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Mansplain to me why this is ok?
August 19, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I don't want to be all WHAT ABOUT DA MENZ, but isn't it a little off having 'mansplain' be the go-to word for a condescending explanation? It's used without comment by asker and answerers in this (otherwise perfectly cromulent) AskMefi question. Crappy workplace behaviour is crappy workplace behaviour, surely, without the need to gender it?
posted by Sebmojo to Etiquette/Policy at 4:55 PM (855 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

OH NOEZ YOUR FEELZ

Mansplaining is mansplaining because it is overwhelmingly men who do it, overwhelmingly to women. If a woman complains of chronic mansplanation I see no reason to doubt that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:00 PM on August 19, 2013 [61 favorites]


Because it is effective shorthand for a behavior and experience most people are aware of. I personally use mansplain as gender-neutral because it is just a useful term.

I could go into this in more detail, but my uterus is doing things and I'd rather be eating prosciutto.
posted by phunniemee at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's a term that some people object to but that is often used to discuss gendered behavior. Here's a thread that talks about it specifically as a gendered phenomenon.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2013


Here's how I'd put it: "Listen, I'm sure you don't mean to be rude, but I have a lot of experience in this area, and when you attempt to explain basic stuff like this to me, it comes off as condescending. If I have a question, I'll ask. Thanks."

Urgh.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 3:14 PM on August 19 [15 favorites +] [!]


I like this response.
posted by 4ster at 5:02 PM on August 19, 2013


Mansplaining is mansplaining because it is overwhelmingly men who do it, overwhelmingly to women. If a woman complains of chronic mansplanation I see no reason to doubt that.

Bitching is bitching because it is overwhelmingly women who do it, overwhelmingly to men. If a man complains of chronic bitching I see no reason to doubt that.

Is that how we're doing it?
posted by karathrace at 5:05 PM on August 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


Raise your hand if you knew someone was going to start a meta about this question.
posted by msali at 5:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [57 favorites]


Mansplaining is mansplaining because it is overwhelmingly men who do it, overwhelmingly to women. If a woman complains of chronic mansplanation I see no reason to doubt that.

Bitching is bitching because it is overwhelmingly women who do it, overwhelmingly to men. If a man complains of chronic bitching I see no reason to doubt that.

Is that how we're doing it?
posted by karathrace at 5:05 PM on August 19 [+] [!]

Eponysteric--awww, bummer.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 5:09 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


No.

The verb 'to mansplain' is a perfectly good description of what is going on whenever a man is condescendingly explaining stuff to a woman. The sense that he is only being that condescending to her because in his eyes she as a woman cannot possibly know as much about the given subject as he does, or at least believes he does, is quite explicit and quite deliberate.

This happens a lot. It's a thing. The word is there to describe the thing. It is a real thing. It is a bad thing. It needs to stop being a thing and that involves having it not happen any more.

It is a painful word for some men to deal with. That is also deliberate. I am a man who likes to think of himself as a bit of a feminist but nevertheless I have been just as guilty of mansplaining in my time as most men of my generation (I'm 42). The process of getting my head around the word and the idea that there is nothing wrong with the word - even if it is has sometimes quite rightly been used as a slap in the face to me personally - has been highly educational and - I hope - ultimately beneficial. I do my level best not to indulge in behaviour that could be characterised as 'mansplaining' any more. I don't claim that I can always do it. But I try.

If you have a problem with the idea of mansplaining then I think you haven't listened to enough women talking about it. This essay by Rebecca Solnit - is a very good place to start. It's also hilarious and and a damn good read anyway.
posted by motty at 5:12 PM on August 19, 2013 [123 favorites]


I'm not sure the 'mansplaining'/'bitching' comparison is necessarily one that's going to encourage a productive conversation.

(Jokes where people facetiously mansplain things, despite my best efforts to write a funny one, probably aren't going to do that either.)
posted by box at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you can come up with an alternative that conveys the gender insult that is inherent in the experience, but manages to do so without offending anyone, knock yourself out. Because being on the receiving end is pretty damn offensive.
posted by ambrosia at 5:14 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Do we have to do this again?
posted by languagehat at 5:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [49 favorites]


so, gendered insults are ok on metafilter?
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


so, gendered insults are ok on metafilter?


If it's used as a direct insult, it'll get the sort of scrutiny that insults usually do. If it's describing a behavior, it gets the scrutiny that terms that not everyone finds pleasant usually do.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:17 PM on August 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


I've found it's a word that is occasionally misused to mean "A man is disagreeing with me" but I see no evidence it is being used that way in this question. It does not read as a gendered insult to me when properly used. All types of people can be condescending explainers when they have no idea what they are talking about (Almost anybody criticizing the decisions of pro sports coaches) but this is a very specific type of behavior identified that many women commonly report and so there is a specific word for it.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2013


If it's used as a direct insult, it'll get the sort of scrutiny that insults usually do. If it's describing a behavior, it gets the scrutiny that terms that not everyone finds pleasant usually do.

Umm, that doesn't answer cupcake1337's question. What is the difference between the two?
posted by karathrace at 5:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


but this is a very specific type of behavior identified that many women commonly report and so there is a specific word for it.

Agreed. But "bitching" is a very specific type of behavior identified that many many men commonly report and so there is a specific word for it. Is that ok, too?
posted by karathrace at 5:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


we've been down this exact road in great detail before.

Worth a read and seeing if you - or anyone else - has something new to offer on this topic.
posted by smoke at 5:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do people think you can't use the verb "bitch" on MetaFilter? Allow me to mansplain you straight, friends!
posted by gerryblog at 5:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


Beyond fairness lies... Manquivalence.
posted by bleep-blop at 5:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


But really, can people who are coming in here all outraged or to hop into the fray go read through the thread on the blue or the damn MeTa that already exists on the topic? And then if a brand-new epiphanic statement on the topic needs to be expressed, please feel free.

This makes me feel cranky like how mansplaining makes me feel cranky. Probably because the discourse around mansplaining (and I'm not saying this has happened so far) so often emphasizes "ladies, you don't know what you're talking about," just like mansplaining itself does.

Mansplaining, to me, is when a dude behaves that he has the answers to (often unasked) questions you must be wondering about, simply by virtue of being a man. It is the dark side to the confidence that leads men to ask for raises more than women do. It is a real thing for which this word has emerged.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 5:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


The noun "bitch" is gendered, but the verb isn't, in my experience. Complaining is pretty much universal.
posted by gingerest at 5:25 PM on August 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


People are going to use words and language you may not like, so you gotta get used to it. There's some words I'm not a fan of as well, but they are socially acceptable. The way to figure out if it's a socially acceptable term is to read the room. That question went 30 answers and no one had a problem with the word "mansplain"; in fact others used it in their replies.

Also, know your site - this is MeFi, so believe me when I tell you that if this word WAS offensive, then 1. The question would have been flagged like crazy and would have been deleted or 2. there would have been a Meta here 5 minutes after the question went up, not almost 2 hours later.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:27 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed. But "bitching" is a very specific type of behavior identified that many many men commonly report and so there is a specific word for it. Is that ok, too?

I find "bitch" to have far more significant negative and problematic connotations and a long history with being used abusively.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm not a man, but I am a white person, and I've been guilty of white-splaining in the past to minority friends. Whitesplaining is a perfect description of how my blindness to my own privilege caused me to act superior and condescending to a friend. It's only offensive in that it's a hurtful behavior that I've engaged in and would like to pretend that I haven't.

"Bitching", when used specifically as a gendered term (which is less and less common) has the opposite connotation. It is used by a person from a relative position of privilege to minimize the thoughts/opinions of a person without that privilege. Pretending that this term and "mansplaining" are completely equivalent misses the entire social context of the words. Really, they are two faces of the same coin.
posted by muddgirl at 5:29 PM on August 19, 2013 [95 favorites]


Mansplaining isn't an insult. It can be totally innocuous on the mansplainer's part. It's just a side effect of not taking other people's experiences seriously, which can be hard to do when you're in a privileged position in society. When you're used to people listening to and validating your view of the world, you start to think that it's right, even when you're talking about something you have no experience in. White people regardless of gender mansplain race to people of color, upper-middle-class people regardless of gender mansplain the economy to poor people. It's not a perfect term, but the people most likely to mansplain are white, non-poor men because they're the people least likely to have their own experience of the world called into question.

and I feel like I'm mansplaining right now
posted by oinopaponton at 5:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


Mansplain is a dumb word. Always better in neutral settings to avoid jargon, or in this case, slang.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


i think the askme that spawned this thread is a good candidate for deletion + "please reword in a less confrontational way"
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bitching is bitching because it is overwhelmingly women who do it, overwhelmingly to men. If a man complains of chronic bitching I see no reason to doubt that.

On the one hand, a gendered word for a widespread gendered phenomenon. On the other hand, a gendered insult repurposed for use in contributing to keeping women in a subordinate role in society. Totes the same thing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


On the one hand, a gendered word for a widespread gendered phenomenon. On the other hand, a gendered insult repurposed for use in contributing to keeping women in a subordinate role in society. Totes the same thing.

Solution: "Womanplaining."

I JUST SOLVED SEXISM YOU'RE WELCOME

(Sorry.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


As I have seen it, there are two ways "mansplaining" has been used:

1. Someone is using their position (either real or perceived) to be condescending while advancing their views. Total dick move.

2. Someone not willing to hear another's view, and writing it off as "oh great, here's a MAN explaining it to me. Total dick move.

How about we just not engage in total dick moves?
posted by karathrace at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Really, they are two faces of the same coin.

Lets use that coin to buy a clue and not insult anybody unnecessarily by doing away with both.
posted by karathrace at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about we just not engage in total dick moves?

I honestly can't tell if the irony is intentional.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2013 [80 favorites]


People are going to use words and language you may not like, so you gotta get used to it. There's some words I'm not a fan of as well, but they are socially acceptable. The way to figure out if it's a socially acceptable term is to read the room. That question went 30 answers and no one had a problem with the word "mansplain"; in fact others used it in their replies.

I disagree with this. AskMefi is not the place to bring up disagreements about terminology. And 'get used to it', aka 'suck it up' is not super-constructive.

However:

we've been down this exact road in great detail before.

is a really good point, even if it's a year old it probably covers off all the likely angles. Apologies for not doing a better search before posting.

i think the askme that spawned this thread is a good candidate for deletion + "please reword in a less confrontational way"

...no? I think it's really good, I was just curious about the community's stance on that word.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2013


Someone...

These descriptions of "someone" ignore the gendered and sexist context in which mansplaining occurs.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:43 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


You're going to use dick as an insult while complaining about a perceived gendered insult? Really?
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I honestly can't tell if the irony is intentional.

Ha!
posted by karathrace at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The difference between the gendering of "dick move" and the gendering of "bitch" are completely different. Poor menz.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2013


1. Someone is using their position (either real or perceived) to be condescending while advancing their views. Total dick move.

2. Someone not willing to hear another's view, and writing it off as "oh great, here's a MAN explaining it to me. Total dick move.


Considering that the AskMe OP specifically points out that there are instances that she knows more about the subject at hand than the dude, it's clear that a good part of it is #1.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also karathrace you're kind of acting like an ignorant asshole here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Alternatives to "mansplain"

Condesplain

Dicksplain

Douchesplain

Statusplain

Execusplain

Bossplain

Massahsplain

(I'll toss in Sarahsplain and Michaelsplain just for the typographical error possibilities)
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


You're going to use dick as an insult while complaining about a perceived gendered insult? Really?

Good point. Well we have two choices:

1. Free for all.
2. Change all insults to asshole. Everyone's got one, just like opinions.
posted by karathrace at 5:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Privilege-splaining goes beyond just being condescending. It's speaking as an expert on a subject based purely on social privilege, to someone who actually IS an expert based on years and years of study and experience.

It's like when I whitesplained to my black friend that San Antonio is more like the West than the South because we're less racist towards black people. I have no fucking clue how a black person experiences the US West, South, OR San Antonio. I was just talking out of my ass, in a way that minimized my friends actual expertise at, you know, living in a black body.

Lets use that coin to buy a clue and not insult anybody unnecessarily by doing away with both.

I don't see mansplain or whitesplain as insults, though. What's insulting TO ME about the term? The fact that I'm privileged just by being white is just that - a fact. Indeed, I was insulting my friend! By identifying the behavior, I can be mindful about not doing it in the future.
posted by muddgirl at 5:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [48 favorites]


Also karathrace you're kind of acting like an ignorant asshole here.

I guess that's enough to make me leave.
posted by karathrace at 5:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I'll toss in Sarahsplain and Michaelsplain just for the typographical error possibilities)

That only happens in Real Metafilter, where we don't pal around with sockpuppets.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is mostly okay to make derogatory comments about ethnic or gendered groups on Metafilter so long as they are white and/or male. You can also generally get away with ageist comments so long as they are directed at men.
posted by unSane at 5:53 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Bitching is bitching because it is overwhelmingly women who do it, overwhelmingly to men.

More than 2700 comments using "bitching" on the blue. Bet they're not all used by men to describe complaining women.
posted by rtha at 5:53 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I guess it's insulting because it implies that all white people do it. Which, they do? I mean, not every white person in the entire world, because it's possible that some white people have never been in a situation where they were speaking to a minority from a position of social privilege.
posted by muddgirl at 5:55 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would encourage anyone who intends to come into this thread and complain about the term 'mansplain' to first certify they have read previous MeTa discussion on the subject.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:58 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good point. Well we have two choices:

No. We have the usual choice, which is that comments and posts will be considered in context on a case-by-case basis and with the guidance and review of the community. "Free-for-all" is never on the table.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


I would encourage anyone who intends to come into this thread and complain about the term 'mansplain' to first certify they have read previous MeTa discussion on the subject.

Seconded! The previous thread smoke linked earlier is excellent. I'm just going to quote jfuller and back out of this one, because he expressed my vague discomfort better than I am able to:

['Mansplain' is] mildly offensive, and is 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.

posted by Sebmojo at 6:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


MANSPLAIN: the darkly confident fragrance that tells you what you need to know and then tells you again. And again. MANSPLAIN: the new fragrance by Guy Laroche. MANSPLAIN: available anywhere. At the fragrance counter. By the fragrances. Just ask, darlin'. MANSPLAIN: by Guy Laroche.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [37 favorites]


Splash some on to cover the vile stench of the patriarchy!
posted by elizardbits at 6:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was going to answer the askme question but the whole 'mansplaining' thing got up my nose so I left it alone.

I think there is such a thing as 'mansplaining' in a gendered context. But there is nothing in this question that denotes a gendered context except for the use of the term mansplain.

The asker could have used any number of terms, including 'condescending explanations' but instead chose to use an inflammatory term, for some reason.

I am not a man. I have explained things that don't need explaining to someone more experienced and knowledgable than myself. Over here we call that behaviour " teaching grandma (or grandpa) to suck eggs" meaning teaching an experienced person something they already know.

The nice thing about the saying is that it has no gendered context because that particular type of behaviour is not solely the domain of one gender or another.
posted by Kerasia at 6:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have a co-worker who, despite being ten years younger than I am and much less experienced, really enjoys explaining things to me. He teaches grandma to suck eggs things that I know a lot about, things I know a little about, things that he knows very little about, you name it. Today, we were talking about business failure, and he said very authoritatively, "Well, it's very important to understand failure and then build sustainability in to the next venture." I'm like, um, you know nothing about building a business. Stop explaining this to me. I find myself on the receiving end of these long teaching grandpa to suck eggs lectures, and I'm tired of smiling and nodding. What's a snappy comeback to shut this guy up? I'm also wondering if there's something I'm doing that suggests I don't know what I'm talking about?

I think it works.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:09 PM on August 19, 2013


I liked this one from OmieWise:

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 rtha at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [43 favorites]


This looks like a convenient place for me to bitch about "they do this because they are insecure". That is a lazy, psychologizing explanation, (actually it is unfounded speculation), of a kind that is beloved by our culture. It makes everyone feel smarter - hey, this is really THAT! It de-legitimizes actual disapproval of an obnoxious behavior, since it suggests that you shouldn't judge the person, you should understand them. But I have my judging boots on today, and I don't much care why someone I only work with does something annoying again and again; I just want to know how to make them go away or stop. That their behavior may have an underlying reason does not free them of the obligation to become aware that it is annoying everyone and STOP doing it already!

thank you for your kind attention
posted by thelonius at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there is such a thing as 'mansplaining' in a gendered context. But there is nothing in this question that denotes a gendered context except for the use of the term mansplain.

The asker could have used any number of terms, including 'condescending explanations' but instead chose to use an inflammatory term, for some reason.


Why doubt the poster's experience and her description of it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


but isn't it a little off having 'mansplain' be the go-to word for a condescending explanation?

Mansplaining isn't simply a word for a condescending explanation, though. At some point, someone re-defined it that way.

Mansplain has a specific meaning: a man explaining something to a woman in a condescending manner because he thinks that having a vagina impedes her brain function. It sometimes involves calling her "darling," "sweetheart," or some other inappropriate term of endearment, replacing scientific or anatomical terms with baby talk, or other infantilizing oversimplifications.

If I could play back to you all the times this has happened to me, I would, to prove that it is in fact, a distinct and separate thing from normal run-of-the-mill condescension. It is awful and frustrating, especially when you are in a situation where you need people to take you seriously and someone with whom you need to share information treats you like a fucking child.

As others have noted, it is a gendered exchange, and a demeaning one.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:11 PM on August 19, 2013 [65 favorites]


(although all the examples I find with a lazy search do refer to grandmother, still gendered?)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:12 PM on August 19, 2013


i'm not personally hurt by the (mis-)use of the word, but it does a disservice to those who are more or less on the "right" side of things by pointing out that they care more about protecting their group than protecting principles of fairness.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:14 PM on August 19, 2013


Can one "mansplain" or "whitesplain" things that aren't particularly tied to gender or race? I've been noticing use of the term in debates - here and elsewhere - where the actual experience of being a member of an unprivileged group doesn't convey particular differences in knowledge.
posted by downing street memo at 6:16 PM on August 19, 2013


Fun fact, cupcake1337 -- mainsplaining is in actuality a pointed dig at the inequity and unfairness of some interactions between men and women, therefore the idea that using that term somehow makes the user selfish and not on the side of fairness is utterly laughable.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:16 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can one "mansplain" or "whitesplain" things that aren't particularly tied to gender or race?

"Mansplain" is often used to describe situations where the man delivers a lecture because he assumes that his listener needs it because she is a woman - the topic isn't relevant. I haven't seen any of the other variants used that way, though.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:19 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


After the last thread about the word, I stopped using it. Its cuteseyness is part of its problem, as is its too-neat packaging, and it becomes trite and unhelpful, "Micro$oft" or the word "feminazi".

I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men. Over the past year or so I've come to a policy in my life where if someone says that a word or action is hurting them or has hurt them, I believe them and adjust accordingly. It doesn't actually hurt me to choose not to go there, and people who defend their use of hurtful words just because they insist it's not hurtin' nobody sounds...exactly like people who say those sorts of things.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:20 PM on August 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men.

