In the grand history of feminist neologisms, there has perhaps never been one more satisfying to slam down into a bad conversation than “mansplaining.”
As InTheseTimes reports: “The term, which caught fire in the late-’00s feminist blogosphere, describes a particularly irritating form of sexist micro-aggression: namely, a man explaining a topic of conversation to a woman who a) has already demonstrated adequate knowledge of that topic; b) could reasonably be presumed to know about that topic; and/or c) could reasonably be presumed to know much more about that topic than he does, because she is an expert in the field. Once coined, the term spread into the mainstream so quickly and thoroughly that in 2010, “mansplainer” landed on the New York Times’ “words of the year” list.
“Efforts to establish a definitive lineage for the term tend to run afoul of the fact that it seemed, like many great ideas, to crop up in multiple places at the same time—but one common reference point is author and activist Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” originally published at TomDispatch.com.Solnit had fallen victim to the third variety of mansplaining: After Solnit introduced herself as the writer of a book on the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, the man she was speaking to began to tell her about a book on Eadweard Muybridge she ought to read. As it turned out, the book he was hectoring Solnit to read was in fact the book she herself had written—a fact he had to be informed of three or four times before he stopped lecturing at her. Even after Solnit told the man she’d published a book on Muybridge, he couldn’t believe she’d published that book on Muybridge.
“Most women fight wars on two fronts,” Solnit concluded. “One for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.” Continue reading “Mansplaining 101”