Granted, this is all me speaking as a man… I may be (to my own benefit?) severely understating the real seriousness of the issue.)
If it helps at all, I’m female and agree with that. Not every criticism is equal.
Other things men have explained to me…my position on abortion (not abortion in general, specifically MY position). What feminism is (I have a Women’s Studies minor). Why I should breastfeed (not my doctor or pediatrician or even the lactation consultant, just men seem to think that this is something they need to explain to me).
I have argued many times on this board that men (and FTR I am one) do not realize when they are engaging in microaggressions, toxic masculinity and other sexist behaviors in the workplace - and mansplaining is no exception. I’m sure there are many men who mansplain to female coworkers and think “I’m only explaining.”.
That being said, I’m noticing more and more women to which any time a man explains something to a woman, she calls it mansplaining.
Man: I think we should take the contract.
Woman: They’re really lowballing the payment.
Man: True, but it would be great exposure to a larger pool of clients.
Woman: Don’t mansplain the deal to me.
Woman: I’m going to turn the thermostat down so it gets colder, faster.
Man: Turning the temperature down doesn’t make the cooling faster. It just makes the final temperature lower.
Woman: Don’t mansplain to me how thermostats work.
If you were a man, you would remember these happy triumphs as conversations.
To be fair, I had women tell me why I should breastfeed. It still isn’t a happy triumph of a conversation, it’s a patronizing sanctimonious lecture from someone who should just MYOB. But at LEAST some of them come from a position of first hand experience.
It’s not really about the men doing the mansplaining. Whether they are sexist pigs or imperfect decent humans is really beside the point. It’s about the cumulative effect on women having to deal with it so often.
This. So much this. It’s not about the individual man and the details of what he did or didn’t do. It’s about the experience of being a woman in a world that tried to diminish you in so many ways, including having a random guy explain to you something that you are well versed in.
Or not having your idea acknowledge until a random man in the same meeting rewords it slightly and takes credit for the thought, which of course they’re often interrupted while you were speaking to do so, which is especially galling given men don’t shut up in meetings as it is.
Dad likes to explain. Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes not, sometimes you can head him off by reminding him that you were present during the incident he’s recalling, or maybe that you already have knowledge of whatever he’s describing, but he might just keep going anyway.
He recently outdid himself. On a Saturday, he and I had visited a car museum in western Michigan. Among the many rare cars was a Chrysler Turbine Car - Wikipedia, one of 50 made, and 9 surviving. Dad had worked for Chrysler back then, and had sometimes driven the cars back in ‘65. His best friend, Bill, was the engineer in charge of maintenance for the cars. So it was fun to look one over.
The next day, we’re meeting friends and family for dinner. The turbine car is mentioned, and Bill says that coincidentally, he’d been getting one running that day. This is highly unusual, as there’s only 2 left that have engines. One had recently sold and the new owner paid Bill to do some maintenance and training. Someone asked Bill what kind of car it was. At this point, Dad jumped in with a mangled description and history of the car, because, well, Dad had driven one 60 years ago, and seen one a day ago. Never mind that Bill was seated just to Dad’s left. Bill, who was hired by Jay Leno to work on the only other running turbine car. Bill, who was used as a source for a book about the car. Bill, who is standing next to the car in the 1964 photo on the cover of that book. No, Dad had an audience, and he kept going, even after Bill corrected some of Dad’s errors.
Today, my darling husband…
I drive a Prius, and have for about a dozen years. Sometimes the backup battery dies - not the ones that run the car, the one that starts the car. So I’ve learned how to jump a Prius - which is a little different than jumping normal cars.
Today, I was out, car wouldn’t start. Hubby brought me battery pack. I put battery pack on car, and waited. THREE TIMES he told me how to jumpstart the car and that I wasn’t following the instructions on the battery pack and three times I had to say “I know that’s what it says, but this is not a normal car and it jumps differently, this is how you jump it, trust me, I’ve done this before.”
And he is definitely a imperfect decent human being trying his best. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering why he wasn’t listening to me the first time and why he was so certain he was right that he had to repeat himself twice more.
One could argue that it’s everybody’s job to figure out this and myriad other behaviors of everyone we associate with, because it’s a necessary part of learning about them and deciding whether we want to know them better.
A perfect case of “reverse mansplaining” happened to me a while ago: a female coworker recommended we set up a bi-monthly meeting. I asked if she meant twice a month or every two months, since bi-monthly has both meanings.
She looked at me incredulously and said something like “are you seriously explaining the word bimonthly to me? It means twice a month”
I just said “look it up”. She looked it up later in the day and got back to me, agreeing that it has both meanings.
Not all cases of perceived mansplaining are indeed mansplaining.
(The word is sexist by the way, but that’s a topic for another discussion)
This used to happen to my buddy from California, when he was married to his first wife. He’s a tall, non-Asian guy from Beverly Hills, with an MS in Electrical engineering. He double majored in Japanese and lived / worked in Japan a few years too. His first wife (they divorced ages ago) was, I believe, a ni- or san-sei from a farming community in central California. She looked Japanese but did not speak the language and did not appear particularly interested in Japanese culture. (Ask me about their wedding sometime, it was hilarious.)
So at Japanese restaurants in the San Francisco bay area, whom do you think was addressed in Japanese, and who was brought a fork to eat with? You guessed it. My friend, being sunny, humorous and not having a complaining bone in his body, thought this was hilarious and just charged ahead, ordering in Japanese and striking up Japanese conversation with the staff.
Yeah, the first several hundred times it happens is amusing, but it does get old when it’s something important that needs to get done.
I hear you…this oft-repeated situation is part of the reason I no longer live in Japan.
Me: Lets people know I speak Japanese.
Chorus, on cue: “Sugoi!!”
As a white, straight, college-educated, middle class male, I really didn’t experience being just compartmentalized in America like I did in Japan.
I hope that it has helped me be more understanding of what other people experience in life.