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Use Your Words
September 5, 2012 4:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to have a discussion about use of the word mansplain on this website. Man or woman, doesn’t matter, if you use a word that many people find offensive, they're going to tune out what you have to say. In conversations about gender relations, is the objective to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, or is it to demonstrate the destructive power of gendered insults by consistently ignoring repeated requests to stop using a word that people feel unfairly defined by? Because those two objectives are not compatible.

Looking back at this comment from the Men Explaining Things thread — "Offending the powerful is a feature, not a bug." I mean, really? What is the goal here? Is it to have people understand your hardships — your life experiences, which might be different than theirs? Or is it to simply to say, "I feel justified in pushing your buttons because mine have been pushed, and I'm going to do so regardless of the fact that I am now offending you"? Of course the phenomenon of men condescendingly explaining shit to women exists; you'd have to be blind not to see it. But right away in that thread people started using mansplain, even in the face of numerous objections. This did what? It derailed the fuckin' thread; it took the focus off the topic at hand. People who were using it refused to stop. Was it worth it?

Do you guys remember when people were using the word USian a fair bit on this site? Well, there is no other single term that correctly describes people from the United States of America. Anything else also describes people from other countries in the Americas. But you know what? That shit was derailing threads and almost everybody here stopped using it. It was crystal clear that the word was poisoning discussions.

My goal here is to help facilitate better discourse on this website. I think it’s nothing but positive that women find this place less of a boyzone than it once was, but since we’re all humans and not on opposite sides, perhaps it’s important to remember that polite conversation needs to be a two-way street.
posted by gman to Etiquette/Policy at 4:41 AM (536 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Happy birthday, Jessamyn!
posted by box at 4:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [152 favorites]


Isn't the last 2000+ comment thread on this subject still open, though?
posted by elizardbits at 4:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Actually, we had some conversation over this with gman and it was agreed it was best as a new Metatalk post, and gman was kind enough to wait for the holiday weekend to pass before posting. (just for everyone's fyi, Jess will be mostly off for her birthday today, though.)
posted by taz (staff) at 5:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Of course the phenomenon of men condescendingly explaining shit to women exists; you'd have to be blind not to see it.

Well then a buncha men on the internet must be blind, because they sure as hell love to argue that it doesn't.
posted by zarq at 5:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


ignoring repeated requests to stop using a word that people feel unfairly defined by

This framing of the issue ignores the problem of how men getting to set the terms of appropriate discussion of sexism is really a problem, rhetorically, philosophically, and politically. I'm sympathetic to those who feel that their feelings are a bit hurt by this, but I'm more interested in addressing the political problems described by the term "mansplain." There is a long history of people with power attempting to limit what counts as appropriate and acceptable ways to discuss the problems of that power (eg, all discussion of inequality in the US being labeled "class warfare"), and I'll be frank and say here that the objections to mansplain fall directly into that camp for me. I think that part of wanting to address the problems of sexism is finding a way to deal with the discomfort which sometimes comes from being confronted with the broad generalities that it engenders.
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [87 favorites]


I understand 'mansplaining' to mean when someone condescendingly explaining something, with the assumption that the listener is completely ignorant.

I dislike the term because (1) it's just and ugly looking/sounding word and (2) it's not a characteristic of all men or only men, as the word would imply, it's a characteristic of arseholes (of any gender). I agree that, rather than using the gendered insult, it would be better to just call people out for being a condescending douche.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Ugh, 'explaining' should read 'explains'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come now. You know the deal here. The "less powerful" are allowed to be sexist/racist/whateverist because, you know, they're less powerful so they get thrown that bone. It's kinda funny because people who buy that bullshit argument are basically showing that they think that racism/sexism can be great fun, they're just finicky about who gets to enjoy that fun.

This is why I will continue to call out racist crap like "Stuff White People Like" and yes, sexist crap like "mansplaining".
posted by Decani at 5:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'll also say that talking about this as if "people," in the abstract, are objecting to the term does not set this conversation up as really honest. Sure, there may be a few women who object to the use of the term, but this is really a problem mostly for men. (I mean the objecting.)

it's not a characteristic of all men or only men, as the word would imply, it's a characteristic of arseholes (of any gender). I agree that, rather than using the gendered insult, it would be better to just call people out for being a condescending douche.

Yeah, bullshit. It describes a sexist action, from a man to a woman. It is not the same as someone being annoying. If you don't understand that, you haven't made enough of an effort to understand the word, and should consider not offering an uninformed opinion.
posted by OmieWise at 5:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


And, you know, here come the assholes to talk about why the victims of historical oppression speaking up are really the purveyors of hate. Fuck it.
posted by OmieWise at 5:14 AM on September 5, 2012 [60 favorites]


Uhhh...why is "mansplain", a word I have just now heard/seen for the very first time ever, offensive?
posted by DU at 5:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's OK if you mansplain it to me. I'm a man.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


OmieWise: "And, you know, here come the assholes to talk about why the victims of historical oppression speaking up are really the purveyors of hate. Fuck it."

Sad, isn't it?
posted by zarq at 5:18 AM on September 5, 2012


I must confess, I don't really like the term, and find it's often used here as a method (whether justified or no) of ridiculing members of the community, shutting down discussion, or dismissing arguments.

This is not to deny the generalised phenomenon of patronising men shooting their mouths off here and elsewhere, but I tend to agree it's not very helpful and there are ways to disagree - vehemently - whilst staying engaged, courteous and at least with a patina of respect.

Of course, this is not the only term used in such a way on this site and elsewhere; I don't think any of them are great.
posted by smoke at 5:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uhhh...why is "mansplain", a word I have just now heard/seen for the very first time ever, offensive?

It implies that the act of explaining something in a condescending manner as if the other person is an idiot is a behaviour a) limited to men, and b) which all men participate in.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


The above is also not to say that the only way women can participate in a discourse is to be courteous submissive etc. etc. If the term is unhelpful, I expect this discussion to also be largely unhelpful. It's already got people calling each other arseholes, generalisations, and lots of hyperbole. Sigh.
posted by smoke at 5:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, you know, I appreciate that this is the part of the site where this kind of thing gets talked out, but I feel like this thread is really shitty. The women on this site who feel like their concerns are regularly dismissed by a small subset of users (who then derail every thread about that experience by denying it or arguing the fine points) are going to have to either engage here at length and to exhaustion, or choose not to and cede the ground to the sexist framing of the post and those who support it. It's hard not to see this thread itself as aggressively anti-feminist.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [112 favorites]


I'm not keen on the word, but then I'm not overly offended by it. This is my personal take on it, so others may have a different reaction to it based on their experiences. I think there are other words we can use to communicate without using lazy shorthand which has the potential to offend.
posted by arcticseal at 5:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would disagree vehemently by using gendered terms like "mansplaining" but I don't have the cojones for it.
posted by XMLicious at 5:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, with all the difficulties men face in everyday life, it certainly seems unfair to make a tiny joke at their expense once in a while. Then again, since there's no other problems of a more pressing nature to pay attention to, this one is definitely near the top of the list.
posted by DU at 5:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


With respect Omiewise, if you take out Decani's ever-so-helpful contributions as per usual, I feel that your comments are thus far the most aggressive, generalised, and well kinda het up and profane in this thread. If you want it to go well, be the change you want, and don't do it by accusing Gman (or anyone) of being "aggressively anti-feminist" right out of the gate. In this context, that kind of characterisation of a person is super... incendiary and definitely won't move the discussion anywhere.
posted by smoke at 5:25 AM on September 5, 2012 [29 favorites]


>Well, there is no other single term that correctly describes people from the United States of America.

Bits and bytes are precious, we must conserve them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:25 AM on September 5, 2012


The term is a descriptive.If it hurts your feelings, imagine what it's like to experience it and maybe help us change the culture so that it would no longer be acceptable to do that to another human being.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [71 favorites]


Well, there are a number of uses of the word, from my perusal of the threads:

1) The first is the patronizing "mentoring" attitude that men take toward women in intellectual life, as if being born a man is better than earning a PhD. They will completely dismiss a woman's opinion and insight and knowledge, simply because they're men and they clearly know better. That is some bullshit, and needs to be mocked into oblivion.

2) Men who will run over a woman in a conversation, usually because of the issues in point 1.

3) Explaining away boorish behavior with excuses and arguments that make total sense to the guy being a boor, but actually makes the original offense worse.

I don't think anyone has a problem with "mansplaining" in these contexts. Now it gets tricky:

4) Men who like to bluster and BS and woolgather in idle conversation.

5) Men who are trying to engage in a real discussion of perceived differences without using the approved tools of privilege examination, or who object to privilege examination as a tool to come to an understanding with others.

6) Being aggressive and assertive in an otherwise fair and honest conversation, while also being male.

Using "mansplaining" in these contexts is not good, as it dilutes the meaning and tilts at windmills, and involves 2000+ response threads. You wind up arguing about language and tone - INCESSANTLY - because the "offended" men have a small glimmer of a point, and they're gonna seize on it, and not let go. Those on the fence are gonna shrug, and the really important thing which Mansplaining was meant to combat - putting women in the role of a pupil to any man who demands it - gets lost in the noise and the bluster.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [27 favorites]


I think it's a good term to describe something odious. Condescending explanations made by a man to an audience he feels, based on little to no evidence, has little to no grasp of the subject.

"Let me tell you a little something about your car's engine, honey..."

In the grand scheme of things, my feelings aren't hurt that something I don't think I engage in is encapsulated by a Sniglet. It doesn't indict all men, but it does describe something that some men do.

I was half-expecting to see the tag "misandry" on this post.
posted by inturnaround at 5:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


In conversations about gender relations, is the objective to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, or is it to demonstrate the destructive power of gendered insults by consistently ignoring repeated requests to stop using a word that people feel unfairly defined by?

(Bold added.) This almost makes it sound like a conversation between two people where one person keeps saying this word even though the other person keeps asking them to stop. Which does make the person who keeps using it sound rude and counter-productive. But that's not what's going on with "mansplaining." Different people using the word is not the same as someone using it over and over again to fuck with you.
posted by BibiRose at 5:28 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh my goodness. A whole thread on this? A whole thread? I mean the whole of gender relations to pick from and explore, and you choose to focus on just about the one single tiny phrase that might be making you a little uncomfortable?

Well, as long as we're spending our energies on the really important stuff, I guess.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:31 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Offending the powerful is a feature, not a bug." I mean, really? What is the goal here? Is it to have people understand your hardships — your life experiences, which might be different than theirs? Or is it to simply to say, "I feel justified in pushing your buttons because mine have been pushed, and I'm going to do so regardless of the fact that I am now offending you"?

I agree with you, and I think there are a couple fallacies going on with those kinds of comments. First, the zero-sum fallacy -- the belief that society is a zero-sum game, where anything that hurts one group helps another, and vice versa. In fact, society isn't a game of chess, where one person's loss necessarily means another person's win. It's not that I'm afraid men will be terribly hurt by a few comments in a Metafilter thread. But in the long run, I think demographically based resentment hurts everyone, whether the direct target is men, women, or anyone else.

Second, there's the fallacy of personifying categories of people as if the category were a real person with a vivid identity and role, e.g. "men" as "the powerful." The gender that's much more likely to be homeless or incarcerated can't be uniformly described as "powerful." But it's easier to reduce half the population into a few simple terms than to perceive the full complexity of the real world. Putting these two fallacies together results in a lot of misguided ideas about how best to attain gender equality.
posted by John Cohen at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


"Mansplaining" is one of those words that generates more heat than light. Maybe it helps some folks express their anger and frustration, but it gets in the way of meaningful conversation. Look at all the attention it's sucking up here that could better be used addressing the problem that the word attempts to define.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


You don't know half what a whole thread on this is gonna look like. Just wait.
posted by Namlit at 5:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, it's going to be beautiful, I'm sure.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:34 AM on September 5, 2012


You know, when an oppressed person does something that makes you angry, instead of oppressing them more by dictating how they can talk, why not think about reasons they might be inclined to want to make you angry.
posted by DU at 5:34 AM on September 5, 2012 [37 favorites]


As a man, there's not much I find more tedious than other men getting all offended about being called out on their (our) boorish behavior.
posted by octothorpe at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [41 favorites]


My only objection to the term is that it's an inelegantly constructed portmanteau. The phenomenon it describes is real, and centered on gender dynamics. Condescension exists everywhere of course, but mansplaining is more specific than that, and is the only term that conveys that precise meaning. You are going to have to learn to live with it. I suggest you work on eradicating the syndrome, not the term that makes you uncomfortable.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:37 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


This is an honest question:

What word should I use when I want to describe
the patronizing "mentoring" attitude that men take toward women in intellectual life, as if being born a man is better than earning a PhD. They will completely dismiss a woman's opinion and insight and knowledge, simply because they're men and they clearly know better. That is some bullshit, and needs to be mocked into oblivion.
Specifically in two situations: (1) When a man in a conversation is doing this to me and I want to point it out to him, and (2) when I want to discuss that phenomenon in general?

Because in my experience, "You are patronizing me. Please stop." is about as popular with men on the internet as "You are mansplaining shit to me. Please stop." Either way I am pointing out their boorish behavior, it makes them defensive, and they get all worked up and even more condescending.
posted by muddgirl at 5:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [63 favorites]


For a minute I actually thought that mansplaining means:

when a women has to simplify an explanation in order to make it graspable for the man in the room

Wrong again.

Yes. I'm very much in favor of using my words. Makes me feel safe, sorta.
posted by Namlit at 5:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


First off, Gman, I would be more inclined to be generous about this post if you hadn't used such an incredibly condescending subject line.

I don't generally use the word "mansplain" here or in my real life because it bothers other people so much, and for me personally the value of the word isn't worth the trouble it creates for me when I use it.

I think that we, as a community, could agree to stop using it because it causes problems.

But only if we also agree to stop using all other forms of gendered insults, and if people like the ones expressing irritation about "mansplain" in this thread agree to stand by me the next time I'm telling someone that maybe they shouldn't use the word "bitch."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


How about we all work to make the word mansplaining obsolete, by calling out men who so preciously explain things to women who are actually more knowledgeable than they are?

Because just insisting that we call it something more long wonder or politically correct is not solving he problem that necessitated the coinage. It's just forcing the problem solving into the original victims.

In short, it's creating a tone argument. "I won't engage unless you never hurt my feeeeeeelings!" is how this request comes off.
posted by bilabial at 5:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


Let me explain why I think the word mansplain is perfectly fine, and indeed necessary.

The other day, coincidentally during the same period as the recent 2000 comment thread, I suddenly found myself being subjected to treatment akin to getting mansplained at. It was the whole deal. I was told that what had happened to me couldn't possibly have happened the way I described. That I had misinterpreted events and that, anyway, what had happened afterwards made it all a piffle anyway. Basically, I was being talked to as if I were a child who had a tenuous grasp reality. It was really infuriating and humiliating in a weird way.

Now, I'm a dude, so this doesn't happen to me. Ever (or almost never, I can remember this happening once before, nearly a decade before). However, I realized in the middle of this that, 1) I had seen this behavior many, many times before from the outside, always, and I mean always, directed by a man towards a woman & 2) This was what being mansplained at feels like. Experiencing this in the flesh was a rather rude awakening. Until now I didn't realize just how deeply uncomfortable it is to be in this situation. Mansplain is a necessary term because it is a word for something that doesn't have a word for it already. It is not simply "men condescendingly explaining shit to women."

It is being treated like an imbecilic child. I've had this happen to me twice in my adult life and both were among the least comfortable social interactions I've ever had. I can only imagine that having that happen to you over and over and over again throughout your life would drive you up the wall.

The thing is, unless there's a word for this experience, the women who experience it are going to think that this is something rare, possibly even something that only happens to them. But if there is a term for this, then women are given a tool to understand objectively their subjective experience.

There needs to be a term for this. Mansplain has become the accepted term. Until another term rises up to replace it, batting down the use of mansplain is indistinguishable from telling people not to talk about this phenomenon.

Having a term is a short cut. Instead of having to define exactly the individual parameters of your experience, it is only necessary to say "I got mansplained at" and then move the discussion to another level, be it commiseration or talking about how to deal with similar future situations.

It's sort of like having a name for a sport. Instead of having to explain in detail what the rules of the particular event you witnessed that had people hitting balls with bats, you can just say you went to a cricket match, and then have a conversation about the game. Likewise you can't have a conversation about mansplaining unless there's a term for it. And mansplain is the term we have.
posted by Kattullus at 5:49 AM on September 5, 2012 [167 favorites]


I don't really care for the word "mansplaining" myself, because it reminds me of "frenemy" or some other fizzy cultural term ("He's just not that into you") that gets a kind of traction and ultimately becomes reductive. But I just said "mansplaining" to my sister the other day, to describe the way our male family members talk, and she laughed for about five minutes. Unbelievably enough, she had not heard it before. It may have caught on more than it deserves because of the delighted shock of recognition some of us experience when we hear it. For those people, it's sort of a new toy for a while. I'm guessing it's going to sound really dated pretty soon and people will move onto some other catchword but in the meantime you're probably just going to have to wait. (Do I sound like your Mom saying that?)
posted by BibiRose at 5:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: I dislike the term because (2) it's not a characteristic of all men or only men, as the word would imply, it's a characteristic of arseholes (of any gender). I agree that, rather than using the gendered insult, it would be better to just call people out for being a condescending douche.

Well there's a question here, is it actually something that is done by men and women, roughly equally? Do men do it to other men? Do women do it to women, or to men? Or is it, in actual fact, a gendered interaction that occurs far more commonly when directed by men to women? If so, then it seems that using a gendered term to describe the behaviour is perfectly legitimate. Judging by the way women have discussed this behaviour here on MeFi, it does appear to be gendered.

A second point I'd make. English can be imprecise, so that if someone says "men do this", then a response of some men might be "well, I'm a man, and I don't do that, therefore the statement is wrong". But "men do this" doesn't necessarily imply "all men do this". If we read mansplaining as a behaviour that is gendered, but isn't something unique to one gender, or to all members of it, we might have fewer problems with the term.

[As a probably boring aside, I came to that realisation when I kept reading on library blogs that "libraries must know about these [x] things" and my reaction was "all libraries? But Netflix is US only and I'm in the UK and anyway it's irrelevant to my corporate library...." - the key is to not assume that someone means "all [x]", but to allow that they might mean "some [x]"....]
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I can't imagine that telling someone "You're being a patronizing asshole, as so many dudes frequently are to women, cut it out," will be any more popular than "Mansplaining! Bingo!"
posted by rtha at 5:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


Longtime Listener: "Mansplaining" is one of those words that generates more heat than light. Maybe it helps some folks express their anger and frustration, but it gets in the way of meaningful conversation.

Yes, labeling the more common forms of privilege in order to better point them out to the privileged class will invariably rile them a good deal. The word itself is a red herring: what riles them is the accusation of sexism, especially one which is closer to home for most of us. I think it's because some people hear "you're a sexist" rather than the intended "some of your behaviors are sexist, so watch out for that".

I have and occasionally continue to "mansplain". It's easy to identify and condemn on reflection, but in the midst of a conversation, or general mingling, it can be tricky to sort out on the fly which impulses are genuine desires to explain something to an interested audience, evenhandedly, and which are born of the culture we were nearly all raised in: that women are more ignorant than men.

These past few sexism threads, and particularly labeling the specific practice with a word, has truly helped identify and curtail my sexist behavior.

The women are "using their words". And like all humans, they'll invent words to use such that they don't have to use their "long, descriptive phrases which identify the subset of sexist behavior they're addressing".
posted by gilrain at 5:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


Because in my experience, "You are patronizing me. Please stop." is about as popular with men on the internet as "You are mansplaining shit to me. Please stop." Either way I am pointing out their boorish behavior, it makes them defensive, and they get all worked up and even more condescending.

I, for one, much prefer the former.

My problem with 'mansplaining' is that it labels the 'mansplainer' as sexist and declares that nothing he's said is worth listening to as a result. Now, in Slap*happy's first three scenarios, this isn't really an issue. But we've had mission creep or something into the last three scenarios, where the bloke may be attempting to contribute and should be engaged.

(The first half of scenario (5) is notorious for this. We (certainly including me) tend to jump on people and make sarcastic remarks derailing the thread a bit when we probably could bring these people into the conversation. I'm thinking of a particular semi-recent thread. I made a dick-ish comment early on that got, for me, a lot of favourites. Turns out that the person wasn't going to contribute anything good to the thread, but it wasn't apparent at that juncture. But I can think of at least one instance in a similar post of someone being sent away to read some links and coming back and either contributing positively to the thread or, at the very least, not hurting it. Now granted, no one used 'mansplain' in either thread, but hopefully they're not terrible examples.)
posted by hoyland at 5:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think people should by and large not use it if they're trying to get their point across to people who aren't in their same community of understanding about such things. I don't use it unless I'm making some sort of sure-to-be-understood joke usually in the offline word. Some people use it. There are more and less polite ways of telling people that you dislike the word. I'm a little surprised that Miko decided to use it at the end of the Solnit thread because I felt that she was also in the "Hey if it's obscuring my message I won't use it even if I think I am correct in ascertaining that is what is happening here" camp.

However, I also feel that people need to learn to be reasonable and roll with things occasionally or try to work them out in smaller ways rather than raging in a MeTa thread which, let's be honest, sows significantly more ill will than having some smaller conversations with individuals.

The Solnit thread got basically destroyed by people who wanted to fight about the word mansplain above and beyond any other content that Solnit was referring to [and this was a word she didn't use] in a way that seemed, to me, to be particularly gendered and that is a damned shame.

But you know what? That shit was derailing threads and almost everybody here stopped using it. It was crystal clear that the word was poisoning discussions.

What became clear is that people who were using it knew full well that tossing it into conversation was basically an insta-derail and a way to say "fuck you" without having to say fuck you. I'm embarrassed for all of us, we should be able to talk to each other better than this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


"I agree that, rather than using the gendered insult, it would be better to just call people out for being a condescending douche."

Not that I don't use the word "douche" from time to time, but here's an example of the completely thoughtlessly use a gendered insult while calling out a gendered insult. It's an excellent demonstration of the ways in which communication is structured in deeply sexist ways. Women must be careful not to use hurtful sexist language like "mansplain" (which is pretty gentle, as these things go), but men can toss around "douche" with a total lack of irony while complaining about gendered insults. Because gendered insults against the feminine don't count as insults, apparently. But we need a metatalk thread on "mansplain," which calls out a sexist behavior, not the inferiority of an entire gender based on its genitalia or the inherent disgustingness of things used to clean vaginas because vaginas are icky.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [149 favorites]


It's sort of like having a name for a sport. Instead of having to explain in detail what the rules of the particular event you witnessed that had people hitting balls with bats, you can just say you went to a cricket match, and then have a conversation about the game.

I think you mean baseball there, sweetie. A cricket is an insect.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


My problem with 'mansplaining' is that it labels the 'mansplainer' as sexist and declares that nothing he's said is worth listening to as a result.

That is your internal evaluation of the word. You are assuming things about the intent of the speaker based on your biases.

When I use the term, (which I do very rarely) I mean exactly what I blockquoted. "You are devaluing my opinions and experiences because you grew up in a world where women ain't shit." Yes, of course that makes you sexist. We're all sexist. But we don't work to fix that by ignoring it, and I think that demanding that we have a whole conversation every time the word 'mansplain' is used is another dodge to keep people from talking about their experiences.
posted by muddgirl at 6:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


jessamyn, how do you usually identify the behavior for which "mansplain" was coined without using the word? You're always such a level-headed and effective rhetorician, it'd be valuable to hear how you deal with this specifically.
posted by gilrain at 6:01 AM on September 5, 2012


There needs to be a term for this. Mansplain has become the accepted term. Until another term rises up to replace it, batting down the use of mansplain is indistinguishable from telling people not to talk about this phenomenon.

True. I'd be happy to use another term if there was one. But 'patronising' and 'condescending' don't cover the phenomenon, because there's an additional element of abusing privilege that those two words just don't have. I'm not offended by the use of the word 'whitesplain' which was mentioned as a comparison, because a) I can tell exactly what it means, b) I know I'm not guilty of it, even though I'm white and c) if I was guilty of it in the future I hope someone would point it out so I could stop being horrible to people. If they pointed it out in a way that sounded angry, well, I'd feel upset but I'd get over it.

[And I'm happy with douche, because I interpret it as 'useless and potentially harmful thing with sexist connotations' rather than 'thing used to clean vaginas'.]
posted by harriet vane at 6:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Infinite Jest: "Do men do it to other men? "

Sure. But it doesn't have the same subcontext then. Women have had to fight to be treated as equals in Western society on nearly every level, and social communication between men and women still emphasizes that phenomenon. A woman dismissing a man's opinion is not as much of a problem as a man dismissing a woman. To a man, the former is an incident. To the woman, the latter is a way of life, and each incident reinforces the subconscious or overt idea that her place in our culture is secondary. Her human and civil rights, her potential, her abilities, her opinions are all not given the same import as that of a man's. History is full of precedents. Currently, we're seeing this most clearly in American politics, where a homogenous party of mostly men have decided that women shouldn't have the right to control their own bodies, or have access to gender-related health care.

It's an embedded, "invisible backpack" problem, built into the core of our culture. Hell, the English language is filled with gender-related words that dismiss unwanted behavior as womanly.
posted by zarq at 6:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


I've actually caught myself white-splaining something to a friend, and I wish she knew the word so she could say, "Muddgirl, you're whitesplaining. I know what I'm talking about." It would have saved both of us a little hurt.
posted by muddgirl at 6:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd be willing to stop using the word "mansplain" if only to see how people would react to consistently being called out for "explaining things in a condescending manner that is inherently sexist and makes assumptions about women's lives and experiences based on the explainer's privileged understanding of things."

It's my personal feeling that people don't take issue with the word so much as what the word means.

I'd genuinely like to hear from the people who have an issue with the term "mansplain." Would you be okay with what I wrote above, or do you have a problem with the concept of being accused of speaking in a way that reveals privilege in general?

If it's the former, then I'm willing to give it up. If it's the latter, I think we have a much bigger problem here that goes far beyond individual words.
posted by SugarAndSass at 6:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I frankly wish I could press a button and delete my previous posts in this thread.

OmieWise, I'm sorry I got your hackles up. I expressed myself poorly. I recognise that 'mansplaining' phenomenon is overwhelmingly male on female.

Eyebrows
, I personally use the word 'douche' as an insult because douches are pointless and stupid, not because of their association with vaginas. I appreciate that the distinction between that and a gendered insult resides only in my head - my use of it was inappropriate in this context and I apologise.

There needs to be a term for this. Mansplain has become the accepted term. Until another term rises up to replace it, batting down the use of mansplain is indistinguishable from telling people not to talk about this phenomenon.


I think this is really the beginning and the end of it. Anyway, goodnight all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


And I mean it when I say I'd stop using it given an alternative. I've happily stopped using a lot of words because of MeTalk discussions, it's never been a problem for me to switch to something else. I'm not going to stalk through someone's history, but I hope gman has been supportive of other people's requests to have people stop using language that makes them feel like shit. Even if he hasn't, I'd still be happy to stop using this word if given a substitute because I don't like making people feel like shit.

But the alternative must include the weight of history that makes this gendered phenomenon such a shitty thing to do over and above standard patronising or condescension. Without that, you're just asking us to stop talking about a really common and damaging thing in our lives.
posted by harriet vane at 6:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's my personal feeling that people don't take issue with the word so much as what the word means.

I don't take issue with what the word means at all; I hate that shit (I'm a woman). I take issue with pushing back in the same negative, nasty way you're pissed off at others for doing. I find it tasteless for that reason alone.
posted by heyho at 6:13 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd genuinely like to hear from the people who have an issue with the term "mansplain." Would you be okay with what I wrote above, or do you have a problem with the concept of being accused of speaking in a way that reveals privilege in general?

I haven't been following the mansplain discussion in it's entirety because I have a job and limited patience, but I think the issue is that some people find mansplain to be offensive when it's not used directly to them, i.e. Party C finds it offensive when Party A accuses Party B of mansplaining. That makes a certain amount of sense because the term mansplain can be fairly read to implicate all men even when you use it about a specific person. For that group, I think your revised phrase would not be offensive, because it's not in anyway about them.

The issue of whether a person finds it offensive when they are accused of mansplaining is separate and distinct.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:14 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


muddgirl: That is your internal evaluation of the word. You are assuming things about the intent of the speaker based on your biases.

Er, everyone does this. Countless threads show just this: where someone unwittingly steps on a linguistic landmine.

We can have a deep philosophical debate about private language or just try to move away from loaded, contentious terms that serve to derail conversations and cause unnecessary friction.

Mansplaining is a real thing. And part of a rich tradition of portmanteau words that may variously enlighten, amuse and insult, all at the same time.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Geez, what's the big deal? Sometimes I like to keep nicely groomed down there...
posted by Grither at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I hate labels. I think languages greatest strength of conveying ideas and thoughts is also one of its greatest weaknesses. Language creates abstracts, which necessarily cuts away nuance to group things into abstract sets. If I say I'm a Christian, or an atheist, or a Democrat, or a Republican, I convey a lot of information about myself, but at the same time, I convey a lot of false information about myself - unless I go on to explain my differences from the abstract category.

It seems to me that many, maybe most, of the arguments I read on the internet are all centered around the labels used, how the labels are defined, and to what extend something, someone, or some situation fits that label. As such, the underlying topic of discussion never actually gets discussed or advanced.

I don't care if the term mansplain is labeled sexist or not. I want to see the usage of divisive words decline, and so I'd prefer it not be used. But at the same time, it doesn't bother me and it is handy as a shortcut when in the company of those that understand how you use it.
posted by Bort at 6:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the issue is that some people find mansplain to be offensive when it's not used directly to them, i.e. Party C finds it offensive when Party A accuses Party B of mansplaining.

Actually, it's more so often been used in this situation:

Party A is complaining to their friend, Party B, about "can you believe this dude totally mansplained something to me." Party C overhears this and says the term "Mansplaining" is offensive.

In other words, no one actually present in the room is actually being accused of being a mansplainer. It's all people talking about other people not even party to the conversation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


jessamyn, how do you usually identify the behavior for which "mansplain" was coined without using the word?

I just say "Hey you're talking down to me in a way that presumes I am not the expert on this subject and I don't know why you are doing it and I wish you would stop" or "You're doing that 'guy tells girl she doesn't know what she is talking about' thing and you probably don't mean to but I'd prefer to have this conversation in a different way" Just spelling it all out instead of resorting to a slangy dismissive can really make the entire difference. And I say that being fully aware of the social context in which it is employed and why it's problematic to say what I am saying.

The issue with the mansplain term to me is that it's casual and flip and refers to something that is deadly serious in both a condescending way but also in a "We all agree that this phenomenon is real and that it's okay to just shut down the conversation in this way because you are doing a really bad thing and it's annoying as fuck" way. And hey, I'd like the phenomenon to happen significantly less. I think it is a huge gendered problem in the world at large and I think seeing the pushback to people even using the term indicates a lot of hurt feelings all around and I'm female and in a position of power and get it all the time and I hate it, so I really feel where people are coming from.

But, I also see it as an activist term which means there is going to be some bumpy times ahead as people agitate for its usage and other people feel that it's over the top or beyond the pale or whatever. See also 'cisgendered' I had my mind changed about that because even though it felt weird to say, it was also explained to me why it seemed to be a correct term when nothing else would work and why it was a useful term to have for certain discussions. At the same time, springing it on people here does elicit the "Huh what?" response from time to time and I think people need to be (and honestly, mostly have been) patient about explaining it to people who are maybe not as on board with it. See also: singular they.

And people are individualistic and irritable here and that's sometimes a real problem when we try to do something that happens at a consciousness-raising level. And I think people need to try to put the irritation factor aside to talk about the core issue here and at the same time that's a historical silencing tactic so, hey, here we are. I would like people to try to keep the meta-goal of having this conversation not be an overall bad thing for the site in the front of their mind as they continue this discussion.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


(Although, I will allow that once the Party C's started complaining that "I've never heard the term 'mansplain' before and that's offensive," Parties A and B started using it to describe the actions of the people in the discussion as it went on, out of frustration. Which may not have been the wisest course of action, but come on.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on September 5, 2012


"Eyebrows, I personally use the word 'douche' as an insult because douches are pointless and stupid, not because of their association with vaginas. I appreciate that the distinction between that and a gendered insult resides only in my head - my use of it was inappropriate in this context and I apologise."

No hard feelings. It's a word that's deeply embedded in our language these days and, as I said, I sometimes use it myself without thinking. I didn't put your name in the quote because I know it wasn't deliberate ... language just allows us to use feminine words as insults, in ways we don't even think about.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mansplaining is a behavior. It's not a necessarily innate trait. Being accused of it does not label you a sexist, it labels you as having just engaged in sexist behavior.

And yeah, it's clear this thread has ill intent, to me, because of the subject line and the mere idea we "need" to have this discussion again. It's really sad, actually, that some members of this site can't step back and acknowledge that it's not a huge deal in the face of the shouting down women experience all the time. And the discussion itself is an attempt at silencing! Mindboggling.
posted by agregoli at 6:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


If someone wants to create an Activist Jessamyn Explains Things Politely talking doll, I will gladly kick(starter) in to buy a dozen of them to distribute to various friends because ho-lee shit I would get tired of saying all that over and over (and it will need to be said, over and over).
posted by psoas at 6:32 AM on September 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


Maybe men should just get over it, shrug it off, realize if someone on the internet uses the word and they don't like it it doesn't really matter at all, and move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh how the ironies abound.

I don't find the term offensive. I think it's useful and concise and frankly, men, I think we can take it.

In almost every thread about sexism, racism, or any other kind of prejudice or discrimination, we'll have at least one derail where one member will be defending something others are telling him is offensive, and he will then spend his energy dilligently explaining why it is not, in fact, offensive and why you are not offended, or are wrong to be offended if you are.

The irony being that said phenomenon is exactly what "mansplaining" refers to, but is also what is happening to gman here.