I really can't understand why I would feel condescended to because of the use of this word. It describes a negative behavior some people engage in. I'm as likely to be offended by that as by black people using the word "racist." If it is aimed at me specifically I might be offended because I would find it untrue, but the use of the word itself in other situations doesn't target me specifically. It is a word describing a thing some men sometimes do, not all men.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:27 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


by using a word that promotes condescension to men

But those who use the word don't see it as condescending toward all men. They see it as describing a linguistic and behavioral phenomenon of sexism.

if someone says that a word or action is hurting them or has hurt them, I believe them and adjust accordingly. It doesn't actually hurt me to choose not to go there, and people who defend their use of hurtful words just because they insist it's not hurtin' nobody sounds...exactly like people who say those sorts of things.

Confronting one's privilege can hurt, but I don't see much harm coming from that pain, certainly much less harm than comes from denying people the chance to use terms that specifically target harmful behavior, making it more difficult to educate about and redress that behavior.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:27 PM on August 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men. Over the past year or so I've come to a policy in my life where if someone says that a word or action is hurting them or has hurt them, I believe them and adjust accordingly. It doesn't actually hurt me to choose not to go there, and people who defend their use of hurtful words just because they insist it's not hurtin' nobody sounds...exactly like people who say those sorts of things.

This is the gender equivalent of "I don't see race".
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'd like to see zero insults that rely on gender, race, orientation, etc in any capacity ever again. Condesplaining sounds awesome though, I'm going to use that.

That said I'm not in any way offended by it so rock on I guess.
posted by Skorgu at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2013


"Mansplaining" is nowhere near "bitch" on whatever scale.

Bitch = female dog capable of being in heat, yet also a woman that others find distasteful, and also complaining/whingeing.

Mansplaining = an overwhelmingly male way of trying to explain things.

Nooooo comparison.
posted by batmonkey at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was going to answer the askme question but the whole 'mansplaining' thing got up my nose so I left it alone.

I think there is such a thing as 'mansplaining' in a gendered context. But there is nothing in this question that denotes a gendered context except for the use of the term mansplain.

The asker could have used any number of terms, including 'condescending explanations' but instead chose to use an inflammatory term, for some reason.


I had a somewhat similar reaction, but then thought, It's her experience, not mine. If she says this is mansplaining, it's mansplaining. It adds nothing to an answer to point out, Well, maybe this isn't actually mansplaining and the guy's just a dick, and it takes nothing away from an answer to take the OP at face value and assume the guy in question is a mansplainer.

That incidentally reminds me of how my thinking about this term has evolved. I find the word irritating and it's not one I would choose to use. I think Lyn Never sums up how I feel about it pretty well in her comment above. But, putting that aside, when this last came up in a MeTa, I experienced this:

First, I thought, Hey, wait a second. Calling stuff "mansplaining" is kind of bullshit, because whenever I act like a know-it-all asshole I'm pretty sure I'm just as much of an asshole to men as I am to women when I'm in that mode and there seems no reason to turn this into a gendered issue when it's just an asshole issue. Then I thought, But maybe I'll just hold my tongue on this for a second and see what other people have to say about it. And this turned out to be a damned good idea for me, because I watched woman after woman come into the thread and say something like, Yeah, this is an actual thing and this happens to me all the time. At this point I started to change the way I thought about it as it dawned on me that my experience wasn't shared by everyone else. Then the whole deal was cemented when a bunch of men rocked up in the thread telling everyone, No, you've got it all wrong, there's nothing necessarily gendered about someone being a condescending asshole, even in the face of all of that testimony to the contrary.

So while on one hand this thread is bound to be tedious, probably heated, and will probably wind up with members leaving the site, it might also result in people going through a process like I did, and I hope there's some value in that.

(Although it would sure be a hell of a lot easier just to read the previous thread).
posted by MoonOrb at 6:34 PM on August 19, 2013 [31 favorites]


As a cismale, I am not troubled by the word "mansplain". On the contrary: it rather delights me. So please feel free to keep using it. See you in... the FUTURE!!!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I did come in here to note that "mansplain" is a term that implies sexism - a man who lectures female colleagues in ways he wouldn't dare lecture a male colleague of the same standing. You know the guy who "mentors" all the women in his running club, including the ones with a few marathons under their belt? Yeah. That guy. Mansplain. Pretty useful term. Most here aren't guilty of it.

But this has degenerated into yet another discussion of privilege, which is basically a way for mostly privileged people to count coup on each other, and measure the length and turgidity of their social enlightenment. Any usefulness the concept once had to the cause of social justice has been buried by the crap people are flinging out of each others' invisible backpacks. Before too long, I predict it will be happily seized upon and misused by the radical right as a bludgeon against "leftist elites," much like "politically correct" was.

The entire concept needs to be rethought and reformulated. It's dumb and divisive, as the thread illustrates.

(Cue the snarling, sarcastic invocation of the "tone argument" - without noting the difference between not offending your enemies and not alienating potential and actual allies. Propaganda, people... the other side is kicking our ass at it.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:43 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Why doubt the poster's experience and her description of it?

I don't doubt the poster's experience with this person, but the use of the term in the question and question-title without further context - eg: 'he never talks this way to male colleagues' - makes me think the term was used as a provocative and unnecessary put down.
posted by Kerasia at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men.

It isn't promoting condescension toward men - it is describing a specific thing that certain men do that is condescending to women.

It isn't something that ALL men do, in much the same way that street harassment isn't something that ALL men do. It is a behavior that many men find abhorrent when they witness it.

It is also something that is sometimes difficult to describe or quantify to someone who hasn't experienced it. There are people who don't believe it happens, or don't think it is as severe as it is, or believe it is a variant of something that happens to everyone universally (which is where we get the belief that it is a catch-all term for "condescending explanation.)

Discussing "mansplaining" isn't a way of saying "ALL MEN ARE HORRIBLE AND THIS IS A THING THAT ALL OF THEM DO." It is disingenuous to frame the discussion that way, and dismisses an experience that people do, in fact, have.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't doubt the poster's experience with this person, but the use of the term in the question and question-title without further context - eg: 'he never talks this way to male colleagues' - makes me think the term was used as a provocative and unnecessary put down.

Why? Why not assume that the term was used to give context? Why not assume good intentions?
posted by jaguar at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


i'm not personally hurt by the (mis-)use of the word, but it does a disservice to those who are more or less on the "right" side of things by pointing out that they care more about protecting their group than protecting principles of fairness.

Who's the 'they' in this sentence?
posted by box at 6:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cue the snarling, sarcastic invocation of the "tone argument"

Pre-reading potential replies in this way makes it difficult to believe reframing the word would really help rehabilitate the concept.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bitch, stop 'splainin'.
posted by planetesimal at 6:50 PM on August 19, 2013


First, I thought, Hey, wait a second. Calling stuff "mansplaining" is kind of bullshit, because whenever I act like a know-it-all asshole I'm pretty sure I'm just as much of an asshole to men as I am to women when I'm in that mode and there seems no reason to turn this into a gendered issue when it's just an asshole issue. Then I thought, But maybe I'll just hold my tongue on this for a second and see what other people have to say about it. And this turned out to be a damned good idea for me, because I watched woman after woman come into the thread and say something like, Yeah, this is an actual thing and this happens to me all the time. At this point I started to change the way I thought about it as it dawned on me that my experience wasn't shared by everyone else. Then the whole deal was cemented when a bunch of men rocked up in the thread telling everyone, No, you've got it all wrong, there's nothing necessarily gendered about someone being a condescending asshole, even in the face of all of that testimony to the contrary.

Can we bring back the blink tag to highlight this?

(Thanks, MoonOrb.)
posted by scody at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Propaganda, people... the other side is kicking our ass at it.

We're on a website, man. Tactical concerns shouldn't govern the discussion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why? Why not assume that the term was used to give context? Why not assume good intentions?

Because the use of a stereotype by the asker does not imply good intentions on their part. The term was unnecessary. The question could have been wholly and totally legible without the use of the term. Using the term implied that the subject of the question acted in a particular way because he is male and the asker is female. For all we know, he may talk that way to his dad. Is it still mansplaining then?
posted by Kerasia at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not entering into this conversation until the term oldwhitemansplaining is used, then y'all are gonna catch some hell from me!
posted by HuronBob at 6:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


For all we know, he may talk that way to his dad.

Right. But as several people have pointed out, this isn't necessarily all the asker knows. You can assume that she's consciously using shorthand to encapsulate the dynamic, or you can assume she's stereotyping. So jaguar's question is relevant - why not assume good faith?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:54 PM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm waiting for post-menopausalsplaining. Because let me tell you, i've already sucked all my eggs.
posted by Kerasia at 6:55 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


but the use of the term in the question and question-title without further context - eg: 'he never talks this way to male colleagues' - makes me think the term was used as a provocative and unnecessary put down.

I took it as shorthand for all of that - she didn't need to explicitly state that this guy does it to other women in the office too, because she already described it as mansplaining. It's convenient, it explains everything without having to go through the whole long thing. If I was asking this question, I'd have done the same thing.
posted by troika at 6:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is not a question of good faith. I believe the poster when she says that this person is explaining things she already knows. But I don't believe framing it as 'mansplaining' will provide more substantive, useful, helpful answers than just describing the behaviour as unnecessary explanations.
posted by Kerasia at 7:01 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's convenient...

Yep, that's my problem with it. It is a convenient way to box up an experience into a gendered argument when gender may have nothing to do with it.
posted by Kerasia at 7:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


By using the term mansplaining she is saying that gender has something to do with it. I can't even imagine how frustrating for the OP it must be that people refuse to believe her.

You're basically saying, "I don't trust that she understands what mansplaining is. She's using the term wrong." Right?
posted by MoonOrb at 7:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [54 favorites]


...

On preview, what MoonOrb said. Exactly.
posted by halonine at 7:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I don't believe framing it as 'mansplaining' will provide more substantive, useful, helpful answers than just describing the behaviour as unnecessary explanations.

Dealing with me when I've had a couple drinks and forget that you know all the same stuff about a topic as me requires a different strategy than dealing with a guy who refuses to believe that a woman wouldn't benefit from his knowledge. She had a specific situation, it's different than other situations. I think that it's likely that a term that encompasses those differences leads to better advice for that situation than one that leaves those differences un-noted.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I believe the poster when she says that this person is explaining things she already knows. But I don't believe framing it as 'mansplaining' will provide more substantive, useful, helpful answers than just describing the behaviour as unnecessary explanations.

The term is not framing. It is a first-person report of having experienced a sexist interaction. Answers are less likely to be substantive, useful, helpful without the term because then the question leaves out relevant information. The most effective responses to dealing with sexist interactions are different from the responses to dealing with a simple case of know-it-all-ism or motor-mouth.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me tell you about another thing I don't like.
posted by Nomyte at 7:09 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


To clarify, it's evident that the OP believes gender has something to do with it, as indicated by their choice of words.
posted by halonine at 7:09 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


from the original askme:

Today, we were talking about business failure, and he said very authoritatively, "Well, it's very important to understand failure and then build sustainability in to the next venture."

note the "we." it's not clear if it's just the two of them, or if they are in a group with other women or men. it would be more clear if it was "the two of us were talking" or "a group of us were talking." i initially took it as meaning a group, but it's really not clear from the question.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2013


Pre-reading potential replies in this way makes it difficult to believe reframing the word would really help rehabilitate the concept.

The concept of "privilege" as is being used here can't be rehabilitated. It fails the instant you put yourself into the shoes of the average privileged person, especially if the privileged person is a member of an immensely numerous, wealthy and powerful group - they're gonna ask themselves one question, whether they mean to or not, whether they answer themselves honestly or not.

"What's in it for me?"

Well, a whole hell of a lot, as it turns out - but no-one is talking about the universal benefits of social justice. They're talking about privilege, as if it's something ill-gotten that needs to be taken away, or shameful to possess. Which is in itself a misreading of the intention and purpose of the exercise - but it's too useful as a tool to use against your allies to ever be a serious tool to convert the agnostic or thwart the antagonistic.

I took it as shorthand for all of that - she didn't need to explicitly state that this guy does it to other women in the office too, because she already described it as mansplaining. It's convenient, it explains everything without having to go through the whole long thing.

I did, too... it's a useful term. It has been used as a catch-all gendered bludgeon, misused elsewhere, which is probably what's setting people off. In this case, the term was perfectly cromulent, IMO, and stands as a good example of usage.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Slap*Happy, I think the discussion about how best to treat privileged allies is a derail. The first part of your last comment brings nothing to bear on the second.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


note the "we." it's not clear if it's just the two of them, or if they are in a group with other women or men.

The OP makes it very clear that he is speaking to her, not a group, specifically by using "I" and "me" multiple times in references to their conversations.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:16 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


When a woman says that people disregard or question her experiences, and people don't believe her, link to this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [49 favorites]


note the "we." it's not clear if it's just the two of them, or if they are in a group with other women or men. it would be more clear if it was "the two of us were talking" or "a group of us were talking." i initially took it as meaning a group, but it's really not clear from the question.

No, it's abundantly clear from the question if you operate from the assumption that women are capable of clearly reporting on their experiences. If you don't, well then, I suppose all those uses of "he/him" and "I/me" are pretty ambiguous.
posted by scody at 7:19 PM on August 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


note the "we." it's not clear if it's just the two of them, or if they are in a group with other women or men. it would be more clear if it was "the two of us were talking" or "a group of us were talking." i initially took it as meaning a group, but it's really not clear from the question.

Seriously though does it matter? As with every question, we're left with their phrasing and turn of events. This is how the OP framed it. That's the question she wants answered. Maybe she's wrong and he's just a jerk, period. No question is perfect. Maybe the salmon lasagna had been in that blouse for two weeks, or the divorce was actually one-sided. Why does it matter here? It's like every mention of dudes sitting like they've got a dragonball in their codpiece or requests to smile. Like somehow the anecdote is wrong and broken, because there has to be a different reason! She has to be wrong! I think it's mildly inflammatory as terms go, but hey, I found it really helpful in terms of understanding the question.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:20 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I have to say, even while on one hand I profess not to like the term, as soon as I saw the word "mansplain" I instantly understood what the complained-of behavior was.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there some reason why we can't just not use gendered, racially based, or age-based insults/derogatory shorthand for behaviour that I'm missing?
posted by unSane at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's more that there seems to be disagreement that this word is a gendered derogatory insult.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:32 PM on August 19, 2013


I was going to answer the askme question but the whole 'mansplaining' thing got up my nose so I left it alone.

That's sort of how I felt about it. Not my cup up tea, not against the rules. To many people "mansplain" means something specific as is evidenced here and is not a specific insult against anyone. It's like saying that someone is bitching about something (maybe okay) but saying that your girlfriend is a bitch is in a lot more dicey territory.

And in AskMe we have a few choices on what to do and "Drop the OP a note and ask them if they can rephrase it and then wait around for them to get back to us" is an option we rarely use and usually in stuff that is a little more serious to our read than this one.

So if people are accusing each other of mansplaining something in the blue, we'll often nix it as a non-good-faith way of talking to each other. If someone is using it to specifically describe the way someone treats her, it's descriptive and not a pejorative enough for us to bother with.

Did anyone drop the OP a note to ask her to rephrase?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's a difference between an insult and a description. Some insults (like bitch) rely on gendered terms. It's confusing, but some non-insults (like male privilege, or mansplain) also rely on gendered terms. As long as gender-specific behavior exists, it will be described, and that will happen through the use of gendered terms.
posted by prefpara at 7:34 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


OH NOEZ YOUR FEELZ

This trend toward using baby-speak to mock people who raise issues that involve fairness in speech toward men is growing rather tiresome. ("WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ" e.g.). Infantilizing another person's concerns is not a great approach to having a grown-up discussion. I really wish it would stop already. It's not even clever or fresh anymore.
posted by nacho fries at 7:35 PM on August 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


So I was talkin to this lady, and she says I'm mansplaining this thing to her, see? But the real problem was just she was just miswomanderstanding.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


This trend toward using baby-speak to mock people who raise issues that involve fairness in speech toward men is growing rather tiresome. ("WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ" e.g.). Infantilizing another person's concerns is not a great approach to having a grown-up discussion. I really wish it would stop already. It's not even clever or fresh anymore.

I blame that phenomenon on lolcats. Also, I agree.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there some reason why we can't just not use gendered, racially based, or age-based insults/derogatory shorthand for behaviour that I'm missing?

When the men in question stop explaining stuff to women in a particular fashion with a particular attitude with no counterpart amongst women, sure. But since it happens a whole hell of a lot in both public and private interactions, I'd say it's perfectly valid.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:38 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


The first part of your last comment brings nothing to bear on the second.

Oh yeah, I forgot to bring it back around. The point is this - and should have made it into my first post -

Guys complaining about the term as a gendered insult may have experienced a colleague acting like a blow-hard to them - and usually, this is the sort of guy who will go on at length to every man, woman, child and tree rooted too deeply to wander off. Harmless, sometimes entertaining, and occasionally worth listening to.

What they haven't encountered is a man actively using this kind of act to put them in their place as subordinate, to set up a mentor/disciple power imbalance where none really exists. Those guys aren't interested in pulling that crap with other guys, because it's a social norm for a guy to blow him off or call him out on his bullshit, where women still take flack from some quarters for being less than subservient to a man. So if she says mansplaining, it's best to assume there was a creepy vibe above and beyond the typical bloviating. Dude was trying to put himself in charge of her.

Privilege is one way to put this difference in experience, and we know what I think about that. We get all fighty.

Perspective is a better way to frame it - see through the eyes of the other person, and don't think they're lying to you or themselves. Include yourself in their experience. This works pretty well going both ways.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


The OP was there when the events occurred, we weren’t. I don't see why the OP should have to prove that the conversation was as she says it was, I mean, what the hell are we asking for here? For her to give us more examples so we can decide if the mansplaining is actually mansplaining?

My point is, the question wasn't "here is a representative list of examples, would this be considered mansplaining?" it was "someone is mansplaining to me frequently, how do I handle it?" We have no reason to discount the OP's lived experience, and it's very condescending to imply that she doesn't understand the meaning of the word (let me mansplain to you what mansplaining is...).

There's a difference between an insult and a description. Some insults (like bitch) rely on gendered terms. It's confusing, but some non-insults (like male privilege, or mansplain) also rely on gendered terms. As long as gender-specific behavior exists, it will be described, and that will happen through the use of gendered terms.


This. Mansplaining is a gendered term, and if we're going to go the route of assuming good faith on the part of the OP, I think that it's safe to assume that the OP was using a gendered term to describe a gendered encounter, not to call someone a nasty name.
posted by Shouraku at 7:42 PM on August 19, 2013 [20 favorites]


Well and good, Slap*Happy, but all that has nothing to do with whether the word's use here was appropriate.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the longer reason why I think some people are confused about whether mansplain is an insult.

When words associated with women or femininity are used as an insult, the insult is premised on the assumption that femaleness is bad or worse than maleness. It's a very non-specific, broad mechanism. So, if I call you a bitch, it's because being a female dog is inherently worse than being a male dog, not because there are any specific qualities associated with female dogs that I am making reference to. If I call you a cunt, the insult works because vaginas are bad. I can call you a dick, but that's clearly not as bad.

