The inspiration for today's blog is a single word - "Mansplaining".
This is apparently a term to describe men talking patronisingly to women. Simple enough, but web dictionaries (OED online has no references) indicate that people of either sex can be accused of this.
My issue is not with the concept - men can be very patronising both to women and to other men. I get the intent behind the word. Feminism particularly seems to be a space where men often patronise women and denigrate the experiences of those women. Men use words and phrases like "Feminazi" or "Female Logic" even "Women’s Problems" to dismiss the arguments of 50% of the population. They never explain their conclusions or try to point out why arguments may be fallacious, they just dismiss an argument with a trite phrase. I feel "mansplaining" is a word that allows similar behaviour. Try to take part in the debate, add some context, and you’re dismissed as a "mansplainer". If someone is patronising, call them patronising - there’s no need for a new word. Similar to ‘privilege’, which I discussed in my last post, labelling something as mansplaining can just be a trite way of dismissing an argument without the need for any apparent rationale.
A very prominent aspect of third wave feminism appears to be to eliminate a lot of the lingering aspects in society where we distinguish things by gender unnecessarily. Examples of such are where we identify police officers as 'female police officers', or men tell boys to 'stop acting like a girl'. I am unsure how mansplaining is different from this. It is a relatively new word - using google I can find no mention before 2010 - and I find it odd that many people discussing feminism have adopted such a gender derogatory term as a weapon in their verbal arsenal. If this was a word only descriptive of men it would be strange enough but, as I stated earlier, the word can be used to corral the opinions of either sex into a niche, when used to apparently ascribe male behaviour to women it seems counter-productive. We try to tell men that describing certain traits as female is wrong while allowing other words that are just as damaging.
I am not trying to say that the actions that describe the use of the word itself are not relevant, merely that using it while debating sexism isn’t really helping matters. I consider myself feminist friendly (if not feminist) but find my back put up by mansplaining as much as I do by feminazi (many men could also be accused of being one of those too) and feel that bundling someone's opinions in a single, gender-biased phrase is a backwards step.