I don't find the term offensive. I think it's silly that others would. But I've found that to be a bad and untenable position in other threads and I'd like to have a bit of consistency here.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really cringe when negative traits are described as being inherent to one class or another because it seems to provide an excuse for some members of that class to engage in those behaviors because "I'm a man, it's what we do!" or whatever. For that reason, I'd prefer a term like "condescendingly over-explaining" or "being an ass" but I understand that "mansplain" is a pithy, quirky neologism and I'm not offended by it or anything. I just fear that as it becomes more entrenched in the language there will be more and more dudes out there who use it (and the behavior it describes) as a badge of honor ("OK, be quiet and let me mansplain this to you..."). Ugh.

As a pretty knowledgeable guy who likes to teach and explain, I'm sure I've been guilty of this phenomenon many times, and I know I'd be chastened and apologetic if it were pointed out to me, regardless of the terminology used.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who does it from time to time, I think it's a great word. It's terse, pretty damn clear as to its meaning, and gives us all a convenient handle for managing something that has existed more-or-less un-named for a long time.

Of course, if someone (maybe even myself) remarks "there you go, mansplaining again", that doesn't make me a horrible sexist person. Listen, there's no way I grew up when and where I did without absorbing some sexist concepts. So when they are noted I can try to change them. Useful handle.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Conversations that bring up problems that need solving and actually do something to solve them are good things, right? Flip, snarky asides that get in the way of communication and make people less likely to continue the conversation, those are good, too? Being talked to, like Jessamyn wrote about, being told that I'm doing something dismissive and unpleasant, I will do my best to stop doing that. Being dismissed as just another asshole does nothing to make the situation better, and instead of getting me to realize I was acting poorly, well, now we're both flinging shit at each other.

Metafilter has seriously changed the way I think. My vocabulary has changed because of earnest conversations on this site where both sides engaged in good faith. Even the beginnings of the discussion about this have made me question how I speak to women (and men, for that matter), and to guard against doing it myself. On the other hand, I have yet to see two sides meet in the middle when one side starts from snark and dismissal. To me, that's what the term is. It's a shitty phenomenon, and it would be a better world without it. Be a nice world without dismissive snark, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Saying to somebody "use your words" is ten thousand times more dismissive, patronizing, passive aggressive, and hackles raising than "mansplain" could ever be.
posted by kmz at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [58 favorites]


My problem with 'mansplaining' is that it labels the 'mansplainer' as sexist...

Well, I agree with muddgirl that this reading extends the word into areas it doesn't comfortably cover. It's a verb that means, in something akin to jessamyn's prose "doing the man talking down to woman thing." It doesn't label anything - it can't, because it's not a noun (like 'mansplainer') or adjective (like 'mansplainesque). You can do this behavior or not do it. Doing the behavior may not make you a sexist, but sexist people often do the behavior.

I'm a little surprised that Miko decided to use it at the end of the Solnit thread because I felt that she was also in the "Hey if it's obscuring my message I won't use it even if I think I am correct in ascertaining that is what is happening here" camp.

I definitely did that up to a point. I definitely understand the objection and decided I was happy to avoid the term - which after all, we got along without for decades, even though the phenomenon existed. Like I said, I find it apt and funny, but I can understand why people rankle. But after a thousand comments or so, I just gave up. I found that despite my going through verbal gymnastics trying to talk about the phenomenon using alternative phrasings, the actual objections and complaints didn't stop. My message wasn't really getting through anyway; people were still claiming the phenomenon doesn't exist or that women are misinterpreting other behaviors.

And this, I think, is the fundamental problem with focusing on the word: we can remove the word all you want. We can call it "feezbubbling" if that makes you feel better. But if you don't approach the conversation in a fundamental spirit of goodwill and respect - (incidentally, the same point that dragged me into the whole discussion, which is that when volumes of people report a patterned experience of oppression it is probably a real one) - then it really doesn't matter what words you use, because you aren't heard anyway.

That, and I have been swayed by a few comments, like OmieWise's, that caused me to wonder if I was ceding a lot of ground when it wasn't called for, perhaps placing conciliation, that delightful and required female attribute, above meaningful and powerful communication. Where earlier I had happily agreed to put the term away if it meant we could get to brass tacks, by the time I saw that there wasn't much serious discussion about brass tacks, and that we were still circling around the fundamental question of whether women were making shit up to be "PC," self-aggrandize, win points, or just confusedly misinterpret their surroundings, I started thinking "why bother?"

The problem isn't a word.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [76 favorites]


On the other hand, I have yet to see two sides meet in the middle when one side starts from snark and dismissal.

I feel like my 'side' (don't talk to me like I'm a child, don't presume to know my experiences as a woman, don't presume that your words and your opinion are more valuable) is already the middle position. "Meeting in the middle" from there would be conceding that I'm not an adult, that I'm not an expert in my experiences or in my job.
posted by muddgirl at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [50 favorites]


To add to what Eyebrows said above some of you might want to revisit the reception I got when I questioned the widespread use of "douchebag." For the record, I have never used "mansplain" in my life, but I've certainly had the experience it describes more times than I can count.
posted by mareli at 7:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, I have yet to see two sides meet in the middle when one side starts from snark and dismissal.

The problem here, though, is that often "snark and dismissal" is already in evidence from a lot of participants in gender-issue threads (the abundance of "so, you're saying that men can't ever try to ask women out?" snits or "oh you were overreacting" brush-offs in the elevator thread or the "Hi whatcha reading" thread, in response to the scores of women giving personal accounts of assault experiences). I'm not so sure that the "snark and dismissal" began with the use of one single word a month ago.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


So, first, let me admit that I frequently use the word "mansplaining", but also can accept that it's not really a fair use.

I use it as a signaler. When I use the word, it's shorthand for a lot of other frustrations I feel, without having to go into the entirety of them. It's kind of like saying, "Patriarchy, amirite?" And it's totally lazy. And an in-joke. And not appropriate for mixed conversation.

Well there's a question here, is it actually something that is done by men and women, roughly equally? Do men do it to other men? Do women do it to women, or to men? Or is it, in actual fact, a gendered interaction that occurs far more commonly when directed by men to women?

Men are NOT even the majority of people who do this kind of patronizing, bullshit explaining to me - especially on Metafilter. Women do it to women too. I get progressivesplained to, where people try to obnoxiously explain their political point of view in very small words that treat me like an idiot, all the time.

the inherent disgustingness of things used to clean vaginas because vaginas are icky.
What about the inherent disgustingness of things used to clean, scent, and internally destroy vaginas because of the obnoxious idea that vaginas are icky?
posted by corb at 7:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Muddgirl, I'm not trying, in any way, to talk down to you. If that's how my comment reads, I apologize. I don't know you're life, aside from what you, and many other members have written about their experiences on this site. I'm not trying to say my opinion is more valuable, I'm simply offering up my viewpoint, which you can feel free to ignore.

I came really close to deleting what I wrote, and I rewrote it several times, trying to avoid any sexist language, trying to avoid mansplaining. As I said, this site has changed the words I use, has changed the way I think, the way I approach the world.

By meeting in the middle, I mean using the word or not. I do not, in any way, deny the phenomenon, or the general shittiness it brings. Men talking down to women, dismissing women because they are women, is sexist and wrong. I don't know how to make my position any clearer than that.

EmpressCallipygos, I see your point. I was trying to say snark and dismissal in general, from any side of any argument to any other, makes communication and reconciliation less likely. To me, mansplaining is another term that brings up defensiveness instead of active participation in the discussion.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I started thinking "why bother?"

I followed along in the Solnit thread and decided that participating by using words (rather than favorites) just wasn't worth it, since very few people seemed inclined to engage the issue rather than the language used to describe it.
posted by rtha at 7:13 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I agree with Jessamyn, particularly on two points. First, that going to the inconvenience of spelling out an entire phrase to describe what you're talking about, instead of using shorthand, can make a huge difference in charged conversations. Maybe instead of "Use your words" the point should be, "Use more words." Because when you do, people recognize the effort (consciously or not) and consequently they will often come farther across the aisle to meet you and try to understand what you're saying.

Second, I agree that mansplain is an "activist term." I think that's a good description. And that hits on the problem with this MetaTalk thread. In the last two discussions about this term, I noticed a lot of people who favor the term explicitly defending its offensiveness. "It's about time we struck one for the other side," etc. I agree with the OP here that if you use a word that many people find offensive, they're going to tune out what you have to say (quoting), and that it stifles conversation in several ways. But the premise of this thread seems to be that people using the word don't understand this fact. Based on what I've read, they do understand it. They choose to use the word anyway, consciously and deliberately. That's a roadblock.

men can toss around "douche" with a total lack of irony while complaining about gendered insults.

Not just men. I saw that word used a lot in the last two sexism threads. It bugged me, and it bugged me more that in the context of a thread about sexism there was zero pushback against this term. Out of curiosity I checked a few profiles, and many of the people using the term were female. I decided nothing good would come of saying anything about that, but yeah, that isn't just men.
posted by cribcage at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


To write out a less flip version of my previous comment:

People say a lot of things on this site that I find deeply upsetting and hurtful. Not nearly as much as they used to, as reading older threads has shown me, but on a pretty regular basis. We've talked here before about how some users of this site post sexist or misogynistic comments, and we've talked about the line between "unpleasant" and "delete/ban-worthy." I've accepted that I'm sometimes going to see things on this site that will keep me up at night with a knot of anger and dread in my stomach, and I will frequently see things that just make me deeply uncomfortable. I've accepted that this is a large, diverse group of users, and that some of them are just going to behave in a way that pisses me off, and that sometimes that behavior won't be bad enough to merit direct action by the mods. I've accepted that sometimes I'm going to have to just close a window and take a walk in order to keep myself from descending down a spiral of indignant rage all afternoon.

So I'll admit that I just don't have a whole lot of patience for this Metatalk thread. Because seriously, of all the behavior on this site to single out...a relatively gentle term that describes a specific sexist behavior, and which is almost never used to actually describe the behavior of other users of the site?

Like, I understand why it annoys people. I do. That's why I don't personally use it, because it just isn't worth the trouble. But I resent being told that if I do decide to use it, then I'm what's standing between us and polite discourse. Like that word is the absolute worst thing that anyone says in conversations about men being condescending to women, and if we stopped using it then those conversations would suddenly go much more smoothly. As others have pointed out in this thread, the people who see red at the word "mansplain" are frequently the same people who deny that the phenomenon is a big, pervasive problem to begin with.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [54 favorites]


Ghidorah - I wonder if you misunderstand me. I wasn't accusing you of doing those things, I was describing my 'side' of the conversation in which 'mansplain' is used

My interpretation of your comment was that using the word 'mansplaining' is itself snarky and dismissive, and it probably is. But when I feel like I'm defending the middle territory, it's hard not to be snarky and dismissive, because being polite means giving up a fundamental human need for dignity and respect.
posted by muddgirl at 7:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a major generational difference with regard to the connotations of the word "douche". From what I've learned here, a lot of women do find it sexist, but a lot of women (myself included) do not find it to be so. I try to avoid it when not around people who feel as I do because it does have a hurtful and sexist history.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:23 AM on September 5, 2012


(IE, if someone is aready being incredibly disrespectful of me, what right do they have to demand respect? If they aren't granting me the privilege of being a fellow human being, what purpose is served by further dialogue?)
posted by muddgirl at 7:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not just men. I saw that word used a lot in the last two sexism threads. It bugged me, and it bugged me more that in the context of a thread about sexism there was zero pushback against this term. Out of curiosity I checked a few profiles, and many of the people using the term were female. I decided nothing good would come of saying anything about that, but yeah, that isn't just men.

Well, there are women who consciously use it because they know that douchebags are bad in a health sense so they choose to use it to mean things that are bad in other ways. I also think the fact that women are way, way less likely to douche (which is obviously good) means that it's just not perceived as that gendered anymore since the gendered item to which it refers is outside the realm of practical experience of a lot of people who use the term.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


The root word is Explain and if people are being dicks about it, dixplain might be less contentious than that other word we're not supposed to use. Closer to the concept of using 'douche' in a "similar to" kind of way.

/not being facetious
posted by infini at 7:28 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


(IE, if someone is aready being incredibly disrespectful of me, what right do they have to demand respect? If they aren't granting me the privilege of being a fellow human being, what purpose is served by further dialogue?)

Because this is the way the world burns.
posted by corb at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


But dicks is still a gendered term, and apparantly people here aren't objecting to the fact that women want to talk about the ways that they are sometimes talked down to by men, but rather that we use a gendered term to describe it.

Because this is the way the world burns.

And it's women's job to fix it, apparantly.
posted by muddgirl at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


That, and I have been swayed by a few comments, like OmieWise's, that caused me to wonder if I was ceding a lot of ground when it wasn't called for, perhaps placing conciliation, that delightful and required female attribute, above meaningful and powerful communication. Where earlier I had happily agreed to put the term away if it meant we could get to brass tacks, by the time I saw that there wasn't much serious discussion about brass tacks, and that we were still circling around the fundamental question of whether women were making shit up to be "PC," self-aggrandize, win points, or just confusedly misinterpret their surroundings, I started thinking "why bother?"

The problem isn't a word.


I will just quote this because it is exactly what I think, and I agree wholeheartedly with everything Omiewise said as well. I have a cold and a lot of things to do so you'll have to just imagine what I would've said otherwise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This long, heated, protracted thing about this word feels fairly frustrating to me, because in my opinion it's a bit of an artificial furor because I don't actually think it's something that would have taken Metafilter by storm if it weren't for the posts that were mostly just talking about the word itself, and this particular conversational phenomenon. I think that's mainly where it has appeared in usage here. Otherwise, it's been employed a few times here, beginning back in 2010, but certainly wasn't omg-the-best-word-evar-we-have-to-say-this-all-the-time!! I don't think that it would have evolved into a ubiquitous usage word, and I still don't think it will (it just seems sort of unlikely that this is a word that is likely to come up constantly in threads that are not about the "man explaining to a woman" problem), but I also don't expect that it will never be used as a quick reference point, either.

Basically, it seems weird to me that we seem to be arguing ourselves into a position of picking Mansplain Hill to die on, when it just seems like a word that's been around a little bit here, didn't make a big impact, and it was only some specific concentration on the interpersonal phenomenon that does happen that brought it up as a shorthand phrase, and then a whole hell of a lot of discussion about that shorthand phrase... that seems to keep repeating. It's kind of a horrifying self cannibalizing mansplain ouroboros.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:32 AM on September 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


I think I probably did, Muddgirl, mistake the parentheses for a response rather than a statement of your position. My bad.

As you say, it is hard not o be snarky and dismissive when you're confronted with someone who just refuses to grasp you, or I, see as plain truth. All I'm saying is that snark by giving in to the urge to snark is not likely to create an actual chance for discussion. If someone is wrong, and we mock them for being wrong, I feel that there's more than a small chance they'll double down on being wrong, especially if they don't see that they are wrong. It is easy to snark, but as cribbage said, that can be a roadblock. If the goal is reaching an acceptable solution, starting off with snark gets in the way.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2012


Miko: " The problem isn't a word."

Agreed.

Frankly, I think the problem is gaslighting.
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


Personally, I don't care about the term, but I can understand the objection to it.

If it hurts your feelings, imagine what it's like to experience it and maybe help us change the culture so that it would no longer be acceptable to do that to another human being.

That's all well and good, but in what way does deliberately and repeatedly "hurting their feelings" win them over? Do you really believe it will?

Poking a bear in the eye, no matter how much he deserves it, will not make him want to consider things from your perspective.

Any women who don't understand that that the term "mansplaining" raises blood pressure, consider this: "Shrill." Would you be won over if a man used that word to describe you or your entire gender? Somehow I doubt it.

tone argument

Isn't objecting to the phenomenon of mansplaining essentially a tone argument? Sometimes tone matters.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


if someone is aready being incredibly disrespectful of me...what purpose is served by further dialogue?

That's a fair point, but I think the rebuttal is that dialogue is what we're doing here. This is a text forum. If somebody doesn't feel that dialogue is useful, he or she can opt not to participate. Participating in an obstructive or destructive manner, and then defending that behavior by arguing that the dialogue had no purpose anyway, is antisocial.
posted by cribcage at 7:34 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is strange to me is that in all my years online, I only heard the term when people would joke about it on Twitter, and usually it was two women saying it to each other to describe something shitty that happened offline. I dug into it and realized what it meant and I kind of liked that there was a shortcut phrase for that, but I only saw it used among friends, usually in a joking manner in a sort of so-awful-we-might-as-well-try-laughing-at-it kind of way.

Outside of people joking on Twitter, or friends talking in person (where it is even more rare) I've never seen it used much online until the recent threads here. I see how it derailed much of the Solnit thread and that's unfortunate (especially since it didn't even appear in the original post) and I can see how using it could undermine a serious point you might be making in an argument. I don't know if the use of the term will ever be widespread on this site.

If you look at the search, on Ask MeFi it has only come up 9 times ever, going back two years to the first use, and most of those come up in threads about gendered interaction. On MeFi, it has been used 69 times and 3/4 of those times took place in August of 2012, in one single thread. Outside of this recent blip, I hope it can die back down to rare times someone wants to describe the specific situation outside of what is taking place on the site. Like Jessamyn said, if someone wants to accuse another member of being condescending on this site, they would do well not to use a shorthand term like this that could come off as more dismissive and problematic than explaining the situation fully.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


Isn't objecting to the phenomenon of mansplaining essentially a tone argument?

No.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the idea of a word to explain the situation, and I think it's funny. My problem is that when I asked Mr Corpse what he thought it meant, he thought it was having to explain things carefully to a man who wouldn't be listening carefully. Which is related, but not the same.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although this:

That's all well and good, but in what way does deliberately and repeatedly "hurting their feelings" win them over? Do you really believe it will?

Poking a bear in the eye, no matter how much he deserves it, will not make him want to consider things from your perspective.


Certainly is.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:39 AM on September 5, 2012


This issue seems not-that-different from all the complaints about "cisgendered." People who are used to having everything slanted toward their perspective get really upset when they suddenly realize they're not in charge of how they're discussed or categorized by the very people whose opinions of those marginalized by that perspective.

You are choosing to be offended by this, because it is easier than stretching to accommodate a world of thoughts and experiences that you will never have firsthand access to. You don't have to enjoy or approve of everything you hear from the other side of the fence, but please remember that quality doesn't mean everyone rising up to your level, in many ways it will require you to bend your own neck. Still want it?

I guess that's the real test, isn't it?
posted by hermitosis at 7:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


But this term now has a history on metafilter, however we feel about that.
And unfortunately that history is "don't make me feel uncomfortable because of what certain idiots (admittedly by majority of the male gender) do to you guys on a regular basis because I don't like feeling uncomfortable and I won't listen to you as long as you make me feel uncomfortbale and it's your job to ensure I'm always comfortable in here and where the hell is my coffee!"
posted by Wilder at 7:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I pointed out some mansplaining the other day and my comment was deleted. I don't have any quibble with the deletion, because it was a lazy thing to say. Also, and more to the point of the deletion, it was entirely directed at another member of the site, not at the topic being discussed.

After digesting the deletion, I came to the conclusion that if I don't have the energy or interest to actually describe in specific terms what bothers me, it isn't worth contributing.

In this way the moderators have helped me on my path to becoming a better person. Thanks.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If somebody doesn't feel that dialogue is useful, he or she can opt not to participate.

Which is what I choose to do, by the way.

Participating in an obstructive or destructive manner, and then defending that behavior by arguing that the dialogue had no purpose anyway, is antisocial.

Yes, this is exactly how I feel about the phenomenon sometimes described as 'mansplaining', which despite nearly 100 comments we haven't developed a different term for. It is destructive and antisocial. If labelling such behavior is also destructive and antisocial, then I don't see how it's causing any additional harm.
posted by muddgirl at 7:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


All aboard the 'Splain Train!
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 AM on September 5, 2012


going to the inconvenience of spelling out an entire phrase to describe what you're talking about, instead of using shorthand, can make a huge difference in charged conversations. Maybe instead of "Use your words" the point should be, "Use more words." Because when you do, people recognize the effort (consciously or not) and consequently they will often come farther across the aisle to meet you and try to understand what you're saying.

I'm going to try to say this in a really strong voice: This is totally false.

The reason I confidently say that is that that's exactly what I did. As Jessamyn noted, for about 98% of my comments in both the Girlzone and Solnit threads, I refused to employ the term, and worked quite hard to "use my words." As you know, I have a lot of words. Quoting directly from my comments in both threads, here are some of the words I used instead of "mansplain" or "the mansplaining thread":

some doofus at a dinner or jerk in a newspaper (or 101st fighting keyboardist) could safely assume that, despite her credentials and the widely recognized significance of her work, she doesn't know what she's talking about

the tendency to give unasked-for droning, boorish, and often inaccurate lectures.

power plays

the person is clearly out of their depth and boorish and uninteresting or not ready for prime time

a conversational overture of this kind

A bad-faith/uninformed interaction

some people just don't stop, don't bring their thoughts to a close, and that means you kind of either have to give a push or just shut up and give up.

the phenomenon of speech and communication patterns that arise from male privilege

behavior can still say "you're not supposed to act fully human,"

that explaining thread

the Explainer thread


Sad to say, I found that the contortions I worked myself into to avoid using the term, even when the term itself was the very subject of conversation, were to no avail. People did not "come farther across the aisle to meet" me. Instead, many people continued to say that I and others were making up our experiences, and objecting to sexism for selfish reasons of propping ourselves up. I said out loud, twice, that I wouldn't use the term.

The conversation didn't change.

That's why the problem isn't this word. The problem is, at least in part, the tendency of men to want to author the rules of exchange (somewhat ironically, the same problem as the Solnit thread described). I understand some people don't like this term. But the truth is, many of those same people have found it far, far more profitable to focus on the term and on the perceived ways it might conceivably hurt them - though I'm not sure that its pernicious effect, as opposed to its positive, eye-opening effect, has been demonstrated - than have found it profitable to examine the actual, underlying behavior reported by dozens of women in the thread.

Even when I avoided using the thread, I ended up having two really gross MeMail exchanges with people (male) who could.not.let.it.drop that I was misunderstanding Solnit's experience and needed me to understand that I was off base and that their read was more accurate than mine. Based on....?

If we're not going to address the actual topic, I'm not sure why we should address the term. I've tried. I've tested all these statements that "if you just modify your language so as not to give offense, we'll listen to you, dear." I took that on good faith. I tried about as hard as I can without losing it, and it just plain looks like it's going nowhere. We've got a bunch of entrenched people who want to die on the hill "mansplain offends me." As long as we're talking about that, we're not talking about the obvious and damaging sexism underlying much communication on and off the site.
posted by Miko at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2012 [149 favorites]


please remember that quality doesn't mean everyone rising up to your level

Should have been equality, sorry. (edit windowwwwwwww)
posted by hermitosis at 7:46 AM on September 5, 2012


I'm tired of losing thoughtful, strong voices on the site like OmniWise. I don't know what to do, but I wish we could stop losing good people.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


A few things that come up in these again and again that are also offensive shorthand/very activist language.

"This is just a tone argument" - As someone has explained above, tone matters. Tone matters when some dude is talking to me about my experiences, and tone matters when I am trying to convey my problems. This doesn't mean I'm holier than thou - I fail on this one a LOT. But tone does matter. In certain activist circles, however, "This is a tone argument" is like a nuclear bomb - oh, hell, we have to stop talking about this now, because TONE ARGUMENT=code for "we're not allowed to be upset that someone's verbally abusing someone else, because they have less privilege." I think it's totally possible to care about a subject and also be against verbal abuse.

Or "pearl-clutching". Or, yes, "cisgendered" - not in the same offense-to-others way, but in the "You need to acknowledge yourself as cisgendered/why didn't you use the word cisgendered" sort of way. Or how some people react to the words "reverse racism." An AskMe came up with someone asking about whether something was reverse racism, and the OP got lectured about daring to use the word "Reverse racism" - when that's a thing that gets used everywhere except in super-activist circles.

Mansplaining is one of those - it's an activist word, designed for activist circles. And like a lot of other words that originate there, I think that sometimes it is okay for people not in those circles to be upset or frustrated with their constant abuse.
posted by corb at 7:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or even when you're part of activist circles but need a breath of air.

I'm tired of losing thoughtful, strong voices on the site like OmniWise.

Did I miss something? She commented earlier in the thread.
posted by corb at 7:54 AM on September 5, 2012


Your complacency is duly noted.
posted by hermitosis at 7:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: " Did I miss something? She commented earlier in the thread."

Account disabled. :(

Shit.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And like a lot of other words that originate there, I think that sometimes it is okay for people not in those circles to be upset or frustrated with their constant abuse.

I don't like this line of thinking, because by this line, I shouldn't use any jargon on Metafilter that someone might misunderstand. I'm an engineer. I talk about engineering on Metafilter all the time. Engineering is probably as jargon-heavy as activism, if not more so.

If we're talking about feminism, we can't avoid feminist jargon. Yes, it is good for every participant to keep in mind that the words they use may be misinterpreted. But to ask people not to use activist jargon is to pretend that there are no activists on Metafilter.

Or even when you're part of activist circles but need a breath of air.

At these points, I stay out of threads about activism. SLYT posts are good for these times.
posted by muddgirl at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


As an inveterate but penitent offender, I personally welcome all the contumely you can hand out on this score, whatever form it may take.
posted by Segundus at 7:59 AM on September 5, 2012


Miko wrote: > Where earlier I had happily agreed to put the term away if it meant we could get to brass tacks, by the time I saw that there wasn't much serious discussion about brass tacks, and that we were still circling around the fundamental question of whether women were making shit up to be "PC," self-aggrandize, win points, or just confusedly misinterpret their surroundings, I started thinking "why bother?" The problem isn't a word.

Here's what pisses me off about this Metatalk post and the complaint in it - it focuses all this attention on one stupid word, when the problem really is the posters on this site who enjoy coming into sexism topics, or topics where women are sharing life experiences, and purposefully derailing those topics with tone complaints, dickering about minutiae, or attempting to explain away and minimize women's uncomfortable experiences.

I'm fairly sure I've never used the term "mansplain" here, and I would be happy to not use it in the future, if I thought that would actually get us anywhere.

But it won't, because next week it will just be some other bullshit purposeful trollish derail that crops up.

Or as Miko put it so well: > Many of those same people have found it far, far more profitable to focus on the term and on the perceived ways it might conceivably hurt them - though I'm not sure that its pernicious effect, as opposed to its positive, eye-opening effect, has been demonstrated - than have found it profitable to examine the actual, underlying behavior reported by dozens of women in the thread.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [37 favorites]


Did I miss something? She commented earlier in the thread.

OmieWise is a dude.
posted by rtha at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2012


FWIW, I am a man and don't love the word, but it's not going to keep me from reading threads or enjoying metafilter. I would prefer "dixplain,", as it rolls better off the tongue and being a dick is something that 90% of the population agrees is shitty. Mansplain sounds like something all men do, whereas dixplain more accurately sounds like something that someone, almost always a man, does when he is being a dick. All humans can try to be less dickish, but it's not like I am going to be try to be less of a man anytime soon.

While I am typing this comment, I also think that comments that men should just "man up" and deal with this or other potentially offensive language is unhelpful and reinforces the patriarchal idea that men are tough and should just sack up and deal with things that they don't like.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I just want to say that I used to find "mansplaining" a really odious term, but after reading these threads I've been converted to the notion that it is a useful term that describes something which it is important to describe. So, these kinds of threads are good and we should continue to have them.

That said, it isn't a word I'm ever going to use, because "patronizing" means the same thing and is less likely to pull the focus away from the behavior being talked about.

Also, while it will probably be a long time until it is an equal problem, I think all cases of shutting down discussion are bad if they are made because of the talker and not the topic. It is the responsibility of everyone to make sure that if the o-rings are going to freeze you do not stop talking until the countdown is stopped.
posted by BeeDo at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


MIKO if I could favorite your comment a thousand times......Guys, we've tried to use other words, I doesn't work!

I've had three careers and in each one of them I've had things mansplained to me so often that I howled with laughter the first time I saw the word here because it summed up to a T my experiences. I have never had things from my own speciality area condescendingly explained to me by a woman. I have had women be condescending to me, no question, but not when I tell them what my area is, specifically about that area.

I did some work during my first Master's describing how women who behaved outwith social norms were conveniently "softened" or plain censored in the sub-titling or dubbing of films.(Europena films into other European languages).

I presented a fuck-load of evidence, with very clear examples and had male students question my findings at every single conference, symposium or class. I would show clips of this phenomenon, lots and lots of clips across mutiple languages, styles, and from multiple sources and even generations, and compare how the male characters were left to break conventions, but female characters were toned down. The female students in my classes would get more and more excited, while the majority of male students squirmed in discomfort. I understood that discomfort, I feel that same discomfort every time a woman plays the "girly" card (oh silly me, I don't know how to change a tyre, could you....?).

But what I didn't understand was why male students and other lecturers would look for every single possible explanation for this phenomenon except the pretty obvious one: we live in a culture where women and men are expected to behave in a certain way and when they don't things happen, not even deliberately, to reinforce what makes us comfortable. In presenting the evidence most male listeners assumed I was saying that all the dubbing and sub-titling houses had a policy. The first question would frequently be "are you accusing ....?" When I said, "No absolutely not, when I interview the people doing the subtitling and dubbing, many of whom are women, they are surprised to see this" the next question tended to be "well, why present this"

I feel like that now. It really doesn't matter how we express ourselves, if you don't like what we are saying you WILL find a way to make that our problem.
posted by Wilder at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [72 favorites]


And I hope he's just taking a break/buttoned to keep from yanking all his hair out and will be back, because he says things - even things I disagree with sometimes - in ways that I find valuable and thought-provoking.
posted by rtha at 8:05 AM on September 5, 2012


OmieWise is a dude.

...wait, does that mean when OmieWise has corrected me, it's been mansplaining the whole time?

MIND BLOWN.

Shows my own unconscious sexism, in that I assume well-written things are voiced by women.

But yes, disable is not deleted, and I hope he's back.
posted by corb at 8:06 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I dont care if you lady people want to use "mansplain", it's fine by me.

I speak for all men, btw, so go for it.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:06 AM on September 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


I'm trying to find some rational sentences to express my opinion of having this particular OP grind this particular axe in MeTa again but I just keep coming back to GRARRRRRRRR and ican'tbelievewe'restillprotestingthisshit.jpg. Also, damn, Omiewise.
posted by immlass at 8:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


And to try to be a little more clear: having read the previous threads on this topic, I was concerned that I do this kind of thing sometimes. I asked my girlfriend and some of my female friends if I'd done it in the past, and they said no, but that they'd try to mention it in the future if I did.

As I work on being a better human being, it is easier for me to try to think, "Don't be a dick and explain things in a dixplainish way" than "Don't be a man an explain things in a mansplainy way."
posted by Aizkolari at 8:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


...wait, does that mean when OmieWise has corrected me, it's been mansplaining the whole time?

I know this is meant to be a funny, but still: A man who explains something is not automatically a mansplainer.
posted by rtha at 8:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


On the other hand we did appoint Greg Nog our Speaker for the Gender at the last meeting so we'll just have to abide by his judgement.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


> My problem with 'mansplaining' is that it labels the 'mansplainer' as sexist

No, it's labeling the behavior as sexist, which it is.

and declares that nothing he's said is worth listening to as a result.

Uh, no, not really.
posted by desuetude at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm going to try to say this in a really strong voice: This is totally false.

Your experience and mine differ on this point. In this particular case, the context of the situation you're talking about might explain why. In the thread you're referring to, to my reading, the tone was well polarized by the time that the conversation might have changed. It didn't read to me like individuals responding to each other, but sides talking at each other. So for clarity, let me amend my point to say that once a thread has gone in that direction, I think it's difficult to recover. However, making the visible effort up front can absolutely help prevent threads from doing exactly that.

In my experience, it works. It is not bulletproof. I still get plenty of rude, snarky retorts from people more interested in favorites than dialogue. But I can ignore those, and I also get thoughtful replies from people who (1) hear my point more openly than I had hoped, and (2) reply with agreements or disagreements that I might not have considered.

by this line, I shouldn't use any jargon on Metafilter that someone might misunderstand. I'm an engineer. I talk about engineering on Metafilter all the time.

I think the catch point is, MetaFilter isn't an engineering website. Talking about engineering, or IT, or art history on MetaFilter is awesome, and nobody wants to make it less fun for the experts to chime in by requiring them to explain everything, but I think there needs to be some consideration for the audience when clicking "Post Comment." Jargon is insular.
posted by cribcage at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Account disabled. :(

There are a lot of people taking a break. I certainly hope he's one, because for him I couldn't just pour out a 40, I would need more like multiple growlers of fine artisanal ale.

The thing is, I can really identify with him, Bunny Ultramod, and the several others who just are reaching a point of simple exhaustion and disgust. It's a shame that we are so hyperfocused on being sure we don't make anyone uncomfortable while we try to talk about the realities of our lives.
posted by Miko at 8:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


every single time we have one of these discussions we lose really valuable members, .....every.... single... time.

And still we have them.

There are people on Metafilter who would rather live in an echo chamber and they seem to devote a lot of energy making that happen.
posted by Wilder at 8:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


and being a dick is something that 90% of the population agrees is shitty.

But I like dicks :(

I guess I just don't see the rational difference between "they are patronizing me because they are a man" and "they are patronizing me because they are a male body part"
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad to say, I found that the contortions I worked myself into to avoid using the term, even when the term itself was the very subject of conversation, were to no avail. People did not "come farther across the aisle to meet" me.

I hear what you're saying, but you're not always going to be rewarded for taking the high road, as we all know. Sure, it sucks. But it just is.

I like that you tried to go around the back of the barn to find alternative ways to communicate your point. I think that's really smart, and I respect it. Sometimes people don't hear something until they've heard it expressed just so, so I'll bet that method actually works more often than you sense it does. I think it's a fine alternative to using snarky, dismissive, lazy words like mansplain that seem to poison conversations here.
posted by heyho at 8:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know this is meant to be a funny, but still: A man who explains something is not automatically a mansplainer.

It's kind of meant to be funny. OmieWise has done what I would absolutely term "mansplaining" if I were talking to my female activist friends, down to the treating me like an idiot and assuming that he knew so much more than me even on subjects I've actually spent years immersed in/have lived. Except that I thought he was a she, so I was saying above, "No, women do it to women all the time!" With OmieWise revealed to be a he, it means, no, actually, it's only been men doing it to me.