But mansplain doesn't work like that. Mansplaining isn't bad because it's explaining + [being done by a man]. In fact, that isn't what mansplaining is. Mansplaining is a specific kind of explaining that is characterized by a patriarchal power dynamic, but a man can explain something (and men often do) without engaging in mansplaining.

If I accused someone of womansplaining, and they had no context for it and no knowledge of the terms or this conversation, their cultural training would lead them to conclude as follows: this is an insult, it's got "woman" on there, so this is a kind of explaining that sucks, and the reason it sucks is that a woman is doing it.

But that logic doesn't work here. The word didn't arise in the way that these other examples (like bitch) did, organically and from a patriarchal power dynamic. The word was created deliberately as a precise description of a specific kind of social interaction - one that cannot be separated from the gendered nature of the dynamic.

This is why I believe that mansplaining is not an insult, even though it looks like a lot of insults we're familiar with because it contains a reference to gender.
posted by prefpara at 7:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [87 favorites]


This trend toward using baby-speak to mock people who raise issues that involve fairness in speech toward men is growing rather tiresome. ("WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ" e.g.). Infantilizing another person's concerns is not a great approach to having a grown-up discussion. I really wish it would stop already. It's not even clever or fresh anymore.

Men who complain about bigotry toward men are literally babies who should stop whining.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


That's a good point, prefpara, and from that perspective the best response the asker could give to her mansplainer would be:

Him: "blah blah mansplaining blah"
OP: "you can stop mansplaining now, thanks"

If it is not an insult, then he shouldn't be insulted and the asker shouldn't have any trouble telling him he's mansplaining.
posted by Kerasia at 8:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This trend toward using baby-speak to mock people who raise issues that involve fairness in speech toward men is growing rather tiresome.

Not half as tiring as someone raising an unholy snit because they have somehow parsed "women don't like being catcalled" as "oh so I guess you're saying that I'm not ever allowed to talk to women ever again in my whole life isn't that what you're saying,".

But I suppose I could switch to typifying such behavior as being diva-ish. Would you rather that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


If it is not an insult, then he shouldn't be insulted and the asker shouldn't have any trouble telling him he's mansplaining.

What if this was a situation where he was displaying racist or homophobic behavior? Is it an insult to call it what it is?
posted by Drinky Die at 8:11 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like you're being somewhat disingenuous, Kerasia, and suspect that if you were discussing the issue in good faith, you would have said something like "but if mansplain isn't an insult, why are so many people offended by it? Doesn't that suggest that it is, in fact, an insulting term? For example, I doubt that you would answer the original question by advising the asker to tell her coworker that he was mansplaining."

To that hypothetical point which I suspect you of wanting to make, I would respond as follows:

Although it is true that most of the time, when people feel insulted, it's because someone just insulted them, sometimes people feel insulted or attacked for other reasons. For example, they may have just been called out on something sexist that they did, forcing them to feel confronted and defensive. Your guess is correct, insofar as I personally would not be likely to suggest that the original asker, as her very first strategy, use a confrontational approach to resolving her problem with her coworker. Not because mansplain is an insult, but because I think confrontational approaches (like making it plain you think someone is employing a sexist dynamic) should rarely be one's first line of attack.
posted by prefpara at 8:13 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


He won't be insulted by the term; he'll be insulted by having his sexism pointed out to him and questioned. It may even be the first time it's ever happened. I don't know how he'll react, but I think the asker is looking for a way to be diplomatic, because many react badly.

On preview, what prefpara said.

What EmpressCallipygos is referring to. The conversation continues below.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


If it is not an insult, then he shouldn't be insulted and the asker shouldn't have any trouble telling him he's mansplaining.

I can't tell if you're saying that you actually believe that guys who tend to act like this respond in that fashion (hint: they almost never do), or that it's only ok if they're not insulted. Either way, that seems naive and condescending itself.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:16 PM on August 19, 2013


Actually, Rustic Etruscan, I was thinking of the Schroedinger's Rapist thread, but I suppose the fact that so many other threads could also apply just underscores exactly how tiresomely repetitive that particular conversation actually is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:17 PM on August 19, 2013


Oh, dear. Sorry for not clarifying first.

The thread in question.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:18 PM on August 19, 2013


Do we know for sure he self identifies as a man?
posted by Ad hominem at 8:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Please don't.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:22 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


But mansplain doesn't work like that. Mansplaining isn't bad because it's explaining + [being done by a man]. In fact, that isn't what mansplaining is. Mansplaining is a specific kind of explaining that is characterized by a patriarchal power dynamic, but a man can explain something (and men often do) without engaging in mansplaining.

how about this one: asiandriving. asiandriving isn't bad because it's driving + [being asian]. in fact, that isn't what asiandriving is. asiandriving is a specific kind of driving where one is both aggressive and absent-minded, but an asian can drive (and asians often do) without engaging in asiandriving.

imo, something being against "a patriarchal power dynamic" is not a good enough reason to give it a pass on sloppy thinking.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:22 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


One subtle difference, cupcake1337, is that mansplaining exists, whereas asian people are not actually worse drivers on average than other people.
posted by prefpara at 8:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


This should clear it up.
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am engaging in this conversation in good faith and I apologise if I am coming across as disingenuous, it is truly not my intention. Prefpara, your explanation above put the term in a different light for me and I was exploring that.
posted by Kerasia at 8:24 PM on August 19, 2013


how about this one: [nonsense].
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:25 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


how about this one: asiandriving. asiandriving isn't bad because it's driving + [being asian]. in fact, that isn't what asiandriving is. asiandriving is a specific kind of driving where one is both aggressive and absent-minded, but an asian can drive (and asians often do) without engaging in asiandriving.

Come the fuck on.
posted by scody at 8:26 PM on August 19, 2013 [41 favorites]


Kerasia, if I misinterpreted you, I also apologize.
posted by prefpara at 8:26 PM on August 19, 2013


What if this was a situation where he was displaying racist or homophobic behavior? Is it an insult to call it what it is?

I'd call it an obligation.
posted by Kerasia at 8:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


One subtle difference, cupcake1337, is that mansplaining exists, whereas asian people are not actually worse drivers on average than other people.

i don't think you got the point of the analogy. [some action] + [over-general group] is not a very nice term, regardless of the truthiness of the claim(?) the term is making.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's my (non-white, non-male) problem with accusing people of "mansplaining" (both in general, and in the Ask that is at issue here):

There were a couple people (not of my race) who were rude to me today. Maybe they are racist. But maybe they are just rude. There's no way to tell unless: a.) they made it clear that their rudeness was racially motivated, or b.) they were rude to me, but not rude to people with different skin colours.

So let's say I posted an AskMe saying: Lady X at the store was racist to me today, how to I get her to stop being so racist, and I included lots of examples of how she was rude, but nothing to say that she was racist. I feel like it would be fair to take issue with the premise.

And I feel like that's the same thing that's happening here. If the Asker had even hinted that none of Mr. Douchebag's condescension is directed at men, then using the term "mansplaining" seems legit. But, instead it reads like the Asker is assuming that Mr. Douchebag is being a douchebag to her, specifically, because of her gender. And it probably would pass too, except that "stop mansplaining" is a pretty dismissive way to silence someone who has an opinion, and so folks who feel strongly about not having voices silenced for demographic reasons have a problem with it.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


how about this one: asiandriving. asiandriving isn't bad because it's driving + [being asian]. in fact, that isn't what asiandriving is. asiandriving is a specific kind of driving where one is both aggressive and absent-minded, but an asian can drive (and asians often do) without engaging in asiandriving.

Well the one thing is calling out a patriarchal way of interacting with people, and the other is racist twaddle. Totes the same thing!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:31 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, let me expand on my previous statement.

cupcake1337, your facile analogy willfully disregards the substance of the conversation here, and in so doing insults literally every single woman and man who is participating in this conversation in good faith. Come the fuck on.
posted by scody at 8:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


i don't think you got the point of the analogy.

I hope this is irony, in this of all threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


And I feel like that's the same thing that's happening here. If the Asker had even hinted that none of Mr. Douchebag's condescension is directed at men, then using the term "mansplaining" seems legit. But, instead it reads like the Asker is assuming that Mr. Douchebag is being a douchebag to her, specifically, because of her gender. And it probably would pass too, except that "stop mansplaining" is a pretty dismissive way to silence someone who has an opinion, and so folks who feel strongly about not having voices silenced for demographic reasons have a problem with it.

And again, there's no reason to assume that this isn't happening and that the AskMe OP is lying or mistaken.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm, yep, I also was going to answer in the thread, but the mansplaining language turned me off. Mainly because I personally hadn't figured out if the OP was clear on the point that this person was doing this just to her, just to women, or to everyone, guys included.

I've seen this blustering communication style before. I have a female colleague who does this a great deal, and so it isn't exactly mansplaining, but it is clear it is coming from a place of hiding her own insecurity.

In general - because I'm sensitive about being referred to in any stereotypical way, I am sensitive about speaking about anyone in that way. It's shorthand, it's limiting, it's sometimes wrong, and even when it is right, it is distracting, because suddenly we get caught up in language rather than behavior. Just describe the behavior.

This language of mansplaining seems lazy and unnecessary, with much better language options out there. So why use possibly inflammatory language when you don't have to - stereotypes never seem to help.
posted by anitanita at 8:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


So why use possibly inflammatory language when you don't have to - stereotypes never seem to help.

As mentioned above, if you know a word that specifically refers to the type of condescending explaining that men do to women predicated on the assumption that a woman cannot possibly have sufficient knowledge about the subject at hand because she is a woman, entirely regardless of her personal, professional, intellectual, or creative credentials, experiences, or achievements, then by all means, please proffer it.
posted by scody at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


Nope, scody I don't. I accept that sometimes there isn't a word in the English language that does justice to a particular situation, but that it's worth taking the time to explain and describe the behavior, rather than assume that everyone has a common understanding of a word that might be inflammatory. For example, there seem to be a couple of different definitions of mansplaining here alone.

And I think the entire post accurately explained the situation, and as such the word mansplaining wasn't necessary. By your standard, she could have just said 'how do I get this guy to stop mansplaining to me, a woman', and that would have been sufficient. But she included a lot of helpful additional information that gave more clarity to her situation.
posted by anitanita at 8:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


there's no reason to assume that this isn't happening and that the AskMe OP is lying or mistaken.

But there is, if the OP is describing one behaviour (condescension ) and calling it another (mansplaining).

Maybe the solutions are the same either way, but by using the mansplaining language, she is throwing the "sexist" label on Mr. Douchebag, which I sure coloured many of the responses that she got.

Like... it's one thing if someone is a little socially oblivious and doesn't realize when his input is not wanted or needed You can chalk that up to a little awkwardness/aspieness/autism spectrum disorder stuff. It's another thing if that same someone is sexist and creating a hostile environment towards women in particular.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:40 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


can y'all please stop dropping such sick burns because my downstairs neighbor does not appreciate me doing the running man at 1145pm.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


I miss the img tag.
posted by klangklangston at 8:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Lady X at the store was racist to me today, how to I get her to stop being so racist, and I included lots of examples of how she was rude, but nothing to say that she was racist. I feel like it would be fair to take issue with the premise.

I see what you're getting at, and normally I would agree. However, the AskMe was very short and didn't provide more than a brief example. Basically, the OP said that someone was mansplaining and gave a very short example that added nothing to her question. Without further context and tone it's near impossible to tell if it was actually mansplaining, so really, us commenters had to take her at her word. If we assume good faith on her part, she may have just figured that we would take her at her word and therefore she could keep the question brief by not providing lots of examples.

Going with your example, if you said: "A lady at a store was raciest to me, what do I do?" Then you would probably get answers that related to the question asked. If you said "a lady was raciest to me when she did XYZ and ABC, what do I do?" then that would be open for much more interpretation from the community.
posted by Shouraku at 8:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


did i fucking stutter klang
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


Scody, it seems you are reading things into the original askme that some others of us aren't. Are you assuming that just because the OP used the term 'mansplaining' that all the conditions you mentioned above actually existed in the exchange between the OP and her workmate?
posted by Kerasia at 8:42 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe he was just socially awkward? Guys, I may have BINGO!
posted by prefpara at 8:42 PM on August 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


Well, and the answer to the question is whatever is best to do to a mansplaining younger coworker. If you can't answer that question, don't answer that question. But this isn't one where we need to limn the edges of sexist epistemology.
posted by klangklangston at 8:43 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe the solutions are the same either way, but by using the mansplaining language, she is throwing the "sexist" label on Mr. Douchebag, which I sure coloured many of the responses that she got.

The condescending behavior is sexist. By condescending to a woman who has more experience than he has, he is doing a sexist thing. Whether he believes that women are his inferiors is irrelevant.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:43 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But there is, if the OP is describing one behaviour (condescension ) and calling it another (mansplaining).

When we elide the gendered aspect we elide the harm and the power relationship.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [30 favorites]


Scody, it seems you are reading things into the original askme that some others of us aren't. Are you assuming that just because the OP used the term 'mansplaining' that all the conditions you mentioned above actually existed in the exchange between the OP and her workmate?

I'm not scody, but, here goes: basically, yes. I concede that it's possible that the OP misused the term 'mansplain.' But I choose to assume that she understood the term and used it appropriately.

Questioning whether the situation is bona fide 'mansplaining' doesn't lead to a better answer, in my opinion. I also tend to think that the OP could have asked the question without using the word 'mansplain.' But aside from whatever my personal annoyance at the term is, what does it matter?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


By condescending to a woman who has more experience than he has, he is doing a sexist thing.

So if/when (and I realize that I'm getting into hypothetical here, but this MeTa is about mansplaining in general so I hope I'll be forgiven) this guy condescends to men with more experience, is he also doing a sexist thing?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you assuming that just because the OP used the term 'mansplaining' that all the conditions you mentioned above actually existed in the exchange between the OP and her workmate?

I dunno about scody, but I'm comfortable assuming that the OP has way more experience with her coworker than we do, and that she knows what mansplaining means and used it deliberately. Why are so many people comfortable assuming that either the OP doesn't know what her coworker is like or doesn't know what mansplaining is?
posted by rtha at 8:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


Oh wait - thanks Rustic Etruscan! - I think I have an answer for scody, who asked if there was a word for this situation. I think the word might be 'condescending'. This person has a condescending coworker. Regardless of why they are doing it, and who it doing it, the OPs question about how to not have to be subject to that behavior and how to respond-professionally - is an entirely understandable question.
posted by anitanita at 8:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think in that situation, he's just being a jackass, sparklemotion.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it is not an insult, then he shouldn't be insulted and the asker shouldn't have any trouble telling him he's mansplaining.

You're right, you might want to go for the more informal brorating or dudeclaiming.

oldwhitemansplaining

Or in this case, olding forth.
posted by bleep-blop at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


However, the AskMe was very short and didn't provide more than a brief example, so all that we can do is take the OP at her word.

i love that we're all bending over backwards to take the OP at her word, while in other askme's we explicitly disregard her interpretation and give advice she doesn't ask for.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not half as tiring as someone raising an unholy snit because they have somehow parsed "women don't like being catcalled" as "oh so I guess you're saying that I'm not ever allowed to talk to women ever again in my whole life isn't that what you're saying,".

But I suppose I could switch to typifying such behavior as being diva-ish. Would you rather that?



Yes, that would be preferable to baby-speak, thanks.
posted by nacho fries at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The condescending behavior is sexist. By condescending to a woman who has more experience than he has, he is doing a sexist thing. Whether he believes that women are his inferiors is irrelevant.

It's more "By condescending to a woman because she is a woman".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Like, a man can totally mansplain to somebody that he actually does know more than. It's the unsolicited, condescending, and sexist aspects that make it mansplaining.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


i love that we're all bending over backwards to take the OP at her word

if you think what is happening is 'bending over backwards' then you're vastly overestimating how hard it is to take what someone says at face value.

Also, the example you cite of "AskMe" doing something else is irrelevant.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


i love that we're all bending over backwards to take the OP at her word, while in other askme's we explicitly disregard her interpretation and give advice she doesn't ask for.

Yeah, and maybe we did that wrong too. Just because we didn't take that OP at her word doesn't mean that it's totally okay to not take any OP at his/her word.
posted by Shouraku at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Why are so many people comfortable assuming that either the OP doesn't know what her coworker is like or doesn't know what mansplaining is?"

To be fair, the asker is a woman, and they're notoriously bad at objective assessments of situations.

I bet she's only read "mansplaining" in books.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Rtha, I do think that the OP knows her coworker, and I do think she knows what her 'definition of mansplaining' is. I do think you're right - that we all should assume that the OP knows her experience and is a reliable narrator.

I just think it's not great to use a terms that seems to insult all men, just because some men are behave poorly. Gendered insults are degrading, no matter who they are about or directed to.
posted by anitanita at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2013


I think the word might be 'condescending'. This person has a condescending coworker.

No, condescending (which is a fine word) is only part of it. The key to "mansplaining" as a concept is that it is a man, condescending to a woman, on the basis that she, as a woman, does not know what she is talking about, regardless of her experiences or credentials, even when those experiences and credentials are obviously more extensive than the man doing the condescending explaining.

And the reason I think the OP used the term correctly is that nothing she said in her question made me doubt it. Her additional information was useful for sketching out the details of her particular situation, but yes, I'm going to take the OP at her word unless something specific in her question sends up a red flag otherwise.

I just think it's not great to use a terms that seems to insult all men, just because some men are behave poorly.

I don't think it insults men, and neither -- apparently -- do many of the men here who seem to be perfectly clear about the type of sexist behavior that it describes and that they, themselves, have rejected.
posted by scody at 8:54 PM on August 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


I have figured it out that I don't get to tell you what you can find offensive. I have given up hoping for the same courtesy.

I'm guessing most of us have a sort of deafness at certain frequencies. Better yet...I invoke the image of the seven blind men arguing over the definition of and elephant.

What would you say if I told you that I wasn't talking about all of them, just the ones who acted (X) way? (plug in any particular group or crew)

Yeah, I know. I couldn't get that argument to fly before, either. That's what I meant about the blind frequencies.
posted by mule98J at 8:54 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Men who complain about bigotry toward men are literally babies

I'm not sure "literally" actually means what you seem to think it does...
posted by nacho fries at 8:56 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmm scody, I don't know if the 'many men' threshold works, or if any threshold works. It seems like there are also a few guys who are saying that they don't appreciate the language. Like mule98J above.

I get that you don't think it insults men. But it seems like it does insult some men. So why wouldn't a person take a few extra words to not use a term offensive to some?
posted by anitanita at 8:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure "literally" actually means what you seem to think it does...

That war is lost.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:57 PM on August 19, 2013


I just think it's not great to use a terms that seems to insult all men,

I don't see it as an insult to all men. Just to the ones who engage in that particular behavior.
posted by rtha at 8:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


I get that you don't think it insults men. But it seems like it does insult some men. So why wouldn't a person take a few extra words to not use a term offensive to some?

