Who better to tell you about men telling you things than a man? Working in services for most of my so far very short adult life, I, like many other boys and men and literally every single girl and woman on the planet, have noticed that men, specifically the gammons and ham-hocks in polos and boat shorts, have the pathetic compulsion to explain everything to their partners in the most heavy-handed and patronising way imaginable, even when they have no superior knowledge or any knowledge at all. As a feminist and a millennial, I am aware of the (still very clever) nomenclature for this eye-rolling phenomenon, but I’ve never taken the time to actually reflect on it, and me me me (like a man), and how maybe just maybe I’m somewhat (commonly or frequently or incessantly) guilty of it, perpetuating and exercising it, in my own life, relationships and interactions with women.
The New York Times’ 2010 word of the year, mansplaining has evolved to refer not only to a man condescendingly ‘splaining to a woman, but to any instance where a man overexplains or patronises any person, of any sex. It’s been legitimised in academia and has had a good run of online popularity on both social media platforms and forums where incels are not hiding in the shadows, ready to dox:
The concept has its critics, but they generally rely on the lazy ‘No you are*! (*oppressing us)’ argument that the rise of feminism has caused the inverse deflation of male agency and power, and thus produced a ‘cycle of misandry’, as characterised by journalist Cathy Young, an anti-feminist and Gamergate apologist. This depends entirely on where you fall in the feminism vs equality debate, fueled by the clearly thought-through argument that feminism in fact damages equality, promoting not parity but female supremacy, at the expense of liberty- namely white male freedom. If you haven’t guessed by now I think that this is fucking toss. In opposition to Young, who argued that the term encourages the demonisation of men and therefore the use of ‘man’ as a pejorative, I believe that mansplaining and ‘man’ deserve to be wryly derogatory, because it is true and men are this way- as a man I can testify to that, have all the right papers and parts that qualify me to say that by all the known rules of heteronormative society.
You will regularly hear women say such foreign things as ‘Oh, I didn’t know’, or relatively comfortably ask a straightforward question, because they are disinterested in preserving face. They would rather just know than pretend and find out covertly. They would rather not pass- they would rather be genuine. Men seem incapable of doing this, as if not knowing every single iota of information available to every person throughout the entirety of human history is somehow shameful or embarrassing.
The most notable celebrity attachment to the term is Matt Damon, with the Bourne actor even earning his own variation on the word, ‘Damonsplaining’. Infamously, Damon has mansplained female reporters, a black female filmmaker on diversity in film and made gross, vacuum-sealed statements on the #MeToo movement and his industry daddy Harvey Weinstein. Mansplaining has also been popularly used to criticise GOP senators and presidential candidates, especially Republican boy scout Mitt Romney. Today you fall on one of two sides, for better or worse, and Giulianis like to explain- women’s bodies to themselves, the arbiter of female self-worth and the moral judge of female sex workers. Say what you want of Trump- a piggish, tasteless, handsy oaf; a dictator and a fruitcake who is sixty percent Diet Coke, coated in spray tan and hatted by a fox carcass- but he doesn’t even get to the point where he could explain something to someone, let alone over-explain. He is horse-cock-sure of everything he says and intends it all. Creeping doubt makes it the leg-length of a gnat before being swatted down by accusations of Fake News. Trump is not a mansplainer; he’s just a cunt.
Actually, no; that does a disservice to something natural and beautiful that actually makes people happy and creates life, rather than something horribly artificial and gross that makes people fucking miserable and destroys it.
I don’t know how far mansplaining has its roots in misogyny as much as it does in toxic masculinity and bone-deeply-ingrained male supremacy (white at that). I think most men are guilty of assuming that ‘no one knows nothing’. I see it and experience it all the time; I do it, all the time. Valid questions are shot at the post by male arrogance- men of the world with very little actual knowledge of the world, who only read non-fiction and can name bridges. Your dad and your granddad, basically, and all the sons of the last three decades who emulated them. These are the types who walk in with a belly full of inane, tangential questions, who pick things up and identify them without the castrating assistance of signs and labels- who ask for prices when the price is slapped across the front of the item. Just to interact with the authority of a customer. Hey, we’re two guys, you get it, I get it, let’s make a transaction, let’s make a deal. But no, sir, we don’t live in a barter society.
I think automation has affected men the most; they see diggers and robotic manafacturing arms and they feel redundant, whereas women and men of sound mind feel well-rested, because they’re making art and letting the titanium and aluminium proletariat do the manual stuff. A jog now and then and a compress, but otherwise keep off your loafers.
This isn’t an elaborate way to shift the blame, by the way. I too assume that everyone knows nothing; that when I see a problem I discovered it (I suppose old habits, or in this case European colonial lineage, die(s) hard). Last year I was talking about The Disaster Artist with some friends. I brought up The Room, the production of which James Franco and Seth Rogen’s movie is based on. Now, thinking myself niche and above-averagely well-versed in cinema, I took it upon myself to explain what The Room was to the only girl in the group who hadn’t said anything so far. She’d seen The Room; she’d also seen The Disaster Artist and I hadn’t.
So, I’ve come clean, as a whistle- one that most men can’t hear, because if they could they would become self-aware (and thus contradict their biological imperative to rape and destroy for always, forever good reasons). Now it’s your turn- not only to acknowledge but to recognise and resolve in practice: when you explain something commonsensical; when you over-explain something simple; when you say you know when you just do not. And don’t do it to other men either. Mansplaining is probably the more pleasant cousin of arbitrary competition- when your mate tells you something and you say ‘Oh yeah’ when really it’s an ‘I don’t’. These are all holdovers from our days bashing each others’ brains in on the African plains, so don’t feel terribly guilty. Just stop it.