So, yeah, I guess it's back to being a gendered term after all, but still I'll agree it's highly inflammatory and shouldn't be used casually.
posted by corb at 8:17 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


every single time we have one of these discussions we lose really valuable members, .....every.... single... time.

Even better, the user who found it so important to start this discussion (with that supremely condescending title) hasn't actually found it important enough to take part in themselves.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ. I was already pissed off when I saw this stupid post, because we've discussed this stupid topic to death already and nobody's going to change their mind because of yet another go-around, but now that I see OmieWise has buttoned, I'm doubly pissed off. Thanks a lot, gman; mission accomplished—another of the good ones driven away.

> So I'll admit that I just don't have a whole lot of patience for this Metatalk thread. Because seriously, of all the behavior on this site to single out...a relatively gentle term that describes a specific sexist behavior, and which is almost never used to actually describe the behavior of other users of the site?

Yup. And just to make things crystal clear: the people who object to the term are defending sexism, whether they consciously realize it or not. I understand the desire not to be made uncomfortable, but don't blame the messenger. If you're uncomfortable, that probably has to do with stuff about your relation to the pervasive sexism in the world around you; you would do better to sit down and think carefully about that rather than whine about how your male feelings were hurt by a funny, accurate term.
posted by languagehat at 8:19 AM on September 5, 2012 [48 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod is back using his older account, fyi.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


every single time we have one of these discussions we lose really valuable members

Yeah, this is one of the most disturbing trends on the site and something I wish we could prevent. This thread is already over 100 comments in the hours it has been up. I don't want another 2,000+ comment thread where 7-8 members of the site quit in a thread that requires 100% mod attention for several days so if this thread starts going the same way, I will close it up, either when it hits 24hrs old or if it goes into several hundred comments with no real gains made.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


I guess I just don't see the rational difference between "they are patronizing me because they are a man" and "they are patronizing me because they are a male body part"

The way I think about it, acting like a dick is something that everyone occasionally does, hopefully by accident or because they're tired or whatever. "Honey, sorry I barked at you when you asked me to do the dishes. I'm sorry I was being such a dick earlier tonight." Or even "I really like Dave but he can be kind of a dick when we're playing soccer." It's a mode of behavior, named appropriately after a part of the male anatomy that seems to drive that kind of behavior sometimes.

Being a man is, for most men, a matter of identity by definition, so trying to not be a man anymore, or to be less of a man, is confusing and a little off-putting.

Again, I'm not trying to take away anyone's right to use the word "mansplain", just interjecting my perspective here.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2012


Binary dumbasses
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, Miko, looking at the verbal hoops you jumped through to avoid the term, and the shitty responses that you still got, I'm amazed at your restraint. You're a freaking saint.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Frankly, I think the problem is gaslighting.

Bingo! I've been thinking the same thing. Gaslighting is a term I discovered when my boss consistently told me that my interpretation of events was 'paranoid', that the things I was experiencing didn't really happen, etc. It's a terrible thing to be subjected to, and I can't imagine the frustration of dealing with it at home, at work, and everywhere in between, as many women must.

I try to work on these things -- I have been guilty of mansplaining, sure - but I hope to never do so again. My wife pointed it out to me once or twice (even before the gaslighting experience), and I've been conscious of it since, because I don't want her, or my daughters, or any woman (or man for that matter!) to be subjected to that awful feeling. So as crappy as it feels to be told you're mansplaining, it is nothing compared to being mansplained at. And you know, on another level, you're SUPPOSED to feel bad about this! You SHOULD feel guilty. That's your conscience talking, brother - listen to it.
posted by Mister_A at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


every single time we have one of these discussions we lose really valuable members, .....every.... single... time.

I think this, right here, is part of why I take issue with the idea that those who are calling out shitty behavior are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the course a discussion takes. Attempting to respond to sexism in a way that won't offend people who do or say sexist things or those who would make excuses for them is exhausting. It's frustrating. It requires that we pretend that we have a shield that protects us from those shitty sexist things, when those things and things like them are harming us in real ways in our real lives. We can't seem hurt or angry, because then it's our fault when the discussion falls apart.

Then, more often than not, after trying to make "civil discourse" in a way that is approved of by the people who say/do sexist things and the people who make excuses for them, things still go to shit. That's when this feels like an exercise in futility. I can see how that feeling of helplessness would lead to someone pushing the red button.

It's not people who are shouting "MANSPLAIN!" at the top of their lungs who are leaving. For the most part, it's people who have made good faith efforts to talk about things in an inoffensive manner, and then continue to be met with the same sexist nonsense they were trying to call out in the first place. So the sexist nonsense continues, and we're down some good, thoughtful contributors.

I decided after the recent threads on similar topics that I would try to speak up more because I'm tired of seeing people red button because they're doing all the heavy lifting. I hope some people come back, but I'm going to try to pick up some of the slack. I will do my best to contribute in a way that brings more light than heat. I'm worried, though, that I will get exhausted, too, and I'll go back to lurking, or even push that red button myself.
posted by SugarAndSass at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [36 favorites]


Miko: " The thing is, I can really identify with him, Bunny Ultramod, and the several others who just are reaching a point of simple exhaustion and disgust. It's a shame that we are so hyperfocused on being sure we don't make anyone uncomfortable while we try to talk about the realities of our lives."

I know. Me too. Am rapidly approaching that point myself. It's why I haven't really contributed to this thread, and abandoned the other when it became clear that the conversation was going nowhere. I don't think I'm leaving. But am very tired of it all.
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Guys, we've tried to use other words, I doesn't work!

Part of my concern is that the real takeaway message is that it doesn't work no matter what we do. Seriously. So, we have to work within that reality. Some people will not get it. Some people are not comfortable ignoring people who will not get it, who willfully perpetuate tropes and stereotypes and are generally being awful and "me me me" about their own misguided vision about something. And it's not real life where one person eventually gets tired and wanders off or has to go to the bathroom or whatever. So this is sort of taxing and more of the meta-problem as I see it: how do we manage people who have noxious opinions and who want to redirect conversations in that way?

As mods we're in the awkward position of modding based on unpopular opinions (not really something we do) or base don behavior (i.e. you are being self-centered and making this thread all about you, please stop). We often employ the latter but we need buy-in from other people to make this work at a site level.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Even better, the user who found it so important to start this discussion (with that supremely condescending title) hasn't actually found it important enough to take part in themselves.

Could be the fact that these posts were queued for the weekend. Could also be that he's caught on to the pattern I've been seeing lately on MeTa.

1. Less than popular OP A posts something from a political minority position. (Political minority on Metafilter, anyway)

2. OP A is immediately barraged with accusations of being X negative appellation here and questions about why they made the post.

3. Responder B is upset by the post and temporarily disables their account. (the last one I remember was ericb)

4. Everyone begins to respond to the disabling of Responder B's account, and blames OP A for posting something that drove Responder B away.

5. The issue winds up not really getting discussed in a thoughtful way.

6. Some months later, the issue gets brought up again.

7. It is met with cries of "But we already discussed this!" with people forgetting it got derailed and never really got discussed.



So this is sort of taxing and more of the meta-problem as I see it: how do we manage people who have noxious opinions and who want to redirect conversations in that way?


The trouble with this is with the question of defining what exactly a noxious opinion is. If it's based on popularity on Metafilter, then Metafilter is in danger of replicating exactly real-world conditions it complains about (ie silencing minority voices)
posted by corb at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


base don behavior

People who make offers than cannot be refused? (Happy birthday!)
posted by BeeDo at 8:30 AM on September 5, 2012


OmieWise would probably be one of the first to agree that he sometimes mansplains things. Because sexism is something that basically every single person engages in to some degree. It's incredibly pervasive.

It's a mode of behavior, named appropriately after a part of the male anatomy that seems to drive that kind of behavior sometimes.

I know several men who are offended by the fact that we label antisocial behavior as 'dickish,' because it implies that men are more antisocial than women (note that a minority of women have dicks as well). As a woman, I find it a bit problematic because it implies that men are biologically more antisocial (when from my perspective it's cultural). A man's dick doesn't drive his behavior any more than my uterus drives mine.
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, blaming gman for driving OmieWise away is unfair and kind of dickish.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


> It is met with cries of "But we already discussed this!" with people forgetting it got derailed and never really got discussed.

You're surely not suggesting that the "mansplain" issue hasn't really been discussed. I think it's been discussed more thoroughly than global warming at this point.
posted by languagehat at 8:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Languagehat: I'd question whether it has actually been "discussed" as opposed to having been "preached about from two opposite sides".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


First, this is not the birthday that Jessamyn should be having, feeling this negative energy from here. Can we take it up a notch, as they say in the kitchen?

Second, gaslighting is a real problem. Whatever you call it, after you've been immersed in that kind of a toxic environment for a few years, you end up getting treated for PTSD.


It really doesn't matter how we express ourselves, if you don't like what we are saying you WILL find a way to make that our problem.


Third, this is true for some people. There are threads on the grey going back years to demonstrate this effect.

As a woman, I find it a bit problematic because it implies that men are biologically more antisocial (when from my perspective it's cultural). A man's dick doesn't drive his behavior any more than my uterus drives mine.

Otoh, testosterone has certain documented behavioural outcomes. Perhaps testosplaining might work better. For the fact remains that the essential behaviour in question is one which is indubitably related to gender relations, thus seeking a non gendered way to articulate gender based behaviour is a stretch. Patriarchy, for example, is an insult to my father, whom, thanks to these conversations, I've realized has never Explained to me Except when asked (algebra! negative numbers! Inventory management!)
posted by infini at 8:42 AM on September 5, 2012


never really got discussed

If anything, "mansplain" has been discussed into the ground.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:43 AM on September 5, 2012


blaming gman for driving OmieWise away is unfair

This MetaTalk post was a considered and respectul framing of a site behavior that was troubling to the poster. That's how it's supposed to work.

I am truly sorry that OmieWise felt the need to (hopefully, only temporarily) disable their account but that decision is entirely on them.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:44 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


You think "use your words" is respectful? I don't.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


mathowie: "every single time we have one of these discussions we lose really valuable members

Yeah, this is one of the most disturbing trends on the site and something I wish we could prevent. This thread is already over 100 comments in the hours it has been up. I don't want another 2,000+ comment thread where 7-8 members of the site quit in a thread that requires 100% mod attention for several days so if this thread starts going the same way, I will close it up, either when it hits 24hrs old or if it goes into several hundred comments with no real gains made.
"

If that's your plan, I'd be interested in hearing you help us understand what you might consider gains here. I appreciate your desire to not lose interesting and vivacious members, but just closing up hot button threads isn't going to do it. I know, too, that you and all of the mods are loathe to set policy, and the idea that Metafilter is a smart community that is considerate and deliberative of situations and cases is a great one. But things are really spinning out of control -- not just here, but with contentious subjects and interactions all over.
posted by boo_radley at 8:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the fact remains that the essential behaviour in question is one which is indubitably related to gender relations, thus seeking a non gendered way to articulate gender based behaviour is a stretch.

Yeah, I agree, but the stated position of gman and others is that mansplaining is offensive not because of what it means, but because of the use of 'man'. I am expression confusion as to why the proposed alternative 'dicksplaining' would be any less offensive.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a terrible thing to be subjected to, and I can't imagine the frustration of dealing with it at home, at work, and everywhere in between, as many women must.

My family has this thing where my dad is "The Smart One" (and my dad is very smart) and my Mom jokes that "She makes good gravy" (she does make good gravy, but she's also very smart, and a little more educated than my dad). Which is really weird, since my Mom and Dad honestly respect and love one another, and in most other ways have a relationship that I try and emulate. Since I've been an adult that's really bugged me, and I try not to participate in that dynamic. Because, I could see that it truly hurt my mother.

I'm only chiming in because personally (as a guy) I found that the idea that this was common enough to have a name, and not just any name, but a snarky sort of "oh this crap again" name, really opened my eyes to the fact that it exists as something other than just a weird family dynamic. So, just a data point that those famous comedians were right, you DO sometimes have to get in people's faces with the truth for them to see it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


heyho, "use your words" is something you say to a toddler. Saying that to an adult is condescending and counterproductive.
posted by Mister_A at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


You think "use your words" is respectful? I don't.

I first learned that phrase in 1992 when I was a student teacher in a preschool for kids with pervasive developmental disorders. It arose from a preschool context as an exhortation to use speech rather than physical methods to get attentionn or express anger. When used with adults, it does carry condescension.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


My problem with 'mansplaining' is that it labels the 'mansplainer' as sexist

Look, I'm about as feminist as you can get but I don't think that's what the term "mansplainer" does at all. Instead, it's usually used to point out a behavior in which someone is participating in which usually unconsciously buys into sexist behavioral patterns. People who mansplain are rarely trying to engage in sexist behavior, and I don't know anyone who uses the term as a shortcut to saying "HEY LOOK HERE! I FOUND ONE! A SEXIST!" It's usually used in a way that's more, "Sigh, society sucks, yet another dude who doesn't think I know what I'm doing because I have a vagina" sort of way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Personally, "use your words" is what I say to my close friends when they're acting petulant/childish. Sometimes I'll even say "use your big boy/big girl words" to really drive home the point.

If Jessamyn says that phrase all the time, I haven't noticed it. If Jessamyn said that to me, I would feel condescended to.
posted by muddgirl at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi Miko!
posted by Mister_A at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, jessamyn uses (or used) the titular phrase a LOT. A lot, a lot. It's where I learned it. So, what exactly are you all saying about it? This backlash against the title is hilarious to me. Really?
posted by heyho at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it's based on popularity on Metafilter, then Metafilter is in danger of replicating exactly real-world conditions it complains about

I hear you. At the same time there have been at least three cases in the past week or so where one person's "I need to make this thread about my own lack of understanding of this topic" has ground discussion to a halt as everyone piled-on that person and basically tried to wrestle them into a different frame of mind. It's ineffective and it's bad for the site.

If it's a bunch of people discussing a topic in good faith from a variety of perspectives, terrific. If it's one person who doesn't seem to even understand the topic showing up to make the same old tired "Let's make this thread about me" arguments, it's not a discussion of minority voices in the first place. In fact often, in my experience, it's people coming from a position of having a majority voice in the world at large who feel that they have a minority voice on MetaFilter who get the most aggressive about their own right to monopolize threads and make things about them. This is a problem.

You know, jessamyn uses (or used) that word a LOT.

I'm not sure what you're referring to? Dick? Use your words? I stopped using "use your words" when people pointed out to me that they felt it sounded like I was talking to them like children. So in the interests of being effective with my communication, I don't use it anymore.

But things are really spinning out of control -- not just here, but with contentious subjects and interactions all over.

We are understaffed and people have been going on vacations which means that we haven't been able to be as effective and as present on the site as we would like to be. Rectifying that is part of this. Having more mod presence in MetaTalk is part of this. Being clear about site expectations is part of this. Having school start again and time pass is also part of this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm uncomfortable and a bit offended at the wording in this post. It makes me feel like the OP is telling women to be polite and use nice words to describe ugly and condescending behavior. I don't use the term, as it just seems to me to be a modern term describing chauvinism. I've had men tell me I won't be taken seriously unless I pretty up my language, but hey, it's perfectly okay for them use whatever assertive language they choose, because they're men, and it's okay for men to be assertive, even aggressive, in their use of words, but not women. Sit down, shut up, keep your legs crossed, and lap up all my words like gravy. Because I know best. You're just a dumb girl, I don't care how many books you've read, I am superior to you.

Chauvinism is alive and well, and I have a feeling that no matter what we call it, it will be around for a long time, sadly.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


Miko: " It arose from a preschool context as an exhortation to use speech rather than physical methods to get attentionn or express anger. When used with adults, it does carry condescension."

I've seen it used to help kids who are rushing over themselves to tell teachers or parents (or whatever authority figure) about how they've been so slighted -- they essentially start babbling.
posted by boo_radley at 8:55 AM on September 5, 2012


Sorry, I edited out a phrase that would have made my comment make sense, so I asked for a do-over. And yep, that's why I included "used." Because I haven't noticed it a whole lot lately.
posted by heyho at 8:55 AM on September 5, 2012


The women on this site who feel like their concerns are regularly dismissed by a small subset of users (who then derail every thread about that experience by denying it or arguing the fine points)....

Sounds like a moderation issue.

At the end of the day, moderators decide what and who are acceptable and we and they live with it.
posted by ambient2 at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2012


Anyway I think we should replace 'mansplaining' with 'Dude-olalia'
posted by Mister_A at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


In fact often, in my experience, it's people coming from a position of having a majority voice in the world at large who feel that they have a minority voice on MetaFilter who get the most aggressive about their own right to monopolize threads and make things about them. This is a problem.

This, this, oh god a thousand times this.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [54 favorites]


"Bro-mbastic"
posted by muddgirl at 8:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, was going to call out what ominous_paws just did. That is right on.
posted by Miko at 8:59 AM on September 5, 2012


Yeah, I would pretty much only use "use your words" if I was trying to be mean to someone. For the most part, unless you're hitting things or screaming unintelligibly, people are using words, and when people are hitting things, I don't really want to condescend to them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:00 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, in text forum you just can't hear it when people are hitting things. All we have are words! So the exhortation really isn't even "use your words," it's "Use other words- ones I (or we) like better."

Sometimes there's a really good reason for that. Not all the time though. And sometimes it's like taz and jessamyn said: an instance of someone or a handful of people wanting to make an individual stand.
posted by Miko at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


In fact often, in my experience, it's people coming from a position of having a majority voice in the world at large who feel that they have a minority voice on MetaFilter who get the most aggressive about their own right to monopolize threads and make things about them. This is a problem.

I agree that people monopolizing threads/making things All About Them can be a real problem. But I also notice what seems to be a disturbing...I don't want to call it a trend, persay, but a thread, maybe, snaking through things, where as long as the individuals involved would (or are perceived to) have a majority voice in the world at large, they can be treated pretty badly on Metafilter before anyone steps in. And the fact that it's happening to people who are the majority in the world at large means that some MeFites seem to take almost a special joy in them getting treated that way. "Finally understanding what it's like."

That saddens me a lot. It makes me feel like there's less focus on actually changing the structure of oppression and dominance in groups and systems, and more focus on acquiring power so that we can finally run the world in the oppressive, dominant ways some may have always wanted to do but never had the ability to do.

It's also dehumanizing, in my opinion.

Let's suppose only one person out of many was talking about sexism, or racism, or a hundred other isms that we have serious problems with. Would we be okay with them being silenced? What if everyone thought they had noxious views? What if everyone thought the society would be working just fine if they would only shut up? Would it make it okay then?
posted by corb at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, "use your words" is pretty much along the lines of "looks like someone needs a nap!" or "aww, did you drop your binky?" or similar things that you would say to fractious toddlers.
posted by elizardbits at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're not going to change the structure of oppression and dominance in an online community devoted to sharing interesting stuff the web. When I start to feel like that should be my goal in every interaction, I step away from posts that make me feel that way.

Let's suppose only one person out of many was talking about sexism, or racism, or a hundred other isms that we have serious problems with. Would we be okay with them being silenced?

Some people on Metafilter would be OK with that. Some people on Metafilter are OK with silencing people with gross -isms. Personally, I think taking a Metafilter break is a great solution to feeling silenced here.
posted by muddgirl at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2012


You know, jessamyn uses (or used) the titular phrase a LOT. A lot, a lot. It's where I learned it. So, what exactly are you all saying about it? This backlash against the title is hilarious to me. Really?

I'm saying what I said, that it doesn't seem respectful to me in this context. I don't see why that is confusing or hilarious. I'm not jessamyn, nor do jessamyn and I agree about everything* so I can't say that I feel particularly hypocritical on this point.


*I do think she is awesome and I respect the hell out of her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


(And I say that not as advice to anyone, but as something I've done several times in the past.)
posted by muddgirl at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2012


We are understaffed and people have been going on vacations which means that we haven't been able to be as effective and as present on the site as we would like to be.

What can be done to help you solve that? Do you need to temporarily deputize a mod? Have someone do some screening for the mods? Have moderators assigned to subsites?

We may not be able to fix sexism and language ticks, but we should be able to knock down a site moderation gap.
posted by 26.2 at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't particularly fond of "use your words" for those very reasons, but it seemed like a site thing that was in place before I arrived; a thing people understood differently, so I figured everyone was on board with it. I totally missed the backlash against it; hence, I found it weird that everyone was coming down hard on it.
posted by heyho at 9:07 AM on September 5, 2012


What a splendid example of gmansplaining this thread is.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:08 AM on September 5, 2012


Adding restless_nomad to mod duties almost seemed like it caused more problems than it fixed (not r_n's fault, our community's fault - we are pretty freaking conservative about Metafilter itself).
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(...caused more problems than it fixed in the short term)
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on September 5, 2012



Mansplaining is offensive. You don't get to decide what other people are offended by and you don't get to decide that they aren't entitled to those feelings.

I'm not so sure that being willfully offensive is a great way to build a community. However justified think you are in being offensive, or however unpersuaded you are by the person you are offending - I just can't see it as a net positive.

Frankly, I think it's shitty behavior and I'd prefer if the Metafilter community were the change it wants to see in the world.

That said, the mods have already made it clear that they are on board with offensiveness so long as it is the correct groups being offended.

And the mods are going to continue to get these fights so long as you create spaces for people to be shitty to other people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing the best way we can help mods is to FIAMO and send them a note via the contact form if someone is making the thread all about them/saying offensive sexist things/etc.
posted by SugarAndSass at 9:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


That said, the mods have already made it clear that they are on board with offensiveness so long as it is the correct groups being offended.

No, actually, we did not say that. We did not even imply that. We do not think that. It is not true.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


muddgirl - yeah, I know. I wonder if have a group of mods who do a few hours a week for a bit would have been a better transition. It seems like there should be some people prepped to backfill for the existing moderators and to pitch in when the site goes sideways on a particular thread.
posted by 26.2 at 9:13 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


> if you use a word that many people find offensive, they're going to tune out what you have to say.

It's mildly offensive, and of course meant to be by those who use it. It's a term of dismissive stereotyping--only members of group X do this thing lol--and as such cannot be used except by persons who are, deny it to themselves as furiously as they will, hospitable to dismissive stereotyping.

For that very reason I'm not about to object to its use. It reveals a habit of thought, namely hospitality to dismissive stereotyping, that a very high proportion of users here claim to reject, and it reveals that habit of thought as widespread. Seeing the term used on so nannyish a site as this one gives the same sardonic pleasure as catching a teetotaling Southern Baptist with a flask in his hand and booze on his breath.

It also reveals a widespread sub rosa and sotto voce acknowledgement that many reductive stereotypes do condense and summarize aspects of reality, ones that are clear enough and evident enough to have given rise to the stereotypes in the first place. Yes, certainly many men are more likely to interrupt or talk over women, enough to make a valid generalization about it. Yes, certainly many men are more likely than women to present their opinion confidently, whether there's any justification for that or not. But we can't let you stop there, you know. We'll just continue down the long list of reductive stereoypes, going "Yes, certainly..." for each, and you're no longer able to call a halt by saying "Stop! Reductive Stereotying is Wrong!" because you've shown you are not yourselves willing to live by that.

That uncovered habit of thought and that revealed acknowledgement, taken together, are what turn "mansplain" (viz. also whitesplain, straightsplain, cis-splain and friends) into the blanket tune-'em-out permission cards they are. One needn't use the cards in any particular conversation, but it's pleasant to have a pack of them.

Observe, please, that I am not accusing anyone of hypocrisy, because hypocrisy requires awareness. I am noting a level of self-awareness here that fails to distinguish this site as better than, really, any other bog-standard discussion site in my wide and deep experience.

/fullersplain
posted by jfuller at 9:14 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Let's suppose only one person out of many was talking about sexism, or racism, or a hundred other isms that we have serious problems with. Would we be okay with them being silenced? What if everyone thought they had noxious views? What if everyone thought the society would be working just fine if they would only shut up? Would it make it okay then?

I really don't get this idea that people are against "silencing" or some other vague tactic...I can't speak for everyone but I'm generally arguing for people's right to openly exist as what they are (female, in this case) without being subject to systemic oppression for it, not for "not being silenced" or whatever.

The reason silencing women who are talking about oppression is bad is because it contributes to that oppression, not because "silencing" is always bad all the time and everyone everywhere should be able to say what they want 24/7 with no response or blowback of any kind.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


No, actually, we did not say that. We did not even imply that. We do not think that. It is not true.

I don't think that any mods here are deliberately and intentionally okay with people doing offensive things as long as it's the correct groups being offended. But I do think that the mods are products of their environments and socialization, and sometimes may not realize that real MeFites are actually being offended by some things - particularly if some things or phrases are normative in their social circle.

You see this a lot around economic-related things - there's a LOT of very, very vicious vitriol that gets applied in economics-related discussions, that rarely gets removed. I don't think it's through slacking on the mod's part, but I do think it's because of kind of a "what's wrong with that?" mentality. I've noted it before with slurs against "the rich", in tax-related discussions, and there's a recent MeTa about "libertarians", etc.

This is one reason I really, really wish we had a way to flag things with short explanations, because I think sometimes offensive things are allowed to stand simply through mod confusion.
posted by corb at 9:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


jfuller "Yes, certainly many men are more likely to interrupt or talk over women, enough to make a valid generalization about it. Yes, certainly many men are more likely than women to present their opinion confidently, whether there's any justification for that or not. But we can't let you stop there, you know. We'll just continue down the long list of reductive stereoypes, going "Yes, certainly..." for each, and you're no longer able to call a halt by saying "Stop! Reductive Stereotying is Wrong!" because you've shown you are not yourselves willing to live by that."

what you are describing here is NOT mansplaining, you really haven't understood why the sides are so polarised if those lovely civilised examples are what you consider mansplaining. Please see Meese comment in that last thread on explaining her VNUT to see what it is we are describing, if you really have a genuine interest in talking the issue through.

again, we are NOT talking about men talking over women, more confidently, we are not talking about boring blowhards, we are not talking about men who obsessively explain their small subject field regardless of multiple social cues that the other person is bored,....none of those things is mansplaining.

your comment seems to me to suggest you have never seen the activity we are describing as mansplaining so I accept in good faith that this is the case.
posted by Wilder at 9:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


5. The issue winds up not really getting discussed in a thoughtful way.

Okay, you know, I do think you have a point with this. Part of why it happens, I think, is that it's easy to end up focusing on thorny details that are difficult to discuss in a useful or constructive way -- for most of us, it's unlikely that there will be much movement in either direction in this thread regarding whether or not "mansplain" is a terrible word.

But it does tie into a much larger conversation of what is or isn't acceptable behavior on this site.

I can't help but feel like, if gman and others really want for site policy to discourage using words like "mansplain," that maybe we'd need to start more strictly enforcing a lot of OTHER restrictions on how we talk to each other.

Is that what we want, as a site? Do we think we would be happier and better off if words like "bitch" or "whore", or descriptions of how much we do or don't want to have sex with various celebrities, or terms like "mansplain" were just completely off the table? If we just had a much harsher and lower-tolerance "BE NICE" policy that was strictly enforced?

Because I don't know what other concrete things could come out of a thread like this. We already have a site policy of "Don't be awful to each other," and as multiple mods and users have pointed out, we don't actually use the word "mansplain" very frequently here as it is, and basically never as an insult to one another.

So either this thread can be about how we need to broaden the definition of what constitutes being awful to each other, in which case lots of other behavior and language would also be affected. Or this thread is just...you know, another conversation in which we argue with each other about this one specific word and whether or not we like it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not all "silencing" is equal, and pretending that it is doesn't do any good. We "silence" links to white power sites here, and I imagine that any mefite who marches into a thread about race and espouses white power ideology is going to have the heck silenced out of them right quick.

Arguing with someone who's trying to "explain" to you that the thing you experienced is not actually a thing you experienced (and they're an expert even though they've never been you in that context!) is not "silencing." It's arguing.
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Regarding Use Your Words...

My daughter (now 4 yrs) tends to dip into cutesy baby talk when talking. She makes her voice high-pitched and loses about half the consonants in the words she's saying -- making her somewhat unintelligible. As her parents, we probably understand her better than outsiders. But it's still a problem.

This behavior began about a year and a half ago, and we didn't quite realize she was doing it deliberately at first. So we would ask her to repeat herself until she was more coherent. Then, when we figured out it was an affectation, we started saying things like, "Could you speak like a big girl, please?" Now, after a year and a half, she gets a stern, "Big Girl Voice!" and we refuse to respond unless she speaks to us properly. Because at 4 years old and repeated corrections, she should know better.

If everyone on this site were four years old, the similar "use your words" request would seem perfectly reasonable. It asks people to be clearer in the way they communicate so they can be better understood by their audience. Asking people to explain what they mean rather than using an apparently controversial term which might provoke a defensive reaction seems okay, right?

But as Miko pointed out, when people do actually do use their words, nobody pays attention. And what is appropriate for a parent or teacher to say to a four year old is condescending and unacceptable between adults. We're not children. And if you wouldn't tell an adult to use their 'Big Boy' or 'Big Girl Voice' in real life, you sure as hell shouldn't do it here.
posted by zarq at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is one reason I really, really wish we had a way to flag things with short explanations, because I think sometimes offensive things are allowed to stand simply through mod confusion.

That is exactly what the contact form is for, and it's very helpful when people use it that way.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]



That said, the mods have already made it clear that they are on board with offensiveness so long as it is the correct groups being offended.

No, actually, we did not say that. We did not even imply that. We do not think that. It is not true.

The number of LOLXtians, LOLRepublicans, LOLfans of "uncool" entertainers, etc., comments strikes me as suggesting otherwise.

What can I say? To me it's clear that kicking the snot out of certain people and groups is accepted. If it's accepted and frowned upon or some such, it's still accepted.
posted by ambient2 at 9:24 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've noted it before with slurs against "the rich"

I too wonder why all the vicious slurs heaped against the rich and powerful are allowed to remain.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is one reason I really, really wish we had a way to flag things with short explanations, because I think sometimes offensive things are allowed to stand simply through mod confusion

Yep, email is perfect for this. The contact form goes directly to all mods and doesn't have a character limit and works perfectly in these cases.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think I have used "mansplain" at all and am not likely to start outside of specific friendly contexts like talking about social interactions with friends, etc. I think it's a great bit of word-craft; the first time I heard read the word "mansplain" in context I laughed loud and hard. But the thing I like about it, that it's spot fuckin' on like a laser gun about a specific recurring systemic bias issue, also makes it awfully tricky to work into a general conversation in a way that isn't sort of a fight-starter.

A word can be both excellent in some respects and not really a great idea for general use in others. The characterization of it as "activist language" feels like a good shorthand for that set of properties. And so I've stayed away from it because I usually just try to stay away from casual use of stuff that's gonna get people riled up, regardless of whether I'm likely to agree with or sympathize ideologically with the riled.

But I mostly just agree with the argument that most of the issues tied to "mansplain" aren't particularly about the word. As much as I can sympathize with a desire to not see some neologism you find problematic and maybe feel targeted by proliferate, I think it's also potentially super problematic to respond out of proportion to that word that gets under your skin instead of unilaterally moving to talk about the behavior it's being brought up in the context of. Time spent objecting to someone's use of "mansplain" could in principle be spent talking about the substance of the discussion instead, etc.

What can be done to help you solve that? Do you need to temporarily deputize a mod? Have someone do some screening for the mods? Have moderators assigned to subsites?

It's something we think about and have talked about a little in terms of how to deal with moderator availability. The biggest thing here is that we've actually adopted a basic schedule so that everybody knows when they are On The Clock and people can more reasonably schedule (or not even schedule but take for granted) their time off the clock and have a little more work-life balance. Which works great when no one is on vacation because between me and jess and taz and jeremy and a bit of fill-in from Matt we can actually do round-the-clock with sane hours.

So mostly we're thinking about how to deal with accommodating schedule disruptions from things like vacations in a way that will make things a bit less of a crunch. We've got ideas, we'll see what happens. It's primarily a matter of balancing logistical issues on the admin side, so it's more something we'll make a decision about on our end and then run with than something that's gonna get hashed out in a metatalk brainstorming session, practically speaking.

The number of LOLXtians, LOLRepublicans, LOLfans of "uncool" entertainers, etc., comments strikes me as suggesting otherwise.

We actually push back on a lot of this stuff. Short of rebalancing the ideological demography of the site by nuclear-level fiat it's not easy to make it all go away and get people to chill out en masse about stuff they dislike, but this is more of a discussion-with-the-collective issue than anything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


The number of LOLXtians, LOLRepublicans, LOLfans of "uncool" entertainers, etc., comments strikes me as suggesting otherwise.

We delete many, many posts that boil down to LOLwhatever, but knocking down each and every single comment made by anyone on the site is a pretty tall order. They rarely get flagged, we can't read every one of the 3,000+ comments added to the site each day, and people that don't like those subjects are going to making mocking comments of them. We get to the ones we see flagged but those tend to be the most egregious.

If no making fun of anyone uncool is the goal, it would require us to pretty much approve every comment before publishing.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


so let me get this straight, those of us who like a shorthand term because it fully and completely describes a common experience we have at the hands only of one gender are "kicking the snot out of...certain groups" you mean Men, right?

so I should stop using it, despite having tried in a variety of different ways to express frustration at this type of behaviour, as Miko did, without using it, but only when I use it do I get any reaction. Hmm... that this girl pretty much put in her place, you betcha!
posted by Wilder at 9:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


We're not children. And if you wouldn't tell an adult to use their 'Big Boy' or 'Big Girl Voice' in real life, you sure as hell shouldn't do it here.

Also if you tell me to use my "Big Girl Voice" you will just get the grossest Mae West impression you ever heard
posted by Greg Nog at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


to be perfectly clear, THIS is mansplaining and I have yet to find a better term to describe it. Being a condescending asshole doesn't quite do it for me. Talking down to me does not capture it. Not even close.

the objections I see on this thread do not remotely seem to describe the experience meese and many many other women have, it's almost like you are saying to me, "I've never seen this happen so I object to you needing a term for it because it hurts my feelings and someone might think I am an asshole because I too am a man and the word man appears in the word"

And I'm kicking the snot out of a group by using it? really?
posted by Wilder at 9:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd say people should use whatever word they want. But you can't control how people will feel when you use that word. There is probably a word for when women tell men how they should feel. Maybe femsplaining?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also if you tell me to use my "Big Girl Voice" you will just get the grossest Mae West impression you ever heard

Oh, it's on, Greg! IT IS ON!
posted by Mister_A at 9:37 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

taz:
"self cannibalizing mansplain ouroboros"
This. Mansplain was fine before and will probably be fine again in the future.