If the word "mansplain" describes a thing a man does, that man should be insulted. When a person is punched in the face nobody is expected to care how that made the attacker's hand feel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Calling a person a crook is generally viewed as insulting, but if the person actually is a crook, who the fuck cares?
posted by gingerest at 9:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


The terms bugs me because it uses a word that shares a reference to an entire group to describe an undesirable subset from that group. It feels like the opposite of stereotyping, where there you illegitimately blanket an entire group with an undesirable characteristic. Instead here, you blanket an undesirable subset with a word that normally is used to refer to the entire group. It would be nice if judgmental references, even if they point to actual phenomena, were more careful than that.

I don't think the "bitching" comparison is a good one, but if you were to find an undesirable gender-specific problem that tends to surface with females, it would grate a bit just to throw the word "woman" onto said undesirable characteristic. It would feel rightly demeaning to women overall, and a bit of a gendered power move, even if the word itself is being used in a way to reference subset of the overall group. It just doesn't feel nice overall and beneficial to fruitful discussion, and that's perhaps about the best I can get at it.

And sometimes whether or not something hurts someone's feelings is important, even if you think the ends justify other more important means.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


So why wouldn't a person take a few extra words to not use a term offensive to some?

My reasons:

Because I do not believe it is more important to protect the feelings of persons offended by this term than to accurately label the behavior at issue.

Because I do not believe it is possible to discuss or describe sexist behavior without making some persons feel confronted, and I refuse to be silenced merely because words I believe to be accurate have caused some persons to experience discomfort.

Because a woman's experience of the world is so often given less weight and significance than a man's experience of the world, and this dynamic (woman: calls out sexism; man: please be silent lest I feel offended) should be resisted rather than perpetuated.

Because the conversation about how ideas are expressed is a distraction from a conversation about the ideas themselves, and therefore disrupts an important effort in service of a (comforting and familiar) performance of the gendered power dynamic.

Because I believe that sometimes, it is not only permissible to employ confrontational language, but actually desirable and necessary.

Because there is no equivalent or even near-equivalent alternative that will accomplish the same communicative purposes.

Because the "some" who are offended are not the most important people in the conversation.
posted by prefpara at 9:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [83 favorites]


I have access to a special paper on Mansplaining that I can read out to you slowly if you'd like to memail me.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Calling a person a crook is generally viewed as insulting, but if the person actually is a crook, who the fuck cares?

The National Association for the Advancement of Crooked Persons, duh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2013


White dude here. Totally okay with the use of the verb mansplain. Made me laugh first time I saw it explained (on this site, I think). It is an awesome description of very real behavior.

I am on the anti-infantile verbiage bandwagon, however. It's tired. You do not have feelz. You have emotions. You are not a kitten sad about its cupcake falling over or whatever the fuck. I too miss the img tag.

Also, "totes" totes needs to die in a fire.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Uh, it's Crookedly-Abled, dude.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:16 PM on August 19, 2013


Hey, i'm not Crookist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2013


I'm trying to think of a similar term that gets applied toward women in the workplace. The only one that comes to mind is "Mom'ing". I've heard guys use that when they are talked down to by, for example, one of the women in HR, who takes a similar condescending tone to the one that some men take with women.
posted by nacho fries at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am on the anti-infantile verbiage bandwagon, however. It's tired. You do not have feelz. You have emotions. You are not a kitten sad about its cupcake falling over or whatever the fuck.

That would in fact be a big part of the point.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't like the term mansplaining, and thus, I don't use it, but I haven't found a succinct word or even 3 word phrase to replace it. I find this horribly annoying, because I have to spend a lot of time and words defining the interaction instead of talking about/addressing it. It also opens the door really wide to debate my definition and the circumstances around my identification of the interaction as being sexist. I often have to defend that I know what I'm talking about before I can actually talk about it. I don't have a solution for this. I wish I did.

For me, condescending doesn't work because it doesn't capture the sexism that is intrinsic in the interaction. Condescending happens frequently between people regardless of gender, and it's not the gender of the recipient(s) that is driving the condescension machine, but the condescender's general ego. She/he's an equal opportunity jerk.

But there is a difference when the condescension is shot-through of and nurtured by sexism. The jerkiness isn't equal opportunity. We can see that the individual treats men and women differently, even when the women and men in question are equal or the men are of lesser (social, professional, corporate, whatever) status. We can see that the physical interactions and word choices are different when the offender interacts with men and women. We can see that they start off with different assumptions about the interaction, and about the recipient even when they really should know better.
posted by julen at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


scody: " I don't think it insults men, and neither -- apparently -- do many of the men here who seem to be perfectly clear about the type of sexist behavior that it describes and that they, themselves, have rejected."

As a man, I don't find it insulting. It doesn't describe me. I don't act like a condescending sexist asshole to the women in my life. And if I ever do act that way, I hope they immediately point out that I'm acting like a condescending sexist asshole so I can stop.
posted by zarq at 9:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


That would in fact be a big part of the point.

Yes, I hasten to add that I mean infantile language on the Internet at large, not in this particular thread, where I can understand the reason behind its use. Carry on.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:21 PM on August 19, 2013


We could call it something other than manspalining. It wouldn't make a difference. Because it describes a gendered phenomenon, one rooted in sexism, that a large number of men engage in, and it specifically positions them, as men, above their colleagues, who are women.

And the core of the objection, as men keep bringing up, is that they don't think it's fair that this behavior seems to tar all men. And so there will be no way to describe the phenomenon, no matter how carefully it is worded, where there will not be some man who objects, because they don't want to discuss it as a gendered behavior. And so they will object to any term, and will not be satisfied, because the core of their objection is that they feel implicated by the idea of mansplaining, whatever it is called, and don't want it to be gendered.

And we see this phenomenon repeat itself endlessly whenever the subject of privilege arises -- heck, we had a person in this thread who doesn't think we should even discuss privilege. Jews are told the word antisemitism is wrong. People of color are coached how to tell white people that they are being racist in such a way that they don't freak out. Women are told phrases that describe sexist behavior are insulting. On it goes.

It is what it is, and what it is is another thing that people don't like when it's raised and like to mock in order not to have the discussion. It's a tone argument.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [68 favorites]


"Paternalistic know-it-all" might be close to "mansplainer"?
posted by nacho fries at 9:22 PM on August 19, 2013


"Patronizing fuckwit" also works, but might be harder to fit into office conversation.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmm, so all mansplainers are men, but not all men are mansplainers?

Well, that seems slippery, because it seems to me that it doesn't work with other gendered stereotypes. I know that 'Angry Black Woman' is a stereotype and a set of behavioral actions, but seriously doubt I'd be okay with someone using that term and then explaining to me that they didn't mean me, but, in fact, that other Black woman over there. I'd still prefer a person just say that the person was continuously irate.

But I get that this seems to be a values and communication style difference, and I don't know if there is anyway to sway people either way. In mine, I'm pretty much going to avoid gendered stereotypes, because I just don't really think it useful to ever deal with the distraction of gendered, racial, etc. language, when there is a way to really just focus on behavior - evidence, rather than adjectives or euphemisms, or short-handed language. It just gets around all sorts of unnecessary clashes like 'but she was angry, and Black and a Woman', or 'but I don't mean you, why are you getting so offended', 'but I'm just telling the truth about X, you just have to know her!' etc.

I think that everyone can use the term 'mansplaining'. But I also don't know if deciding that 'I'm using it because there isn't a better word' is a great reason to use a word that can be considered inflammatory to some. It's the same reason why I avoid phrases like 'welfare queen'. But I'll also take a few extra steps just to not step on some flowers, because it's clear to me that it is unnecessary for me to do so just to get to my destination. That's just kind of how I roll. It;s not just about where I'm trying to go, but how I get there, that feels important. I don't have to unintentionally insult a couple of guys to use a term that some guys may find offensive, just because I want to specifically summarize the behavior of one guy. So, no 'mansplaining', no 'welfare queen', etc., when I can avoid it.

I mean there is still no word for "Shadenfreude' in the English language, and many people seem to not know what it means, and therefore have had to use additional language to explain their feelings, and it all seems to have turned out OK. So, a few extra words is okay by me, particularly if it avoids distracting grar.

Apologies to type and run - I've got to finish some tasks. But I've enjoyed the conversation.
posted by anitanita at 9:30 PM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Paternalistic know-it-all" might be close to "mansplainer"?

but but a father is a man are you trying to insult all men or something
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, no 'mansplaining', no 'welfare queen',

This is a completely specious comparison. The "welfare queen" was a myth concocted by the powerful in order to demonize the powerless as cheaters taking advantage of social programs, which was a necessary precondition in order to weaken (and ultimately destroy) the social safety net as a whole. It is a pejorative term that has an entirely different coinage, history, and usage than the term "mansplain."
posted by scody at 9:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


Angry Black Woman is a horrible insult because it's referencing a person's race when there is absolutely no need. The dynamics of her anger is not described by the term, and it doesn't add anything to the description other than racism. It's just "Angry Person" with unneeded racism thrown in. People get angry regardless of their race, and for many different reasons.

Mansplaining is gendered because it directly references the act of a man talking down to a woman because she is a woman. Condescension has many different motivations, but mansplaining has only one, and the reason is a direct result of the genders of the parties involved. That is why the term has a gendered description, because it's a gendered issue.
posted by Shouraku at 9:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, that seems slippery, because it seems to me that it doesn't work with other gendered stereotypes. I know that 'Angry Black Woman' is a stereotype and a set of behavioral actions, but seriously doubt I'd be okay with someone using that term and then explaining to me that they didn't mean me, but, in fact, that other Black woman over there. I'd still prefer a person just say that the person was continuously irate.

But the point is that it's a specific behavior that arises from the positioning of men above their female colleagues. "Angry Black Woman" is a stereotype, and "Black Anger" is a stereotype of behavior, but both are terms arising from the positioning of Black people below white people - the terms exist to silence Black people and keep them from expressing legitimate objections to a racist, sexist status quo. "Mansplaining" is a technique used, consciously or not, to uphold the sexist piece of that status quo

I'm not even going there with "welfare queen".
posted by gingerest at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


you can go on and on about how to you they are totally different things because of the specific meanings and cultural contexts, but that doesn't mean other people have the same interpretation of the short-hand terms, so you can't rely on your specific, qualified interpretation.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:51 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I know that 'Angry Black Woman' is a stereotype and a set of behavioral actions, but seriously doubt I'd be okay with someone using that term and then explaining to me that they didn't mean me, but, in fact, that other Black woman over there. I'd still prefer a person just say that the person was continuously irate. "

I dunno, I'd think that you'd be savvy enough to tell the difference if I was actually talking about her.
posted by klangklangston at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2013


I'm going to start catsplaining everything. That's when you talk to people like they are an indifferent furry animal. You're a kitty, aren't you? And you've got a fuzzy belly and I just want to eat it up om nom n…ow, stop biting me you little shit!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


you can go on and on about how to you they are totally different things because of the specific meanings and cultural contexts,

And you could assume that that is precisely what they are doing, without endlessly derailing discussions of gender with arguments that somehow this term is exactly like unrelated terms of opprobrium.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Comparisons among words may be made along several dimensions. scody, Shouraku, gingerest, and Bunny Ultramod appear to be comparing words in terms of their origins or the motivations for their use. I believe that anitanita is comparing them in terms of what potential effects they may have on listeners. If you expect hir comparison to hold for your differing criteria of course it will come across as inane.
posted by Jpfed at 10:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


but but a father is a man are you trying to insult all men or something

Good point.

Hmm, what else, what else...

"Insufferable gasbag who happens to be a man" doesn't exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, but it's getting closer...
posted by nacho fries at 10:06 PM on August 19, 2013


"Insufferable gasbag who happens to be a man"

is a noun modified by a phrase and an adjective when we are discussing a verb, a behavior, not a person
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:11 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe the problem is that the term isn't nicely hidden with Greco-Latin roots. How about viroviate? privilegislate? androdomontade?

I think Bunny Ultramod has nailed it:

And the core of the objection, as men keep bringing up, is that they don't think it's fair that this behavior seems to tar all men. And so there will be no way to describe the phenomenon, no matter how carefully it is worded, where there will not be some man who objects, because they don't want to discuss it as a gendered behavior. And so they will object to any term, and will not be satisfied, because the core of their objection is that they feel implicated by the idea of mansplaining, whatever it is called, and don't want it to be gendered.

Sexist behavior exists, so it has to be referred to, even if it makes some men uncomfortable. Getting rid of sexism is more important than avoiding that bit of discomfort.

Trying to use social justice ideas against social justice is really annoying. It would be nice if we could skip right over to a better world where sexism didn't exist and therefore any gendered language was Bad. But we don't live in that world, and it actually hinders our getting there when men overreact to anyone actually pointing out the remaining problems.

Ooh, or we could pick an exemplar and use that? Dawkinsplain? OK, maybe not.
posted by zompist at 10:26 PM on August 19, 2013 [25 favorites]


For me, condescending doesn't work because it doesn't capture the sexism that is intrinsic in the interaction.

So, sexist condescension then? Or condescending sexism?
posted by bongo_x at 10:26 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's why the gender in mainsplaining is important:

The phenomenon being discussed is not one in which the so-called mansplainer just happens to be a man, and the person he is explaining things to just happen to be women. It's not a description of coincidence.

It describes a behavior that reinforces a long history of men being privileged above women. There is a longlasting system -- sexism, specifically -- where women were (and often still are) not considered to be sufficiently intellectually capable of participating as equals with men. They were presumed to lack the intellectual capacity, the education, and the logical resources to stand on equal footing with men.

This system hasn't entirely been dismantled. And, if you're a man, it means you experience things in an intellectual sphere differently than women do. It means that you can generally count on your opinion being taken seriously. And if your opinion is discounted, it will probably be because you don't know what you're talking about, not because you are a man.

Women can't count on that. As many female users have repeatedly described on this site, they consistently have their ideas disregarded or stolen by men. They consistently have men assume unknowingness on their part, and men presume expertise in their presence, even when the women have an educational base much greater than the man. The man will not even bother to find out how much a woman knows. This so-called mansplainer will simply presume the woman knows less and will, in some instances, never acknowledge that she has any ability to intellectually participate at all.

At its very worst, this takes the form of men explaining to women what women's own experiences are, and disregarding when they describe what their experiences are. Men will explain to women, for instance, that there is no such thing as mansplaining, and that the very concept of it is offensive, and that the word that women picked to describe a phenomenon they experience is the wrong word, and they will mock it, and refuse to engage the discussion, because of course they already know better than the women about women's own experiences.

And even if you are not doing this, as a man, it confers a privilege on you, although it is a passive privilege, as many are. It means that not only can you enter the intellectual sphere with a presumption of competence, but that you can engage that without ever knowing that the experience is different for women. And that's why it is a gendered word -- because it describes a phenomenon that benefits one gender over another.

And that's why it is different from things like Asiandriving. Whether or not Asians drive well or badly, or even if we can identify their driving habits by race, when an Asian person drives badly, they are not reenforcing a system that has historically benefited Asian people and limited non-Asian people. Instead, it simply describes a glib behavior pattern that non-Asians have forced on Asians in order to mock them. It's not an actual phenomenon, and doesn't confer real-world benefits.

Manspalining does. And unless we recognize that it does, and let women describe their experiences, and presume their descriptions of their own experiences are credible, and let them pick the words that they find best in describing their experiences, we are, quite frankly, the problem.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:30 PM on August 19, 2013 [90 favorites]


I was, of course, attempting to paraphrase there what women have said repeatedly on this site. I am likely to have gotten a lot of it wrong, and would welcome corrections or additional information.

Because I'm trying my best not to be a mansplainer. I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard not to be that guy.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:36 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


you can go on and on about how to you they are totally different things because of the specific meanings and cultural contexts, but that doesn't mean other people have the same interpretation of the short-hand terms, so you can't rely on your specific, qualified interpretation.

Words mean things. Even newly coined words.
posted by gingerest at 10:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hi yes! Hello! I am the third caller and I would like to explain why "mansplaining" is a different phenomenon from "asiandriving", for a chance to see Weezer live in concert!

The difference is, "mansplaining" is a phrase that describes something which occurs because of male privilege. It is basically saying, "this man did this thing because he has been raised to believe that a) as a man, his opinion is worth a damn, and b) because this woman is a woman, she isn't as informed/intelligent/educated."

Meanwhile, "asiandriving" refers to a behavior which (according to the racist logic of the phrase) is something inherent to all Asians, rather than being a product of some cultural discrepancy. It's not just a matter of its not being true—there is no reason for the phrase to exist or be used, because there is no point at which somebody's lived experience can be more easily explained if you understand that some dynamic between Asian drivers and the speaker plays some kind of part.

Women experience "mansplaining", and therefore it is a good term, because it tells women that this is a common experience, and it tells men that this behavior is being perceived as/is actually kind of crappy and sexist. If other similar terms can expose similar unhealthy social dynamics, then let's use them, but those terms actually have to describe something that's real and exists or else they're just cheap rhetorical potshots.

If you are a man and you are offended by the notion of "mansplaining", then either remind yourself that not all men mansplain, and therefore everything is okay, or ask yourself whether you're upset because you personally mansplain to people, in which case everything will be okay as long as you start to not do that. In either event, your brief hurt will fade and be replaced by that warm narcissistic fuzzy feeling of making other people's lives suck less, and correspondingly being perceived as a slightly better person. Ultimately this phrase will help you make your life sightly better, so everything is good. I prefer floor tickets to balcony, if you don't mind.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


That was pretty perfect, actually.

At its very worst, this takes the form of men explaining to women what women's own experiences are, and disregarding when they describe what their experiences are. Men will explain to women, for instance, that there is no such thing as mansplaining, and that the very concept of it is offensive, and that the word that women picked to describe a phenomenon they experience is the wrong word, and they will mock it, and refuse to engage the discussion, because of course they already know better than the women about women's own experiences.

I'm even going to pull that part out for posterity.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm torn. Mansplaining clearly exists, and I think it should be used when appropriate.

On the other hand, I'm no sympathizer of the reasons that the Privilege Police Corps set forth as they sanctimoniousplain the difference between Appropriate Insults (those that Forward the Cause) and Inappropriate Insults (those that Don't Forward the Cause).

The truth is that the word wars are mostly idiotic, whether they are waged to advance the cause of overzealous political correctness or are attempting to prove that cause's absurdity by demonstrating its hypocrisy. We could all stand to be more honest and thicker-skinned.
posted by shivohum at 11:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


the Privilege Police Corps

I'm not the PPC. I didn't pull my definitions or experiences off a social justice blog or some ___studies class.

I am upset about this because it's a real thing that happens to me on a regular basis at work and keeps me from doing my job effectively. I'm not an idiot, and I am not four years old, but there are people at work that I am required to communicate with that treat me that way specifically because I am a woman. One of them will not even speak directly to me and will refer to me in the third person only if another man is even in the room.

Several of my co-workers have expressed shock and dismay - I can't believe the way he talks to you! That's disgusting! But there isn't really much I can do about it.