It was claimed up thread that USian had a similar kerfluffle and now nobody uses USian anymore. Try searching for USian and you get numerous results just this year alone. It is still being used, often by USians. The feedback loop for that one is over. Hopefully the mansplain feedback loop will end soon without causing too much more damage.
posted by charred husk at 9:37 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


jfuller: Yes, certainly many men are more likely than women to present their opinion confidently, whether there's any justification for that or not.

Wilder: what you are describing here is NOT mansplaining, you really haven't understood why the sides are so polarised if those lovely civilised examples are what you consider mansplaining


Yeah, this is the thing, I believe.

Some people believe that was an example of mansplaining, on both sides. Women who are uncomfortable with men who are "often in error but never in doubt" and men who think their geek compulsion to share something neat they know is now considered to be as offensive as flashing random women. Neither is mansplaining, but the lack of clarity is killing things here - it's gone from a clever and useful term to more of a catch-all being reinterpreted willy-nilly depending on personal perspective. So maybe we need something other than a clever word, here.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fact often, in my experience, it's people coming from a position of having a majority voice in the world at large who feel that they have a minority voice on MetaFilter who get the most aggressive about their own right to monopolize threads and make things about them. This is a problem.

If I had been able to boil out all the GRAR I experienced at the sight of this MeTa, this would have been approximately what I would have liked to say was wrong with the post in the first place.
posted by immlass at 9:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've always thought one of the great "don't be an asshole in life" rules was to believe what other people (and other groups) tell you about how they are feeling, and not try and demean those feelings through your own convoluted logic or appeals to your own anecdotes.

So, men, if you are told by women that they repeatedly face a real problem in life with being talked down to by men, believe them and respect that position. Make sure you don't do it.

Likewise, women, if you are told by men with whom you have no personal experience that the use of the term 'mansplain' is offensive to them, believe them and respect that position.

You can't build a community out of intentionally offending others or by ignoring the experiences of others.

tl;dr (and i can't believe this even has to be said to a group of adults) - don't be assholes. don't seek joy by pushing other people's buttons. don't ignore people's lived experiences. don't use terminology you've been told the subject group finds offensive.
posted by modernnomad at 9:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Entirely from my own perspective as a man, the first time I saw the word "mansplaining" it triggered a minor but important epiphany. I already understood the basic human importance of things like courtesy and respect in any discussions with anyone.

But "mansplaining", the word, just so perfectly described something I had seen, that I had done, without recognising it or having the terms to articulate it. I immediately grasped what it was, how it was done, what was wrong with it and why it shouldn't be done. This moment of recognition and realisation was immensely valuable - the word, then, was excellent communication, in that it helped one human being form a better understanding of others. It was pure meme gold, a species success, one of those millions of daily win-moments for hundreds of thousands of years of human culture. I understood. I am more careful.

That's one subjective experience, and should be read as such. But I saw it as a useful word. And because it has power it shouldn't be over-used or misapplied, but offense is far from being the only reaction to seeing it on the screen.
posted by WPW at 9:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [27 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies: If it hurts your feelings, imagine what it's like to experience it and maybe help us change the culture so that it would no longer be acceptable to do that to another human being.

I don't know how anyone on this website hasn't called your Republican platform supporting ass out for this comment. It's awesome.

languagehat: Thanks a lot, gman; mission accomplished—another of the good ones driven away.

What an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. Do you, in all your powerful (read: condescending as fuck/I AM THE FINAL WORD ON THE MATTER) wisdom, believe that my intent was to push anyone away? I know that many people around here love your shtick, but I have no idea what they see in it, other than your talent at using words in a forceful way.

the people who object to the term are defending sexism

Always? All of them? Even feminists who are more concerned with bridging gaps than winning arguments?

As for the title of this post, I did not in any way want to derail this thread and I apologize for having used the expression. As mentioned above, it was an expression that I learned from jessamyn's continued use of it, and I hadn't noticed that she'd stopped. I saw taz use it fairly recently and in a way that encompass everyone who works here.

octobersurprise: What a splendid example of gmansplaining this thread is.

Now make a limp dick joke. Go on, you can do it!

I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand. I mean, what else is really accurate that doesn't involve me typing out some extra words?
posted by gman at 9:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait wait wait-- here is something awesome that metafilter has achieved that I have never seen on a feminist website.

A site filled with some percentage of the type of men who thinks Assange potentially having forced sex on a woman/women while she's sleeping and then resists is not really all that worthy of ensuring a criminal trial---

Has got a whole bunch of men engaging in discussion about women's issues, mansplaining, whether women might have a point about dealing with a lot of sexual harrasment and boundary violation on a regular basis, whether expected gender norms of interaction are inherently sexist and assume women accept worse treatment than men... etc etc....

Has anyone ever seen that on a feminist website? So some of the men here are being defensive and proving they live in cavemen times when the man gets to tell the woman how she's allowed to talk about her own experiences lest she be put on ignore and not worth listening to.

I don't even like the word patriarchy because I just feel like that word is where people who need to learn more shut down and people who like talking amongst themselves to the choir start talking amongst themselves to the choir. I feel the same about mansplain, AND YET. I also agree that it would be nice if members of privaledged group DID take a little time to be forgiving of the percieved linguistic faults of the underprivaledged group members and put in some effort to hear the ideas anyway.

But after all, because mansplain pissed off/concerned gman enough he couldn't let it go after a 2000 comment thread, here we are STILL discussing gender issues and the terms used in women's rights movements and how that fits on metafilter. It worked. Thanks gman, I knew you cared about the cause. :P

I don't think attempting to lure men that avoid hearing women's voices into examining their privaledge with niceness really works very well. Sometimes using words that a annoy the type of men who think women's issues/feelings/experiences of being treated badly by specific men are irrelevant or exaggerated or not worth listening to is unfortunately the only way such people will bother to have a conversation about such things.

I'm still appalled at the Assage thread and can't help but noticed percentage-wise it seemed like almost all the women avoided it because what many male commenters were saying was so unspeakably hurtful and demeaning to the reality of women who have been forcibly impregnated in their sleep or without consenting to unprotected sex. It's horrifying that as many men openly stated they saw that as simply rude behavior and not a horrifically traumatizing thing for a human being to experience. I think that men explaining what that should be defined as for a woman or how traumatic it should be experienced as for a woman... is a perfect example of what the word "mansplaining" was developed for at it's worst.

And it went only challenged by males because really... many of us women are so hurt by that we can't even handle being part of that conversation. And that IS silencing.

...Carry on all. Awesome thread, great job!
posted by xarnop at 9:44 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


USian doesn't bother me, but then I'm not particularly happy / proud of the fact that I happened to be born here, so maybe I'm an outlier. I wish I was born in the UK.

Languagehat is awesome. Cool people need to stop leaving.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:44 AM on September 5, 2012


No, actually, we did not say that. We did not even imply that. We do not think that. It is not true.

In a past discussion, I said :

It creates a ruleset where people are treated by different rules based on their gender, class, or ethnicity.

Is that the sort of community we seek to have here ?


And you replied :

I really don't know what to tell you at this point. My answer is yes, sort of. I am totally okay being in a community where nigger is treated as a worse insult than cracker and we moderate this site that way. Insults are, generally speaking, not great ways to engage here but not always deleteworthy.


The fact is that certain insults and poor behavior is not intolerable when targeted at certain groups than others. You said so yourself.

And yes, I do understand how these things are worse than those things sorts of comparisons work.

My point is that when it comes to behaviors, being willfully offensive is a bad thing for the community irrespective of the target, and maybe moderation should work with that in mind.

But, as I said, you disagreed and the community seems to disagree and so...

Well, here we are again.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm also fine with USian, sure.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind in the least using "femsplaining", I see sometimes older women trying to tell a young Dad in the park that he's doing it wrong with his little one so that would fit in well there.

I see the odd female nurse at work describe even simple cooking task in far more detail to the male doctors than they would to the female doctors.

But interestingly a far more frequent phenomenon is the young Dad gets offers of help, assistance, compliments because, "isn't it wonderful that he took time out of his busy life to look after his child!"

Another frequent observation is the female nurse bringing in an example of her home-cooked goodness to the male doctor that was the subject of discussion.

In femsplaining I have never seen the deep derision and arrogance that I observe in what all the women who offered examples of mansplaining from our lives in that thread experience regularly
posted by Wilder at 9:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

gman:
"I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand."
I've no problem with it as long as it's just used for shorthand. Ever since the furor over it died down, the dismissive usage of it almost disappeared.
posted by charred husk at 9:49 AM on September 5, 2012


My point is that when it comes to behaviors, being willfully offensive is a bad thing for the community irrespective of the target, and maybe moderation should work with that in mind.

That's an idea that we actively embrace. That can, in pragmatic reality, co-exist with the acknowledgement that "nigger" is for a number of reasons more problematic than "cracker" (which is a different thing than e.g. "'cracker' is unproblematic, have at the white people!").

People not being intentionally crappy to each other is a laudable goal and one that I wish we didn't have to put as much effort into trying to encourage as we do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Greg Nog: I'm also fine with USian, sure.

Great, take a look at this MeTa or one of the others on the topic.
posted by gman at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2012


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand.

I hate it because I find it to be a really unattractive looking and ugly sounding word (at least if it's pronounced in any of the likely ways). I'd also really like my aesthetic sense to drive everyone else's speech patterns, so please get on that. This only works one direction, though, please no one ask me to stop putting the emphasis on the first syllables of words(TEE-vee, UM-brella) like a hillbilly.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind in the least using "femsplaining", I see sometimes older women trying to tell a young Dad in the park that he's doing it wrong with his little one so that would fit in well there.

Maybe it only happens to me, but I see it as when women denigrate men for not having the correct emotional response.

I am also going to prop Normsplaining, which is when normal people tell nerds to stop being so strange and people will stop picking on them.

We also have Whitesplaining.

Also Wellsplaining when people say "just snap out of it".

Thinsplaining, when people say "energy in , engergy out" and "put down the donut fatty"
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I were interested in persuading someone, or, failing that, at least having them listen to and understand my point of view, I would probably avoid using the label "mansplain" to describe behavior I was criticizing. That's because I would prefer not to argue about the labels we use to describe behavior as it tends to distract from the issue being discussed.

But.

It seems like we have two choices:

Either agree that we're not going to use the term, as it irritates a subset of site users, and, as a consequence, leads to derailments and unnecessary disagreements. Or, we could agree that we're not going to tolerate the derailments and unnecessary disagreements. I'd prefer the latter approach.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm still appalled at the Assage thread and can't help but noticed percentage-wise it seemed like almost all the women avoided it

Yeah, in the last Assange thread said my piece and then left, and I think I completely avoided the few before that. I just can't agree with the contention that we have magically swung the pendulum towards being nasty only to mysoginists, or only Republicans, or only Christians, or whatever. When my spidey-sense starts tingling, I get the hell out of a thread, because I know that nothing I say will change anything. When people say nasty shit about women, or atheists, or fat people, I don't take it to Metatalk or even contact the mods (I FIAMO). That doesn't mean I think Metafilter is a feminist, or atheist, or fat paradise.
posted by muddgirl at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one yet, that I've seen, has explained why the word "mansplain," which describes a behavior, is offensive to men as people. I don't see how calling out a behavior indicts all men as sexist.
posted by agregoli at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Great, take a look at this MeTa or one of the others on the topic.

Why? I mean, I vaguely recall skimming through them when they got brought up, but is there something in particular I should be looking for in them?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2012


gman, every other sentence of your followup seems to be an attempt to escalate an already tense situation. Seriously, what are you actually trying to accomplish here?

As for the term USian, it has never bothered me, and I don't really get what the problem with it was in the first place. I don't usually use it to describe myself, but I would if it seemed like that was the Done Thing around here.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now make a limp dick joke. Go on, you can do it!

Maybe Big Pharma should put a little of the money and effort devoted to alleviating erectile dysfunction into trying to cure the neurological disorder that we now know as mansplaining. Hm?

If periods of listening lasting more than four hours occur, see your doctor immediately.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


How is this going to work. If someone tells me to stop mansplaining, can I tell them to stop normsplaining because I have aspergers? Or are they wellsplaining, because they assume I can simply stop mansplaining any time I want?

Very complex issue, but I like the fact that we will have a shorthand to run back to so we don';t have to say the same stuff over and over.

Can we get "mansplain","wellsplain","normsplain","whitesplain" as flags?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


One American's opinion: USian doesn't bother me at all, comes across as shorthand (five letters typed rather than eight) for American.
posted by ambient2 at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2012


Now make a limp dick joke. Go on, you can do it!

If this post is a good faith effort to address this topic, do not amp up the thread with stuff like this. Not okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


King Richard VI was also known as Richard the Weak or 'Limp Dick'. True fact!
posted by Mister_A at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2012


I gave a paper on my master's topic with aforesaid fuck-load of examples evidencing the phenomenon I was describing. Male stands up and starts a question with "well, that's some (looks around the room with a smirk) seriously intellectual (where bold means drawled out derision) work coming out of Ireland, I must admit I'm impressed, Independance clearlry suits you...but let me tell you where your interpretation goes off the rails....(cue a smug smile and pause...." a bit" He then went on for about 5 minutes discussing the theories of Alonso de Madrigal a mediaeval Spanish translation theorist which did not apply. Not remotely.
I tried as I always do not to be an asshole as hard as I tried in the original thread and in this one, because get this. I'm not an asshole.
I used the fact that de Madrigal came just before printing to segue into an applicable point about trabslation and culture that might get us back on track...no good... he continued on why his point completely invalidated my thesis.

he was not one example and he was not being extra confident and talking over me. The guy had clearly done some work on a mediaval Spanish writer and was gas-lighting me in a way I had already at that tender age of 22 identified came exclusively in my experience from male interlocutors who were uncomfortable about my subject matter.

I maintain again, I strongly believe the people who are offended by the term mansplaining have not really seen it in action and don't really understabd the sustained impact over time. Please re-read Meese comment I linked to above, and multiply by 100s of examples over 20 years.

The word pares away the potential for confusion with all those other unfortunate conversational styles that happen to be more common in males, like overconfidence or bragadoccio and gets to the heart of the impact it has on women.
I am not trying to insult you by using it. I hadn't even thopught it would cause this level of anguish, and I have since become really concious of only using it to describe what it is.
posted by Wilder at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


Saw this on the news this morning and thought it was pretty cool.

Florida girl is state's first female quarterback
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:06 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand.

It remains for me a thing that I somehow simultaneously don't care about and find profoundly irritating (at least, when it's used in a sneering way). I still contend that there really isn't anything confusing about what is meant when someone says "I'm American." gingerbeer is currently in Colombia for a meeting; I can ask her if any Colombians are confused by her using "American" to mean "from the United States of America." On the flip side, though, if it really *is* so encompassing of all peoples on the North and South (and for those of us who learned it this way, Central) American continents/regions, then I assume that you, gman, will not mind being called an American, since that is what you are.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


If we extend to 'femsplaining', you know where we're going to end up? Here.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2012


(read: condescending as fuck/I AM THE FINAL WORD ON THE MATTER)

Read.
posted by infini at 10:09 AM on September 5, 2012


... This is still going on? What is going to be achieved on this thread other than rehashing the same discussion with the same people? What's the point?

Good gravy, I've been called a feminazi on this site. The use of the term was then defended on the grounds that "Feminazis exist." I was pissed off, responded, and then moved on.

Anyhow.

I personally dislike "USian" because I have always seen it used in an insulting context, like "Jew" as an adjective or "Democrat party". There's nothing obviously insulting about these uses per se, except for the fact that they were coined to be insulting. They've been tainted by that fact and probably will be forever.

(However ... how on earth did "cisgender" manage to offend anyone? I've never seen that used as anything but a perfectly neutral descriptive term like "human" or, or "fluffy" or whatever.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why would any man find this term offensive? I mean really are you so thin skinned that a word is going to "break your bones" or in this case balls. Jesus Christ get a fucking life already. I vote that we retain mansplain and bring back USian.

A site filled with some percentage of the type of men who thinks Assange potentially having forced sex on a woman/women while she's sleeping and then resists is not really all that worthy of ensuring a criminal trial

I think you are kinda projecting that meaning onto the thread. While there were some cringe worthy comments the fact of the matter remains that there are bigger things at play than alleged rapes in which the alleged victims aren't even pursuing the case. Time after time the anti-assangers would accuse the pro-assangers of apologizing for rape and time after time the pro-assangers would explain that if there are guarantees made then he should be questioned, tried, charged or whatever they do in Sweden. Just pointing that out.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I must say that its a good thing that the moderator's gender balance is pretty evenly distributed, however.
posted by infini at 10:13 AM on September 5, 2012


AElfwine Evenstar-- I don't know that women experienced those explenations the same way. Hence why they were almost absence from the thread and didn't even bother.
posted by xarnop at 10:14 AM on September 5, 2012


how on earth did "cisgender" manage to offend anyone?

Yeah, we've had at least one Metatalk on this one.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2012


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand. I mean, what else is really accurate that doesn't involve me typing out some extra words?

Yeah, go for it. I don't even know what this even has to do with the original post.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


these threads remind me of that "clam eating salt" youtube, where the clam looks like it's enjoying the salt.

The thing is even entitled "clam eating salt" but the clam is not eating the salt, the clam is being burned by the salt and so withdraws into it's shell. So many women come into these threads, try as hard as possible to explain why they don't like the salt, can we please just acknowledge that the salt is there and it is harmful expecially in large quantities. And get told salt is good for you, you're overestimating the amount of salt here, and "can't you think of the salt manufacturers?"

I know, it's a no brainer right?
posted by Wilder at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand. I mean, what else is really accurate that doesn't involve me typing out some extra words?

I don't give a shit about "USian" one way or another. I don't find it insulting. In such cases, the speaker's intent is more important to me than the word itself. Which is pretty much how I feel about "mansplaining."

Otherwise, the terms are not equivalent, and have nothing to do with one another.

Back to the subject at hand....
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have two issues with USian. One it that it does not transfer well to speech. The other is that it doesn't actually solve the problem it purports to solve. Yes, there is a theoretical confusion between country and continent group. However, there are also multiple nations with official names containing "United States". This includes the United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos), our immediate neighbor to the south.

USAian is still unpronounceable but at least actually solves the ambiguity issue.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:21 AM on September 5, 2012

the young rope-rider:
"I don't even know what this even has to do with the original post."
Like the word "mansplain", USian is a term coined by a minority group (in this case, non-US MetaFilter users) that is applied to the majority group that some in the majority group aren't comfortable with.
posted by charred husk at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2012


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand. I mean, what else is really accurate that doesn't involve me typing out some extra words?

Why are you derailing your own thread to try and restart a 2-year-old fight?
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [34 favorites]


Regarding USian, I'm not opposed to but it seems silly and pretentious. I've traveled a lot in Central and South America and when friends from those countries refer to my nationality they call me an Americana. They don't get confused and offended and oppressed.

If you need to distinguish between the residents of US, Central and Latin Americas, then "from the US" works fine and it requires only a few more keystrokes.
posted by 26.2 at 10:24 AM on September 5, 2012


Random thoughts (and if anybody takes exception to my words, fyi my comments after this will be few and far between cuz I got out of towners visiting):

My understanding of "gaslighting" (which is from having watched the film decades ago) meant consciously and maliciously fucking around with somebody's head by telling them that what they said they'd experienced hadn't actually happened. Maybe "gaslighting" has since acquired different nuances as it's made its way into popular usage? Because it seems to me that Explainer behaviour derives more from deeply unquestioned, entrenched, multilayered mental models.

My impression from participating in the Solnit and related MeTa thread is that if zero people had used "mansplain," those threads would still be slightly shorter, but still long drawn out clusterfucks oriented around objections to "Men Who Explain Things" because some men would still feel tarred with an unfairly broad brush. Lots of comments in those threads are along the lines of I'm an individual, treat me as an individual instead of as a member of this group I happen to be in. Or, I am not one of those assholes who happen to be part of the group that this term references. This term is unjust because it's overly broad and includes me, an individual who does not behave this way. My feelings are valid. You are invalidating them. That hurts. Your invalidating my feelings = pot-calling-kettle-black.

Quoting from that last link regarding the "You are invalidating my feelings" issue:
Whenever I start speaking about our need to work against racism, I invariably find a white person just itching to tell me the story of the one time when he or she was subject to a prejudicial act. . . . Not to diminish the pain of this individual [because it] is understandably distressing. Many of us might be able to reflect on some moments where our whiteness was used against us in some way. But we would do well to think about how often this has happened and the degree to which the impacts did or did not alter our life paths. . . . Imagine enduring consistent racist acts over a lifetime and throughout one's family history. . . .
[my emphasis]

It IS distressing and fucked up that people invalidate others' feelings and experiences. Is it invalidation to hypothesize that experiencing this phenomenon -- the shitty feeling of being categorized by group membership first and foremost) for the first time, or intermittently/rarely (eg, at metafilter and perhaps once every year or two IRL) -- may feel more hurtful yet cause less concrete damage than experiencing this phenomenon day in day out in personal and professional contexts and also from strangers, consistently, over a period of decades?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


the young rope-rider: Yeah, go for it. I don't even know what this even has to do with the original post.

Well, it is right in the original post as its own paragraph. So I guess the comparison I drew in the post is what it has to do with the post. Now, if people aren't offended by it, then that's fantastic. USian it is.

jessamyn: If this post is a good faith effort to address this topic, do not amp up the thread with stuff like this. Not okay.

Really? You are fuckin' kidding me. Out of everything that's been said here to disparage my good faith attempt at having people understand that using this word tunes people out to their otherwise very legitimate argument and gives them something else to focus on, you chose that. What a fuckin' joke. Now I need an easy word to use for pick-and-choose selective modding. Hilarious. In a bad way.
posted by gman at 10:29 AM on September 5, 2012


I've traveled a lot in Central and South America and when friends from those countries refer to my nationality they call me an Americana. They don't get confused and offended and oppressed.

Really? That's curious. In my experience I was always referred to as: gringo, norteamericano, or estadounidense.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2012


Please don't swear at the mods. Essentially, this is their house, and we are their guests.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, it is right in the original post as its own paragraph. So I guess the comparison I drew in the post is what it has to do with the post. Now, if people aren't offended by it, then that's fantastic. USian it is.

It seems more like a "gotcha" than an actual attempt at conversation. I could be wrong, though, and you could be genuinely trying to improve the civility of the discussions here. If so, good for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2012


In my experience I was always referred to as: gringo, norteamericano, or estadounidense.

When I had a Latino boss, he told me that "gringo" was what white people think Latinos call them and "gabacho" is what they really call them.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please don't swear at the mods. Essentially, this is their house, and we are their guests.

Especially on their birthdays.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now I need an easy word to use for pick-and-choose selective modding.

modsplaining?

Please don't swear at the mods. Essentially, this is their house, and we are their guests.

But it's okay to swear at the other guests?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really? You are fuckin' kidding me.

She said what I was thinking and I'll reiterate it. You went from "My goal here is to help facilitate better discourse on this website" in the post to picking like four things you didn't like that people had said in your ensuing absence to respond to in kind of a crappy fighty way as your gambit for joining the thread. I don't know why that's the approach you took and I don't totally understand why this Metatalk even exists, but if you want to facilitate some better discourse maybe start by not getting into shit with people as your first act in your own post and instead focus on some substance and try to engage constructively about whatever that is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Now, if people aren't offended by it, then that's fantastic. USian it is.

Depends on context/tone, yeah? I'm pretty sure I'm remembering right that you dropped a snarky comment into the Solnit thread about how if it was okay to use mansplain then it must be okay to use Usian. The comment got deleted. You seem to have a weird axe to grind around this term, in that it does not seem to be "just" shorthand in the way you use it.
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hilariously, I dropped out of this thread to take a work call that ended up being a male I work with (not my boss) explaining to me that he knew better than me what I wanted and needed and how to manage my time and was going to take over all of the work I'd done on diversity because he could do it just fine because he was totes an ally.

...muddgirl may be right. I think this stuff gets more infuriating when you're slogging through it all the time.
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


USian is okay. Also I call the French "Republicans."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this some kind of troll-gram for Jessamyn's birthday?
posted by lrobertjones at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems that way.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2012


I'm not sure what we are discussing anymore and I'm scared that more users are gonna button.....if wishes were fishes we would close this down and have some sushi.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


USAian is still unpronounceable

I pronounce "USian" as YOO-zhun - rhyming with "fusion".
posted by Egg Shen at 10:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The other mods forgot about her birthday and didn't know what to get at the last minute, so they figured they'd close down a fighty thread as her gift. However, they needed a fighty thread, first, and an opportunity presented itself.
posted by gilrain at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like there's a difference between "mansplaining" and "cisgendered"- I'm not a fan of "mansplaining", but I love "cisgendered". But I don't know if that feeling is due to an actual substantive difference, or its a difference with my comfort level with the respective concepts.

It might be that "cisgendered" is completely neutral. There's nothing wrong with being cisgendered. Hey everybody, I'm cisgendered! No discomfort there.

"Dixplaining" is an interesting term. First, it's waaay better as a portmanteau. Second, because any given man is less likely to think of themselves as a dick than as a man, they're less likely to believe themselves to be automatically implicated by the term and less likely to be offended. (If you really do want to implicate a particular person, you can specifically call them out for dixplaining and there will be no ambiguity; if you want to implicate men in general, that's probably not terribly productive).
posted by Jpfed at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm a man, I do it, and I like "mansplaining."

I think it has enough of a bite to be a deterrent, but doesn't really break the skin most of the time.

When I mentioned it to my partner last time it came up around here, it was new to her and she about laughed her face off.

And speaking of my partner, she has suffered from occasional intractable insomnia since she was a teenager, and we discovered early in our relationship that when she couldn't get to sleep and nothing seemed to help at all-- not relaxation techniques, not any kind of food, not drugs licit or otherwise, not wrestling and contests of strength, not sex-- a brief and detailed lecture from me about something sufficiently obscure that I had become interested in would put her right to sleep most of the time.

I am not joking. This has saved both of us from rocky nights many times. It's reached the point that when she's away at a conference and scheduled to give a presentation the next day, I can expect a 3 AM phone call beginning with "I'm desperate. I need a lecture." about half the time if she has a private room.

It can't be too interesting, either; the most recent presentation, about the fact that a bite from a Lone Star tick has made a significant percentage of people who've gotten one so completely allergic to red meat that any consumption is out of the question (and the effect lasts for years if not indefinitely!) was pretty much a dismal failure.

My only objection to the term is that it's an inelegantly constructed portmanteau. ... posted by Horace Rumpole

I take your point, but I think the awkwardness is necessary in order to keep it from becoming hateful the way "bitch" and "prick" are-- it may even be a matter of keeping it from fitting into the secondary language center where profanity and obscenity seem to live in many people.
posted by jamjam at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


USian wasn't coined by MetaFilterians. It's a Usenet term that long predates MetaFilter.

Also UKoGBaNIan.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


> So, men, if you are told by women that they repeatedly face a real problem in life with being talked down to by men, believe them and respect that position. Make sure you don't do it.

Likewise, women, if you are told by men with whom you have no personal experience that the use of the term 'mansplain' is offensive to them, believe them and respect that position.


No. This is a false equivalence. Men are doing something wrong, women are calling them on it. If you are a man and are not doing that thing, you have no reason to object to the term. Those who object vociferously and repeatedly to the term, ignoring all explanations of why it is a good and useful term, are in the same category as birthers and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—they are using a dubious and irrelevant slogan/idea/talking point to derail an important discussion/issue.

> Mansplaining is offensive. You don't get to decide what other people are offended by and you don't get to decide that they aren't entitled to those feelings.

Case in point. No, we don't get to decide what you're offended by, but it is foolish and counterproductive to be offended by this. If you want to be foolish and counterproductive, that's on you; it is not anyone else's business to cater to you.
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


a bite from a Lone Star tick has made a significant percentage of people who've gotten one so completely allergic to red meat that any consumption is out of the question

This would make a pretty horrifying/awesome FPP, I think.

posted by elizardbits at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


well, McDonald's has just gone vegetarian...

no way am I touching that one with a barge pole, you post it

posted by infini at 10:50 AM on September 5, 2012


No. This is a false equivalence

No, because I was not implying that the two are 'equally bad', or 'equally wrong'. I'm quite content to agree that the problem of men disrespecting women through condescending modes of speech is far more common and problematic than some men being annoyed that they appear to be being painted with a broad brush by virtue of their biological gender.

What I was saying was that one does not have to be right for the other to be wrong. They can both be wrong, and it doesn't need to be a contest where since one is "more wrong" the other is transformed into being "right" or "acceptable".

Again -- the "don't be an asshole" rule is a great guideline for life.
posted by modernnomad at 10:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


> What I was saying was that one does not have to be right for the other to be wrong. They can both be wrong, and it doesn't need to be a contest where since one is "more wrong" the other is transformed into being "right" or "acceptable".

I don't quite understand this. I certainly agree that just because two things are opposed, one does not have to be right and the other wrong, but in this case there is nothing wrong with "mansplain" except that a few men are offended by it, and there is everything wrong with mansplaining. That's why I called it a false equivalence.

> Again -- the "don't be an asshole" rule is a great guideline for life.

Yes, but not when it's used to silence people who have every right to speak up and be heard. I realize this is not what you're trying to do, but it is the effect, however unintended, of trying to get women to stop hurting the feelings of the men whose feelings are hurt by "mansplain." Trust me, no matter what synonym is used (if somehow one could be agreed on), the same men would object to it just as strenuously because it is not the word they are really objecting to, it is men being called on their behavior as men. And that is how sexism is perpetuated—women being too polite to offend men by telling them about sexism.
posted by languagehat at 10:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


but it is foolish and counterproductive to be offended by this.

The idea that you or anyone can determine and dictate what is or isn't foolish to find offensive is one I find troubling and arrogant.
posted by ambient2 at 11:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I am all for women telling men about their sexism, and I think threads were women speak to their experiences with being condescended to are useful for the community. I simply disagree that those threads and that value can only occur if people are allowed to use a phrase that others have stated they find offensive.

I don't find it offensive personally, but I don't try and allocate to myself the rights to determine which words other groups should be offended by and which they shouldn't. As far as I can tell, productive conversations about gender, sexism, women, and men, could all happen on MeFi without using 'mansplain' as the terminology, and the conversations would probably be more productive because they wouldn't spiral off into these kinds of arguments. Isn't this the third MeTa in recent memory about this topic? It's clearly unproductive.
posted by modernnomad at 11:04 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


But interestingly a far more frequent phenomenon is the young Dad gets offers of help, assistance, compliments because, "isn't it wonderful that he took time out of his busy life to look after his child!"

As a dad, I hate getting that sort of reaction. It is, to use the language of an ex-president of the USA, the soft bigotry of low expectations. Recently, I was told I was "Father of the Year" by the nurses at the urgent care clinic for bringing in my daughter when she was sick. What did they expect me to do? She was really pretty sick.

As for mansplaining, I don't find it to be a particularly problematic word. I wouldn't like to be called out for engaging in the behavior, particulalry if I thought the call-out was unfair. However, the word itself wouldn't be the source of my discomfort. I just hate being accused (rightly or wrongly) of behaving poorly. Also, I think it is useful to have a word that succintly describes a behavior that is quite real and has real impacts on women. I know that I sometimes mansplain, and I'm trying to stop.
posted by Area Man at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree with cybercoitus, above, that gaslighting connotes a more conscious and overtly aggressive denial or nullification of a person's experience; mansplaining comes from the same place but is more in the thoughtless or unconsidered vein.
posted by Mister_A at 11:06 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the false equivalence horse gets dragged out a lot when it really doesn't need to be. It is definitely possible for two things to be wrong.

Also, when things are discussed in convenient shorthand, it's way easier to shout things across each other and not actually be talking.

Like, you know, seems to be happening a lot here.
posted by corb at 11:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but not when it's used to silence people who have every right to speak up and be heard. I realize this is not what you're trying to do, but it is the effect, however unintended, of trying to get women to stop hurting the feelings of the men whose feelings are hurt by "mansplain."

Nonsense.

Nobody has said at all that women can't speak about their experiences.

Seriously. It's not as though there is a limit in the English language of words and phrases you could use instead of that one. There are other ways to express those ideas.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Women not speaking about their experiences isn't a function of a top down directive from men, though. It's the result of a sexist culture that prefers to whinge about tone instead of substance, etc etc etc. At some point we need to stop layering on the "acceptable" methods through which women and all of us can discuss the actual issues at hand, the hurt feelings of a few men notwithstanding.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:13 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


> As far as I can tell, productive conversations about gender, sexism, women, and men, could all happen on MeFi without using 'mansplain' as the terminology, and the conversations would probably be more productive because they wouldn't spiral off into these kinds of arguments.

No, that's not true. Check out those previous discussions, none of which (as far as I remember) were derailed by "mansplain" arguments. They were just as productive and just as unproductive. Men do not like being told about sexism, no matter the words used.

> Seriously. It's not as though there is a limit in the English language of words and phrases you could use instead of that one. There are other ways to express those ideas.

See above.
posted by languagehat at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The idea that you or anyone can determine and dictate what is or isn't foolish to find offensive is one I find troubling and arrogant.

I actually do think people have to be discerning about whether a claim to offense can be accommodated (you probably wouldn't stop obviously innocuous behaviors e.g. walking on the sidewalk if I told you that offended me, would you?). Of course it's good to be generous and accommodating when possible.

Languagehat appears to believe that the people offended by the term "mansplain" are being unreasonably offended. It's just where he's happened to place the particular threshold between offense he's willing to accommodate and offense he is not.
posted by Jpfed at 11:17 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that. And I agree. The cancer mansplaining describes is worse than the cold the word gives some men, so yeah.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why is it offensive? I can't see a comment yet that clearly states why it is offensive.
posted by lrobertjones at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's offensive because it has the word 'man' in it and it makes some men feel bad.
posted by Mister_A at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Nobody has said at all that women can't speak about their experiences.

And yet, when there are threads in which women are speaking about their experiences, we inevitably get comments that are all "no, he couldn't have meant it that way" or "how do you know he was being creepy maybe he's just awkward" and so on endlessly. It all ends up sounding an awful lot like "why are you talking, lady, when I know what you're talking about better than you do?"
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [16 favorites]

lrobertjones:
"Why is it offensive? I can't see a comment yet that clearly states why it is offensive."
From what I understand, some people feel the word paints all men as being the type who would talk over women (despite what the intentions of the speaker are).
posted by charred husk at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2012


It's not my favorite word, but it is one hundred percent blindingly clear to me that all the fuss about it functions to amp up the grar and diver discussion away from the topic at hand. That kind of derailing doesn't make me want to quit directly, but it definitely lowers my pleasure in participating.

It's interesting that as the mod staffing and tools have become effective in totally stopping the I'd hit it stuff, the derailers have found this end run around that. Sad.
posted by Forktine at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Nobody has said at all that women can't speak about their experiences.

Just so long as the women don't use a tone that offends, and acknowledges that not all men are like this, and also so long as they also acknowledge that there is a subculture of men that are raised differently that the women should be mindful about and sympathetic to, and....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [43 favorites]


Just so long as the women don't use a tone that offends, and acknowledges that not all men are like this, and also so long as they also acknowledge that there is a subculture of men that are raised differently that the women should be mindful about and sympathetic to, and....

I know you meant that in a sarcastic way, but isn't that really the way that we'd like to teach our children to talk about any group to which they did not belong, rather than painting them all in broad strokes?
posted by modernnomad at 11:33 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, because what EC is talking about is the pernicious idea that if you'd just be nicer, dear, we'd actually listen to what you say. When we women who have been told that know that the definition of nicer is an endlessly moving goalpost.

See also: tone argument.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


isn't that really the way that we'd like to teach our children to talk about any group to which they did not belong, rather than painting them all in broad strokes?

Not if it means my child has to tie her own argument up in knots or de-claw her point as a result.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'd also really love to know if Americans here are now cool with people using the word USian as shorthand. I mean, what else is really accurate that doesn't involve me typing out some extra words?

Lovely use of a derail to dismiss all responses to the original call out.

I like the term "mansplain" because, although a bit awkward, I knew immediately exactly what it meant. I admire precision in language. Words pop up and are adopted because there is a need for them. Take away the word, and the behaviour and need are still there.
posted by QIbHom at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fair enough then. I can't argue against shifting goalpost arguments, because I'm only having this discussion at this particular moment in time about this particular phrase. I certainly don't want to be lumped in with people who do shift them in order to silence women or other voices with whom they disagree.

I guess I'll just leave it at this -- I will continue to try and avoid using language I've been told rankles people, and I encourage others to do the same, provided that as EC says, it does not require you to "de-claw your point."

If there is simply no way to get your point across without the use of 'mansplain', I absolutely concede its usage is necessary and valid.
posted by modernnomad at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personaly, I would rather have someone call me a dick or an asshole or say fuck you to my face, but the mods don't like that so we get mansplaining. It is a bit tricky to directly address a person here, so people get turned into issues. A problem with one person becomes an issue with an entire sex.

What I'm hearing is fuck you all around. Which is cool but you gotta realize the power being fought here is men of fucking metafilter. None of us are your enemies.

So what is the bottom line here? Is anyone willing to say "I acknowledge everyone's individulaity and accept that they may not be representative of any group. And I will not tar them with the crimes of millions of people they have never met?" Will anyone say "If I have a problem with a person I will address that person directly and not adress a group of millions of people who aren't even involved in the conversation"?

If it helps, I will personally pledge to stop explaining things.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


From what I understand, some people feel the word paints all men as being the type who would talk over women (despite what the intentions of the speaker are).

Yep, I dislike the word because of its generality. The term is doesn't refer the specific jackass thing a specific person is doing in a specific situation. It very much reads as "This is a thing men do" while implying that woman can't or don't the same thing. Which rings odd to my ears. YMMV.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:48 AM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


A problem with one person becomes an issue with an entire sex.

Strawmansplaining?
posted by lrobertjones at 11:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I agree with muddgirl that this reading extends the word into areas it doesn't comfortably cover. It's a verb that means, in something akin to jessamyn's prose "doing the man talking down to woman thing." It doesn't label anything - it can't, because it's not a noun (like 'mansplainer') or adjective (like 'mansplainesque). You can do this behavior or not do it. Doing the behavior may not make you a sexist, but sexist people often do the behavior.

I do hear 'mansplainer' used as a noun, fwiw. Maybe the idiom of Metafilter hasn't evolved to that point yet and maybe it never will, but it has in my social circle.
posted by hoyland at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2012


Not one person has addressed what has been asked multiple times. Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men? I do not, at all, understand why this word describing behavior, not a person's innate qualities, would hurt anyone's feelings. Anyone?
posted by agregoli at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


But it IS a 'thing that men do', often entirely unconsciously. It's something that they're taught to do.
posted by muddgirl at 11:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not one person has addressed what has been asked multiple times. Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men?

Actually people have addressed this:

From what I understand, some people feel the word paints all men as being the type who would talk over women (despite what the intentions of the speaker are).
posted by charred husk at 11:22 AM


Whether you agree with this theory or not may be a different issue.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


But it IS a 'thing that men do', often entirely unconsciously. It's something that they're taught to do.

...and this is where everything drives off a cliff and bursts into flames.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a thing some men do. And there are some people who think all men ought to feel guilty about it.

I'm fat. The behavior described by "thinsplaining" is very much a real thing, but I wouldn't use that word, because there are people of all sizes who do understand fat issues.
posted by in278s at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Strawmansplaining?

So it truely is endemic to the sex? Kinda like crying while watching field of dreams? Is it a secondary sexual characteristic?

I am open to the possibility that it is not an issue with individual men who do this but truly all men.

Is it something culture has indoctrinated all of us with? A side effect of testosterone?

I think labeling it a problem, if it is truely a unique part of maleness might be some kind of splaining.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2012


Yeah, that's a huge leap to me, EC. It's extrapolating that describing one person's behavior means all people of that group behave that way. And no woman I've seen in these discussions has made that connection, only the men who object to it. Unfair, in my opinion, and unjustified.
posted by agregoli at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men? I do not, at all, understand why this word describing behavior, not a person's innate qualities, would hurt anyone's feelings. Anyone?

I suspect adding the prefix of "man" to the behaviour in question is considered as a reference to the person's "innate qualities."
posted by modernnomad at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2012


Not one person has addressed what has been asked multiple times. Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men? I do not, at all, understand why this word describing behavior, not a person's innate qualities, would hurt anyone's feelings. Anyone?

Note: the following analogy is not meant to be literal, please do not take it as such. The verb "to jew" on one level describes a behavior, not a person's innate qualities, and on another level it's pretty offensive because it clearly associates a particular group of people's innate qualities with their offensive behavior. The people who are offended by the term mansplain are saying that, to them, the term associates their innate quality of maleness with the offensive behavior of mansplaining. I'm not saying I agree, but the idea that a verb describing behavior can be offensive to a group isn't exactly crazy town banana pants.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Also that is a guess you used as an example, not from someone strenuosuly objecting to the term)
posted by agregoli at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2012


No one has said this is a problem with all men.
posted by lrobertjones at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2012


Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men? I do not, at all, understand why this word describing behavior, not a person's innate qualities, would hurt anyone's feelings. Anyone?

It's a behavior being applied to exclusively to men. Which is odd to me personally, because I've seen it done by men and women. Again, YMMV.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, one does have to be a man, talking to a woman in this manner, to be "mansplaining."which if the objection is purely on those grounds, it would appear to be an objection implying this phenomenon does not exist.
posted by agregoli at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of us are your enemies.

That may be an overly broad generalization and a wildly overblown one at that.

But not all behavior can or should just be brushed off (or even confronted) as "you, an individual, are doing a thing that is wrong/bad/offensive/clueless." There are systemic issues; there are patterns. Addressing an issue (racism, say), as if it's just a quirk of an individual rather than a system-wide problem that needs to be addressed systemically is counter-productive.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm fat. The behavior described by "thinsplaining" is very much a real thing, but I wouldn't use that word, because there are people of all sizes who do understand fat issues.

I'm a white person who understands 'racial issues' but I still find myself whitesplaining from time to time. It's something I constantly work on.

Again, I don't normally use the term mansplaining and I'd bet this thread is one of the first times I've ever used in on Metafilter (according to my Mefi frequency table I've never used it on Mefi before). I understand that people find it offensive and it's a term I'll probably never use here again. But I recognize the need for such a term because it's a gendered phenomenon that I've observed over and over.
posted by muddgirl at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2012


Brandon, that's the thing, You haven't seen exactly the same thing done by women to men....because the same power imbalance doesn't exist. They aren't the same thing at all when you reverse the genders. As has been said. Many times. I'm considering taking a break too. Sheesh.
posted by agregoli at 12:08 PM on September 5, 2012 [23 favorites]


Which is odd to me personally, because I've seen it done by men and women. Again, YMMV.

People seem to be conflating two different behaviors here. One is simply "explaining" things to other people. The other is an innate, possibly unconscious assumption on the part of a man that, by nature of their sex, women need to have things they are already familiar with explained to them- regardless of whether the man in question knows anything about the issue. This specific dynamic is described in the article linked in the Solnit thread. I wish people would read that article (and the thread), because people using the term "mansplianing" are speaking about a very specific phenomenon that is not the same thing as a know-it-all, arrogant, or nerdy person explaining something. It's frustrating to see people pointing this out, over and over and other people simply refusing to get it: this is an issue of men making assumptions about the knowledge of women based purely on their gender; and in spite of their lack of knowledge on a subject patronizing said women. Not all men do this, and no one here has ever said that is the case. Not all "explaining" is "mansplaining", so saying women do it too is entirely missing the point.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:13 PM on September 5, 2012 [30 favorites]


That may be an overly broad generalization and a wildly overblown one at that.

Ok, some of us may be your enemies.

At any rate. I understand this now. All people "splain" shit to people all the time. It is ok for women to splain to men, it is ok for men to splain to men. It is not ok for men to splain to women because of the power imbalance. Any time a man splains to a woman it is by definition mansplaining because it is an act that can only be performed by men towards women.

I got it.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:13 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I don't pretend to have read every comment in this thread, having read through part of it, and from previous MetaFilter threads, here is my take on the subject (and I am not trying to "explain" it, just share my views on it).

There seem to be two camps with respect to the use of terms like this:

1) People who use it in a measured way to explain a specific phenomenon. These people are unlikely to accuse an individual MetaFilter commenter of "mansplaining" things just because they disagree with others and happen to be male (unless it's a strong pattern of consistently doing so), but will use it to discuss the general phenomenon of men assuming greater knowledge on the basis of their being men, or specific instances where it is clear that this is what's going on (for example, they might share anecdotes of clear mansplaining in their own lives, etc.)

2) People who have a general anti-authoritarian bent who enjoy using any tools they have available to thumb their noses at people with power. These people are more likely to call out an individual instance of someone stating an opinion they disagree with as "mansplaining" if the person stating the opinion is male. These are the folks who defend "mansplaining" as being an acceptable term not because it describes a general phenomenon that really happens in the world, but because men have more power in society, and therefore it's ok (or even a great thing) to offend them. The feeling (and it's just a feeling) I get is that for these people, the primary goal isn't one of improving gender relationships in society, but of getting back at people in power for having power.

Personally, I'm ok with the existence of the word "mansplaining" (I don't think the term is, in and of itself, a bad thing), and the use of the word "mansplaining" in appropriate situations. So I don't agree with the idea that the term should be made verboten at MetaFilter. I'm not ok with people using it to shoot down comments by other posters, or to "score points" for the underdogs.

However, I don't think that Group 2 is likely to stop using the term as an attack chip from any amount of discussion. Discussion of how one might personally find the term hurtful just makes the term more desirable for Group 2, because their goal is to anger those with power.

Personally, I wish Group 2 would go away (and I'm not talking about just the term "mansplaining", but any use of insults aimed at those with power, based on the idea of "fuck them, they don't have anything to cry about"), but it isn't going to happen. Instead, it's just something you have to weather; wait for the tide to pass and a new term of derision to appear. I've noticed, for example, that the previous odious expression "that's very telling" has faded away.

And I'm totally happy with Group 1 existing for now and all eternity.

On a personal level, I'm happy to have learned the term, because it has made me realize that sometimes the way I explain things to my wife is different than the way I'd explain them to men (I assume it's an adjunct of "mansplaining", because the instances I'm thinking of aren't "things I assume my wife wouldn't know, so I explain, but I wouldn't make the assumption a man would know", but of "explaining things in a somewhat patronizing way, while I wouldn't with a man"). On the other hand, it has had the negative effect that sometimes I feel bad when explaining something to my wife, even though I'm not being patronizing, just because I'm male and she's female. I get the feeling that Group 1 would be happy that the term has made me more careful about how I explain things, but not so happy that it has made me hesitate to explain at all, while I get the feeling that Group 2 would consider the whole situation positive, and that being uncomfortable explaining things, even non-patronizingly, to be "just desserts".
posted by Bugbread at 12:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, that isn't it at all, Ad hominem. Men can explain to women, that is cool. It isn't cool when a man explains to a woman with an extra heap of condensation because she obviously couldn't know since she has a uterus.

Mansplaining is talking down with an extra scoop of sexism.
posted by QIbHom at 12:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


And by "splain" I don;t just mean "I am really into anime, let me tell you about it". I mean more like lecture from a position of authority just by dint of being a man.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of this before and am fascinated to know this is an issue here, primarily because I haven't the foggiest clue who is a male or a female here. Some usernames give me a signal, but 90% of the time, I don't know what gender is of the person I am addressing much less altering my tone because of the gender.

Nevertheless, I am a fan of elements of conduct like elements of a crime or a cause of action. So I'm interested as to the elements of "mansplaining." Never having seen it before and only guessing based on the portion of the thread I read, I am guessing the elements are as follows:
A speaker is "mansplaining" if:
1. Speaker is a male;
2. Speaker is hectoring Listener;
3. Listener is female;
4. Speaker knows Listener is female;
5. Speaker is intending to be hectoring because the Listener is female;
6. Speaker has no respect for Listener because she is female; and
7. Listener is insulted.
Are those all the elements of mansplaining? Is there anything missing? Or is too much? Are starting to think element 3 maybe is not necessary because Speaker could wrongly assume Listener is female. But surely 4 is necessary because there has to be an intent element, though I wonder if "thinks" instead "knows" is sufficient. Also, maybe 5 & 6 don't need to be parsed and are the same element. And I'm curious if element 7 is necessary--maybe not, but I'm just used to the damnum absque injuria doctrine.
posted by dios at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Almost, but no you don't get it.

It is not ok for men to splain to women because of the power imbalance. Any time a man splains to a woman it is by definition mansplaining because it is an act that can only be performed by men towards women.


It's right above your damn comment.

It's frustrating to see people pointing this out, over and over and other people simply refusing to get it: this is an issue of men making assumptions about the knowledge of women based purely on their gender; and in spite of their lack of knowledge on a subject patronizing said women. Not all men do this, and no one here has ever said that is the case. Not all "explaining" is "mansplaining", so saying women do it too is entirely missing the point.

Not all splaining from man to woman is mansplaining.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got it.

You don't seem to, actually. But I can't tell if you're being snarky or if you're engaging in good faith.

Men have explained things to me that are not mansplaining. Yesterday, in fact, a man explained something to me about raptor behavior that I hadn't known before. That wasn't mansplaining.

But in times right here on metafilter when I've told a story about an unpleasant or threatening thing a guy has done, there has nearly always been at least one man here who feels the need to explain my own experience to me. That is a form of mansplaining.
posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


No, that isn't it at all, Ad hominem. Men can explain to women, that is cool.

Yeah, I got that, that is why I used the word "splain" instead of the word explain.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2012


Yay, Bugbread! This place needs more Bugbread.
posted by dios at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why does a word describing a behavior indict a person, or all men? I do not, at all, understand why this word describing behavior, not a person's innate qualities, would hurt anyone's feelings. Anyone?

Consider how you'd react to the (ridiculous and inflammatory) hypothetical "womanagging". Of course a word about a behavior can indict a person or all of a particular group- the group's name is right there in the word.
posted by Jpfed at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any time a man splains to a woman it is by definition mansplaining because it is an act that can only be performed by men towards women.

I don't think that's fair. There is something different going on when it is so commonly assumed, without any good basis, that women are in need of condescending explanations. Lots of women who are experts in their fields report that men do this to them.
posted by Area Man at 12:19 PM on September 5, 2012


Yesterday, in fact, a man explained something to me about raptor behavior that I hadn't known before

Clever girl.
posted by lrobertjones at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2012


I don't actually have a problem with offending people, and think that a bunch of the hand-wringing over such is well-meaning nonsense fixated on politeness and superficial social norms over substance. I swear a lot; I don't really care if people are offended by hearing the word "fuck." I work in a business where I get a lot of folks telling me that they're offended that gays want to call their marriages "marriage." I don't really care if they're offended. In the past, I've thought that gman was on board with disregarding offense as a moral marker. I'm not sure if this is an exception or a broader pattern of increased conscientiousness (which I wouldn't begrudge — I recognize that other people do care about offensiveness; I just don't see it as the end-point of an argument).

I think that whether or not something is offensive doesn't necessarily tell us whether it's damaging or unfair, and I care much more about whether something has a direct harm associated with it and whether or not something is fair. I think bandying about "cunt" has a direct harm associated with it; I don't care much about people being offended by it, but I recognize the hurt that it causes. Likewise, I don't really care about USian except as it's used to be intentionally obnoxious (well, I think it's an ugly and dumb word aesthetically, but I'm not offended by people using "man cave," something I have similar objections to).

I think that the harms ascribed to "mansplain" are nebulous and abstract, whereas the harm from the behavior is direct and prevalent. I don't think that I've ever felt like I was being unfairly stereotyped by the word, and am kinda baffled by guys who feel like that strongly enough to make a public case.

Further, I kind of feel like the objections to "mansplain" are similar to the objections voiced by proponents of states' rights — there are some entirely useful ways to talk about states' rights, but it's a dogwhistle for racists. There are some quibbles about it, but vociferous complaints seem really weird and a misemphasis that allows sexists rhetorical cover by complaining about tone and not being properly pandered to in every discussion about sexism.
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [63 favorites]


klang broke mah favorite button
posted by lazaruslong at 12:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Consider how you'd react to the (ridiculous and inflammatory) hypothetical "womanagging".

Which is a tricky example because "nagging" already has some gendered characterization baggage.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Consider how you'd react to the (ridiculous and inflammatory) hypothetical "womanagging".

We don't need to invent a term because "nagging" already connotes a woman repeatedly asking a man to do something. Nagging is already a gendered term. 'Explaining' isn't.
posted by muddgirl at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


You haven't seen exactly the same thing done by women to men....because the same power imbalance doesn't exist. They aren't the same thing at all when you reverse the genders.

Again, that's speaking in generalities. I've seen female division/department managers do with with awkward and socially outcast male employees. During staff meeting. So that particular dude was still a dude and certainly had lots of innate privilege by having a penis, in that particular work environment, that didn't matter. He was fair game.

I've noticed other instances of this. It seems to be a thing when any particular minority gets into a position of power within a specific setting. So department or business dominated by black employees tend to or have a small group that makes sport of any white employees or dismisses their opines because they're white.

This isn't to excuse the behavior when males are the ones doing it, nor do I mean to imply that women are seeing things or making shit up.

Just noting what I've seen and that the behavior isn't limited to males, though the dynamic may be different there. But plenty of people do the behavior, hence my dislike of the term "mansplanin".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Nagging" already has a female historical connotation to it.
posted by agregoli at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2012


Nagging is already a gendered term.

Whoa! I honestly had no idea.
posted by Jpfed at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't tell if you guys are trying to tell me something I already know or not.

I didn't use the word explain. I used the word "splain". which I defined as "lecturing from a position of authority just by dint of being a man"

Anyway, I tried in good faith.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh for chrissakes
posted by lazaruslong at 12:25 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm curious as to how often this does happen between men (I'm sure it does from time to time), and more importantly how the dynamic plays out afterwards. I'll have to poll my male coworkers and see if they've ever had another dude who's a non-engineer explain how engineering works to them, and whether such a dude stopped when it was pointed out that "So and so is a working engineer."
posted by muddgirl at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2012


dios, I think you're pretty close there; the key thing though is not so much hectoring as assuming the mantle of authority, in tone and content, in conversation with a woman who is well qualified to discuss and debate the subject at hand.
posted by Mister_A at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


is not ok for men to splain to women because of the power imbalance

No, that's not it at all. I love learning; I am thrilled by people who know stuff and want to talk about it. Most of my favorite professors have been male.

The issue, once again, is men who don't know shit lecturing women about the issue they don't know shit about because women, in spite of being well versed, or hey, even having written books about a subject, clearly have no idea what they are talking about because they are female. For whatever reason, the fact of this Female/Male dynamic imbues the man in question with the competency to speak knowingly about subjects with which they have little or no understanding, and to disregard any input from the woman based on their certainty in their own superior position by dint of gender and nothing else.

Men who actually know what they are talking about are not "mansplaining".
posted by oneirodynia at 12:27 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If that's you trying in good faith ...
posted by lrobertjones at 12:27 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brrandon, once again, not the same thing. Rare instances of women being condescending to men, from a rare position of power, do not stack up to the thousands of times on thousands of days, to thousands of women being spoken to like this from men.

This behavior is limited to males. Because we are talking about a gendered phenomenon.
posted by agregoli at 12:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ad hominem, you also said "All people "splain" shit to people all the time." That's not consistent with how you claim to have defined the word "splain."
posted by Area Man at 12:30 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon, forgive me if I'm missing something in your comments, but it seems as if you're missing the point that men explaining things to women in a condescending way is not something that happens in a vacuum, but rather a phenomenon that is the product of a sexist culture where women are often presumed to be less informed, especially about certain topics. This behavior comes from male privilege. Men are often unaware of doing this because in general, a lot of cultures support and encourage this behavior in men. This does not make the man a sexist. It is a result of growing up in a sexist society.

A female manager explaining something to a male employee doesn't have any of that baggage.
posted by SugarAndSass at 12:32 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


"These people are unlikely to accuse an individual MetaFilter commenter of "mansplaining" things just because they disagree with others and happen to be male (unless it's a strong pattern of consistently doing so), but will use it to discuss the general phenomenon of men assuming greater knowledge on the basis of their being men, or specific instances where it is clear that this is what's going on (for example, they might share anecdotes of clear mansplaining in their own lives, etc.)"

You've been here long enough that I think you'll recognize the reference: One (former? Hard to tell with BND) member who was notorious for mansplaining and its related Male Answer Syndrome had the initials SCDB. He'd condescend to men too, but there was a pretty sexist tone he'd adopt when speaking to women.

"A speaker is "mansplaining" if:
1. Speaker is a male;
2. Speaker is hectoring Listener;
3. Listener is female;
4. Speaker knows Listener is female;
5. Speaker is intending to be hectoring because the Listener is female;
6. Speaker has no respect for Listener because she is female; and
7. Listener is insulted.
"

I don't think intent is needed — you can negligently mansplain as well as "intentionally" mansplain (I don't think anyone would think, "Now lemme mansplain this to her," but I think that you can intentionally lecture someone). Listener being insulted is dicey, but seems like an OK proxy for distinguishing relative levels of harm in mansplaining — more harmful if insulted.

I also think that "hectoring" is a misleading descriptor — the man isn't necessarily making sallies to harry, but can just be oblivious.
posted by klangklangston at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Brandon, I totally get the situation you're describing, and I have seen that kind of thing happen. Condescending bullying sucks and people of all backgrounds and genders engage in it, but it it's not really what the term "mansplain" is meant to describe.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm curious as to how often this does happen between men (I'm sure it does from time to time).

Happens all the time. Men don't stop being condescending arseholes simply because they're not talking to a woman. The kind of men who do this stuff tend to be equal opportunity wankers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a total Russian doll situation here.

Also, get over it. The mods are not going to ban the word "mansplaining" no matter how many threads people make about how they hate it. And none of you who make these threads are making a good argument for your position.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:34 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Men don't stop being condescending arseholes simply because they're not talking to a woman.

A man being a condescending asshole to another man is not the same phenomenon as a man being a condescending asshole to a woman and expecting to be taken seriously because he is a man.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:35 PM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: "I guess I'm curious as to how often this does happen between men (I'm sure it does from time to time).

Happens all the time. Men don't stop being condescending arseholes simply because they're not talking to a woman. The kind of men who do this stuff tend to be equal opportunity wankers.
"

No, it doesn't. I don't get why this is such a hard point to get across. Mansplaining is a gendered phenomenon arising between a man and a woman, not two men. A condescending asshole guy being a condescending asshole to another man is not mansplaining.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


We don't need to invent a term

While I didn't know about "nagging", I should note that my point was really just to illustrate how a term about behavior that includes the name of a group absolutely could be taken to indict that group, because someone upthread indicated they didn't get that. Other hypothetical terms could be used to make that same point, like "Jewsury" (come to think of it, I'm sure some anti-semite has already coined that...).
posted by Jpfed at 12:37 PM on September 5, 2012


The word "mansplain" means "condescending lecturing when the lecturer is a man and the lecturee is a woman, and the lecturer appears to believe that his being a man trumps whatever expertise the lecturee has on the subject."

If you want to make up other words for condescending lecturing in other gender permutations, go right ahead. Those are phenomena, too. But saying the phenomenon doesn't exist, or that it's wrong to give a specific name to this particular phenomenon, seems specious to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:37 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ad hominem, you also said "All people "splain" shit to people all the time." That's not consistent with how you claim to have defined the word "splain."


Good point. consider that part rewirtten..

Im going to tack another crack at this, because I honestly do want to understand.

People explain shit to people all the time. Explaining is different than the word I am making up "splaining". Splaining is lecturing from a position of authority simply because you are a man and the listener is not.

It is ok for women to explain things to men, it is ok for men to explain stuff to men, it is ok for men to explain stuff to women as long as they do not assume the listener is an idiot simply because they are a woman.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:38 PM on September 5, 2012


in conversation with a woman who is well qualified to discuss and debate the subject at hand.
posted by Mister_A 2 minutes ago


So we need another element that the Listener is well-qualified to discuss the subject? I guess that makes sense. Does the Speaker need to have actual knowledge about the qualifications of the Listener? Is the absence of qualifications a bar to an allegation of "mansplaining"?

you can negligently mansplain as well as "intentionally" mansplain

That's interesting. That requires a re-write (something akin to a "knew or should have known in the exercise in ordinary care..." standard). Hmm...
posted by dios at 12:39 PM on September 5, 2012


I don't use the word mansplain(-ing/-ed/-er/-ation) because I find it can inhibit conversation with some men; I lose any chance to try and make the point I wanted to make about their part of the interaction. Instead, I whip out phrases of between 21 and 34 words to try and make the same point, which is no more effective than using "mansplain" and may be less effective (people glaze over or get distracted or write me off as an intellectual or an academic feminist who they must escape from or don't grok what I'm saying or it gives them more time to look at my chest before they get back to the point they were trying to make before I interrupted them).

I would love a less loaded term, although I suspect any term would come with baggage. It might have to be named for a cultural figure (a la chauvinism) to get past the reaction the Man- prefix inspires in some people.

It didn't occur to me that men would see it as a conviction against all men everywhere until I was informed about the damage I was doing to men with my words the first time I used the word in public; the singular MAN- prefix struck me as reflecting an individual action, not an inherent condemnation of the group as a whole.

After all, in each experience of mansplaining, it was one man who assumed that me must know more than I do even after I am introduced as an expert or knowledgable or after he has seen me demonstrating a skillset or ability or that my very presence in the context would indicate I have a certain baseline of abilities.
posted by julen at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


kittehsplainin'
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say it is ok for any gender to explain to any other gender. Being a condescending asshole is always bad. But, being a condescending asshole while male to a female is mansplaining, and carries extra asshole garbage.
posted by QIbHom at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I guess I'm curious as to how often this does happen between men (I'm sure it does from time to time), and more importantly how the dynamic plays out afterwards. I'll have to poll my male coworkers and see if they've ever had another dude who's a non-engineer explain how engineering works to them, and whether such a dude stopped when it was pointed out that "So and so is a working engineer."

I've never told an engineer how engineering in general works, but just the other day I caught myself in the middle of explaining (possibly wrongly) a very simple engineering thing to an experienced (male) engineer. We both laughed about it, but it wouldn't have been nearly as funny if there had been an additional layer of gender involved, or any other reason why that person would spend their working life being reminded that people like me think of them as inferior.

tl;dr: the action of condescending explanation is something we all do, and it's the layers of social baggage that make it genuinely unacceptable (and perhaps deserving of a new term) rather than just slightly irritating or funny.
posted by Forktine at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think we're unclear as to why you feel the need to make up a new word "splaining" to describe the phenomenon already described by the word "mansplaining". You are defining your new word with the specific caveat of man-to-female explaining, so....what's your point exactly?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:40 PM on September 5, 2012


Sidhedevil: "condescending lecturing when the lecturer is a man and the lecturee is a woman, and the lecturer appears to believe that his being a man trumps whatever expertise the lecturee has on the subject."

I'm asking this as a genuine question and not trying to be an ass or catch anybody out or anything, but: Is there something inherent in the language/words/content that distinguishes it as mansplaining? Like, could you look at transcripts of condescending lectures with the gender of the speaker obscured and sort them into piles of mansplain and not mansplain?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is ok for women to explain things to men, it is ok for men to explain stuff to men, it is ok for men to explain stuff to women as long as they do not assume the listener is an idiot simply because they are a woman.

I think that's a reasonable expansion of the topic, with the understanding that it's not actually ok for anyone to assume their listener is an idiot because of [broad category,] but that the men->woman thing is a particularly common and pernicious one.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


With regards to the "men do it to men, too", or "whites do it to blacks" or "women in predominantly female workplaces do it to me, too" thing, I believe all those are true, but I think of it like musical genres. When a particular pattern becomes very very common, it gets its own genre name. ("BPM around 135, four-on-the-floor kickdrum, samples of people talking about aliens or drugs, lots of gating on synths, lots of arpeggios? Goa trance."). That isn't to say that other genres don't exist, just that once a specific pattern gets big enough, it gets its own name. So "mansplaining" is just a very popular genre of "peopleinpowersplaining". If and when the other permutations get big enough, they'll get their own genre names.
posted by Bugbread at 12:43 PM on September 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


Rare instances of women being condescending to men, from a rare position of power, do not stack up to the thousands of times on thousands of days, to thousands of women being spoken to like this from men.

Again, you're being very general, while I'm being very specific. That particular male wasn't high on any totem pole, at the office or in life. People regularly condescended to him, for various reasons. Yep, he was a male and no doubt got all sorts unintentional advantages. Doesn't mean he was at the top of any pile.

Obviously women generally have it worst, with an ingrained 2nd or 3rd class treatment that is patently unfair and stupid. Doesn't mean some men don't experience something similar, which is why I find the term mansplain not very helpful.

This behavior is limited to males. Because we are talking about a gendered phenomenon.

Your insistent that is and can only be means while have to agree to disagree. I dislike the terms USian and African-American also, heh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:45 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


the singular MAN- prefix

Minor point, but maybe worth clarifying. "Man" isn't just singular. For example, "Man is the most dangerous game" doesn't mean "there's some guy I'm thinking of and dude he's dangerous".
posted by Jpfed at 12:46 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do you think sexism is not a real phenomena, Brandon? Or that only individual social transactions matter, not aggregate trends?
posted by QIbHom at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please do not ban the use of "mansplain;" I use it to determine which posters I should ignore. Thanks!
posted by entropicamericana at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Man" was originally ungendered, in Anglo-Saxon. You get quotes like, "min man Tole," (my "man" Tole), where Tole is a female name.

Granted, it has been gendered for hundreds of years, but knowing "man" was originally ungendered helps keep my blood pressure at a sane level.
posted by QIbHom at 12:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we're unclear as to why you feel the need to make up a new word "splaining" to describe the phenomenon already described by the word "mansplaining". You are defining your new word with the specific caveat of man-to-female explaining, so....what's your point exactly?


I am trying to understand it for myself without the baggage of having man attached to it. I think it is kind of a linguistic quirk going on. I don't think the concept bothers anyone. I think people's hackles get raised by putting the word man on there. I think, for myself at least, removing the word man make is sound less of an accusation than simply a statment of fact.

I am not trying to get anyone else to use my own made up words. Feel free to ignore them.

I see the merit of raising people hackles, but it doesn't help me understand the concept.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:53 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]



I think that whether or not something is offensive doesn't necessarily tell us whether it's damaging or unfair, and I care much more about whether something has a direct harm associated with it

Unless there's a debate about what qualifies as damaging and harm, which would seem monumentally subjective, If a person takes offense, finds something damaging or harmful, such is how they feel.

To be or tend toward being dismissive of that if it doesn't meeting a personal criteria for being offensive/damaging/harmful, that way problems lie....
posted by ambient2 at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2012


I =think= part of the problem is that Sidhedevil has one definition of the term, which is what most people who like the term are thinking of, and mudgirl has another, much broader definition that's driving the anti-mansplainers to the battlements.