I will use a gendered term to refer to this behavior because THAT IS WHAT IT IS. That sucks that it hurts your feelings, but imagine what it does to mine to be treated like that all the time.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:38 PM on August 19, 2013 [44 favorites]


If you take issue with appropriate insults and inappropriate insults, maybe you might start by removing phrases like "Privilege Police Corps" and "political correctness" from your dialogue.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, like louche mustachio, I'm not making this argument to show off how morally superior I am - I'm making it because structural sexism is a real thing that I deal with every day. What you call "politically correct" I call "consideration of others' feelings".

On the greater topic - maybe "mansplaining" is a term of art. To people with day-to-day experience with sexism, it's got a specific meaning, and we are the ones equipped to answer the question described using that short-hand. Maybe it could have been more accessible, but we don't oblige Askers to make their technical questions comprehensible to non-tech people, just because they might be undiscovered savants with an answer they don't even know they have.
posted by gingerest at 12:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Discussing "mansplaining" isn't a way of saying "ALL MEN ARE HORRIBLE AND THIS IS A THING THAT ALL OF THEM DO."

But if we're honest, that's what most/all of us men do think it's meant with it when we first encounter the term, because we feel that little sting of guilt that says, oh shit, I don't do that, do I, then recognise, that yes, yes, I have done that. It's a defence mechanism to then hear it as "all men do it", rather "many men, including you just then, do it".

It's alright to let go of that defence mechanism, to not feel insulted when the term is used when it isn't aimed at you, to realise you're not all men.

(Ironically, for those who are so busy wanting to discredit the usefulnes of the term, this whole thread is one giant exercise in mansplaining; how do we know the original poster is correct when she says it's a man doing this to her because she's a woman, has she not thought of... etbloddycetera.)
posted by MartinWisse at 12:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Mansplaining is a pretty funny term and it describes a real phenomena, but trying to handwave away why it's not insulting or stereotyping is bullshit.

Of course it's insulting. Of course it's stereotyping. It's all there in the word. "Mansplaining".

Of course men aren't going to like it. It's a term about men, describing bad male behaviour. How is that not going to upset men? It astonishes me that people act consistently astonished that the phrase mansplaining is not liked. It's not my privilege that makes mansplain rankle. It's the fact that it's an insult and it's designed to rankle.

Also - an overwhelming narrative in Social Justice circles seems to be to categorise different groups of people according to the privilege they have and then formulate rules on just who can be aggressive to whom within that framework, and whether this constitutes inappropriate behaviour.

Here's your list, they say. We've put everyone in order.

The intersectionality lot are the worst at this. You'd think if you were smart enough to understand a word like intersectionality, then you'd be smart enough to realise the inherent assumption in the word that prejudices exists on multiple dimensions.

The tools for reinforcing Social Justice are treated as logical and axiomatic, but they're not. The fact that idiot groups like the MRA are easily capable of using those tools against the Social Justice set shows just how non-logical and broken they are. If someone can use the same axioms as you did to prove the opposite of what you proved, then your axioms are wrong.

I get that there are people trying to use the broken mechanism of language to describe and try and fix real societal problems, but the model they currently have is so readily open to abuse and misinterpretation, I'm suprised it actually manages to do any good at all.
posted by zoo at 12:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


It's alright to let go of that defence mechanism, to not feel insulted when the term is used when it isn't aimed at you, to realise you're not all men.

And that just there is a classic case of mansplaining.

Seriously? Is it alright to let go of my male pride... to not be insulted when the insult isn't aimed at me? Thanks for explaining the obvious, and doing it in the most condescending way possible.
posted by zoo at 12:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that just there is a classic case of mansplaining.

No it isn't.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:44 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that just there is a classic case of mansplaining.

No it isn't.


Yes it is
posted by zoo at 12:44 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Men explaining things to other men is not mansplaining, and the fact that you don't understand that makes me wonder what else in this discussion you haven't bothered to try to understand.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Men explaining things to other men is not mansplaining

So what you're saying to me is something like...

"I don't want to be all WHAT ABOUT DA MENZ, but isn't it a little off having 'mansplain' be the go-to word for a condescending explanation? It's used without comment by asker and answerers in this (otherwise perfectly cromulent) AskMefi question. Crappy workplace behaviour is crappy workplace behaviour, surely, without the need to gender it? "

?
posted by zoo at 12:53 AM on August 20, 2013


Can I ask you not to attempt to paraphrase me? You're not doing a very good job of it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:56 AM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


A definition of mansplaining which only allows the description of how men act towards not-men is nonsense. Only women (and male identifying trans* folk) can be mansplained to? Not people of other cultures? Not people from other classes?
posted by zoo at 12:57 AM on August 20, 2013


"Can I ask you not to attempt to paraphrase me?"
Can I ask you not to tone police me?
posted by zoo at 12:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have the right to establish guidelines for how I wish to be respectfully interacted with. You can respect them or ignore them, but since "ignore" seems to be your default setting right now, I think I shall just go ahead and choose not to interact with you anymore.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Men explaining things to other men is not mansplaining

Can we call it brosplaining, then? Because guys do this to guys all the time and in more direct and aggressive ways too.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because guys do this to guys all the time and in more direct and aggressive ways too.

I wouldn't presume to tell women how direct or aggressive men's behavior has been toward them, and that men somehow have it worse. From what I have experienced, men may be assholes to each other, but they are sexist to women, and that's quite different than the aggressive position-jostling men take with each other.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'd like to edit together all the cases of Don Draper doing this. Hell, to Betty alone it'd fill an hour. And damn, that first meeting with Rachel Menken? Ho lee sheehut. And title it Hammsplaining or Donsplaining or "MadMansplaining". (For the latter throw in some Roger because he has his own way of doing it.) Better yet I'd like someone else to do it so I can sit on my ass and watch it when it's done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A definition of mansplaining which only allows the description of how men act towards not-men is nonsense exactly what the definition of "mansplianing" IS.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


Is it alright to let go of my male pride

Dude, if you believe in something as ridic as male pride, you have bigger problems.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:28 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I wouldn't presume to tell women how direct or aggressive men's behavior has been toward them, and that men somehow have it worse.

Damn, you're right. Damn.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:30 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man, I used to love cupcakes.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:39 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


How did you feel about zoos?
posted by gingerest at 2:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think I probably don't care if people use the word or not but I think it's interesting that the general consensus about what "mansplaining" is makes an assumption about the state of mind of the "mansplainer". That assumption is kind of the thing that bothers people about "mansplaining" in the first place.
posted by ddd at 2:36 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think I probably don't care if people use the word or not but I think it's interesting that the general consensus about what "mansplaining" is makes an assumption about the state of mind of the "mansplainer".

But I think that's because being in that state of mind, even unconsciously, is what makes it mansplaining.

It's conceivable to me that a guy could be in a totally different frame of mind and engage in behavior that looks exactly the same. Like, personally, I've definitely have plenty of times where I've been intimidated/impressed by someone intellectually, and tried to impress them back by showing off how much I know, sometimes by explaining things or holding forth on topics that I was FULLY aware that they knew way way way more about than I did, and they humored me as I babbled on. I did that so much with my friends' parents when I was a kid. So I could see a guy being like me, and being fully, painfully, excruciatingly aware that they were explaining something to a person who was way more intelligent than they were and knew way more about the topic, and probably making a fool of themselves, and yet being too nervous to interact in any other way. I could see a guy behaving that way equally towards men and women. And if he were doing that, that wouldn't be mansplaining in my understanding.
posted by cairdeas at 2:54 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can we call it brosplaining, then? Because guys do this to guys all the time and in more direct and aggressive ways too.

Funny story on that: not long ago, in a semi-professional-ish setting (work-related but not actually work), I was talking to this man I hadn't met before about some professional interests we had in common. He did some Let Me Explain That For You stuff on subjects I already knew about, which was quite irritating, but on the other hand he wasn't the worst offender I'd seen in that area by a long way and it was still possible to kind of have a two-way conversation with him, which is not always the case. I mentally classed him as "kind of annoying, but dealable with" - not someone whose friendship I'd want to seek out, but not someone I'd have to make a point of avoiding like the plague at professional get-togethers either. And I had heard that Mr Explainy had a reputation for being difficult, so that definitely could have been worse.

Anyway, Mr Explainy also wanted to meet an older male colleague of mine (about the same age and seniority as himself), so I introduced them. I was chatting to both of them for a while before getting into a conversation with a fourth person Colleague had arrived with, and I noticed Mr Explainy was doing some of the same explainy stuff to Colleague. Didn't think much of it other than "huh, not just me then".

Later on, Colleague caught up with me and complained about Mr Explainy. "He was so rude! I couldn't believe how he was speaking to me! He was acting like I was some student who didn't know anything about an area I've worked in for years!" And my first reaction was to assume I'd missed something and wonder how on earth I had. I mean, they weren't talking for long! I was standing right next to them! And yet Mr Explainy must have been acting differently with Colleague than with me, because... ohhhhhhh.

I hadn't missed anything. Mr Explainy had just done exactly the same thing to Colleague that he had to me. But it read differently to Colleague - much more remarkable, much more rude - because in Colleague's world, this kind of behaviour is really unusual. In mine, it's not.
posted by Catseye at 2:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [49 favorites]


I could see a guy behaving that way equally towards men and women. And if he were doing that, that wouldn't be mansplaining in my understanding.

Which completely misses the point that it's not your understanding that is part of the AskMe OP's conversation. You guys can keep on holding forth on why you think it wasn't what she thinks it is, but it just contributes to the sense that her viewpoint is something to be suspect or even invalid just because you think (certain) people complain too much.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:16 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sexist behavior exists, so it has to be referred to, even if it makes some men uncomfortable. Getting rid of sexism is more important than avoiding that bit of discomfort.
posted by zompist at 6:26 AM on August 20


Can you use your daily allowance of favourites on one comment?
posted by billiebee at 4:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it alright to let go of my male pride... to not be insulted when the insult isn't aimed at me?

It is a very tenuous, weak, small kind of masculinity that is terrified of losing potential pride over the word "mansplain". It is a very nervous and frightened way to be a man.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


It is a very tenuous, weak, small kind of masculinity that is terrified of losing potential pride over the word "mansplain".

Really? Oh goodness. Thats, ermm, yes.

Thank god my original comment was 100% about losing pride, and not about the tepid condescension aimed at people who may disagree with commentators on a couple of tiny details.

"nervous and frightened way to be a man?" Have you even heard yourself?

I don't even want to start deconstructing your attitudes towards masculinity when the words "weak, small, nervous, frightened" are your go-to examples of dismissable behaviour.
posted by zoo at 5:13 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank god my original comment was 100% about losing pride, and not about the tepid condescension aimed at people who may disagree with commentators on a couple of tiny details.

Okay then, the idea that you get insulted at the fact that men act like assholes in a specific way towards women, and that you refuse to accept women's viewpoints at face value when there's a way you can nitpick it into them being the assholes, are both shitty ways to view interactions.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mansplaining is a pretty funny term and it describes a real phenomena, but trying to handwave away why it's not insulting or stereotyping is bullshit.

Of course it's insulting. Of course it's stereotyping. It's all there in the word. "Mansplaining".


So it's a thing that exists, you acknowledge....but it also doesn't, because stereotyping? Mansplain doesn't stereotype all men. It's not a definition of all men being jerks; it's not a definition of all men being jerks in a particular way; it's not a definition of all men being jerks in a particular way to other men; it's not a definition of men engaging in generic crappy workplace behavior. It defines behavior that some men engage in only towards women.
posted by rtha at 5:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Because just as "reverse racism" is acceptable (or at least excusable), so is "reverse sexism". If you can manage to blinker yourself to the flagrant hypocrisy of this, congratulations; you may be a modern liberal.
posted by Decani at 5:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


idea that you get insulted at the fact that men act like assholes in a specific way towards women,
No. Never said this.

and that you refuse to accept women's viewpoints at face value
No. Never said this.

when there's a way you can nitpick it into them being the assholes,
Not doing this.
posted by zoo at 5:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pointing out and labeling sexist behavior is not "reverse sexism."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


rtha: Something can be a real thing and still be insulting to people. This is why it's asshole behaviour to constantly refer to someone's deity as "Your magic invisible sky man."

You're trying to push the priciple that "mansplaining" as a term is not something witty and derogatory; it's actually just a normal descriptive word. That's not true. It's obviously not true.

Also - If you said something along the lines of "All men are worthless, feckless bastards", I'd consider it stereotyping, but I'd also consider it an amusing thing you're saying to describe a minority of men. Mansplain doesn't stereotype all men, but if someone gets upset at the usage of mansplain, I'm not going to use it as some kind of proof about that persons moral character.
posted by zoo at 5:56 AM on August 20, 2013


If you hate the term 'mansplaining,' then take it up with the mansplainers you encounter in everyday life.
posted by Eideteker at 5:57 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


But you said above that it was a stereotype. But it's not a stereotype of all men?

Of course it's insulting. Calling someone out on something racist they said or did is also insulting, but it doesn't make the person calling out the behavior/speech an asshole.
posted by rtha at 5:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


zoo: I am going to ask that you read the nice comment I left above, where I stated that "mansplaining", rather than describing something like "this is what all men do", is describing a "this is how some men behave thanks to cultural norms and prejudices". It's something that only men can do and it's a thing that they can only do to women, because of the cultural imbalance between men and women, but it's a word mocking/criticizing a behavior, not a category of person carte blanche.

Also: it is kind of a weird thing to have male pride, no? It's not like we're oppressed in any significant way other than maybe being pressured to act more masculine. And I somehow doubt your idea of "male pride" is that you're celebrating how men, too, can put on nail polish and wear dresses, though that's perhaps a thing to be proud of. So, like, what's so dignified about being a man that you've got to be proud of it? We've got these bouncy little tubes attached to us that occasionally turn inconvenient and stretch out our pants, and that's approximately the only thing that makes us special. But that gives me male giggles more than it makes me feel male pride.

Also also: what Bunny was doing to you wasn't mansplaining, it was riposting. And it was very fun for the rest of us to watch, on account of you kept not understanding what he meant and he kept repeating himself, and it was a nice bit of levity to balance out how frustrating it is to repeat these same comments over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and ov
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


On preview: Decani, you've argued this same line in so many threads over so many years that I am starting to be convinced that you're secretly a muppet.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:16 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


So here we have a women being treated in a sexist manner and talking about her experiences and asking for help in stopping the sexist behaviour. And in return there's a whole bunch of people denigrating and nitpicking her description of the sexism rather than addressing the problem because if only she'd describe things properly and calmly in the way that we can really understand without being offended, then maybe society can do something about sexism! But until these women learn to describe their experiences as fully and carefully as is necessary and satisfactory, tough luck.

This is so boring by now.
posted by shelleycat at 6:21 AM on August 20, 2013 [54 favorites]


No. Never said this.

No. Never said this.

Not doing this.


It's more your tone and the arguments you're making in a deliberately roundabout way, but even still there's phrases like "It's not my privilege that makes mansplain rankle. It's the fact that it's an insult and it's designed to rankle," or "Is it alright to let go of my male pride... to not be insulted when the insult isn't aimed at me?" or "the tepid condescension aimed at people who may disagree with commentators on a couple of tiny details" that do exactly that.

Because just as "reverse racism" is acceptable (or at least excusable), so is "reverse sexism". If you can manage to blinker yourself to the flagrant hypocrisy of this, congratulations; you may be a modern liberal.

This totally explains why 95% of leadership positions are held by women and minorities, and men are making so much less money for the same jobs. Reverse racism and sexism has won the day!
posted by zombieflanders at 6:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


No wait Decani can't be a muppet because muppets don't say stupid things like that.
posted by rtha at 6:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is blatant anti-muppet bigotry.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2013


Sam the Eagle might.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:28 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also: it is kind of a weird thing to have male pride, no? It's not like we're oppressed in any significant way other than maybe being pressured to act more masculine.

Pride in oneself and one's accomplishments does not have to tie into oppression or privilege. It doesn't require defending or overcompensating. It certainly doesn't have to mean "at the expense of non-males." I think it's perfectly okay for a guy to be happy they're a guy.

It's this idiotic defensive fear some guys seem to have of being somehow emasculated and an inability of some men to understand the unconscious, invisible privileges imparted to them in human society that I don't understand.

Pride itself isn't necessarily the problem.
posted by zarq at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2013


I think it's perfectly okay for a guy to be happy they're a guy.

Male pride is like white pride: it may be refering to something perfectly innocuous like that, but that's not the way to bet.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


See also "Straight pride".
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:41 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a shitty stupid word, but I don't think it meaningfully promotes sexism or excludes men from the conversation. I think the use of "mansplain" deserves an eyeroll, not a callout. But then, I feel the same way about mansplaining itself.
posted by 256 at 6:45 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought there must be something wrong about 'mansplaining' but my wife has told me I needn't worry my pretty little head about it.
posted by Segundus at 6:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


MartinWisse: " Male pride is like white pride: it may be refering to something perfectly innocuous like that, but that's not the way to bet."

True. I feel like the term has been hijacked by assholes, though.
posted by zarq at 6:55 AM on August 20, 2013


Is it alright to let go of my male pride

Well, you can't hold it in your hand all day.

(Also, sad kittens and cupcakes—on the moon!)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:57 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The phrases "male pride" and "white pride" have known, understood meanings. Male pride is deprecating and self deprecating. It's used to descibe behaviour like "not asking for directions" or "hiding illness from the family"

White pride is a straight up racist term, with sigils, terrifying websites and jackbooted thugs.

I'm not sure MartinWisse, if at this point you're ignorant of this fact, you're ignoring it to make a point or you're just trolling. I'm going to assume the former.
posted by zoo at 6:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand being proud of something you did nothing to achieve. Being glad or happy about being a man... sure. But proud?
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:00 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand being proud of something you did nothing to achieve.

It makes sense as a rejection of societal denigration of the category. That's why gay pride merits a parade. It counterbalances the shame that society inflicts on gay people for a status they did not "achieve," or even choose.
posted by prefpara at 7:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, that does make sense. But that also means that it's logical to attach this kind of pride to properties that make one part of a minority, not the privileged majority.

If there is no shame, then there's nothing to counterbalance after all.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There, I mostly agree with you.

That said, I do like the idea of male pride that focuses on aspects of maleness that are counter to patriarchal norms. But that kind of specific sentiment would not be captured by a general expression that one has "male pride." You'd have to say something more precise, like "I'm proud of being a man who isn't afraid to cry." In other words, taking pride in a redefined masculinity rather than taking pride in possessing male privilege.
posted by prefpara at 7:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Male pride is deprecating and self deprecating. It's used to descibe behaviour like "not asking for directions" or "hiding illness from the family"

Those behaviors aren't really pride as in "the opposite of shame." They evidence a fear of shame; they result from an insecure vanity, fear of losing face. We call them "pride" only in the sense we have inherited of pride being a sin, an opinion of the self that blinds the individual to his own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


But we call them "pride".
Miko - If I said "Male Pride" to you without any of this context, what would you think I meant?
posted by zoo at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2013


If I said "Male Pride" to you without any of this context, what would you think I meant?