It's a problem when condensing tricky concepts into a catchphrase... one word can mean two things to two people who think it means only one thing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, Brandon, I do think the term means what it means and can't apply to everything else. It means one specific thing, that's why it was created. The idea you're putting forth says men experience something similar. Similar? No, I do not agree that men's experiences with this are at all similar to women's. In fact, I find that idea fairly ridiculous.
posted by agregoli at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


dios: "A speaker is "mansplaining" if:
1. Speaker is a male;
2. Speaker is hectoring Listener;
3. Listener is female;
4. Speaker knows Listener is female;
5. Speaker is intending to be hectoring because the Listener is female;
6. Speaker has no respect for Listener because she is female; and
7. Listener is insulted.
"

I would revise it as follows:

1. Speaker is a male;
2. Speaker is either A) condescendingly explaining something to Listener, B) explaining something to Listener that Listener knows more about than Speaker, or C) combination of both A and B;
3. Speaker believes Listener is female;
4. Speaker is engaging in said explanatory style based on their belief that Listener is female (note that the decision to use this explanatory style may very well be entirely unconscious);

Your (6) is difficult, and probably different people have different takes on it. Some may say that the very act of mansplaining takes place because Speaker has no respect for Listener because they are female, others may say that Speaker has been raised to use this conversational style, regardless of the amount of respect they feel for Listener. I doubt everyone can come to an agreement on that, but I don't think it's a necessary part of the explanation of what mansplaining is, just part of the explanation about why mansplaining occurs.

I also don't think that your (7) is necessary. For example, I think one could posit an extremely sexist culture in which even females would not bat an eye at that type of explanation, but I think that MeFites would collectively agree that the situation would be described as "mansplaining". Your (7) is of course extremely common, which is why we're having this discussion.
posted by Bugbread at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm asking this as a genuine question and not trying to be an ass or catch anybody out or anything, but: Is there something inherent in the language/words/content that distinguishes it as mansplaining?

No. The splainer's self-presumed position of power as a man is an inherent part of the phenomenon. You can't decontextualize it for that reason. It's a social phenomenon, not a purely linguistic phenomenon.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:03 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


(And honestly, my head hurts from hitting the wall. I'm outta this thread, as the exact same ground is being covered again. I do not feel this thread was made in good faith, and I'm surprised it was allowed at all, since We. Just. Did. This.)

Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by agregoli at 1:03 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


How does this work:
A speaker is "mansplaining" if:
1. Speaker is a male;
2. Speaker is lecturing Listener;
3. Speaker believes, knows, or through the exercise of ordinary care should have known Listener is female; (klang)
4. Listener has qualifications or knowledge sufficient to not require lecturing; (Mister_A)
5. Speaker is lecturing Listener because Speaker believes his status as a male both
      i. Provides the requisite qualifications to lecture,
      ii. Provides greater qualifications than a female irrespective of her qualifications; and
6. Listener is insulted.
posted by dios at 1:03 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Further, I kind of feel like the objections to "mansplain" are similar to the objections voiced by proponents of states' rights — there are some entirely useful ways to talk about states' rights, but it's a dogwhistle for racists.

This, right here, is why people are being turned off.

Hi. I am a MeFite who believes in small government and states' rights. When you say that it is a dogwhistle for racists, you are insulting me and everyone who agrees with me on this site. You are dismissing our concerns, and attempting to limit the scope of our discourse.

When I see you say things like that, I feel like I am a little less welcome in the MeFite community than I was before.
posted by corb at 1:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Dixplaining" is an interesting term. First, it's waaay better as a portmanteau. Second, because any given man is less likely to think of themselves as a dick than as a man, they're less likely to believe themselves to be automatically implicated by the term and less likely to be offended. (If you really do want to implicate a particular person, you can specifically call them out for dixplaining and there will be no ambiguity; if you want to implicate men in general, that's probably not terribly productive).

People don't mansplain because they're dicks or because they have a penis rather than a vagina. They do it because they exist in a society that has taught them that their role is to speak up and let themselves be heard, that they're entitled to being listened to and taken seriously, while it has taught others that their role is to be silent and let themselves be guided.
posted by rjs at 1:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


Bugbread, you're list and analysis are great. But mine has better html-formatting.
posted by dios at 1:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


By the way, anyone who wants to lecture me about typographical errors, it's totally justified regardless of my gender.
posted by dios at 1:08 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb, you are getting angry at the wrong people. Klang is right, racists do use states' rights as a dog whistle. They are the ones you should be angry at, for polluting your political views.
posted by QIbHom at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


What agregoli said. Let's just schedule a weekly "Feminists Ruin Everything" thread for MetaTalk at this point, maybe? Extra points to anyone who uses "mansplain" and "creeper" and "girlzone" and "the pendulum has swung too far" in their opening post.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Corb, you are actually illustrating the point beautifully. The fact that states rights is used as a dog whistle for racists does not automatically mean that every person that believes in states rights is a racist, just in the same way that mansplaining is gendered phenomenon specific to men does not automatically mean that all men are sexist.

States rights is a dogwhitle for racists. It's been used that way historically and still is today. The fact that you choose to make it both broadly applicable in your mind to all states rights believers and personally insulting to you is your choice.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:11 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm not certain #4 is strictly necessary, either dios, though it does exacerbate the effect. One can be a condescending blowhard to expert and newb alike. The form of the behaviour is easy enough to recognize even without specific domain knowledge.
posted by bonehead at 1:11 PM on September 5, 2012


I'm not sure that the last point is necessary. The listener doesn't have to feel or be insulted because they got mansplained to make it mansplaining. They could be receptive. The defining point for me is in the assumption by the man that he knows more than the woman about the topic, by virtue only of knowing her gender. All you really need for mansplaining is a man, a woman, and that assumption.
posted by Miko at 1:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


What agregoli said. Let's just schedule a weekly "Feminists Ruin Everything" thread for MetaTalk at this point, maybe? Extra points to anyone who uses "mansplain" and "creeper" and "girlzone" and "the pendulum has swung too far" in their opening post.

Hey, I proudly consider myself a feminist and am in the midst of writing a paper on an element of feminist legal theory. My disagreement with the use of 'mansplain' doesn't devalue that commitment, nor does it imply I am not a feminist.
posted by modernnomad at 1:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


there are some entirely useful ways to talk about states' rights, but it's a dogwhistle for racists.

To, uh, use my words, there are some cases when it's a dogwhistle for racists. To say otherwise is to say that anyone who uses the words is a racist.
posted by ambient2 at 1:15 PM on September 5, 2012


Corb,

I don't think klang is insulting you. He's just saying that the term "state's rights" has a perfectly cromulent definition, but a ton of assholes have co-opted it for their own agenda, poisoning the discussion. Have you not felt this to be the case? Haven't you ever engaged in a discussion about state's rights just to be accused of being a secret racist, because racists have decided to use your political opinion as a code-word for their own opinion?

The word "misandry" was mentioned above, and it also seems like a perfect example of "dogwhistling". I believe there is stuff to be said about misandry, but sexist assholes have pretty much stolen the word, to the point that the first time the word "misandry" came up was in the sarcastic snark, "I was half-expecting to see the tag "misandry" on this post." Saying that the word "misandry" has become a dogwhistle for sexists doesn't insult people who use the word "misandry", but instead says "the word should be fine and useful, but discussion has been made difficult because sexists have appropriated it as a smokescreen".
posted by Bugbread at 1:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think what this discussion needs is less snowflake and more humour.

Unfortunately, I'm not the incarnation of Molly Ivins, and have no idea how to move it that way.
posted by QIbHom at 1:16 PM on September 5, 2012


You are dismissing our concerns, and attempting to limit the scope of our discourse.

Since, historically, the phrase "state's rights" has been used as a dog whistle for racists, you are the one attempting to limit the scope of discourse by insisting that it hasn't been.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


"To be or tend toward being dismissive of that if it doesn't meeting a personal criteria for being offensive/damaging/harmful, that way problems lie...."

So, you're complaining about a slippery slope?

"Hi. I am a MeFite who believes in small government and states' rights. When you say that it is a dogwhistle for racists, you are insulting me and everyone who agrees with me on this site. You are dismissing our concerns, and attempting to limit the scope of our discourse."

Hi, I'm gonna be a bit glib here and say that you feel it's insulting because you didn't actually read what I wrote. Also, yeah, "states' rights" is a racist dogwhistle. Sorry that you've pinned your ideology to segregation like that, but that's on you, not me.
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


That and there's a long history of documentation connecting the use of "states' rights" as a dogwhistle/cover for institutional racism and policy. The infamous Atwater quote on this is precisely dealing with this issue.

Yes, there are people who are honestly talking about "states' rights" purely as an issue of regional government vs. federalism.
But there are also people who use "states' rights" to talk about bringing forth racist policies.

In a similar vein, someone can be genuinely concerned with "urban youth violence" as something divorced from questions of race or socioeconomic status. (Supposing this for a moment)
But, if you see someone railing against the dangers "urban youth violence" poses to society, they're probably not imagining roving bands of pale teenagers in Bentleys. This example, of course, is limited to my perception having lived in the US.

Alternately, (the indefinite) you could walk around with swastikas on your clothes, and you could even explain to people about how it's a Buddhist symbol that was co-opted by Nazis. And you would be right. But people are still going to see you as a guy with swastikas and be nervous.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


NEVAR MAKE TEH MENS FEEL BAD
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


NEVAR MAKE TEH MENS FEEL BAD

Not super helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:27 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


EatTheWeak: "NEVAR MAKE TEH MENS FEEL BAD"

What a useful contribution to this discussion.
posted by Bugbread at 1:28 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think klang is insulting you. He's just saying that the term "state's rights" has a perfectly cromulent definition, but a ton of assholes have co-opted it for their own agenda, poisoning the discussion. Have you not felt this to be the case? Haven't you ever engaged in a discussion about state's rights just to be accused of being a secret racist, because racists have decided to use your political opinion as a code-word for their own opinion?

See, here's the thing: when you say something like that, I am not offended at all. Not even the tiniest bit of offense. And yes, I have absolutely engaged in discussions about states rights and been accused of being a secret racist (here on Metafilter) and it makes me really upset. And I am absolutely interested in engaging in nuanced discussion about it, and how I feel about that, and how I feel about racists in general. None of that seems offensive to me at all.

But when I try to engage in a discussion on state's rights, and I get met with "Haha! States rights? Dogwhistle for racism. Are you a racist?" or, things like, above, klangklangston's, "Sorry that you've pinned your ideology to segregation like that, but that's on you, not me.", I am probably going to tune out whatever you have to say, because you are demonstrating that you have no interest in what I have to say. You are demonstrating you have already judged and condemned me, and my mouth is only making little flapping noises to your ears. It seems like you (not specifically, but generally) are more interested in being clever, and dismissive, than in having a conversation.

I can easily imagine that it is like this for "mansplaining" as well for some individuals. That some people who might be completely open to talking about how maybe they've been privileged to talk, while others have been taught to listen, and it makes for bad dynamics, might turn off their ears when they hear the word.

And if you're someone, like me, who does care about how women are treated, and about changing the actual way people talk about these things, and about becoming more respectful in general as a society, that's a problem.
posted by corb at 1:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


"2. Speaker is lecturing Listener;
3. Speaker believes, knows, or through the exercise of ordinary care should have known Listener is female; (klang)
"

Actually, while I think that's a better phrasing in general, the "unintentional" I was trying to convey comes from the lack of ordinary care presuming that the speaker knows more than the listener — I've found myself mansplaining on something because I didn't ask the other party more questions that would have clarified that they already knew what I was telling them and were actually better qualified than I was.

(One of the things that I like about our current executive director that I found off-putting at first is that she will totally cut you off and say, "Yeah, I know that. What I'm saying is …" The first couple of times that it happened, it was frustrating because I was still trying to lay out preliminaries and get a better sense of what she was trying to explain and she kept cutting me off, but in the end that was irrelevant because of a legal point she had noticed that no one else had, which rendered the whole discussion irrelevant. But I got to hear it yesterday when she was dealing with an outside consultant who was trying to do things his way in a way that didn't really fit with what we needed, and it was awesome because he — as a PR professional — was so used to simply sticking to talking points and she was cutting through his bullshit like a bandsaw. Now I just accept that she's smarter than I am and try to not feel too grilled when her attention turns to me.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:30 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hi. I am a MeFite who believes in small government and states' rights.

I also believe that the federal role should not be an all-encompassing, everywhere-all-the-time thing; some things are properly the role of the states and not the federal government.

But the term "states' rights" has a long and very ugly racist history in this country, and denying that it does is silly.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


talking about how maybe they've been privileged to talk, while others have been taught to listen

Hmmm.
posted by Miko at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rock Steady:
"I'm asking this as a genuine question and not trying to be an ass or catch anybody out or anything, but: Is there something inherent in the language/words/content that distinguishes it as mansplaining? Like, could you look at transcripts of condescending lectures with the gender of the speaker obscured and sort them into piles of mansplain and not mansplain?

It's very hard to quantify that way. If you looked at transcripts, you miss out on a lot of cues, but perhaps you might see:

  • Quantities of strangled interjections (sentencelets the man talks over like "That's not --" or "I found that --" or "What?!" or "Actually -- ) in the midst of a long strain of monologue -- although I am more likely to use silent physical clues at first - an upraised stop hand, my mouth opening as if preparing to say something, my hand on his arm to interrupt him.


  • Overlapping statements - sentences spoke at the same time; the monologue continuing on unabated or interrupted only for a correction to the woman in place ("I'm talking." "Let me finish." "I am only trying to help you out" "That wasn't very polite." followed by a resumption of the monologue (sometimes a lecture on my failings or a sudden disappearance follow, too)


  • An increasing lack of engagement from the woman in the conversation. If there are 5000 words from one party, and fewer than 20 from the other, of which the last five-ten are a platitude followed by the conversation ending ... but it might be difficult to differntiate escape-oriented platitudes from the rest of the conversation.



  • but the most common indicators I see are in tone of voice, cadence of speech, sometimes there's physical contact (hand on the shoulder or upper arm are common not only to keep me in place but sometimes as a reinforcer of a wannabe avuncular "here's a piece of useful knowledge for you, young lady" advice),a lack of attention or concern paid to the other person(s) in what is theoretically a conversation, the attitude that the woman being conversed with is by default less knowledgeable than the man is (even when the man knows that is not true), the seeming need for the man to demonstrate his knowledge of a subject regardless of any other factor (including their relative levels of knowledge), the expectation that the woman will be delighted to be enlightened or guided, etc.

    Situations can vary wildly - it's different when the man is your boss, coworker, friend's boyfriend, client, customer, attendee at your lecture/ demonstration/ presentation, the guy you're stuck next to on a bus or plane, a random stranger on the street/in a store/at a conference. Age and regional origin and cultural background and class and professional success can all impact how the conversation is structured.

    I think ultimately, what it comes down for me is this: If the words and actions of the man indicate to me that he doesn't see me as an equal partner in the conversation or as someone whose input to the conversation he wants to hear and would pay attention to, than I believe an instance of the phenomenon has occurred. This indication is based on more than just the words used; I have to evaluate the words, the actions, the characteristics of the man (it's a sliding scale for me; people whose faculties have been diminished get more of a pass, while I do expect more from younger, more progressive people. Also, I will double my disapprobation of the instance of this phenomena is Part 1 of a sexual come-on. )
    posted by julen at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


    I don't like mansplain because it sounds dumb. Like edutainment. We don't need a single word to cover every concept.

    This said, use it if you want. I think it is insulting, makes you sound like an idiot, and is lazy. That's my opinion. That's why I won't be using the word. You make your own calls.

    I hate any call for a prohibition of words. Invariably there's the usual camps. You wouldn't use it if you knew how insulting it was camp. I don't care you find it insulting, I'm going to use it anyway camp. The It is not insulting, you're just ignorant of what the word really means camp. Well, it depends on who's using the word and who's being addressed camp. There isn't another word in the entire lexicon of human language that can have this meaning, so we must preserve this specimen against the language police at all costs camp. The fuck, you USains sure do get offended by the stupidest shit camp. The poor babies can't take it when the oppressed rise up camp. The People, there are real problems out there we could be solving right now camp. Leave these discussion to the people who are actually involved and care camp. Huh, that's a word? camp. If we allow this word we'll all be calling each other much worse words soon camp. I'm just here to make edgy jokes camp. The metafilter is the worst place on the internet and I hate this place goodbye forever I hit the red button camp.

    Sorely missing is the Ah, I see your point. I'll change my behavior camp. It's over there with the I was wrong for feeling this way camp.

    I make the assumption people know what words mean and know how they intend them to be received. Sometimes this is incorrect. When this comes up ask for clarification. Hey, did you know that word makes your sound like an asshole? Yes, cool. I thought you did.
    posted by cjorgensen at 1:37 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


    Gah, you're right. I apologize.
    posted by EatTheWeak at 1:37 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    I haven't read the whole thread, but I have read some, and I understand this term can be polarizing because it tends to dismiss the contribution someone (a man) is trying to make, even if that man is seeming to lecture a woman on something she knows as much or more about than he does.

    I will admit that I only heard this term for the first time about a month ago, and frankly I have been itching to use it because I feel like it really accurately captures a behavior that happens to me a lot that I resent.

    On the other hand, I hear some men saying that they don't like it because it is being used as a way of dismissing what they are saying out of hand and because it is a gendered term with negative connotations. In the past I have not enjoyed it when men here have used gendered terms to dismiss my opinions and I am glad it doesn't really happen anymore.

    For that reason, even though my fingers almost twitch to type the term mansplain, I won't use it here to talk about the behavior of another member. Things are so much different for women here than they were ten years ago. I know many men here have changed some of their jokes and rhetoric on behalf of people like me and hey, what's fair is fair, I'm going to try to refrain from pushing your buttons, too.

    And for one other reason, too. I think I would be tempted to use the term whether or not my male opponent know less about a subject than me, as long as there was any hint of condescension in his comment, as a way of striking back and "scoring" if you know what I mean. When two people on a website disagree, after all, it's not always clear from a comment or two who is right and who knows the most. If some dude wants to argue antitrust law with me, I will attempt to argue the merits instead of using a loaded word to put down his opinions, and the best argument should win.

    Holy crap this thread is moving fast! Sorry if this comment seems out there.
    posted by onlyconnect at 1:38 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Men don't stop being condescending arseholes simply because they're not talking to a woman.

    This is true for some men, they will splash around the arseholism to everyone but plenty of men who are condescending to women will behave quite differently with men in my experience. To give one example, my first professional job was working on a project for someone who is highly experienced and a recognised international expert in our research field. One of the guys leading for another company had no problem trying to speak over her in meetings, cut her off or just ignore what she had to say, even though he had virtually no expertise in the area. When she was not present he would happily defer to my opinion and listen to what I was saying even though I was much less experienced and less expert. Its actually pretty astonishing when you witness a straight up case like this.
    posted by biffa at 1:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    I can easily imagine that it is like this for "mansplaining" as well for some individuals.

    I figured out why the word itself bothered me. It seems to me, and this may only be me, that it seems to imply that men are not simply doing something bad, but they are something bad and that I am bad for being like other men.

    If someone said to me, "stop flibbityjibbeting" I'd stop and examine my actions. if someone said "stop manflibbityjibbeting" it doesn't matter if the two words mean the same thing my mind would shut down and I would stop listening.

    I am not trying to stop people from using whatever word they chose, I am just describing my reactions.

    Yes, this is not logical. Unfortunately emotions aren't dictated by logic.
    posted by Ad hominem at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    But when I try to engage in a discussion on state's rights, and I get met with "Haha! States rights? Dogwhistle for racism. Are you a racist?"....
    I can easily imagine that it is like this for "mansplaining" as well for some individuals.


    Perhaps a better analogy would be if we were having a discussion about how segregation and racism is still impacting many people today and someone brings up state's rights. And then a few people who are offended that state's rights was equivocated with racism get upset and continuously derail the discussion unless people stop using the word "state's rights", to the point that people who are discovering how much impact racism is still has and what could be done to fix it stop participating.
    posted by Golden Eternity at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    If some dude wants to argue antitrust law with me, I will attempt to argue the merits instead of using a loaded word to put down his opinions, and the best argument should win.

    My personal hang-up is that, the kind of guy who will *ahem* explain things to me that I know a lot about and he doesn't also doesn't know when to quit. It took me about 10 years to realize that they don't hand out prizes for winning an argument on the internet. Maybe some day those dudes who explain things to me that I know a lot about and they don't will come to the same realization, but I'm not holding my breath.
    posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Hey, I proudly consider myself a feminist and am in the midst of writing a paper on an element of feminist legal theory. My disagreement with the use of 'mansplain' doesn't devalue that commitment, nor does it imply I am not a feminist.

    I am talking about the weekly MetaTalk thread about how Feminism Ruins Everything, not about individuals' particular take on given words. Obviously people can disagree in good faith on certain words and usages within a feminist context, but the whole "it's a Girl Zone here now" and "the pendulum has swung too far" threads are what's bugging me.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 1:43 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    How does this work:
    A speaker is "mansplaining" if:
    1. Speaker is a male;
    2. Speaker is lecturing Listener;
    3. Speaker believes, knows, or through the exercise of ordinary care should have known Listener is female; (klang)
    4. Listener has qualifications or knowledge sufficient to not require lecturing; (Mister_A)
    5. Speaker is lecturing Listener because Speaker believes his status as a male both
    i. Provides the requisite qualifications to lecture,
    ii. Provides greater qualifications than a female irrespective of her qualifications; and
    6. Listener is insulted.


    Not so great because of 6. Better to keep agency a bit organized. And that's the whole problem, isn't it - as soon as we're considering the topic of power imbalance, agency re-formulates itself into something pre-determined, as the question of who does what specifically gets marginalized in favor of the big picture.

    What I would suggest is that the big picture, no matter how worthily true it may be as such, is genuinely unhelpful to be employed as a tool for dissolving here-and-now conflicts, and that's likely why, and when people get their knickers in a twist about a silly lazy-butt shortcut term like mansplaining. It was perhaps funny at the point of its invention, but just doesn't describe things well enough in the long run to make anyone happy.
    posted by Namlit at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2012


    "klangklangston's, "Sorry that you've pinned your ideology to segregation like that, but that's on you, not me.", I am probably going to tune out whatever you have to say, because you are demonstrating that you have no interest in what I have to say. You are demonstrating you have already judged and condemned me, and my mouth is only making little flapping noises to your ears. It seems like you (not specifically, but generally) are more interested in being clever, and dismissive, than in having a conversation.

    Well, you know, when you OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T READ MY INITIAL COMMENT BEFORE OBJECTING TO IT, yeah, I'm not going to be super interested in your replies. You weren't interested in what I wrote — otherwise you would have read it. Complaints about me tuning you out seem pretty hypocritical. Likewise, if you're more concerned with preserving your ability to use "states' rights" than you are about the long, well-documented history of it being used as a dogwhistle for racism, I'm not going to think that you're a credible person on the issue, and I'll suspect ulterior motivations for your rhetoric.
    posted by klangklangston at 1:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    the young rope-rider: It seems more like a "gotcha" than an actual attempt at conversation.

    No, it was more of a "Holy fuck, many people really haven't read past the first paragraph of my post". It's like they saw the topic and the username attached to it, and went for it. So many of you have a lot of excellent contributions here, but you've completely missed the point of this thread. It's been downright fascinating to watch, and a main reason I was staying out of this thread for so long. If you believe that this MeTa was made because I am personally offended by the word mansplain, I refer you to the original post at the top of the page where my goal is clearly spelled out:

    My goal here is to help facilitate better discourse on this website. I think it’s nothing but positive that women find this place less of a boyzone than it once was, but since we’re all humans and not on opposite sides, perhaps it’s important to remember that polite conversation needs to be a two-way street.
    posted by gman at 1:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Man or woman, doesn’t matter, if you use a word that many people find offensive, they're going to tune out what you have to say. In conversations about gender relations, is the objective to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, or is it to demonstrate the destructive power of gendered insults by consistently ignoring repeated requests to stop using a word that people feel unfairly defined by?

    Not this shit again.

    If you don't mansplain, it's not aimed at you. If you feel offended by it, well...
    posted by MartinWisse at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


    My goal here is to help facilitate better discourse on this website.

    How big of you.
    posted by kagredon at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    You are failing at your goal, and sitting back to watch what you think is a misinterpretation of your goal is pretty shitty.
    posted by lazaruslong at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    ...and I think it's admirable, but completely unreasonable, to expect every thread on Metafilter to be polite. Or really any thread.

    (Also, I went back and re-read your post. For the third time. And I don't see where anyone missed any facet of it. We get it. You want people to be polite in the face of insult.)
    posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I also believe that the federal role should not be an all-encompassing, everywhere-all-the-time thing; some things are properly the role of the states and not the federal government.
    But the term "states' rights" has a long and very ugly racist history in this country, and denying that it does is silly.


    Oh yes! Absolutely it does. Many people have used it as a way to justify some really awful things. But I don't think that means that the idea of "state's rights" should be forever tainted such that no one can talk about them without someone bringing that up.

    I mean, if you explain it out, it seems kind of like a nonsequitur.

    A: "I think that the federal government is showing too much encroaching power, and taking rights best reserved for the states. It really upsets me to see this kind of behavior, and I think we should be careful to see what we can do to defeat it."
    B: "Do you know that people in the past used state's rights to defend segregation?"
    A: "Why yes I do. Also, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"

    The only reason to bring it up in a nuanced conversation (the "States rights is a racist dogwhistle" piece) seems to be to slyly imply that perhaps the person talking about state's rights is a secret racist, through no other reason than because they share the same ideology as some racists. Which, you know, applies to some broader points. The Klan hates the Iraq War, for example. So do I. I'm not going to stop hating it or talking about hating it just because they do too.

    Well, you know, when you OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T READ MY INITIAL COMMENT BEFORE OBJECTING TO IT, yeah, I'm not going to be super interested in your replies. You weren't interested in what I wrote — otherwise you would have read it. Complaints about me tuning you out seem pretty hypocritical. Likewise, if you're more concerned with preserving your ability to use "states' rights" than you are about the long, well-documented history of it being used as a dogwhistle for racism, I'm not going to think that you're a credible person on the issue, and I'll suspect ulterior motivations for your rhetoric.

    You know, the fact that you may not have meant any offense, but I took it anyway, does not mean that I somehow didn't read your initial comment. I read it. I took offense. And here we are.

    I am concerned about state's rights. (Which I think are incredibly, incredibly important for a lot of reasons that this is not the place to get into.) I am concerned about racism. (Also the same). But yes, I am more concerned about being able to talk about my political beliefs and feelings freely than I am with your apparent concerns that some people who shared my political beliefs fifty years ago did so for racist reasons, and thus everyone who ever talks about those political beliefs may secretly be a racist.
    posted by corb at 2:02 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    lazaruslong: "You are failing at your goal, and sitting back to watch what you think is a misinterpretation of your goal is pretty shitty."

    Well, wait a minute: There's have been times where people have been accused of babysitting their threads to the detriment of their thread and also, yes, being shitty in a totally different way.
    posted by boo_radley at 2:04 PM on September 5, 2012


    if someone said "stop manflibbityjibbeting" it doesn't matter if the two words mean the same thing my mind would shut down and I would stop listening.

    So why does adding the "man" make a difference? I'm really curious as to how that changes things for you so profoundly that you can no longer listen.

    you've completely missed the point of this thread.

    Well, threads are evolving conversations of which no one person is in control, so though I think you might feel people have missed your point, as in the point you wanted to make when you posted the thread, but the thread is bigger than that. Your point isn't necessarily the only point (ie purpose) of the entire thread. People who are participating so actively certainly can't have missed the entire point of the thread. They are the thread. In much the same way, the "point" of the Girlzone thread was ostensibly to discuss whether the pendulum had swung too far in favor of women. The thread, though, became a different discussion - we can't say everyone missed the OP's point. They heard it loud and clear, but it wasn't exactly the full extent of the discussion that they wanted to have.

    But since you feel people didn't read your additional paragraphs, I see plenty of evidence that they certainly did. In the second paragraph, you posited two goals you think people might have for using the word or not objecting to the use of the word. They're both pretty narrow projections, and people here have taken pains to explain why those actually are not their goals. It seems like people are speaking directly to the question, so I'm not sure why you feel unsatisfied.

    I guess I will believe that people really, really want to have a discussion of the communication issues between men and women when we start talking about the communication issues between men and women, instead of requiring people to do it only and exactly in the way that keeps everyone feeling the least challenged.
    posted by Miko at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Jesus, cjorgensen, why didn't you make your comment at the very start of the thread? This thread would be like 90% shorter.

    MartinWisse: "If you feel offended by it, well..."

    ...then you may be a sexist asshole, or you may not like it because it reads to you like a derogatory term aimed at a specific gender.

    You may not agree with the second camp, but at least have the courtesy of acknowledging their existence and not implying that everyone who disagrees with you on the topic is a sexist asshole.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:09 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    Who said I was unsatisfied? This has been extremely interesting to watch.
    posted by gman at 2:09 PM on September 5, 2012


    Do you think sexism is not a real phenomena, Brandon?

    Yes, because when I wrote "Obviously women generally have it worst, with an ingrained 2nd or 3rd class treatment that is patently unfair and stupid", I actually meant "sexism doesn't exist". Thank you for understanding not what I wrote, but what was secretly in my mind.


    Similar? No, I do not agree that men's experiences with this are at all similar to women's. In fact, I find that idea fairly ridiculous

    Again, while women clearly are still treated unfairly on multiple levels, even in "enlightened" Western society, that second class citizen because you're woman is not completely dissimilar from any other second class treatment. That's not dismiss any shoddy treatment of any women. Simply disagreeing with the idea that it's ridiculous.

    I think I get it, in that it's hard being a woman and having to deal with a thousand tiny cuts and attacks and assumptions on a daily basis, just because you're a woman. Everything that a woman is, her intelligence, humor, wit, great ideas, individual personal, accumulated knowledge, none of that matters far too often. You're a woman and "don't you worry your pretty little head about it". Then the sheer gall of a male to presume a woman doesn't know something, because she is a woman, when she in fact has a lot of knowledge or may even be a credentialed expert in the field or subject can white hot maddening, humiliating, frustrating, and infuriating, often all at once.

    My point is not to dismiss those very valid feelings, experiences or thoughts, but to suggest that others have felt similarly. That reducing those experiences to just females in these situations cuts out a wide swath of humanity. These discussions on MeFi seem to be more about a particular group's pain, which is understandable. But I would prefer not to see the pain of others mocked, belated or ignored. I don't know exactly how the individual pains, feelings or injustices can be joined or understood by different sides, so they individuals can say and think "Yeah, I've a raw deal, but so have you, so that unites in some way" but it would be good if it were so, IMO

    ...

    Moving on...Some people on this site are offended or annoyed by the term 'mansplain'. Others think it's a perfectly fine and descriptive term. There seems to be little understanding or desire to change, from either side.

    So it looks like people will have decide whether they want to use the term, knowing it bothers some people and others will have to decide just how much the term's usage is going to bug them. That's about as good as its going to get, consensus wise: we'll have to make our individual decisions and live with them.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:12 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


    Many people have used it as a way to justify some really awful things. But I don't think that means that the idea of "state's rights" should be forever tainted such that no one can talk about them without someone bringing that up.

    Well, I'm glad you have that figured out for your own purposes. So how does that work when you want to communicate meaningfully on the subject with anyone else? Is it really easier to correct the entire world, one person at a time, than it is to simply find a more accurate way to say what you mean?
    posted by hermitosis at 2:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Who said I was unsatisfied? This has been extremely interesting to watch.

    It's almost like you want to give us the impression you just posted this meta to stir up the pot, not to have any sort of meaningful discussion. Like you want to, but you're just managing to dial back from being that brazen about it.
    posted by ominous_paws at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


    Who said I was unsatisfied? This has been extremely interesting to watch.

    Have you got pants on?
    posted by lrobertjones at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I interpreted your comment

    it was more of a "Holy fuck, many people really haven't read past the first paragraph of my post". It's like they saw the topic and the username attached to it, and went for it. So many of you have a lot of excellent contributions here, but you've completely missed the point of this thread.

    As your being unsatisfied with the receipt for your post. If I'm wrong, I apologize.
    posted by Miko at 2:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    boo_radley: "lazaruslong: "You are failing at your goal, and sitting back to watch what you think is a misinterpretation of your goal is pretty shitty."

    Well, wait a minute: There's have been times where people have been accused of babysitting their threads to the detriment of their thread and also, yes, being shitty in a totally different way.
    "

    Oh I'm aware. There's a big ole middle ground between babysitting a thread and sitting back to watch it as entertainment, especially when the poster is (theoretically) opening a MeTa in good faith for a constructive purpose. The assertion that we have all missed the boat but gosh it sure is fun to watch from the OP is shitty.
    posted by lazaruslong at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Language is a weapon and a word like 'mansplain' can be a way for a group to mock and disregard another group as much as it can be a descriptive term to identify obnoxious, sexist behavior. When used in the first sense, it is vile like 'tramp' or 'chink' or 'redneck': a way for an in-group to belittle the contribution of someone they don't like based on vaguely subjective criteria that have little or no bearing on the subject at hand. To what extent an in-group earns the right to do so based on real or perceived privilege enjoyed by the other party is up for grabs, but that it is antagonizing and divisive when used in this way seems self-evident. It would be a shame if the descriptive sense of the term, which I think captures a real and problematic aspect of male-female interaction, became entirely subsumed by the antagonistic and pejorative sense, but personally, I wouldn't mind never seeing the word again - it is ugly, and what it describes is ugly.
    posted by deo rei at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    B: "Do you know that people in the past used state's rights to defend segregation?"

    You keep saying that the racist usage of this phrase is in the past. It isn't. That's the problem. It's not that some super-PC bunch of people are all "See, see! You're using an obsolete term that used to be offensive!"

    It is currently used by racist assholes, and by politicians who don't want to be obvious about their racist assholery but want to signal to racist assholes that they're together on this issue.
    posted by rtha at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


    Since the people who are really bothered by it have shown themselves to be the kind of people that users of the term would rather not pander to, I predict little to no change in usage of the word.
    posted by hermitosis at 2:19 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    Assuming good faith, obviously there's no problem with using words like "mansplain".

    I think on this site, in particular on politics threads, one cannot assume good faith. Privilege is often invoked here to shut down debate, not seriously elucidate anything.

    I'll be accused of being insincere here, but I am very interested in hearing how my privilege impacts my views on the world. I want people to call that out, forcefully so if necessary. But I also think that American progressivism (and most of us are American progressives) has a slightly-weird culture of purity and one-upsmanship, and as "mansplain" and other invocations of privilege have come into vogue, I think there has been an unconscious competition to "call out" "privilege" at the drop of a hat.

    There's enough ambiguity in text-based communication that that kind of dynamic is obviously problematic.
    posted by downing street memo at 2:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    My goal here is to help facilitate better discourse on this website. I think it’s nothing but positive that women find this place less of a boyzone than it once was, but since we’re all humans and not on opposite sides, perhaps it’s important to remember that polite conversation needs to be a two-way street.

    So...gman created this MeTa to instruct everyone else on how or when or if to use "mansplaining". You were...mansplaining,"mansplaining", if you will.

    If you believe that this MeTa was made because I am personally offended by the word mansplain, I refer you to the original post at the top of the page where my goal is clearly spelled out:

    He then reveals that this is not in reaction to anything that he's personally concerned or affected about, and then...

    Who said I was unsatisfied? This has been extremely interesting to watch.

    ...gloats in satisfaction at watching the outpouring of hoppitamoppita.

    Someone please explain to me why this hasn't been closed as a troll thread?
    posted by kagredon at 2:21 PM on September 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


    Since both parties have shown themselves to not really care what the other side says, except as a springboard for their own counterarguments, I predict little to no change in usage of the word. Which is what contentious MetaTalk threads are largely for. They're rhetoric gyms, where people go to get a rhetoric workout.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Bugbread: "where people go to get a rhetoric workout."

    GLOATS AND SQUATS.
    posted by boo_radley at 2:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    kagredon: "Someone please explain to me why this hasn't been closed as a troll thread?"

    Perhaps because the mods have not read as deeply into what gman wrote to assume all kinds of unstated but nefarious motivations, as you have? Or perhaps because they felt the discussion that resulted was worth having? Those are just two guesses, but I get the feeling your question may have been rhetorical.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2012


    26.2: “Regarding USian, I'm not opposed to but it seems silly and pretentious. I've traveled a lot in Central and South America and when friends from those countries refer to my nationality they call me an Americana. They don't get confused and offended and oppressed.”

    Not to derail, and I believe you, but that seems totally weird. Why would you call somebody "Americana" when there is actually a word for "United States-ian" – "Estadounidense" – in your language? Very strange, but I guess sometimes people want to be counter-intuitive.
    posted by koeselitz at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2012


    I think there has been an unconscious competition to "call out" "privilege" at the drop of a hat... that kind of dynamic is obviously problematic.

    I guess I don't really find it problematic. If you believe in the concept that social structures afford different people different kinds of privileges based on gender, class, race, etc., then I don't see why it is a problem to call it out. It happens to all of us, because by virtue of being here on the internet at all, reading and writing, we are people who have enjoyed some privilege. That doesn't negate the other important ways in which we, and others, are disprivileged.

    I can see that rabidly competing to discover and call out privilege could be bad - but I don't think we rabidly compete. We simply call 'em as we see 'em when it happens. Please note that of the three recent contentious gender threads - this, Girlzone, and Solnit - two, count 'em, 2/3 of them, were started by people who are not competing to call out privilege, but who are actually men advancing the viewpoint that they aren't being privileged enough on the site.

    It doesn't seem fair to blame those who didn't even go looking for this argument for the fact that it exists.
    posted by Miko at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]



    posted by maxwelton at 2:27 PM on September 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


    So why does adding the "man" make a difference? I'm really curious as to how that changes things for you so profoundly that you can no longer listen.

    This is just me. I wouldn't say I shut down totally, but I would be much less receptive.

    This is all an emotional response to a word. Obviously when I stop to think it though I realize in part I am being crazy.

    It is just that the word, to me, implies that there is something inherent in maleness that causes dickish behaviour, and by extension I must be a dick too.

    This is simply my reaction to the word. I am not trying to imply anything about the intent of anyone using the word. I may even be misunderstanding the word. This is an emotional reaction that is hard to logic out of.

    Nobody here is under any obligation to spare my feelings so use whatever words you want.
    posted by Ad hominem at 2:28 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


    koeselitz: "Why would you call somebody "Americana" when there is actually a word for "United States-ian" – "Estadounidense" – in your language? Very strange, but I guess sometimes people want to be counter-intuitive."

    I'm guessing it's because it's shorter. I've never heard any of my Spanish relatives say "estadounidense", only "americano", though I acknowledge that the situation is different for a Spaniard than a Latin American.
    posted by Bugbread at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Someone please explain to me why this hasn't been closed as a troll thread?

    Because mansplaining will continue to be used in the blue and elsewhere; it will probably continue to cause derail; now the mod's can redirect the derail here, perhaps along with other derails pertaining to language perceived as impolite or offensive.
    posted by Golden Eternity at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2012


    They're rhetoric gyms, where people go to get a rhetoric workout.

    You know, NO. That's minimizing. I am not here for a "rhetorical workout." This isn't academic to me. It's not wankery to me.

    It makes a difference to me and my participation on the site what my experience is like. It makes a difference to other women and to anti-sexist men, too. And I'd like the site to be less of a battleground for me and for them. I understand that for you and perhaps for many others, this is an inconsequential game. But for lots of people, it's actually a significant condition of their participation that they're taken seriously, not seen as people shooting their mouths off about shit that doesn't matter.
    posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on September 5, 2012 [70 favorites]


    I guess I don't really find it problematic. If you believe in the concept that social structures afford different people different kinds of privileges based on gender, class, race, etc., then I don't see why it is a problem to call it out. It happens to all of us, because by virtue of being here on the internet at all, reading and writing, we are people who have enjoyed some privilege. That doesn't negate the other important ways in which we, and others, are disprivileged.

    The scare quotes do a lot of work in what I wrote. I think lots of the time when people call out privilege, there's no privilege at work (or, it's not even remotely the main thing at work).

    One I remember is a thread awhile back, about some geek website using a scantily-dressed model to advertise a line of t-shirts or something. A feminist blogger angrily tweeted to the proprietors of the website demanding that they take it down, and the website owners were roundly denounced for their white male privilege, when in fact I'm not sure I can think of anything more obviously privileged than demanding that someone take down a video that offends you. When people pointed this out, they too were denounced as privileged. Maybe so, but at that point, the concept of privilege ceased to be a meaningful addition to the debate.
    posted by downing street memo at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Dammit, what Miko just said. (I would favorite it Miko but I used up all my favorites today on you and omiewise. Please come back omiewise. Please.)
    posted by miss-lapin at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    This is just me. I wouldn't say I shut down totally, but I would be much less receptive.

    This is all an emotional response to a word. Obviously when I stop to think it though I realize in part I am being crazy.

    It is just that the word, to me, implies that there is something inherent in maleness that causes dickish behaviour, and by extension I must be a dick too.


    Well, what if there is something inherent in "maleness," at least as currently socially defined, that causes dickish behavior? Isn't it OK to consider that question? Even just sit with it?

    And I understand you can't control visceral reactions, at least not when they first arise, but the second statement there ("by extension I must be a dick too") doesn't logically follow. Yes, "maleness" as currently defined may cause dickish behavior, but that doesn't mean maleness demands dickish behavior, or that dickish behavior inevitably follows maleness. There's a link in there between training and action, but that link can be broken with attention. I understand it's painful to think that you might inadvertently do things that are received as insultingly sexist, but isn't that kind of thing important to think about? Why is it that the reaction is to shut down, stop listening? Isn't this kind of thing more important to listen to because of that visceral reaction of resistance? Why can't we examine that?
    posted by Miko at 2:35 PM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Maybe so, but at that point, the concept of privilege ceased to be a meaningful addition to the debate.

    ...for you. I really don't agree with the line of reasoning in your anecdote. The concept of "privilege" doesn't appear and disappear when you agree/disagree with it.
    posted by Miko at 2:36 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    You know it's funny, because as I said earlier, I came into this thread as a person who hardly ever uses the word "mansplain" and who is basically sympathetic to folks whose feelings are a reflexively hurt by it.

    But now that a whole ton of dudes are piling in to inform me that, should I ever dare to use a word they don't like, I'll be instantly tuned out and dismissed as not worthy of their attention?

    Well, that just makes me want to use it out of spite.

    If the point here is supposed to be about positive, productive discourse, then maybe don't condescendingly lecture me about the exact way I need to talk in order to be worthy of being listened to. Like....it's kind of funny and ironic that such lecturing is going on here, in particular, but it's also pretty tiresome.
    posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:38 PM on September 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


    Bugbread: “I'm guessing it's because it's shorter. I've never heard any of my Spanish relatives say 'estadounidense', only 'americano', though I acknowledge that the situation is different for a Spaniard than a Latin American.”

    Ah, that makes sense! Hadn't even thought of that, thanks.

    Incidentally, this reminds me of something funny that happened a while ago to one of my doctor friend's more annoying co-workers, who was in a situation where she needed a Spanish translator. Later, she complained to her superiors that she knew a little Spanish and could totally tell that the translator was referring to her dismissively as "la America." My friend was confused by that, since it's totally awkward and weird in Spanish – I mean, nonsensical, "the America?" – then realized what was going on and said: "no, dear – they were calling you la medica. Because, um, that's what you are."
    posted by koeselitz at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Bugbread: "Since both parties have shown themselves to not really care what the other side says, except as a springboard for their own counterarguments, I predict little to no change in usage of the word. Which is what contentious MetaTalk threads are largely for. They're rhetoric gyms, where people go to get a rhetoric workout."

    Yeah no. Not so much. Especially ironic given this particular subject area. Recategorizing the struggles of MeFites who have, time and time again, bashed their heads against this wall, some of which have buttoned out completely, is a great example of mansplaining. Doing it to the entirety of MetaTalk, especially long contentious threads which sometimes end with us losing great members that try really fucking hard, is kinda wow. It's weird too, because I usually find myself really appreciating your comments here in MetaTalk and elsewhere, so I'm hoping you are frustrated too and not being completely serious.

    I gotta go with agregoli on this one and disengage now. The malaise of feeling like we are retreading the same ground with no progress yet again is threatening to overwhelm, so it's time to go eat some really good Italian food somewhere. Note: everyone needs some cheese.
    posted by lazaruslong at 2:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    And I understand you can't control visceral reactions,

    I at least like to think I'm not a dick, although I probably am. But if someone calls me a dick, or I think they may have called me a dick, I'm not going to sit down and unpack what about maleness may have made them think I am a dick. At that moment.

    Perhaps that is part of maleness too.

    Why is it that the reaction is to shut down, stop listening?

    I am listening now. And now that I've thought it through I won't percieve the word in the same way.

    Although I probably will still wonder if people really are calling me a dick.
    posted by Ad hominem at 2:42 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Downing Street Memo, I remember that thread very well. You are operating under a definition of "privilege" that does not at all match the one that people are using here.
    posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:42 PM on September 5, 2012


    Because in my experience, "You are patronizing me. Please stop." is about as popular with men on the internet as "You are mansplaining shit to me. Please stop."

    Funny, either way it already has the gendered aspect, just more obviously in the newer word (patron from latin for lord, from pater, father).
    posted by mdn at 2:44 PM on September 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


    What Miko said a million times. I am so sick of people treating discussing women's lives as a fun game. Why do people keep leaving? Because we've been shown time and again that scoring points and being clever is what matters, and being passionate about something because it affects ones daily life is something to be ridiculed, or at least talked to death.

    I don't use the word under discussion and can't imagine using it in the future. It's just not suited to my particular (overly verbose) style. But I am so sick of being dismissed by a hurried cloud of feverish points-grabbing and snarking.

    I've mostly pulled out of these threads after an abortion thread where I was essentially called a heartless babyhater for not wanting any restrictions on abortion. I put my heart and soul into the thread, sweated and cried over the thread, because for me abortion is about saving MY life and MY body--meanwhile my interlocutor was enjoying making cheap points, keeping score, and generally having an opinion on a subject that just doesn't matter that much to HIS life or HIS body.

    I doubt he remembers that thread. A thing that I cried over probably was barely a blip to him, to whom abortion is a theoretical, academic question and not a question of when and how he might die or destroy his life as he knows it. But I haven't forgotten, and everytime I am about to speak up I remember just how shitty that made me feel, how my hands were shaking so much I couldn't type.

    I am so thankful for those of you who can still do it. I really really can't.
    posted by hydropsyche at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2012 [70 favorites]


    I read corb's argument as being that it's not necessary to say "state's rights"; it's that as soon as a person articulates something relating to that position, regardless of how legitimate, reasonable, or completely non-racist, there'll be some dink doing their Atwater impersonation for the 7389th time. Lazy, stupid, facile garbage that goes down oh so easy without adding jack.

    Also, all that FAVORITED ELEVENTY-GILLION TIMES/SO HARD/BROKE TEH BUTTON/USED ALL THEM UP stuff should be deleted as lazy noisy cruft.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    Well, what if there is something inherent in "maleness," at least as currently socially defined, that causes dickish behavior? Isn't it OK to consider that question? Even just sit with it?

    What if someone turned this around:

    Well, what if there is something inherent in "femaleness," at least as currently socially defined, that causes bitchy behavior? Isn't it OK to consider that question? Even just sit with it?

    I don't think we would do that here. We would not ask women to think about whether something about our gender tended to make us act in a certain way that was true to a gendered stereotype. I don't think it's the way forward to ask men to rub their noses in this, so to speak. I see where Ad nominee is coming from, I feel like he is expressing the same sort of feeling I have felt in feminism threads. Though I say this with the utmost respect for the HUGE contributions you have made to those same feminism threads, Miko, so maybe I am totally wrong here. (For people who don't know/remember me, I am female.)
    posted by onlyconnect at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    > Which is cool but you gotta realize the power being fought here is men of fucking metafilter. None of us are your enemies.

    No, the "power being fought" is that of sexism, which is deeply rooted in the culture at large and in each one of us. You don't end sexism by saying "I get it, I'm enlightened!" You don't even uproot it from yourself. That "getting it" is just the first step in a difficult and endless journey. Part of that journey is encountering yet another way in which sexism manifests itself, and realizing "Damn, I think I may have done that!" At this point you can either sigh and start working on fighting that in yourself or you can get angry at the encounter and take your anger out on some aspect of the message: "Ooh, you used THAT WORD! I'm sorry, but any sympathy I might have had is destroyed because of THAT WORD. [Whew, now I can ignore the whole issue...]"

    > I am so thankful for those of you who can still do it. I really really can't.

    I'd like to thank you for the contributions you've made in the past and join you in thanking those who are still pushing the heavy rock uphill.
    posted by languagehat at 2:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [27 favorites]


    Nthing that these discussions are not theoretical for me and they impact my participation in the site. I know that since the girlzone thread has turned into another notchdown for my participation here and watching gman start what looks like a grudgewank thread because he didn't get his way the last time we discussed the word "mansplain" a few weeks ago and then sit back with his popcorn declaring it "interesting" how the thread is going is disheartening.
    posted by immlass at 2:49 PM on September 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


    Look, it's like this: have you ever had a male superior come up to you and stroke your back to make sure you were wearing a bra? Because I have. No 'splainin' to do there, basically it's that my boobs are offensive, despite being wearing a big old orange and white striped smock to cover said offensive body parts. I can't come up with a good counter-male example, sorry. Except if someone stroked your lower back to see if you were wearing a jock strap.

    Or... a discussion on movies. "I love Breakfast at Tiffany's!"

    Big boss: "I loved Audrey Hepburn. She had nice tits."

    You go in and try to do your fucking job every day and function in this environment. I dare you. And then you come crying to me about some fucking word like "mansplaining." Fuck the fuckity fuck off. I'm out.
    posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:51 PM on September 5, 2012 [42 favorites]


    This behavior is limited to males. Because we are talking about a gendered phenomenon.

    It's really not. It's a power thing that may or may not come from patriarchal behavior. I've read every bit of both this and the previous thread. Never heard the term before, but it does convey something that I recognize.

    After I cut my dad out of the loop, the remaining people who do this to me are females who were were raised by single men. They are successful women by conventional standards. People I have to work for and with. I'm tired of it, and now I'm in an expensive fight with one of them.

    The term did make me laugh, and I always used "talks right over me" before, but I just tried out "mansplaining" on one of those women when they were doing it to me. They laughed too. And then we had a real conversation about the problem at hand.
    posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:53 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    hydropsyche: "Why do people keep leaving? Because we've been shown time and again that scoring points and being clever is what matters, and being passionate about something because it affects ones daily life is something to be ridiculed, or at least talked to death."

    Or dismissed out of hand as not worth discussing.

    I'm out too. This was a useless discussion.
    posted by zarq at 2:54 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    So I heard this ages ago, and I don't remember the citation/study or anything and I can't find it anywhere on google (gender, children, interrupting gets a lot of stuff, but not what I'm looking for)...

    but I heard that girls and boys have different ways of establishing hierarchies, and girls do it on an in-group/out-group basis and being polite and not interrupting people is important to being popular,

    but boys have more of a ladder-hierarchy, and being able to interrupt someone (whether male or female) and dominate the conversation means that that they are higher status...

    so basically, men are socialized to interrupt more than women are.

    I'm female but I'm also really badly socialized and I'm always interrupting my male SO - and it took us years to realize that I wasn't trying to dominate him, I just have the attention span of a fly and the self-control of a two-year-old. So now, when he's getting angrier and angrier at my apparent dominance behaviour, he stops and says "please stop accidentally dominating me," and I stop.

    anyways - I noticed that talking like a man also helps me in the kinds of meetings or seminars where women often talk about having difficulties.
    posted by jb at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    My apologies for the italics and dumb autocorrect of Ad hominem's name above.
    posted by onlyconnect at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2012


    Mr. Yuck: It's really not [a gendered phenomenon]. It's a power thing that may or may not come from patriarchal behavior.

    It really, really is, actually. Yes, everything can be generalized. A lot of people here want to generalize the behavior this word describes to its basis in power, divorced from gender. However, that's not what the word defines. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking specifically about the gendered phenomenon.
    posted by gilrain at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    Miko: As your being unsatisfied with the receipt for your post.

    No, as you said up thread, "Your point isn't necessarily the only point (ie purpose) of the entire thread." I posted this thread for my original stated goal, but since people obviously decided not to read what I'd written in its entirety, it was fucked right out of the gate. Once I was quickly reminded how futile these discussions are on this website, I just sat back and watched this train wreck of a thread derail because of who posted it. It was unfortunate, but interesting nonetheless.
    posted by gman at 2:58 PM on September 5, 2012


    Well, what if there is something inherent in "femaleness," at least as currently socially defined, that causes bitchy behavior? Isn't it OK to consider that question? Even just sit with it?

    I don't think we would do that here.


    That puzzles me because I absolutely think we do. I've had more enlightening discussions about female socialization and its effects here than almost anywhere in my adult life, and that's included talking a lot about that very word "bitch" and what it signifies, but also about things like the "crab bucket" phenomenon mentioned in the Solnit thread (love that coinage). So I guess when I do the classic "reverse the roles!" exercise, what I see is opening the door to a more serious examination of what's going on here, what's negative/positive about the stereotype, what's true/untrue about the stereotype, and so on.
    posted by Miko at 3:00 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


    So, I've been trying to think of a good way to say this:thank you. Thanks to all the women who bother to tell and retell the stories of what they go through. Even knowing how frustrating the resulting conversation is likely to be. Thanks to the people who pipe in for one comment just to say "me to." Thanks to the men who do their best to try and understand. Thanks.

    I learn something from every one of these conversations, and not just interesting academic things. Things that effect how I act and how I think. I know that nobody here is under any obligation to go through the frustration, so thanks. It has made a difference to me.
    posted by Gygesringtone at 3:00 PM on September 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


    I read corb's argument as being that it's not necessary to say "state's rights"; it's that as soon as a person articulates something relating to that position, regardless of how legitimate, reasonable, or completely non-racist, there'll be some dink doing their Atwater impersonation for the 7389th time. Lazy, stupid, facile garbage that goes down oh so easy without adding jack.

    Add offensive, but this. I have no emotional investment in using the phrase, but this.
    And it is really, really tiring, and it makes me not want to engage any more.
    posted by corb at 3:01 PM on September 5, 2012


    I was out a while ago. You guys got me explaing my feeling about words.

    No, the "power being fought" is that of sexism,

    I was talking about the quote from the OP "Offending the powerful is a feature, not a bug."

    My point was that offending some guys on metafilter isn't really offending the powerful, it isn't like we are robber barons or captains of industry. As a class we may have more privilege but fucked if I know how to wield it
    posted by Ad hominem at 3:01 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    gman, what about those of us who read your entire post and still found it totally clueless and pathetic, before we even saw who posted it?
    posted by hermitosis at 3:02 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    it was fucked right out of the gate....how futile these discussions are

    ....which I think is an attitude that is captured well in the word "unsatisfied." You had a goal, it was not satisfied.

    this train wreck of a thread derail because of who posted it

    ...well, it didn't derail. We're actually still on the topic and have hardly strayed from it. I wouldn't call it a train wreck, either; it's been largely civil, though I'm sorry a couple of people who were already feeling in the red zone here chose today to bail out.

    But regardless of how the thread is received, I don't think you can pin it on "who posted it." It could have been any number of people. I don't think people are speaking from a particular condemnation of you as an individual - I'm certainly not - I'm talking about the issue.
    posted by Miko at 3:03 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    gman- I'm fine with not using mansplain but I highly disagree that universally men of metafilter don't ever talk over or ignore or explain away women's opinions.

    It happened to me just upthread. A man assumed that I must have misunderstood the Assange thread or I would know that Assange defenders think he should face questioning IF his conditions are met. And I could not possibly have seen exactly that and also decided excusing him indefinately unless his conditions are met was extremely dismissive the seriousness of the type of acts Assange has been reported to commit.

    To which I propose that Sandusky should have, through the same logic, been given the right to hide in a foriegn embassy and claim the US justice system uses solitary confinement and unjust practices and refuse to face questioning or potential trial until the US promises to protect him from prison rape and solitary confinement and other human rights violations.

    Yet no one was defending Sandusky against facing the US prison system that I ever saw on metafilter. (Point out if I missed that!)

    The issue is about grey area rape and that many people (of note, seems to be mostly male) find the human rights of Assange much more compelling than Sandusky whose crimes they take seriously as traumatic and real rape.

    So what I mean to say is, you're upset by the use of the word mansplaining.. I hear you and don't plan to use it. I am telling you that men's dismissal of addressing their lack of concern for women's experience of grey area rape feels like men talking over women's experience.

    Can we all listen to each other and really hear? Even change ideas or patterns? I'm certainly willing to listen and don't have any particular attachment to using the word "mansplaining". I'm also concerned that no Assange defenders seem to have really addressed how flippant their attitudes are about what it's like to be forced to potentially (or really) experience a pregnancy by someone you thought you could trust. It can in fact be very traumatic and more than the specific type of justice response, I'm genuinely concerned that so many men felt that it just wasn't even worth talking about in the thread and it was so annoying that people might try and make it about THAT. As if it's not central to the issue why these same men aren't on the streets protesting the immediate freedom of all US prisoners from the prison system due to human rights violations no matter the type of the crime. The US prison system is imperfect and abusive, but when a crime is terrible enough we tend to think it's worth it to get the criminal locked up over letting them go around hurting people.

    It's a complex issue and could have been discussed in a different way if Assange defenders had acknowledged this is ABOUT their perception of the crimes even if commited and mixed feelings about persecution of grey area rape specifically. I think it's possible that different types of sentencing make sense for different types of assault. That's the conversation that could have happened from the beginning and the whole conversation would have made more sense.

    So if I'm on board with you about seeing how the word mansplain might ruffle feathers, can you get on board that it's rather telling that an entire thread about an issue very important to women was rendered almost impossible for women to participate in due to men's handling of the issue and that might demonstrate that the men of metafilter aren't universally up on women's issues as much as they might think they are?
    posted by xarnop at 3:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


    Ad hominem: As a class we may have more privilege but fucked if I know how to wield it

    This is the (horrible) beauty of the system: we don't have to sully ourselves by wielding the power. After all, we're not sexists, right? The culture, society, will quietly wield the power for us. Even women have been raised to privilege us, so we don't have to.
    posted by gilrain at 3:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [32 favorites]


    I think a major communication breakdown occurs when we get down to the fact that there are two camps (and a bunch of people in the middle) when it comes to understanding sexism and other -isms.

    There are the structural folks who see power dynamics and societal and historical context as critical to analyzing and understanding gender relations, how we talk to each other, and why certain things are more or less okay than other things. These people generally try (though often fail) to separate out sexist behavior from sexist people because, obviously, if you grow up in an inherently sexist culture then you're bound to internalize some of it but it doesn't make you a bad person.

    Then there are the people who see -isms as only occurring on an individual level. This group might admit that the one side of the interaction tends to experience a whole lot more instances of sexism, but it is still just between individuals. This group things there are are no systemic reasons for that - that structures in society do not perpetuate it, that it's only sexist people who say sexist things and do sexist things because if you're not a sexist, why would you say/do sexist stuff? Therefore, it's much harder for this group to separate out sexist behavior from sexist people, and accusations of sexist behavior are equivalent to accusations of being a sexist.

    This is where I'm not sure we can bridge the gap. If people insist that something simply doesn't exist on the same level that other people feel is a root cause of problematic behavior, how can we seriously discuss that behavior?

    If anyone has ideas about this, please, please, please share them.
    posted by SugarAndSass at 3:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I've mostly pulled out of these threads after an abortion thread where I was essentially called a heartless babyhater for not wanting any restrictions on abortion. I put my heart and soul into the thread, sweated and cried over the thread...

    I'm sorry that happened to you. Several years back I participated in a thread on the same topic and had some pretty vicious things said to me, and I don't participate in those threads any longer, so I can relate to that aspect of your experience. People on MetaFilter are often going to be participating in the same discussion from varying levels of investment, especially on charged issues, and maybe that will always be a land mine. But we ought to be able to discuss them without being deliberately rude or cruel.

    The rebuttal that I've seen to this "tone argument," as it's often dismissed, is that people find it understandably difficult to discuss something politely, civilly, etc., when they find that something to be impolite, uncivil, oppressive, etc. I get that, but I think it misses the point that, again, this is a text forum. Words are all we have, both the beginning and the end of our interactions.
    posted by cribcage at 3:06 PM on September 5, 2012


    watching gman start what looks like a grudgewank thread because he didn't get his way the last time we discussed the word "mansplain" a few weeks ago and then sit back with his popcorn declaring it "interesting" how the thread is going is disheartening.

    In spades.
    posted by KathrynT at 3:09 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


    watching gman start what looks like a grudgewank thread because he didn't get his way the last time we discussed the word "mansplain" a few weeks ago and then sit back with his popcorn declaring it "interesting" how the thread is going is disheartening.

    In spades.


    gman's participation in the discussion has been the definition of bad faith.

    I am still not sure what his point is. If only he would tell us what it is rather than decry people not getting it.
    posted by lrobertjones at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Dude, gman. Are you ok? This is kind of a messed up hill to fight for and die on.

    Sure, "mansplain" is an intentionally derogatory epithet, but think of the context and perspective around it. Sure, it's arguably sexist.

    But it's like complaining that the word "bully" is too harsh for the bully.

    And there's most of a dictionary's worth of things that are much more offensive and less deserved than the behavior that term "mansplain" is calling out, and as many women (and men) have tried pointing out in this thread a lot of times saying "Excuse me, can you stop being condescending to me?" doesn't really work.

    "Mansplain" is polite in the face of these kinds of things. We're not talking about people who talk a lot and like to explain things. We're talking about people who systematically treat and think of all women as inferiors and are basically incapable of not talking down to them.

    What about one of Kurt Vonnegut's favorite words: Asshole? It's a perfectly apt way to describe one who is or is currently behaving like, well, an asshole.

    Though it's gender-neutral and equal opportunity - it's incredibly offensive. But people use it on MetaFilter to describe people behaving badly in the subjects of posts quite frequently.

    Point being - what's your personal investment in this particular word? Why the tone and language policing? What's the personal umbrage or damage?
    posted by loquacious at 3:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


    That puzzles me because I absolutely think we do. I've had more enlightening discussions about female socialization and its effects here than almost anywhere in my adult life, and that's included talking a lot about that very word "bitch" and what it signifies

    We have had discussions here on Metafilter where men have asked women to consider whether there was something about their biology or socialization has made them more inclined than men to act in a stereotypically bitchy way, and a useful discussion has resulted? I do not recall a discussion like this.
    posted by onlyconnect at 3:19 PM on September 5, 2012


    Well, the stated point is to "facilitate better discourse", which: obviously discourse has been facilitated, given the length of this thread. "Better" is a pretty opinion-loaded term, but I've really been enjoying a lot of what Miko (and other men and women!) have been posting, so I guess it's a success there, too, as far as I'm concerned.

    Thank you once again to the ladies of metafilter, for giving me the tiniest of glimpses into how it is to be a totally different gender, and thus making my mind a wee tiny bit better than it has been so far. While I can only understand your lived experience on a pretty superficial, non-visceral level, I do appreciate the effort.
    posted by Greg Nog at 3:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    This is the (horrible) beauty of the system: we don't have to sully ourselves by wielding the power. After all, we're not sexists, right? The culture, society, will quietly wield the power for us. Even women have been raised to privilege us, so we don't have to.

    I can't actually opt out either, except by perhaps leaving the country of transitioning. Trapped by privilege, doomed to be a dick.

    Damn this made me sad. What a first world problem.
    posted by Ad hominem at 3:20 PM on September 5, 2012


    Well, one voice is missing from this thread, account disabled. I hope he is doing well.
    posted by y2karl at 3:21 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I think I phrased my "rhetorical workout" expression was badly phrased. I didn't mean that that's what MetaTalk should be, or a good thing about it. I just meant that people engage with the sincere desire to convince other people about why the other people are wrong, to share their experiences to illustrate why the other people are wrong, and to find weaknesses in other people's arguments to show those people why they're wrong. Pretty much nobody goes in to see if anyone has an argument that would overturn their own opinions.

    So regardless of why people engage in the discussion (strong conviction, heartfelt desire to improve MetaFilter or the world, etc.), what actually comes out of the discussion is a just a rhetorical workout, lots of anger, and a few less MetaFilter members.
    posted by Bugbread at 3:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    One thing I have learned over the years about this place is that solutions don not emanate from it. Just a long trail of accounts and comments and things will be determined by those who remain. The 24 hour thing was a great move, because no solution will come in 24 hours or 24 days. You just hope the forward thinking folks resolve to stay.
    posted by cashman at 3:23 PM on September 5, 2012


    muddgirl: What word should I use ... (1) When a man in a conversation is doing this to me and I want to point it out to him, and (2) when I want to discuss that phenomenon in general?

    and

    When I use the term, (which I do very rarely) I mean exactly what I blockquoted. "You are devaluing my opinions and experiences because you grew up in a world where women ain't shit."

    I think ... one reason it's tricky to use this word is because (as you define it) it includes an assumption about why they're doing it. "Hey, you're mansplaining" encodes two points: (1) "women get condescended to a lot by men, so it really bugs me when you condescend to me," and (2) "furthermore, you personally are condescending to me because you personally have sexist ideas about women."

    You would know better than me, and maybe wrapping up both of those points in one word and dropping it in someone's lap works in conversation? But I would guess that it triggers a defensive and unwinnable argument about the second point ("I'm not sexist! I condescend to everyone equally! You can't know what I'm thinking!") that totally obscures the first point. Which seems like a shame, because someone who accepts the first point and tries to change their behavior regardless of whether they believe they personally are motivated by sexism is basically where they need to be.

    Maybe an analogous situation would be the difference between (1) "the death penalty is racist because it is disproportionately imposed on black people over white people" and (2) "the death penalty was only imposed on this particular defendant because he's black"? Those claims might each make sense in any given circumstance, but they're going to rely on really different evidence and result in really different conversations. "Mansplain" doesn't let you choose which one you're making. So you get into this whole sidetrack about whether the man hosting the party was assuming the woman was ignorant because of his sexism or brain damage or what, when it's basically irrelevant why he personally was doing it.

    So anyway (and to make it a little broader than this tiny sidetrack discussion about "mansplain"), I think jargon words work great in situations where everyone understands and agrees with the encoded points, but otherwise it will work better to pick a word or phrase that targets the underlying meaning you actually feel like talking about, in the hopes that you'll end up where you're trying to go.

    That said, I don't presume to preach about how to do the amazing, impossible work you all do in these threads and elsewhere; I only offer this speculation to the extent it's helpful.
    posted by jhc at 3:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    "facilitate better discourse"

    I have only seen disrespect, discourteousness and dismissiveness subsequent to the request. I believe someone very wise had once said "turn the other cheek", but perhaps Coventry might be a better response, given the collateral damage.
    posted by infini at 3:27 PM on September 5, 2012


    We have had discussions here on Metafilter where men have asked women to consider whether there was something about their biology or socialization has made them more inclined than men to act in a stereotypically bitchy way, and a useful discussion has resulted? I do not recall a discussion like this.

    I'd cite some AskMes, but also the lengthy "bitch" thread. I can't find the link right now but perhaps someone has it handy. The entire thread was a discussion of whether "bitch" was just a meaningless epithet, a badge of pride, a harmful gendered insult, or an accurate description of women's behavior.

    And that discussion came from a really benign place. I do feel that I've been called to deal with gender stereotypes here, including men suggesting that something about biology or socialization has made women the way they are. That seems like a pretty large component of the kinds of things I discuss here, in fact. I feel able to say things like "Yeah, women have been socialized to view each other as competition for rewards from males, which can make them tend to behave in ways that undermine one another, though I view that as a socialization issue resulting from patriarchy and not an innate biologically driven trait" without having to say "I just can't listen to this!"
    doomed to be a dick.

    But you're not. You can't stop a behavior unless you know you're doing it - but you can stop it, more times than not, if you're aware. Merely being willing to try to stop it is plenty nuff for most people to see that you are a person of goodwill.

    What a first world problem.

    Except it's not. There are some times I think that, but at the same time, patriarchal systems have done profound damage worldwide. They are doing it right now, across every social class and every race in every nation in the world. There are important ways i which the way the first world values and handles sex discrimination has a serious impact on the realities experienced by the rest of the world. If someone can't respect an educated, studied, first-world woman when she shares her opinion, how is he going to treat an unlettered sub-Saharan African woman when she argues her case? The general discussion, for me, isn't just about some people on a website. It's that everything we do in conducting ourselves has ramifications which are a lot bigger: support a damaging system, or oppose a damaging system?
    posted by Miko at 3:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


    what actually comes out of the discussion is a just a rhetorical workout, lots of anger, and a few less MetaFilter members.