If you just walked up to me and said "male pride" without any context, I would be like, "What are you talking about?"
posted by Miko at 7:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


zoo: "The phrases "male pride" and "white pride" have known, understood meanings. Male pride is deprecating and self deprecating. It's used to descibe behaviour like "not asking for directions" or "hiding illness from the family""

The sad thing is, those aren't things which we as men should be proud of. (On preview, as Miko says, they stem from insecurity and vanity.) Wouldn't it be better to repurpose the term towards behavior that uplifts us rather than knocks us down?

Look, I'm a breadwinner for my family, a husband to my wife and father to two kids. These are roles which are part of my personal and gender identity, and I take pride in trying to be the best I can at all three.

Male pride shouldn't be based on how macho we are. Shouldn't we be striving for more than that?
posted by zarq at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Male Pride" is probably just not a good way to phrase it anymore because of the racist use of pride as a code word for superiority and potential for similar use in a gender context. That said, gender is real in a way race is not. It's okay if people feel some pride in those aspects of their gender they feel are distinguishing parts of themselves.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


gender is real in a way race is not

Debatable.
posted by prefpara at 7:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man and so is Lola.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:21 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ugh, I feel bad for the OP. OP, if you are reading this, I believe what you said in your question.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:37 AM on August 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


Well, whatever one thinks of the word it's certainly an opportunity to learn about a type of interaction that reflects attitudes harmful to women, which he didn't seem to know about before.
posted by Miko at 7:45 AM on August 20, 2013


I think mlle valentine is referring to the OP of the askme, not to the OP of this MeTa?
posted by elizardbits at 7:49 AM on August 20, 2013


Of the ask, sorry!!
posted by mlle valentine at 7:50 AM on August 20, 2013


(curse you, too brief edit window!)
posted by mlle valentine at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Womansplaining, or better yet, mumsplaining, is something I do because I like it. Both of these behaviours entail a lot of user satisfaction, so I can only guess that the same is true for mansplaining.

Your adult child is about to leave the house on a long trip. You tell them to be sure to use the loo before they set out. Mumsplaining.

A male person fails to find an object in a cupboard. You go to the cupboard and find it instantly, afterwards explaining how to turn objects round in order to read their labels. Womansplaining.

A male person roughly cooks a delicious meal using plain ingredients served in the roughest possible way. You explain to them how much better it would have been if only they'd showed more delicacy on all fronts. Womansplaining.

The object is to mildly undermine, for fun. With people you are close to, or flirting with, it's a way of taking the piss, or play-fighting. It's a status-play, where being a bit inappropriate adds to the energy. Just writing this out has clarified for me how rude and invasive it is to do to people you're not close to.
posted by glasseyes at 8:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Ricky! You got some mansplainin' to do!"
posted by Kabanos at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

> asking for straight [or male] pride is like asking for able bodied parking spaces

thats a really good comparison because there are about seventy able bodied parking spaces to one disabled and able bodied people still insist on using the ones that arent theirs
The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more than that. Feminism says that men are better than that, can change, are capable of learning, and have the capacity to be decent and wonderful people.
posted by Eideteker at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


It gets pretty old for people you are close to, as well.
posted by thelonius at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2013


On reading further down the thread: if someone called me an Angry Black Woman I'd be flattered.
posted by glasseyes at 8:07 AM on August 20, 2013


The phrases "male pride" and "white pride" have known, understood meanings.

Yes, yes, they do. And at best they're both sentiments uttered by people uncomfortable by the loss of their privilege and place in a fast changing world, desperate to cling to the last shreds of a once unchallenged authority.

Male pride has nothing to do with fecking asking for directions, that's just a tired old joke told by third rate comedians on a tour of the northern working mens' clubs.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It gets pretty old for people you are close to, as well.

Yeah, it's not something you do without knowing it's annoying </devilish laughter
posted by glasseyes at 8:23 AM on August 20, 2013


"Also - an overwhelming narrative in Social Justice circles seems to be to categorise different groups of people according to the privilege they have and then formulate rules on just who can be aggressive to whom within that framework, and whether this constitutes inappropriate behaviour.

Here's your list, they say. We've put everyone in order.

The intersectionality lot are the worst at this. You'd think if you were smart enough to understand a word like intersectionality, then you'd be smart enough to realise the inherent assumption in the word that prejudices exists on multiple dimensions.
"

LOL.

That's total persecution complex bullshit. I work with a buncha intersectionality social justice peeps, and as a straight white man, there's no hierarchy of whom I can be aggressive to. There may be forms of aggression that are inappropriate to aim at a given person, and there can be topics that are out of bounds, e.g. asking trans people about their surgeries, but your thesis is pretty much exactly what a privileged idiot believes about social justice.

Is it because you don't understand that the stakes can be different? That your hurt feelings are not the same as feeling physically threatened? Or do you just not know what the fuck you're talking about but are feeling insulted because social justice folks aren't taking your bullshit as gold dripping from your mouth?
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Or do you just not know what the fuck you're talking about but are feeling insulted because social justice folks aren't taking your bullshit as gold dripping from your mouth?

This is sort of you doing the thing you say we're not really supposed to be doing: being aggressive towards people because you feel that maybe they're higher up the privilege food chain than the people they're being jerks to. I think this conversation will go a bit better without this sort of vitriol. Of course this is a thing that reasonable people may disagree on, but I think your arguments go better when they're not served with a side helping of "also, fuck you"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:28 AM on August 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


"This is sort of you doing the thing you say we're not really supposed to be doing: being aggressive towards people because you feel that maybe they're higher up the privilege food chain than the people they're being jerks to."

I don't think he's higher up the privilege food chain. I think he's full of shit on that particular point, and I think he's reacting to legitimate complaints as if they're outrageous and hypocritical because he either doesn't understand them or doesn't like what they say about him. That's got nothing to do with our relative positions vis a vis privilege.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 AM on August 20, 2013


I had a little epiphany back in the Female Experience Simulator thread. It's interesting how every time a topic that relates to male privilege comes up, there are a bunch of people who have to insist I am hurt because I'm a man, and I don't do that. This obviously isn't unique to MetaFilter by any stretch of the imagination, so there must be a lot of people out there who object to large groups being offended by being lumped in with the few "bad apples."

Yet I have never heard a driver complain that, as a responsible driver who would never dream of driving inebriated, they are offended by the suggestion in drunk driving ads that all drivers may drive drunk. That's pretty odd, for principled people.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:39 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


klang, I think the core of the thesis is less the social justice ladder analogy and more the "please don't act like an asshole just because you think someone else is acting like an asshole" bit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think he's full of shit on that particular point
What point? That people treat within privilege as if it were a line or a score, and try and out-privilege each other. I see it all the time. If you don't, then good for you. This doesn't mean it doesn't happen or that I'm just inventing it as some kind of proxy for my own feelings of disempowerment.

We could talk about how widespread this point scoring is, and how someone like me on the internet (as opposed to on the actual ground floor like yourself) may see a grotesque version of what social justice is, and in this case, I'd probably listen and agree.

But saying pretty obvious stuff like " your hurt feelings are not the same as feeling physically threatened" is a fabrication of my actual position which has nothing to do with anything I've actually said.
posted by zoo at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


zoo: "Here's your list, they say. We've put everyone in order.

The intersectionality lot are the worst at this. You'd think if you were smart enough to understand a word like intersectionality, then you'd be smart enough to realise the inherent assumption in the word that prejudices exists on multiple dimensions.


But that's precisely what intersectionality isn't! Its meaning is very simple: someone who exists at the intersection of two (or more) minority groups can and very likely will have experiences of oppression that are a) multiplicative and b) unique. I'm transsexual and I'm a woman, so I can experience anti-trans oppression and anti-woman oppression, but anti-trans woman oppression is something else altogether, something specific that is not just experiencing anti-trans and anti-woman oppression together.

It's not about stacking all my minority merit badges together and deciding that because my pile is bigger than yours I can be a jerk to you, it's about recognising that I have unique experiences due to the intersections in my identity, and that someone who does not share my intersections should probably not make assumptions about my life by extrapolating from their own.

The tools for reinforcing Social Justice are treated as logical and axiomatic, but they're not. The fact that idiot groups like the MRA are easily capable of using those tools against the Social Justice set shows just how non-logical and broken they are. If someone can use the same axioms as you did to prove the opposite of what you proved, then your axioms are wrong.

What? MRAs apply a false premise to the same tools, but that makes their premise invalid, not the tools.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


"please don't act like an asshole just because you think someone else is acting like an asshole"

That's excellent advice and just about as hard to put into practice as flossing. It's a war I wage with myself every time I go online, or, for that matter, to my bathroom sink.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Miko - If I said "Male Pride" to you without any of this context, what would you think I meant?

If, out of this context, I was talking to you and you began referring unironically to having "male pride", I would make fun of you whilst pointing out that it is completely ridiculous to have "pride" in being the gender that's considered "dominant" for no good reason at this point other than inertia, and to be proud about something that's both beyond your control and gives you privilege beyond belief.

It's like saying, "I'm proud of the fact that I don't have to worry about rape, workplace discrimination, casual patronization, random gropings and sexual harassment, being treated seriously, being reduced down to little more than my sexual capacities by random people, or dealing with a systematically gendered language that treats everything I do as either annoying, incompetent, or shrewd and calculating!" While I understand you being relieved or even glad that you don't have to put up with that shit, saying you're proud of it just comes across as a little bit... odd. Or, as in the case of "white pride", actively aggressive towards the group you're proud of not being.

Look, I get why you're so confused about this – genuinely I am, that's not sarcasm – and it's something that I had a lot of trouble working out too. The key to understanding this whole shebang is that there are two types of conversations being held here at once: the sort where a person in one group is communicating to a person in another, and the sort where two people within a group are talking to themselves. "Mansplain" is a term that was invented, in part, for the latter kind of conversation, to identify a commonplace way that men behave toward women, both for the sake of being a shorthand and to point out that, yes, this is a commonplace behavior. It's also useful for getting men to realize that they act this way and maybe should stop, but the term wasn't originally devised as a talking point for men.

What's happening here is that MetaFilter is considered, increasingly, to be a place where that latter kind of conversation is okay—that is, we've talked about these issues enough to understand that, yes, there is a severe problem here that's oftentimes invisible to the people experiencing it, and it makes sense to discuss that problem and even for people to ask each other for help regarding instances of it. But to people who haven't joined into that conversation, this can sometimes feel accusatory or outright misandrist, especially considering how the responses to complaining about those conversations are often mocking or outraged or what-have-you, and the person complaining – that's you here, zoo – is simply pointing out that something doesn't feel right. But it's not misandrist, it's people talking about a problem that is hugely gendered, and that can't be talked about in non-gendered terms. Women don't do this to men, men don't do it to men, women don't do it to women. This is a man-to-woman thing, and acting like it isn't will miss the whole point of why this is being discussed the way it is in the first place.

But the question stands: why don't men get to form a group to talk about man things? Why no male pride? The answer is that, to an enormous extent, "male culture" is just culture, plain and simple. It is part of the central culture from which countercultures spring. The only touchstones we men have in common, the only things we could bond over, are either:

1) negatives ("we all don't experience this thing that women experience!")
2) sexist/misogynist
3) problems which stem from the same patriarchal culture that feminism is a response to.

The third category is absolutely worth discussing – why don't men feel comfortable crying/sharing feelings? – but that's a part of the feminist discussion, not a separate discussion in its own right. It's the flip side to the ways in which the patriarchy oppresses women; it's men feeling that they have a role which they must accept and can't deviate from, and that that role is of the strong, dominant male.

Like I said, if you want to use "male pride" to talk about the ways in which you're glad you're not masculine, go for it. Let's talk about all the ways in which we're not particularly "manly", and proud of it! But your notion of deprecatory male pride is, at best, reinforcing stereotypes which are themselves problematic, and at worst, encouraging the notion that these stereotypes exist because there's some immutable difference between men and women that just isn't there. It's either a silly notion or an actively damaging one, depending on how it's used.

We have a harder time thinking of sex/gender as this divisive struggle than we have thinking of race. I think a part of that's because fewer people have accepted that there's this fucked-up notion at the center of our culture that hurts everybody involved—they take it for granted that this is normal. So these fights arise when somebody says, "Hey, no, it's not, and this is actually a big problem." You'd like to make this into a simple difference in perspective. It's not. It's an actual problem, and MetaFilter is a place where that problem gets to be discussed. If you don't think it's a problem, and are bothered that other people do, well, then we get long contentious MetaTalks where some people express resentment that we're having this same motherfucking conversation for the fifth motherfucking time.

Hopefully you'll find it in you to feel compassion for these poor MeFites who've had to explain all this to ten dozen people before you, and are feeling like these arguments keep on coming without any progress ever being made. It really can be exhausting.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:48 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


I feel like a little bit of assholery can be useful when it's woven into a fine tapestry of patience, empathy, and context. It adds that little cayenne-pepper kick.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:50 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


>"please don't act like an asshole just because you think someone else is acting like an asshole"

That's excellent advice and just about as hard to put into practice as flossing. It's a war I wage with myself every time I go online, or, for that matter, to my bathroom sink.


Please don't act like an asshole at the sink. There is another fixture for that. On the other hand, it's your bathroom; I shouldn't judge....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


What point? That people treat within privilege as if it were a line or a score, and try and out-privilege each other. I see it all the time. If you don't, then good for you. This doesn't mean it doesn't happen or that I'm just inventing it as some kind of proxy for my own feelings of disempowerment.

It kind of does actually. Does this privilege game you're talking about happen sometimes? Probably. Does it happen with anything near the frequency you're attributing to it? Definitely not. Given your dismissive attitude towards anyone involved with social justice in general, there's hardly any doubt that you have some sort of grievance thing going on here, and that you're perfectly willing to conflate a pattern of valid examples of problematic behavior in with the extremely rare cases of hyperbole. To what end, I don't know, but it seems like an attempt to either dismiss the scope and degree of the problem, or to create this tiresome false equivalency where "both sides do it and are equally bad" when it is demonstrably not.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


That people treat within privilege as if it were a line or a score, and try and out-privilege each other. Mansplaining. I see it all the time. If you don't, then good for you. This doesn't mean it doesn't happen or that I'm just inventing it as some kind of proxy for my own feelings of disempowerment.

Fixed that for you.
posted by billiebee at 8:57 AM on August 20, 2013


I use "male pride" in the sense of "prideful behaviour that is indicative of male behaviour". I don't give a shit about MRA idiots or male bonding groups or any of the other motives incorrectly ascribed to me. The phrase "male pride" was never used in a positive sense. You've made your position utterly clear Rory, and I understand it.

I agree with 99% of you on the subject of mansplaining. The only thing I disagree on is (a) I believe that mansplaining is a funny/sneering/derogatory term and (b) some people are going to get upset if you use that word to describe behaviour that they take part in for the simple fact that they know it's a derogatory term.

I've got some other opinions with regard to how some people use the language of Social Justice, (but I guess that you do too) and some other minor things that you disagree with.
posted by zoo at 8:58 AM on August 20, 2013


Yes, I will have the eat shit cassoulet, and a side order of also, fuck you, please.

-- Mais oui, Monsieur. And for the wine? May I suggest a glass of the I hope you get cancer, you fucking turd?

A little sweet for my palate. Perhaps something else.

-- Très bon. The Kiss my Asshole 2008. An excellent choice, Monsieur.

I hope to leave a little room for dessert, François, if you still have that delightful gâteaux, what was it called again ... ?

-- Shut the fuck up, you pigfucking wankstain.

No ... I think it had chocolate in it.

-- Ah! Je suis désolé Monsieur, I was actually insulting you that time. But you are correct, we have the gâteau célébration au chocolat et aux piss-off-and-die tonight. Merci.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


zombieflanders : I don't have a grievance against it. I'm just interested. And I've never gone down the "both sides do it and they're equally bad" route.
posted by zoo at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2013


Okay I have an example.

The other day I was in a meeting to discuss a dashboard I built for an internal team. In the course of the discussion, one of my male coworkers (with twenty fewer years of experience than I have in analysis) took it upon himself to explain a piece of the report I built that is in a system he's never seen which is built in an application he's never used.

So if there's a way to explain that other than by referencing the fact that he thought he was better qualified to explain it than I (the actual process designer) solely because he has a penis I'd be interested in hearing it.
posted by winna at 9:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


That's a very long comment - wait, it's by Rory Marinich, I'll read it then.

We have a harder time thinking of sex/gender as this divisive struggle than we have thinking of race. I think a part of that's because fewer people have accepted that there's this fucked-up notion at the center of our culture that hurts everybody involved—they take it for granted that this is normal.


Something about the thinking here hurts my head. I think it will be shame if a day comes when there's no such thing as male pride. But then I was brought up in a highly patriarchal culture where male pride is about responsibility and looking after people and being capable, brave, stoic (and handsome). All those stereotypical values which nevertheless are incredibly valuable socially. Female values were nearly the same except that self-denial was in there somewhere, too.

I get what you're saying, really, but I think something's missing in your conclusion - sorry, I'm a bit too vague-thinky today to make a proper argument about it. Just, I don't see male pride as being in any way in opposition to feminism or any other movement for equality and fairness.
posted by glasseyes at 9:09 AM on August 20, 2013


I have a penis under my explanation.
posted by y2karl at 9:19 AM on August 20, 2013


zoo: What's 'male behaviour'?
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2013


Two very different perspectives on why gendered insults are wrong. Some people think gendered insults are wrong because people should not be reduced, ignored, stereotyped or dismissed because of their gender (because?). Others think that people with less "privilege" can dismiss or reduce people with more privilege, but not the other way around. The former category will be uncomfortable with gendered insults like "mansplain". The latter think gendered insults are fine so long as they're directed at the correct gender.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Others have said this better than I can, but I want to try anyway.

Mansplaining is a very specific situation. It is not a gendered insult; it is shorthand for a gendered interaction. A man has decided he knows more than a woman because he is a man, regardless of her non-gendered qualifications.

I've had to explain to multiple men (who were mansplaining all kinds of things to me) that they don't know what the hell they're talking about, that I do know the situation, and that I wasn't asking for their goddamned help in the second place, I was just explaining how I'm too busy for their crap at the moment.

My response to this constant and low-level mansplaining can and has been characterized as bitching. It's a gendered response to a gendered situation.

In conclusion: the word gendered now looks weird to me.
posted by RainyJay at 9:41 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Others think that people with less "privilege" can dismiss or reduce people with more privilege, but not the other way around."

More accurately, "others" (ie. me) think that those who are discriminated against or oppressed on a particular axis can describe and name oppressive behaviour, where those who are privileged on that axis (or, if you like, and I suspect you might since you scare quoted privilege there, those who are not disadvantaged on that axis) lack the perspective to describe that behaviour properly.

I might be swinging the tennis racquet but I can't tell you what it's like to get hit in the face by my tennis ball, and it's not my place to quibble when someone points out that, hey, I just hit them in the face with my tennis ball.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:42 AM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Drinky Die: "I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men."

I'm a man. "Mansplain" is not offensive to me because I don't identify with the target of the word; I identify with the target of the condescension.

If you are "hurt" by the word "mansplain", perhaps you should consider where you are placing your sympathies.
posted by scrump at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


e former category will be uncomfortable with gendered insults like "mansplain".