    Lord, that's so not true. Was it the girlzone meTa, most recently, that had a whole passel of people talking about the positive things they've learned/realized/started or stopped doing because of these discussions? It is not "just" a rhetorical workout for a lot of us. I spend a shitload of energy in threads like these trying to explain my own position, often in ways that make me feel more vulnerable than I have since I was in my early 20s, a million years ago, because at least back then, a lot of times I was figuring out what I really thought in contexts where I was unlikely to be called a liar or accused of not understanding my own experience.
    posted by rtha at 3:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


    Except it's not. There are some times I think that, but at the same time, patriarchal systems have done profound damage worldwide

    I meant my personal first world problem. Sad that I all this unwanted privilege.
    posted by Ad hominem at 3:31 PM on September 5, 2012


    I heard if you medal in the Rhetorical Work Out event you get a Jessamyn Explains Things Politely talking doll.

    No doping/being a dope allowed, and points may indeed be awarded for cleverness.
    posted by skrozidile at 3:34 PM on September 5, 2012


    I meant my personal first world problem. Sad that I all this unwanted privilege.

    Well, one thing you can do with it is demonstrate for others who have it what it looks like if, isntead of defending it to the death, you listen and learn from the people who don't benefit from it, and try to change some of the conditions that are unconsciously or consciously created when a lot of people who share privilige enjoy a disproportional amount of unearned power.

    That'd be a great thing to do with it. A lot of men on MeFi are good at doing it, too.
    posted by Miko at 3:35 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


    Once I was quickly reminded how futile these discussions are on this website, I just sat back and watched this train wreck of a thread derail because of who posted it. It was unfortunate, but interesting nonetheless.

    You were given the day off in the Rebecca Soljnit thread for repeatedly derailing the thread with offensive rubbish on this exact topic. Three weeks later, you're here again pushing this and trying to ramp up the bad feelings of other users in the process. I feel given that and your other contributions on the site, that there's nothing good faith about this post at all, especially given the way you've framed it with "use your words."

    I remember when I first clicked through on one of your drive-by troll attempts and saw that your profile pic was Jesus giving the middle finger. I wasn't surprised, and the mods have been infinitely more patient with your drive-by trolling than I ever would be, but I sincerely hope that their patience is wearing thin because this kind of bad faith antagonizing is horrible for any community.
    posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


    As a guy, here is what I'm getting from these theads:

    1. Proponents of the term "mansplaining" agree that men condescendingly explain to both genders;
    i. When men condescendingly explain to men, it's just because they're dicks, but
    ii. When men condescendingly explain to women, it's suddenly because men are viewing women as automatically inferior.

    4. When men (or women) point out this faulty logic, they are accused of mansplaining.

    5. Proponents of "mansplaning" refute all explanation of this trend as gaslighting.

    So, we all agree that people can condescendingly explain topics to each other, but in this specific circumstance the intents are all switched around, magically?

    Fucking bullshit, that's what that feels like.

    Now pileon me because I'm invalidating your opinions and experiences, right? I'm not possibly saying that your experiences are very real but your opinions skewed because of all the other sexist stuff women have to deal with, right? I guess not, I must absolutely be telling all women everywhere that their feelings are wrong. Okay.
    posted by InsanePenguin at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Fucked up that numbering, I did.
    posted by InsanePenguin at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    InsanePenguin: "Now pileon me because I'm invalidating your opinions and experiences, right? I'm not possibly saying that your experiences are very real but your opinions skewed because of all the other sexist stuff women have to deal with, right? I guess not, I must absolutely be telling all women everywhere that their feelings are wrong. Okay."

    C'mon, buddy.
    posted by boo_radley at 3:51 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    There's nothing faulty about the logic. Though all you gave were premises, so no logic is really in action there yet anyhow.
    posted by Miko at 3:58 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Once I was quickly reminded how futile these discussions are on this website, I just sat back and watched this train wreck of a thread derail because of who posted it.

    Get off the cross, we need the wood. Seriously, how is this not a massive troll shit at this point?! It's like you've asked to be met halfway and the entire bridge is covered in an explosion of slippery diarrhea...

    Much props to Miko et al for the usual tireless efforts...
    posted by romakimmy at 4:02 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    rtha: "Lord, that's so not true. Was it the girlzone meTa, most recently, that had a whole passel of people talking about the positive things they've learned/realized/started or stopped doing because of these discussions?"

    Really? Cool. Do you have a link for it?

    InsanePenguin: "Proponents of the term "mansplaining" agree that men condescendingly explain to both genders;"

    I don't agree that proponents of "mansplaining" agree on that. From what I've seen, proponents of "mansplaining" agree that men explain things, but they explain things more often to women, are often (but not always) more condescending when explaining to women, and are more likely to explain things to women who know more than themselves about a topic, than they would to men who know more than themselves about a topic. Those are the three key items that separate "mansplaining" from "men explaining things a lot, as is their wont".
    posted by Bugbread at 4:04 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    cashman: "The 24 hour thing was a great move, because no solution will come in 24 hours or 24 days. You just hope the forward thinking folks resolve to stay."

    Sorry, I've frequented MetaFilter much less after changing jobs, so I'm kinda out of the loop. What is this "24 hour thing"?
    posted by Bugbread at 4:06 PM on September 5, 2012


    Just to emphasize SugarandSass's point, a major communication breakdown occurs when we get down to the fact that there are two camps (and a bunch of people in the middle) when it comes to understanding sexism and other -isms. :

    languagehat: No, the "power being fought" is that of sexism, which is deeply rooted in the culture at large and in each one of us. You don't end sexism by saying "I get it, I'm enlightened!" You don't even uproot it from yourself. That "getting it" is just the first step in a difficult and endless journey.

    loquacious: But it's like complaining that the word "bully" is too harsh for the bully..."Mansplain" is polite in the face of these kinds of things. We're not talking about people who talk a lot and like to explain things. We're talking about people who systematically treat and think of all women as inferiors and are basically incapable of not talking down to them.

    And to add a third possibility, some people may have social difficulties not necessarily gender related that lead them to talk over people:

    jb: I'm female but I'm also really badly socialized and I'm always interrupting my male SO - and it took us years to realize that I wasn't trying to dominate him, I just have the attention span of a fly and the self-control of a two-year-old. So now, when he's getting angrier and angrier at my apparent dominance behaviour, he stops and says "please stop accidentally dominating me," and I stop.

    Perhaps all are true, and this is part of what causes so much difficulty in these discussions. There is structural sexism that exists within basically everyone raised in our culture, subconsciously, that shows up often in communication between men and women, and which significantly disadvantages women by dismissing and devaluing their contribution. There are social difficulties that are not even gender related. And there are cases where men overtly and consciously believe women to be inferior and treat them this way. Even when a particular incident is talked about, people don't agree on the category it belongs to.
    posted by Golden Eternity at 4:08 PM on September 5, 2012


    I think he's just referring to this comment by mathowie, earlier in the thread.
    posted by gilrain at 4:08 PM on September 5, 2012


    What is this "24 hour thing"?

    I think cashman is referring to this comment by matt wherein he states our intent to close the thread after 24 hours or so if it appears to be going down the usual spiral of despair. Not a general policy, just something about this thread.
    posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:09 PM on September 5, 2012


    HEre's the Girlzone thread. There are indeed a few people who made a point of saying that they had grown as a result of threads about sexism.

    Also, in this thread, we had:
    These past few sexism threads, and particularly labeling the specific practice with a word, has truly helped identify and curtail my sexist behavior.
    posted by gilrain at 8:52 on September 5 [−] Favorite added! [!]

    Metafilter has seriously changed the way I think. My vocabulary has changed because of earnest conversations on this site where both sides engaged in good faith.
    posted by Ghidorah at 9:53 on September 5 [+] [!]

    I learn something from every one of these conversations, and not just interesting academic things. Things that effect how I act and how I think. I know that nobody here is under any obligation to go through the frustration, so thanks. It has made a difference to me.
    posted by Gygesringtone at 18:00 on September 5 [+] [!]
    So I guess it helps if your username begins with "G." But in any case, I'm going to start tracking these comments, because you always hear "no good comes of this!" while, meanwhile, a lot of people are saying outright what good has come of it, for them.
    posted by Miko at 4:09 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    MetaTalk: the usual spiral of despair
    posted by Egg Shen at 4:10 PM on September 5, 2012


    > Maybe it only happens to me, but I see it as when women denigrate men for not having the correct emotional response.

    Oh, interesting. My first thought was the tone in which some women will dismiss any complaints about a particular man's behavior with condescendingly low expectations for all men and a giant snort of derision for anyone who disagrees.

    I don't mean women just talking or eye-rolling about sexist behavior. There's a tone. Like if I vented [blah blah good grief I'm irritated at my husband not pulling his weight with the housework before family visits] and another woman replied with [supercilious contempt for all men because they're idiotic slobbering dogs but really I'm the even more idiotic one for believing that such a simple creature is ever going to reliably understand how to make the bed or wash clothes, pleeease.]

    Note: Totally fake example. Mr. Desuetude does in fact take full responsibility for doing half the housework.
    posted by desuetude at 4:13 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I never speak up in these threads either, because I find myself too paralyzed by frustration and rage. But I am absolutely filled with gratitude and appreciation for those of you who do, especially you other women who find a way to continue telling your own stories and demanding to be heard. (I would name you, but there are too many and I know I would forget some, especially because different people have taken up the mantle over the years.)

    You have given me language to think about and talk about the experiences I've been having my whole life, and you've given me the context in which to place those experiences, because I now realize the extent to which they unite me with women everywhere. I understand the power dynamics behind interactions that just made me feel stupid and awkward before. I get why certain things make me feel angry and small, and that it's not just me.

    Because of you, I've stopped accepting that feeling of being powerless. I am so much braver and more courageous out in the real world, and I am so much more willing to speak up for myself and demand to be treated like an equal.

    I feel ashamed because I've been letting you do all the talking and I've also been letting you take all the heat. Maybe one day I will be able to take up the mantle. In the mean time, please don't give up, please don't leave, please keep talking. It does make a difference.
    posted by crackingdes at 4:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [30 favorites]


    Even when a particular incident is talked about, people don't agree on the category it belongs to.

    So it will be awesome when we get rid of all the sexist explaining and are just left with the social difficulties and neurological compromises. I think when that day comes we will all be a whole lot happier, because we will understand that people who do that sort of condescending-unawares-explaining to you are always struggling with an individual personal limitation of some kind, and deserve support and kindess, and are not practicing the tactics of male superiority.

    As things are, though, that's not the most common type of explaining women experience.
    posted by Miko at 4:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I couldn't be mansplained to read the entire thread, and will now share my relevant experience on the matter, which you will no doubt be grateful to hear ...

    Upthread someone asked what term one would have used prior to “mansplaining,” and I think “boor,” “blowhard,” or “tedious bore” might have done. It's the person who “knows” so much, whether they believe or just like to BS (c.f Cliffy Clavin) and has so little awareness of whether the person they are speaking to (not with) is happy to be the recipient of such vital knowledge. It's behavior that could come from condescending privilege, or from someone who is only secure when they can show that they know something well, whether doing so in the present would be appropriate or annoying.

    When I think back on behavior I've seen, my own and others, I feel like what we call mansplaining happens to men as often as it does to women, but that perhaps male recipients of mansplaining are more able to shut the originator down, or cause the mansplainer to lighten up. Either by fighting mansplaining with superior mansplaining, like two bucks knocking horns, or by speaking from a position of equal confidence (shared privilege and all that) to tell the 'splainer they've gone overboard.

    Whether my own experiences are true more broadly, I don't know, but man, do some people like to profess to men and women alike. And most of the egregious examples I've met were guys.
    posted by zippy at 4:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    We're talking specifically about the gendered phenomenon.

    I get what you are talking about and I do not mean to denigrate those ideas, but I do not see the behavior as gender-specific. Nobody wants to work for the pontificating hermaphrodite in the corner office either.

    That women get spoken to when the speaker's ears are plugged with wet cotton is not an experience restricted to women. It frustrates everyone.

    And Miko's last comment is pure gold.
    posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:17 PM on September 5, 2012


    So I guess it helps if your username begins with "G."

    Well, if it helps, MetaFilter has unquestionably made me more aware of the wide, wide world of Shit Women Have To Put Up With, and has (hopefully) made me a better feminist because of it (and [hopefully] that has made the lives of the women with whom I interact slightly easier.])
    posted by griphus at 4:19 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Re. the 24 hour thing: thanks, gilrain and restless_nomad.

    Also, re. the Girlzone thing, thanks, Miko.

    Personally, I've found that threads in the blue about sexism have made changes in my real-world behavior, but not those in the gray, but I suspect that's just observer bias or sampling error.
    posted by Bugbread at 4:19 PM on September 5, 2012


    zippy, there was some discussion in the Solnit thread about how, even when women use those same tactics to try to "shut down" mansplaining, we don't get the same response as men. It actively angers some men, in fact. And quickly.
    posted by Miko at 4:19 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I feel like what we call mansplaining happens to men as often as it does to women

    What evidence would convince you that this is not true?

    I do not see the behavior as gender-specific.

    I am sure you do not. Because you are not the gender it is specific to.
    posted by KathrynT at 4:19 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Hooray I'm in the "fucked up baroque formatting" club too.
    posted by griphus at 4:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, not only have cogent and thoughtful discussions opened my own eyes about race, class, privledge, gender, and a whole slew of other topics. And, it's not even that I come into this place a fuckwit or anything: topics I vaguely (or even strongly) understood well but could not articulate have been explained in a way that made me better able to articulate them better. Since a lot of my job is pointing out these exact structural inequalities historically, I can honestly say that discussion like this - at least the parts engaged honestly, openly, and in good faith - not only has demonstrably made me a better person*, but also made me better at my job.


    *Don't even get me STARTED on what I've learned riding in AskRelationship longboats.
    posted by absalom at 4:21 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    xarnop: gman- I'm fine with not using mansplain but I highly disagree that universally men of metafilter don't ever talk over or ignore or explain away women's opinions.

    Highly disagree with who? Certainly not me, if you in fact read my entire post.

    loquacious: Dude, gman. Are you ok? This is kind of a messed up hill to fight for and die on.

    Meh, some health issues right now, but I'm soldiering on. Thanks for your concern.

    hermitosis: gman, what about those of us who read your entire post and still found it totally clueless and pathetic, before we even saw who posted it?

    Apparently reading a thread and actually fully comprehending it are two very different things.

    Rodrigo Lamaitre: You were given the day off in the Rebecca Soljnit thread for repeatedly derailing the thread with offensive rubbish on this exact topic.

    Really, was I? Or do you have not a clue what you're talking about? Two weeks ago I made a comment about the word mansplain, was asked to take it to MetaTalk and told taz that there wasn't a point in doing so because of the environment in that MeTa. Then she dropped the hammer. This all happened in the span of five minutes at an early morning EST hour when there really wasn't any conversation going on. In fact, there were no comments for nearly an hour after that little incident.

    I feel given that and your other contributions on the site, that there's nothing good faith about this post at all, especially given the way you've framed it with "use your words."

    Which of my 350 posts or thousands of comments in seven years are you referring to? As for the title of my post, I already unambiguously apologized for that up-thread, but there does seem to be some comprehension issues going on, so no surprise.
    posted by gman at 4:23 PM on September 5, 2012


    we can remove the word all you want. We can call it "feezbubbling" if that makes you feel better.

    No, apparently we can't. It's tossed into threads exactly the way "USian" was, as "making a real distinction, but not incidentally, annoying people I want to annoy."

    Which, ok, nobody is going to slap the cuffs on you for doing. But on a site where occasional conversations are had about terms to be avoided (or occasionally used), primarily because it bothers site members, you're making those conversations harder to have, or at least peaceably resolve. When MeFites expressed dismay at the use of "bitch" by other MeFites to express their (considerable) rage against Anne Coulter, historical baggage was part of the reason why, as was power disparity (though Coulter is far more powerful than I will ever be), but the argument that resonated with MeFites (in my opinion) was an argument about respect. Not respecting Coulter (or in this case, ignorance-assuming-sexists), but respecting those members listening to you employ your gendered insult. No defence of "mansplaining" I've seen here would have gone over particularly well in that instance.

    "Oh, I'm describing a terrible behaviour, not a particular gender or all members of it."
    "Sure it's gendered, but the behaviour I'm describing is far worse than the word."
    "Help stamp out the behaviour and there won't be any cause to use the word, will there?"
    "It's a useful word to describe the behaviour. Take out the word and the behaviour remains."
    "I think we can handle it"

    Some people's noses are out of joint simply, I think, because they were taught the message "respect your fellow MeFites and you'll see respect in return" only to be later told "Oh, not you. That's a one-way street."

    Correct me if I'm wrong (offended people).
    posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


    And I helped compete an ISO 9000 compliant document, did extreme metallurgy research, and marketing to Wire and Gas Journals, Design Engineering, and NASA Tech Briefs, fielded inquires from such, and ran a trade show booth at McCormick Place in Chicago. Despite my tits. They no longer have the pleasure of my company.
    posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:25 PM on September 5, 2012


    And Miko's last comment is pure gold

    Do you mean this sarcastically? In what way?

    I've been reading a few blog posts and essays about "mansplaining," and the argument "it's not just women, everybody does it to everybody" is a pretty common response, but as if this thread weren't enough evidence, it doesn't stand up. It simply doesn't explain the specificity or the pervasiveness, though. I missed all the threads where men were complaining about having it done to them.
    posted by Miko at 4:25 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    zippy: "When I think back on behavior I've seen, my own and others, I feel like what we call mansplaining happens to men as often as it does to women"

    I suspect that folks wouldn't agree that what you're talking about is mansplaining. I know some people who will explain over anyone, male or female alike. Those aren't mansplainers, they're just blowhards/know-it-alls. This would be the "Cliff Clavin" category. Men might do this more than women, but this isn't the behavior that's being argued against here.

    I also know people who are more likely to explain things to women than to men, and who are more likely to be condescending when doing so, because they just assume that women are less knowledgeable than themselves. Those are the folks being discussed, the mansplainers (different from Cliff Clavin).
    posted by Bugbread at 4:27 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    When I think back on behavior I've seen, my own and others, I feel like what we call mansplaining happens to men as often as it does to women, but that perhaps male recipients of mansplaining are more able to shut the originator down, or cause the mansplainer to lighten up. Either by fighting mansplaining with superior mansplaining, like two bucks knocking horns, or by speaking from a position of equal confidence (shared privilege and all that) to tell the 'splainer they've gone overboard.

    It is technically true that there are some people who will just Cliff Claven to either gender. However, in my experience as a woman --

    * There are men who would not do it to other men, but do do it to women.

    * There are men who do this kind of thing to a woman simply because it looks like she is having difficulty at a task. (I am a secretary with 10+ years of experience. One of the other guys in the bank I work in came into the copy room when I was in the middle of trying to solve a complicated bug in our copying machine. After seeing my general frustration and hearing me grumble a bit, he launched into a dumbed-down explanation of how to turn the color button on, despite a) my not even saying that that was what the problem was, and b) failing to recognize that I was the secretary who'd taught him how to use it in the first place.) They do not do this to men.

    * There are men who pull this kind of thing on women about women's experiences. One of the more egregious examples of this phenomenon was even featured on the blue once. Women have an innate understanding of women's experiences by virtue of first-hand experiencing them, but some men are compelled to address them and explain us to ourselves.

    * Men are encouraged to out-Claven each other, or to push back against such a guy. Women are discouraged from doing that.

    So while it is technically true that the impulse to Claven someone is in and of itself a genderless phenomenon, the fact that a gender imbalance also exists does influence the direction this goes in quite a lot.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


    ...and I realized that i have coined the term "Claven" as a descriptor now. Would anyone object to using that term in lieu of "mansplain"?
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 PM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


    I agree the phenomenon exists, but am not a huge fan of the term, since, by the sound of it, the way to avoid mansplaining is to not explain things if you happen to be a man. It sounds like a generalization to all men, regardless of effort or intent. On the other hand, it says pretty clearly that 'this is a gender issue,' so it's effective on those grounds. So call me split on the issue.
    posted by kaibutsu at 4:31 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    you're making those conversations harder to have, or at least peaceably resolve.

    I am? Actually, I have only used the word today to have the conversation about the word, I don't expect to continue using the word, and I'm not arguing it's a great word. I'm interested in understanding why the word seems to be a lot more important than the behavior.

    Coulter is far more powerful than I will ever be

    Really? In all contexts? I understand that on some dimensions of privilege you can argue that, but one of the realities of sexism is that no achievement of privilege in one area can exempt you from the risk of oppression. Think about why our rich, successful, intelligent President is the target of more direct threats than any other President in history, and that sort of calculus should become more obvious. Despite Coulter's money and fame, she's still vulnerable in a lot of ways you aren't, and her success is still shaped by conditions and requirements you will never experience.
    posted by Miko at 4:31 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    I don't like the idea that just because someone says something that annoys you, that you jumps to the idea that someone is saying something for the purpose of annoying you.

    I'm sure there is some way of tying that into the context of power and privilege, but I'm just not that smart.
    posted by absalom at 4:34 PM on September 5, 2012


    Would anyone object to using that term in lieu of "mansplain"?

    WEll, as you say, it's something different because it doesn't recognize any gendered aspect. It does not even recognize yawns, shuffling sideways toward the door, looking at the watch, or glazed over eyes.
    posted by Miko at 4:34 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Which of my 350 posts or thousands of comments in seven years are you referring to? As for the title of my post, I already unambiguously apologized for that up-thread, but there does seem to be some comprehension issues going on, so no surprise.

    This is a fast-moving thread so it's no surprise that not everybody caught in the middle of the thread. You seem to be wanting to all the participants in this thread to read your comments generously, while reading other people's comments (cf any using "mansplain") ungenerously. This is not likely to be successful.

    As for your history on the site, misha made a comment sometime in the last few months about her history here and how she participated and how the way she participated meant that many people had a very different impression of her participation here than she did. I suggest that commentary in this thread indicates a number of Mefites have a very different view of your participation than you do.
    posted by immlass at 4:37 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    When men condescendingly explain to women, it's suddenly because men are viewing women as automatically inferior

    Oh good grief. That's not what we're talking about. Ive had things condescendingly explained to me by men who just happened to be being arrogant. If it is a situation where I actually know quite a bit about the subject and make that clear, the condescension usually stops. That's okay; sometimes smart people condescend, speak brusquely, &c. We're talking about instances where men come into the conversation assuming the woman in question knows little or nothing about the subject because she's female. Naturally this isn't always obvious at first, but at some point you realize that no matter how much knowledge you drop or how much cred you display, the man continues to be dismissive, patronizing, or belittling. This doesn't generally happen with people who feel they just know far more than you, because once you've proved you are equally wise, that dynamic has changed and their behavior changes. "Mansplaining" is used to describe a situation where no matter how smart, capable, or even expert a woman is, the man in the dynamic still feels an urge to inform, correct, and educate. The word describes a specific type of behavior. It doesn't mean all instances of arrogance from a man to a woman fall under this umbrella. The existence of the word doesn't wipe every instance of boorish behavior from a female to a male off the map. It's really not hard to understand. It's a stupid sounding word (that I have only ever used in this thread, and hope to never use again) that describes a consciously or unconsciously sexist behavior. Bringing up other examples of crap interactions doesn't make that behavior non-existent, and the whole "this word means that all men are therefore suddenly sexist when they explain something to a woman" is not logical and has not been said by anybody in this thread except for people ruffled about the concept of this word existing in the first place.

    Here is the exchange that the article from three weeks ago highlights.
    This is the kind of exchange people are talking about. Not arrogance, not academic deafness, not nerdy enthusiasm, not ignorant patronising. The assumption that a woman couldn't possibly know or understand or be an expert on a subject.

    ' "So? I hear you've written a couple of books."

    I replied, "Several, actually."

    He said, in the way you encourage your friend's seven-year-old to describe flute practice, "And what are they about?"

    They were actually about quite a few different things, the six or seven out by then, but I began to speak only of the most recent on that summer day in 2003, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, my book on the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life.

    He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. "And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?"

    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. He was already telling me about the very important book -- with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.
    So, Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, "That's her book." Or tried to interrupt him anyway.

    But he just continued on his way. She had to say, "That's her book" three or four times before he finally took it in. And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn't read, just read about in the New York Times Book Review a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless -- for a moment, before he began holding forth again.'

    ***
    posted by oneirodynia at 4:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


    the way to avoid mansplaining is to not explain things if you happen to be a man.

    If you're interested in not "mansplaining," there are definitely ways to do that and it doesn't mean never offering an explanation. I talked about it here. First, ask a question or two to get to know the person you're tempted to explain to. Find out a little about what they already know and/or what they are trying to accomplish. Then, if you still think you might have something new to offer, you can ask if they'd like to hear your idea/opinion/strategy? They might say no thanks, they are familiar with the problem at hand. But they might say sure. Whatever they say, respect that.

    Or if you are uncomfortable offering to give advice unasked, you can just wait until someone asks for your help or an explanation of something.

    I don't like the idea that just because someone says something that annoys you, that you jumps to the idea that someone is saying something for the purpose of annoying you.

    I don't think most people have been saying it's always for the purpose of giving annoyance. It seems recognized that it's often unconscious. It doesn't have to be intentional, though, to be a problem.
    posted by Miko at 4:40 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I am from college-educated folk and I have a bit myself. And Miko, I really appreciate you advocating on this topic, because I have met you in person, and I know you are a warm and wonderful person. I get really het up over this stuff, but you seem to have the ability to examine it at a level and debate it well. Kudos. I often don't know what to say, except to relate my experiences, and then go into my bedroom and cry. Thank you.
    posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    EmpressCallipygos: "...and I realized that i have coined the term "Claven" as a descriptor now. Would anyone object to using that term in lieu of "mansplain"?"

    No, that would be bad. It really muddies the water, because Cliff Claven doesn't do the thing that "mansplain" was made to identify, and would cause all kinds of confusion.

    If anything, it should be used as the opposite of "mansplain". Like "The consultant was condescendingly explaining to me how my own company operated, so I started to get all pissed off that he was mansplaining, but then Mr. Jenkins, the president of the company, came in, and the consultant started to explain the company to him too, and I realized he wasn't mansplaining, he was just clavening."
    posted by Bugbread at 4:41 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


    Yeah, I've made my feelings on this subject known. Someone who uses the term 'mansplain' cares more about offending their potential audience than persuading them. I see someone use it, I skip the rest of their comment. If they want to engage me in a discussion, they can conduct themselves in a civil manner.
    posted by Afroblanco at 4:48 PM on September 5, 2012


    oneirodynia: "the whole "this word means that all men are therefore suddenly sexist when they explain something to a woman" is not logical and has not been said by anybody in this thread except for people ruffled about the concept of this word existing in the first place."

    No, but it has been used at least once (I suspect a few times, but not many) to dismiss comments made by men regarding the issue. The one that pops to mind is ""So...gman created this MeTa to instruct everyone else on how or when or if to use "mansplaining". You were...mansplaining,"mansplaining", if you will."

    However, that usage is definitely an outlier. If you're one of those people who objects to the word "mansplaining" because you believe it implies that any explanation given to a woman by a man is mansplaining, and that as a man the only way to avoid mansplaining is never to explain things to women, then keep in mind that very very very few people are using the term that way, and if you're dealing with someone who uses "mansplain" to mean "shut up, man, you should never explain things to women", then the person you're dealing with is not using "mansplain" correctly, they're just an asshole. Don't let them taint the entire word for you.
    posted by Bugbread at 4:50 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, I've made my feelings on this subject known. Someone who uses the term 'mansplain' cares more about offending their potential audience than persuading them. I see someone use it, I skip the rest of their comment. If they want to engage me in a discussion, they can conduct themselves in a civil manner.

    So what? The burden for the tone of a discussion should not fall solely on the oppressed party. If I use the word mansplaining, it's in response to someone acting like a condescending jerk (because I am just a little woman, and he is a big, knowledgable man). The slight burn of snark is nothing in comparison to a lifetime of being condescended to, not taken seriously, and gaslighted at every turn.
    posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:52 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    immlass: You seem to be wanting to all the participants in this thread to read your comments generously...

    Please point me to where I said this. What would be great is if people actually took the time to read what a person has written before responding.

    As for your history on the site, misha made a comment sometime in the last few months about her history here and how she participated and how the way she participated meant that many people had a very different impression of her participation here than she did.

    Rodrigo Lamaitre said that given my temp ban the other day (which he apparently hasn't a clue about) combined with my "other contributions on the site" and the title of this post, he knows that I made this post in bad faith. I'm curious which of my thousands of other contributions he's referring to.

    As for how others on this site view me, I'm pretty sure you can tell that I have bigger things to worry about than anonymous users sitting at their keyboards. You know, like real life friends, a girlfriend, a dog, a family; a life.
    posted by gman at 4:52 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


    We're at 500+ posts on a topic with a live FPP on the blue with similar number of comments and a live MetaTalk thread with quadruple the number of comments.

    We are still trying to explain this word.

    The OP is not requesting an explanation of what it means. The specific request of this thread is:

    I'd like to have a discussion about use of the word mansplain on this website. Man or woman, doesn’t matter, if you use a word that many people find offensive, they're going to tune out what you have to say.


    The OP's question is as follows:

    In conversations about gender relations, is the objective to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, or is it to demonstrate the destructive power of gendered insults by consistently ignoring repeated requests to stop using a word that people feel unfairly defined by? Because those two objectives are not compatible.

    While the OPs own language and tone in addressing others in this thread has demonstrated that the two objectives are not compatible, it does not preclude the community's ability to reach a consensus on this contentious topic.

    My 2 shillings worth are on the above are:

    We don't need to use any word that offends people and makes them feels disrespected by virtue of a feature they are unable to change - for example, their gender.

    The objective is to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding.

    I believe that the ongoing verbiage on this topic for quite some days now and the consistent participation in it by many in this thread has led to the conversations now reaching GRAR - going round and round losing sight of the point. I suspect this thread will continue forever without a point. Much appreciated as all the women's points have been, they can also be read in the other two threads mentioned.

    In this thread, let Metafilter take the same decision that is has taken in the case of previous inflammatory words (like bitch, and whatever else I can't recall)

    Do you all decide to stop using it?

    Yay or Nay


    Note: Anyone needing clarity on what the term is referring to can go to the Slotkin thread linked to many times and anyone needing a variety of voices being heard can go to the Girlzone thread linked many times.

    This thread need not become a repeat of those two threads.

    And no, I don't need to be here reading this either if I don't like it. but I can give it the old college try once.
    posted by infini at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


    No. It was your quote, Miko, but I didn't mean you in particular.

    In all contexts? Since when is that the basis for establishing relative power? Someone made an offhand comment earlier in the thread about relative rates of incarceration and homelessness. Are those the contexts that matter? No, apparently they are not. If you want to make a claim about relative power of all members of one sex versus another, generally or within a society, I suppose we can go there. But you want to argue that a particular, wealthy, well-connected woman can't be more powerful than any given man because everyone is affected by sexism and is "at risk" of oppression? That's a more simplistic worldview than I would have credited any MeFite. I hope I am misunderstanding you.

    In any case, you may have noticed that my claim was that the main argument and the one that resonated on this site was respect for fellow MeFites, that when a word is taken up that bothers people, even if you can't relate to why, people would try to avoid it because it bothered other MeFites. Full stop. So sure, I think people complaining about the term would prefer your "feezbubbler" or whatever, and pretending like they wouldn't is rather disingenuous.

    There may be a subset of people who are simply trying to use semantics to derail a conversation about a behaviour they don't want criticized, but I read others as objecting to the term and not the underlying criticism. My message was simply that if your reply boils down to "too bad", then expect to hear it the next time someone objects to a word they're bothered by. And the time after that. Because "think of your fellow MeFites' feelings" won't carry any weight whatsoever.

    Claven absolutely used to be a thing, but the associations were different. He was a boor and a pedant, but also (surely) a fable-telling pedant. His "little known facts" were anything but.
    posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Yet no one was defending Sandusky against facing the US prison system that I ever saw on metafilter. (Point out if I missed that!)

    Sandusky, as far as I know, exerted no effort to avoid the US justice system, nor advanced the argument that US prisons are inhumane. If he had, I'm sure someone would take that position.
    posted by hoyland at 4:59 PM on September 5, 2012


    Someone who uses the term 'mansplain' cares more about offending their potential audience than persuading them.

    I think that's quite a leap. We are 500+ comments in, (not to mention the giant chunk of the Girlzone thread) and we have yet to come up with an alternative to describe an experience that has directly affected many of us.

    I see someone use it, I skip the rest of their comment. If they want to engage me in a discussion, they can conduct themselves in a civil manner.

    That word is not civil? Seriously? Being on the receiving end of it, of being condescended to as if I were a small ignorant child, simply because I have the audacity to have both a uterus and a brain, leaves me feeling extremely uncivil. In a way that the New York Times would not find fit to print, but I bet they would run a piece in the Sunday Styles section about "mansplaining."
    posted by ambrosia at 5:00 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Afroblanco: "Someone who uses the term 'mansplain' cares more about offending their potential audience than persuading them."

    I don't think that's a charitable interpretation. I think there are some people who think it would be offensive to many, but that the people offended are wrong to be offended, so fuck 'em, but I think there are many people who think it is only offensive to a very small number of vocal folks, and therefore that it's not worth coming up with (easy) and popularizing (crazy hard) another term that those folks wouldn't be offended by.

    Personally, I don't know what the actual breakdown of "offended potential audience" to "non-offended potential audience" is, so I wouldn't skip someone's comment just because they use the word "mansplain", but I would if they were using it specifically to offend, or to dismiss a person's argument without refuting it.
    posted by Bugbread at 5:03 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Ok, I think this thread has run its course and is starting to go off the rails a bit. I said earlier i would be closing this down if things got out of hand and/or if it went into the hundreds of comments and I think it has kind of done both.
    posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:05 PM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


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