You're missing all the people who don't think that mansplain is a gendered insult, it's a description of a negative interaction that involves gender. I think that descriptions of negative behavior CAN be used as an insult, but I don't think they necessarily are. My wife isn't insulting me when she points out when I interrupt her. She's giving an accurate description of the event.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Some people think gendered insults are wrong because people should not be reduced, ignored, stereotyped or dismissed because of their gender

Well, maybe those people should realize that what we're talking about is a pattern of behavior among some people of that gender, engaging in a specific type of interaction with someone of the opposite gender, with knowledge of why they're doing it.

Like you just engaged in, BTW.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A man has decided he knows more than a woman because he is a man, regardless of her non-gendered qualifications.

It's always interesting to know how others figure out what's going on in a person's head. Not that they're wrong, but I do wonder if they're right. There's nothing in the AskMe question that indicates sexism is occurring.

"If you are "hurt" by the word "mansplain", perhaps you should consider where you are placing your sympathies."

Hopefully one doesn't ways have to chose a winner and a loser in these situations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"others" (ie. me) think that those who are discriminated against or oppressed on a particular axis can describe and name oppressive behaviour,... [and then]... I can't tell you what it's like to get hit in the face by my tennis ball

Er, you just did. Which is my point---you seem to think that one's ability to understand or speak about any situation is a direct result of one's "privilege" status. I scare-quote the word because I think it's casually misused most of the time, almost entirely by people who are using it to claim instant rhetorical advantage. You believe that because of your position on the privilege axis, you can treat people in ways you would not want to be treated by them. And that bolded part is, to my mind, the only most relevant fact.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "You believe that because of your position on the privilege axis, you can treat people in ways you would not want to be treated by them. And that bolded part is, to my mind, the only most relevant fact."

Do I? Marvellous. Allow me to be enormously condescending for a moment.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:03 AM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


phunniemee I personally use mansplain as gender-neutral because it is just a useful term.

It's not useful if you mean it to be "gender neutral", because I doubt most people take it that way. Even if you say a woman is "mansplaining", what I hear is "a woman is doing something so stereotypically male that we named that thing after men". It's not ever going to sound gender-neutral.

ambrosia: If you can come up with an alternative that conveys the gender insult that is inherent in the experience,

I think we can give the OP a little credit here. Their concern seems to be label things "mansplaining" that don't include an inherent gender insult. I think most people would agree that it's at least theoretically possible for a man to just be condescending. Everyone is going to have their own opinions about what situations are what, and perhaps the OP picked a bad example to quible over. I don't think, however, that the basic suggestion to not let "mansplain" become a synonym for "condescension" is off- base.
posted by spaltavian at 10:03 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's nothing in the AskMe question that indicates sexism is occurring.

Yes, there is -- when she used the term "mansplaining." That's a term that indicates a sexist interaction. If the OP didn't believe that the interaction was sexist, I'd imagine she'd have chosen a different term.
posted by KathrynT at 10:03 AM on August 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


It's always interesting to know how others figure out what's going on in a person's head. Not that they're wrong, but I do wonder if they're right. There's nothing in the AskMe question that indicates sexism is occurring.

Except for her own feelings on the subject? If that's not enough for you, she also mentions that he's ten years younger than her, has much less experience, and explains to her stuff that she knows a lot about and/or that he knows very little about.

You believe that because of your position on the privilege axis, you can treat people in ways you would not want to be treated by them. And that bolded part is, to my mind, the only most relevant fact.

Which is not at all what's being done here. But thanks so much for explaining privilege for us and how problematic it is for those with less of it to point that out.

Y'know, from a man's point of view.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


If the OP didn't believe that the interaction was sexist, I'd imagine she'd have chosen a different term.

Sure, but nothing she indictes it actually was sexism.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's nothing in the AskMe question that indicates sexism is occurring.

Coming from similar experiences myself, I'm assuming (in good faith!) that the OP of the AskMe has identified the behaviors to be gender-specific. The additional details she provided would seem to bear that out.

Now, as to why I feel I've been mansplained to, I could go into details of interactions where male counterparts with my same qualifications received completely different feedback, et cetera. But that would make me angry again. And I'm just trying to eat my lunch here, you know?

On preview:
Sure, but nothing she indictes it actually was sexism.

Except for her use of a very specific term, and then see my points above.

Back to my Trader Joe's salad.
posted by RainyJay at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we stop using "mainsplain" because some folks are interpreting it as an insult, what term is okay to use for that type of interaction? What keeps that from becoming an "insult" as well? It seems like the alternative to using the word is ignoring the behavior.
posted by brundlefly at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Which is my point---you seem to think that one's ability to understand or speak about any situation is a direct result of one's "privilege" status."

Okay for real.

What's it like to fly in a space shuttle? I have no idea, but I daresay if I watched some videos and read some books I could have a decent enough idea. It'd still pale next to the experience of people who actually have flown in a space shuttle, though, who in addition to having first-hand knowledge will have seen all the little details that don't make it into written and filmed accounts. Maybe I could describe it to someone who hasn't seen the video, but if a shuttle pilot contradicts me I'm not going to say, "Exuse me, you seem to think that one's ability to understand or speak about any situation is a direct result of one's 'shuttle pilot' status."
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:12 AM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


Sure, but nothing she indictes it actually was sexism.

Except for the term she used about a sexist, gendered kind of incidence in common parlance in a lot of places these days. Probably because she didn't realize she had to provide a complete report of every single incidence to submit to the Jury of Mefi, and chose instead to use a useful conversation shorthand to make her question more succinct. How could she have known that she'd be doubted?!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


brundlefly If we stop using "mainsplain" because some folks are interpreting it as an insult, what term is okay to use for that type of interaction?

Maybe others in this thead have asked everyone not say "mansplain", but that's not the original request:

but isn't it a little off having 'mansplain' be the go-to word for a condescending explanation?

I read this MeTa as "it seems like we use this label for things that might actually just be regular condescension, and it doing so, we're tagging an entire class of negative behaviors as 'something that men do'".

I think "mansplain" is a perfectly useful concept, and is a real (and bad) thing that happens. But I think it should actually mean "a man assuming a woman needs something explained to her like she's a child just because she's a woman" and not "being condescending".

Your milage may vary as to whether we are in any danger of that happening.
posted by spaltavian at 10:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


zombieflanders: "It's always interesting to know how others figure out what's going on in a person's head. Not that they're wrong, but I do wonder if they're right. There's nothing in the AskMe question that indicates sexism is occurring.

Except for her own feelings on the subject? If that's not enough for you, she also mentions that he's ten years younger than her, has much less experience, and explains to her stuff that she knows a lot about and/or that he knows very little about.
"

The comment you quoted was in reference to what was in the man's head:

A man has decided he knows more than a woman because he is a man, regardless of her non-gendered qualifications.


There's a lot of talking past one another here, and part of it is related to this. I don't see anyone (may have missed it though) discounting the OP of the askme's feeling that they are being "mansplained" too. But there is discussion of 1)certain people finding this term offensive because it means all men must do it (stereotyping) and 2) if it's ok to use gendered insults (it is gendered but is it an insult, it's ok because you have privilege etc). Neither of which discount women's experiences of this phenomenon.
posted by Big_B at 10:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


brundlefly: "If we stop using "mainsplain" because some folks are interpreting it as an insult, what term is okay to use for that type of interaction? What keeps that from becoming an "insult" as well? It seems like the alternative to using the word is ignoring the behavior."

Being a jerk?
posted by Big_B at 10:19 AM on August 20, 2013


And in return there's a whole bunch of people denigrating and nitpicking her description of the sexism rather than addressing the problem because if only she'd describe things properly and calmly in the way that we can really understand without being offended, then maybe society can do something about sexism

Better yet, its the same mefites doing it, over and over again.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:21 AM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Being a jerk?

That's like saying we shouldn't use the word "dachshund" because "dog" conveys just as suitable a meaning. But if you're referring to anything specifically pertaining to dachshunds, then "dog" isn't good enough.

Same reason why simply "jerk" won't work in this instance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


I don't see anyone (may have missed it though) discounting the OP of the askme's feeling that they are being "mansplained" too.

Really? Because [all quotes from this thread]:

Sure, but nothing she indictes it actually was sexism.

2. Someone not willing to hear another's view, and writing it off as "oh great, here's a MAN explaining it to me. Total dick move.

It is a convenient way to box up an experience into a gendered argument when gender may have nothing to do with it.

note the "we." it's not clear if it's just the two of them, or if they are in a group with other women or men.

Are you assuming that just because the OP used the term 'mansplaining' that all the conditions you mentioned above actually existed in the exchange between the OP and her workmate?
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dudes I think this thread is just...
MANTASTIC!!!
posted by Mister_A at 10:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My blink tag is brokened.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But there is discussion of 1)certain people finding this term offensive because it means all men must do it (stereotyping)

Which has been explained and even demonstrated multiple times not to be the case.

and 2) if it's ok to use gendered insults (it is gendered but is it an insult, it's ok because you have privilege etc).

Except that it's describing a situation and experience, not a blanket term for how men talk to women.

If "certain people" don't (or won't) understand either of those, then the problem lies on their end.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:32 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mister_A: "My blink tag is brokened."

In my head, roughly 30% of this thread is blinking.

Also it's emitting a low hum that's somewhat upsetting.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:32 AM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sure, but nothing she indictes it actually was sexism.

No. Nothing about her description of this incident strikes you as sexist, despite the fact that the OP describes it as sexist and that many other women (and men) recognize the sexism inherent in the incident that she describes.
posted by scody at 10:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


some people are going to get upset if you use that word to describe behaviour that they take part in for the simple fact that they know it's a derogatory term.

That's not some kind of terrible outcome. If they find it upsetting perhaps they will stop taking part in this behavior, and maybe even encourage others to stop doing it.
posted by Miko at 10:39 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


when gender may have nothing to do with it.

She says it does. Why do you think you know more about this situation than her?

Isn't it likely that whatever cultural milieu we live in that allows you to believe that you know more about a situation than the woman actually experiencing it, could also provide the scaffolding of a phenomenon whereby some men engage in condescending explanations to women, despite the fact that the women know more about the subject than the men do?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [41 favorites]


[ah just to reiterate: I was quoting different parts of this thread as a response to Big_B, some from much earlier; those are not at all my opinions]
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:43 AM on August 20, 2013


Every time I read some variation of "I don’t mean all men" I think "I don’t think they’re all criminals, some of my best friends…" The same with "why are you trying to take my word away from me?"

There’s such a strong contingent of "It’s OK when I do it, I’m on the Right side" here. As if everyone who does terrible things doesn’t think this.

I’m a man. My feelings are not hurt by "mansplaining". I don’t think it’s good to use insulting stereotyping phrases.
posted by bongo_x at 10:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


In the OP incident, we dont't have enough information to know if it was sexist. To know that, we'd have to ask male colleagues if they feel like the dude in question condescends to them. The assumptions you make in the absence of sufficient information provide data only about you.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "In the OP incident, we dont't have enough information to know if it was sexist."

She.

Used.

A.

Word.

That.

Indicates.

A.

Sexist.

Interaction.

The assumptions you make in the absence of sufficient information provide data only about you.

Hahahahahaaaargh.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [37 favorites]


In the OP incident, we dont't have enough information to know if it was sexist.

This isn't a fucking trial. Do you normally cross-examine every AskMe question? If not, why are you doing it here?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:53 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don’t think it’s good to use insulting stereotyping phrases.

And I don't think it's an insulting stereotype. As has been explained above, it is a term that describes a behavior. The argument isn't that it's OK to use mansplain even though it is an insulting stereotype. The argument is that it isn't a stereotype, it isn't used as an insult, and if some take affront to the term they would also take affront to other words that ask them to confront their participation in sexism that don't use the word mansplain.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:53 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


jetlagaddict: "[ah just to reiterate: I was quoting different parts of this thread as a response to Big_B, some from much earlier; those are not at all my opinions]"

I got it. I did miss the discounting, which we have gone over and over and over in previous threads. I don't think this thread is (or was initially anyway) about that. It's the "is this an insult that is ok to use" issue. They are somewhat inseparable questions to some, but I think it's important to realize that you can agree that we should not be using this word because it is insulting to some people AND agree that it is a shitty thing that certain men should not be doing.
posted by Big_B at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard: "In the OP incident, we dont't have enough information to know if it was sexist. "

We have her word for it. Is there some reason you are unwilling to give her the benefit of the doubt?
posted by scrump at 10:57 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


In the OP incident, we dont't have enough information to know if it was sexist. To know that, we'd have to ask male colleagues if they feel like the dude in question condescends to them. The assumptions you make in the absence of sufficient information provide data only about you.

This is mansplaining, right here. And a call for further mansplaining. If she thinks it's sexist, it's probably sexist. We don't need to check with other men about this.

The assumptions I am making are 1: some men are sexist; 2: most women can tell when men are being sexist at them; 3: the OP chose her words carefully to encompass assumptions 1 and 2.

The data about me based on these assumptions would seem to be the data about me: woman working in professional environment, who has perceived various levels of sexism as a result from living in our current society.
posted by RainyJay at 11:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Coming from similar experiences myself, I'm assuming (in good faith!) that the OP of the AskMe has identified the behaviors to be gender-specific. The additional details she provided would seem to bear that out.

Apologies, did the OP update the post or include a further comment? Because all I'm seeing is description of general behavior with zero indication that he's doing it because she's a woman. Sure, it could be sexism, but again, it's nothing definitive in what the OP wrote.

Just because she used a terms doesn't mean anything. It's as if she described the interactions as racist, yet there's zero details there that would it indicate they are racist.

She says it does. Why do you think you know more about this situation than her?

I don't claim to know the situation better than her. What I am saying that her description doesn't say whether it was or was not sexist, it's just describing annoying behavior done by a man.

Further, she doesn't indicate that she's actually expressed that his behavior is annoying, but is confused why he keeps doing it, despite describing signs that she's unknowingly giving that indicate interest on her part. It's as if she's reading his mind, while not understanding why he can't read hers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apologies, did the OP update the post or include a further comment? Because all I'm seeing is description of general behavior with zero indication that he's doing it because she's a woman. Sure, it could be sexism, but again, it's nothing definitive in what the OP wrote.

She said its sexism. Why do you doubt her?

What I am saying that her description doesn't say whether it was or was not sexist


Yes it does. She says that he was mansplaining to her, which is sexist behavior.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you have that much trouble reading someone's question, why would you bother to answer it?
posted by troika at 11:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Mansplain" is a shorthand that gets across a set of behaviors and contexts. If you have to make a detailed case in order to justify using it, that kind of defeats the purpose.

airguitar2 isn't asking the question, "Is this guy mansplaining?" She characterized the situation that way as context for her actual question, and she is under no obligation to meet someone else's standard of evidence.
posted by brundlefly at 11:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This conversation sounds dreadfully similar to the "how are we supposed to know it was harassment if you don't tell us every detail/provide witnesses/upload video?" conversations we've had recently.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


Because all I'm seeing is description of general behavior with zero indication that he's doing it because she's a woman. Sure, it could be sexism, but again, it's nothing definitive in what the OP wrote.

C'mon. If the poster had been a Black man explaining the same situation but used the term whitesplaining instead, would you be so careful as to say, "well, we don't know if this guy was being racist unless we ask his white colleagues"?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:12 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Drinky Die: "I certainly don't want to write all men out of a conversation by using a word that promotes condescension to men."

I'm a man. "Mansplain" is not offensive to me because I don't identify with the target of the word; I identify with the target of the condescension.


For the record, I am not the source of that quote.
-
The comment you quoted was in reference to what was in the man's head:

A man has decided he knows more than a woman because he is a man, regardless of her non-gendered qualifications.


You can't really get into a man's head in this situation. You can't get into a racists head either. What you can do is note behavior consistent with those thoughts. A football player screaming the N word, for example. That behavior is clearly racist, it suggests strongly something that might be in his head. We can talk about him pretty fairly as a racist even if we can't mind read specifically what is in his head.

It doesn't really matter that we can't know a man's mind exactly if he is acting in a way consistent with sexist attitudes. If it is consistent with the belief he knows more because the other person in the conversation is a woman, that is all we can really judge on. The question doesn't contain any information to suggest the behavior is not consistent with that, even if it doesn't spell it out in detail.

Is it unfair for a man to be called a mansplainer if his mind is really not thinking that way? Maybe, in the sense that it is unfair that non-racist people are occasionally called racist when they behave in a manner that might be perceived as racist. It's kind of a small issue compared to the bigger picture of the general reality of the problems in question.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just because she used a terms doesn't mean anything. It's as if she described the interactions as racist, yet there's zero details there that would it indicate they are racist.

Here's my approach: if someone told me they'd had a racist interaction, someone was racist at/with/to them, etc. I would absolutely believe them, and proceed forward with that information. I trust people's assessment of how they are being treated.

On preview: what MartinWisse just said.
posted by RainyJay at 11:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you are not demanding evidence of every askme that the OP's mom really is nosy, their boyfriend really does flirt with other people, their boss really is disorganized, their web dev really doesn't know how to use a ticketing system, or their food really is rotten, then ask yourself why you demand the evidence in this case.
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on August 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


This conversation sounds dreadfully similar to the "how are we supposed to know it was harassment if you don't tell us every detail/provide witnesses/upload video?" conversations we've had recently.

That's because its the exact same people discounting the experience of women in both cases.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


rtha, those other cases aren't under the jurisdiction of THE COUNCIL OF MEN, and so are not subject to their fact-finding process.
posted by bleep-blop at 11:19 AM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


"Mansplain" is a shorthand that gets across a set of behaviors and contexts. If you have to make a detailed case in order to justify using it, that kind of defeats the purpose.

Her description simply says there's a male who annoyingly over explains things. It doesn't describe her as female, it doesn't say that he doesn't do this with everyone or that he only to women in the workplace. Which isn't a big deal, people leave out details in AskMe all the time. There's just nothing that says its sexism.

That said, there's clearly a problem there that she needs help in solving. Knowing the sex of the parties doesn't seem to be an issue in solving that problem.

C'mon. If the poster had been a Black man explaining the same situation but used the term whitesplaining instead, would you be so careful as to say, "well, we don't know if this guy was being racist unless we ask his white colleagues"?

Absolutely, as indicated in my previous comment. I'm not a mind reader and usually before I start talking about other people as being racist I'll describe several examples of their behavior. Simply calling them racist doesn't do anything.

If you are not demanding evidence of every askme that the OP's mom really is nosy, their boyfriend really does flirt with other people, their boss really is disorganized, their web dev really doesn't know how to use a ticketing system, or their food really is rotten, then ask yourself why you demand the evidence in this case.

You're saying that unless a person reads every AskMe question and complains about them, then they have no business complaining about this particular one. That's silly. No one reads every AskMe.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:22 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


bleep-blop: "rtha, those other cases aren't under the jurisdiction of THE COUNCIL OF MEN, and so are not subject to their fact-finding process."

I played THE COUNCIL OF MEN a couple of times back in the nineties. It was kind of fun but the over-reliance on tree forts and the habit of always positioning the most powerful monsters in something called a "man cave" made it quite predictable after a while.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:22 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: " It doesn't describe her as female, it doesn't say that he doesn't do this with everyone or that he only to women in the workplace. Which isn't a big deal, people leave out details in AskMe all the time. There's just nothing that says its sexism."

Yes there is. She called it mansplaining.
posted by brundlefly at 11:23 AM on August 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


If you're reading this thread, Airguitar2, I'd encourage you to ignore it.

Once upon a time I posted a question that got called out on MetaTalk. Although the complaint was different, the situation was similar: the person's complaint had no relevance to my life, and it didn't prevent my question from being answered. So I decided we could coexist peacefully. I could have my lovely AskMe thread, he could have his complaining MeTa thread, and our paths didn't need to cross.

There are all kinds of ways to view this thread, but I'd encourage you to embrace the view that this thread doesn't really have anything to do with you. You posted a question, somebody decided to riff on it in MetaTalk, and that discussion has snowballed. But your question is still standing right over there in AskMe, unaffected and hopefully rolling along productively for you. It's like James M. Cain said when somebody asked him whether he cared what a crappy Hollywood adaptation had done to his book. "I tell them, they haven't done anything to my book. It's right there on the shelf."

Good luck with your work situation. Have a great week.
posted by cribcage at 11:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Mansplaining is a very specific situation. It is not a gendered insult; it is shorthand for a gendered interaction. A man has decided he knows more than a woman because he is a man, regardless of her non-gendered qualifications.

Here's a real-life example that I experience so frequently that I routinely come up with anticipatory strategies just to cut through the bullshit.

I'm a small-ish woman, and I look younger than my age. I am also handy and can fix things. Lots of things. So say my (I'm going to use fake terms here so as not to get bogged down in specifics) say my Freezoid is on the fritz. I take it apart and discover that the acclimatizing module is burned out. I remove the faulty acclimatizing module and take it with me to Home Depot and ask the first employee I see in hardware (8 out of 10 times it's a guy) where they keep the acclimatizing modules. (You have to ask, because the store is so damn big and not always laid out in an intuitive way. Besides, how many times do you have replace the acclimatizing module, anyway? Certainly not enough to know which aisle they're on.)

The answer is almost never "Aisle 5." The answer is usually a bunch of questions. "You're holding an acclimatizing module for a Freezoid. Are you sure you don't just need a new Handiwasher?" "Did you try turning it off and turning it on?" "You know the Freezoid is a big appliance, right, and could easily fall over on you?" The answer is usually a bunch of questions that imply that I do not know and could not possibly know what I'm doing.

I get these questions because I'm a woman. I get unsolicited repair advice because I'm a woman. I am capable of asking questions if I don't understand something. But the automatic assumption that I don't understand and am out of my depth is condescending and insulting. And it is a direct result of my asking for the acclimatizing module as a woman.

Call it whatever you want. I'm fine with "mansplaining," because it is, in my experience, an accurate and efficient compound word.

I'm not going to get all hung up over what it's called, though. I know it exists, and I experience it, and I recognize that the impetus behind it is false and unrealistic assumptions on the part of the person who does it, and it's fucking annoying.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [43 favorites]


Her description simply says there's a male who annoyingly over explains things. It doesn't describe her as female, it doesn't say that he doesn't do this with everyone or that he only to women in the workplace. Which isn't a big deal, people leave out details in AskMe all the time. There's just nothing that says its sexism.

Uh, she says its sexist. Why are you doub....

oh I give up.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


If a commenter posted that his girlfriend was unreasonably demanding about him doing more housework, people would suggest ways to see if perhaps said poster simply wasn't doing enough housework.
And all of this is a derail from the main topic, which is do you think it's unacceptable to use gendered language to describe negative traits, or acceptable so long as one is describing one particular gender?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think everyone should just give up. We'll do this again in a couple of months. Enjoy the rest of summer everyone!
posted by Big_B at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, there's clearly a problem there that she needs help in solving. Knowing the sex of the parties doesn't seem to be an issue in solving that problem.

Yes, it does, if it's sexist behavior.

Someone who mansplains is doing so because of a (probably unconscious) belief that women don't really know what they're talking about. Therefore, if the mansplainee says to the mansplainer, "Hey, you're being condescending, knock it off," he's likely not to believe her because she's just a woman and what does she know (see this entire thread for various examples of such).

Dealing with asshole behavior and dealing with sexist behavior require different skill sets. They are often overlapping skill sets, but they are not identical. Women generally have a lifetime of experience developing those skill sets and identifying which to use in a given situation. The asker was asking for help brainstorming on the "dealing with sexist behavior" skill set.
posted by jaguar at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]



If a commenter posted that his girlfriend was unreasonably demanding about him doing more housework, people would suggest ways to see if perhaps said poster simply wasn't doing enough housework.


Which is like this situation, except that no one's dating anyone and the equitable demands of a household are nothing like work interactions, which is why analogies are not a great way to discuss Metafilter problems.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


There's just nothing that says its sexism.

Here's the difference between you and me when reading that question. You (apparently) read it and think "She used the word 'mansplain,' but provided no other context that explicitly indicates the man was being sexist. Therefore, she must have decided to use that word based on an incorrect understanding of its meaning."

I read it and think "She used the word 'mansplain,' but provided no other context that explicitly indicates the man was being sexist. Therefore she must have decided to use that word in order to provide exactly that context."
posted by solotoro at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Remember when we successfully rules-lawyered sexism out of existence? When we proved that women were just overreacting after all?

That was a good day.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2013 [28 favorites]


And all of this is a derail from the main topic, which is do you think it's unacceptable to use gendered language to describe negative traits, or acceptable so long as one is describing one particular gender?

No, it's not. Again, it's describing a pattern of behavior among some people of one particular gender, engaging in a specific type of interaction with someone of the opposite gender, with knowledge of why they're doing it.

You've had this pointed out to you so many times just in this thread, to say nothing of the many conversations about interactions between men and women you've inserted yourself into and proceeded to shit all over, that it's obvious that you can't even countenance anything but misrepresenting this position. In fact, it's pretty much become your calling card to be one of the most egregiously horrible posters in threads having to do with not only the smaller but everyday problems women deal with when it comes to men, but harassment and rape as well. There are some of us who can tell when a relatively decent conversation about these issues is about to go down the shitter once you start posting in it, and it almost never ends up being proven wrong.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Remember when we successfully rules-lawyered sexism out of existence? When we proved that women were just overreacting after all?

That was a good day.


But they had a conversation about us that we didn't ask for and we weren't involved and they used language that made us feel weird and we didn't approve this word and they think they know our intentions and IRONY LIGHTNING BOLT
posted by mintcake! at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


do you think it's unacceptable to use gendered language to describe negative traits, or acceptable so long as one is describing one particular gender?

FYI, here's what your question sounds like from the other side:

"Should we [A] define what is acceptable/tolerable by the reality of the social context, and the goals of the conversation, or should we [B] play bullshit semantic games that perpetuate unfairness HINT: IT'S B I WANT TO DO B."
posted by bleep-blop at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


restless_nomad: "This conversation sounds dreadfully similar to the "how are we supposed to know it was harassment if you don't tell us every detail/provide witnesses/upload video?" conversations we've had recently."

That's because it's all the same goddamned conversation over and over and over again, whenever anyone who has the temerity to not be white or male dares to speak up and say "hey, things aren't all that great if you're not white or male".
posted by scrump at 12:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


C'mon. If the poster had been a Black man explaining the same situation but used the term whitesplaining instead, would you be so careful as to say, "well, we don't know if this guy was being racist unless we ask his white colleagues"?

Absolutely, as indicated in my previous comment. I'm not a mind reader and usually before I start talking about other people as being racist I'll describe several examples of their behavior. Simply calling them racist doesn't do anything.


Actually, let me clarify here. I wouldn't think white colleagues have to verify whether racism was occurring. But I would ask a person complaining of racism or sexism why they think that specific 'ism' is going and describe instances that indicate that. Sometimes people assign an 'ism' when there's none there or that can't really know. Sometimes that matters, some times it doesn't.

Here's the difference between you and me when reading that question. You (apparently) read it and think "She used the word 'mansplain,' but provided no other context that explicitly indicates the man was being sexist. Therefore, she must have decided to use that word based on an incorrect understanding of its meaning."

No, the difference between you and me is that I'm not assuming what's in your head and making up answers for you.

Again, the OP's situation could be sexism. However there's nothing there really says it definitively is, which is probably why this MeTa was made. It's unclear AskMe in certain aspects.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:02 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did you think anything she described was inconsistent with a sexist interaction?
posted by Drinky Die at 12:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Again, the OP's situation could be sexism. However there's nothing there really says it definitively is she failed to write it in such a way that would sufficiently convince all men who might possibly read her question, therefore we must assume that she's mistaken, which is probably why this MeTa was made.
posted by scody at 12:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


jetlagaddict, no situation is exactly like any other. I bring up the analogy to note that we quite regularly question how accurately a poster is perceiving the situation before answering their question.

bleep-blop: Either you think it's okay to use gendered language to describe people, or you don't. If the OP's supervisor was female, and the OP said "My supervisor keeps bitching at me", you'd push back on that before answering their question. If you think that's different, then, you're back in the category of people who think gendered language is okay so long as its about the gender you prefer.

zombieflanders, your inability to comprehend honest disagreement makes you boring and stupid.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard, you should do a better job making it look like you are having an honest disagreement if you don't want people to think less of you. There's a reason many people interpret your actions actions as constant belittling and discounting of the experiences of women.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


you (apparently) read it and think "She used the word 'mansplain,' but provided no other context that explicitly indicates the man was being sexist.

Brandon Blatcher, since you seem to object to this, is there another way you can describe your mental process when you read this question?

You keep saying "there's nothing that really says its sexism," when it's described as mansplaining, which (whether you like the term or not) is a sexist behavior. There's no nonsexist way to mansplain. There might be a nonsexist way to be an arrogant jerk to everyone, but the OP did not just say "my coworker is an arrogant jerk," because she wanted us to know that the behavior was the sexist type of arrogant jerk behavior.

Also, if you want to interpret someone's behavior more benignly, why choose a random, unaffiliated-with-MetaFilter guy ("she might have misunderstood him! She can't get in his head!") and not the OP?
posted by Miko at 12:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


OK, so let's say that the asker was jumping to conclusions, and that her co-worker was a condescending blowhard to everyone in the office, regardless of gender.

Are there any answers given by anyone in that thread that suddenly become horrible advice? No one said that she should sue the guy for sexual harassment, or scream "YOU'RE A SEXIST PIG!!!" the next time he said something to her, or do anything else other than stand up for herself. The sexism she mentioned in the question helped people understand the situation, but it certainly didn't incite any over-the-top suggestions.

So what difference does it make to anyone other than her if she sees it as sexist behavior?
posted by jaguar at 12:20 PM on August 20, 2013


Either you think it's okay to use gendered language to describe people, or you don't.

Gendered language to describe people: That is the women's volleyball team.

An insulting slur: That woman is a bitch.

I think it's okay for me to use gendered language without this impacting the appropriateness of the use of slurs in any way.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


I bring up the analogy to note that we quite regularly question how accurately a poster is perceiving the situation before answering their question.

The great thing about the question is that the OP actually told us exactly why she perceived it that way.

Either you think it's okay to use gendered language to describe people, or you don't.

zombieflanders, your inability to comprehend honest disagreement makes you boring and stupid.

Am I supposed to take umbrage at that? Because you've yet to actually be honest in your disagreement, so I'll have to wait until you do so before calling for pistols at dawn or however you see this confrontation going down.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:25 PM on August 20, 2013


Either you think it's okay to use gendered language to describe people, or you don't.

Do you even see how the thing on the right hand side of the 'or' there is not the same as this other thing you say: gendered language is okay so long as its about the gender you prefer?
posted by bleep-blop at 12:25 PM on August 20, 2013


zombieflanders, your inability to comprehend honest disagreement makes you boring and stupid.

I do not know what you think you are going to accomplish here, but you need to either cut it out or go do something else with your day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Either you think it's okay to use gendered language to describe people, or you don't.

Thankfully we're not describing people, but rather specific interactions.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Did you think anything she described was inconsistent with a sexist interaction?

Yes and no. Clearly that behavior is done by sexist jerks. But I do wonder about this part of the original question: "He mansplains things that I know a lot about, things I know a little about, things that he knows very little about, you name it."

My first thought is that he's clueless about his effect on the OP and thinks he's found someone who will listen to whatever he says/agrees with him/thinks he's smart. Since there are no other details about the guy's interactions with her or other people, I don't see a strong case for sexism in this particular instance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]



My first thought is that he's clueless about his effect on the OP and thinks he's found someone who will listen to whatever he says/agrees with him/thinks he's smart. Since there are no other details about the guy's interactions with her or other people, I don't see a strong case for sexism in this particular instance.


A man can be clueless and still sexist. (In fact, one could say it helps!)

Your interpretation-- founded no more in the cold hard facts than anyone else's-- isn't incompatible with the interpretation that he is being sexist in that he is mansplaining.
posted by RainyJay at 12:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't see a strong case for sexism in this particular instance.

ITS NOT A FUCKING TRIAL.

This guy isn't on trial. We aren't his HR department. We aren't judging him. The question wasn't, "Is this guy mansplaining"?

For fucks sake people!!!!!!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Again, the OP's situation could be sexism. However there's nothing there really says it definitively is she failed to write it in such a way that would sufficiently convince all men who might possibly read her question, therefore we must assume that she's mistaken, which is probably why this MeTa was made.

Please do not rewrite my comments to fit what you think is occurring here. We can talk about this if you want, but this isn't the way to do it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


What jaguar said a few posts above is an important point here.

Whether OP's coworker's behavior is "mansplaining" or whether it's asexist assholery is irrelevant. Now there could be situations where it's relevant, but what the OP presented just wasn't one of those situations.

That's why it's so irritating and offputting to see people point out things like, "Hey, wait a second, it's possible he just being an asshole, we don't know for sure he's being a sexist asshole, too."

The thing is, nothing in the OP's description is inconsistent with her coworker being sexist in addition to being an asshole. So why demand further proof? The answers would be the same in either case.

It's also true that the OP could have posed the Ask without using the term "mansplain." It would have avoided this MeTa, I guess. But she shouldn't be compelled to avoid using the term: she is reporting what she experienced and there's no earthly reason why we should demand more evidence here.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:40 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't 'splain me, bro.
posted by planetesimal at 12:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah but you guys, if we all agree that mansplaining is an okay term to use, don't we risk the dreadful possibility that it will be used unfairly? That some innocent man will be tarred with the mansplaining brush merely because of his gender and not because he is actually in any way sexist? Imagine, if you can, a world in which men are in constant danger of being criticized unjustly, totally misperceived - merely because of their gender! I don't even want to contemplate the prospect of some poor, well-intentioned nerd being insulted with a derogatory label just because he happened to be born with a penis! Oh my gosh you guys. Let's avoid this hypothetical dystopian outcome by silencing women who want to push back against sexism that really exists in reality.

You guys, I think probs it would be better if we waited to solve sexism until we figured out a way to talk about it that didn't at all risk hurting the feelings of innocent men.
posted by prefpara at 12:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [47 favorites]


Who is "silencing women" by asking that you not use a term that some people find derogatory?
posted by Big_B at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there any word that would describe that behavior that would be acceptable?
posted by brundlefly at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2013


you've yet to actually be honest in your disagreement,

Er, how so? I disagree with you, repeatedly. I explain why. If that's not "honest", please clarify what would be (short of, er, agreeing with you). Would you think it was more honest if my comments were more like this?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always read 'mansplaining' as someone explaining things they know little/less/nothing about in a condescending manner with the obvious intent of showing off their dominance... something certainly seen more commonly in men, but not specifically limited only to males. We have words for behaviors that we consider more stereotypically feminine or masculine, and they are often poorly chosen, but we do use them to describe those behaviors no matter which gender practices them: men can 'bitch', so it follows that women can 'mansplain' as well.

Sometimes people abuse those words to insult people, and around here we try and call them out when it happens... but in this case I guess I'm just not seeing it. The word was used for an appropriate reason: to establish the proper understanding of the situation among readers. Yes, many more/different words could have been used to articulate the behavior in question, but shorter and more succinct AskMes are generally preferred -- and it obviously worked, because everyone seems to have known exactly what she was talking about! Isn't that the point?
posted by Pufferish at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since there are no other details about the guy's interactions with her or other people, I don't see a strong case for sexism in this particular instance.

Again, as rtha says: If you are not demanding evidence of every askme* that the OP's mom really is nosy, their boyfriend really does flirt with other people, their boss really is disorganized, their web dev really doesn't know how to use a ticketing system, or their food really is rotten, then ask yourself why you demand the evidence in this case.

*i.e., every AskMe that you, Brandon Blatcher, read; this clarification is apparently necessary since you previously dodged the question on the basis that since no one reads literally Every Single AskMe Ever, the premise of rtha's question is therefore false.

Please do not rewrite my comments to fit what you think is occurring here. We can talk about this if you want, but this isn't the way to do it.

Please do not admonish me. I can see what's occurring here, as can others. You are attempting to rules-lawyer and hair-split the conversation so that a meaningful conversation about sexist behavior is derailed by using the exact same tactics that are under discussion -- that is, you are insisting since you, a man, cannot see sexism in a particular instance, then a woman's assertion of experiencing sexism must necessarily be called into question. This is not mitigated by the fact that you are willing to concede that such sexist behavior might exist sometimes, somewhere, while explicitly refusing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt in this instance. All because she didn't supply you with a long enough description of her colleague's interactions with other colleagues, both male and female, in order to meet a burden of proof that you have decided she's obligated to meet before she earns the right to be taken seriously.
posted by scody at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Would you think it was more honest if my comments were more like this?"

Yes! A cite!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, for one, only believe that someone is mansplaining if and only if a double blind study is conducted. I don't have time for squishy shit like ethnography or oral history or storytelling.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not going to give you advice about that noise you claim your car is making until I see solid evidence that you do, in fact, own a car.
posted by brundlefly at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


One would hope that everyone in this thread accepts the premise that sexism, in fact, exists.

If that is so, I'm confused about the reluctance to coin and use words that describe it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Scody, Brandon does that every time. If he doesn't see it, the woman must be suspect. It used to be infuriating but now I'm sadly used to it. These threads are so similar, and they happen again! And again!
posted by agregoli at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


STORY TIME: Recently, I was waiting to hear from a university about whether or not I was admitted to the university itself and to a specific program there. (I was! Both! Yay!) While I was waiting to hear about either point, a male friend told me not to worry about the program, because I was already accepted as a university student. I told him I wasn't. He told me I was. Of course I was! Why wouldn't I think I was? I told him I damn well was not, and would know better than him. That the university had told me so. That I knew my own life. He didn't seem to believe me until I actually was admitted.

Was this mansplaining? Was this my friend being an ass in way that doesn't tie to our gender? I didn't know, and I still don't. The terminology doesn't matter. What mattered then was that he thought he knew the circumstances of my life better than I did. That made me angry. My anger would be classified as bitchy.

I wouldn't use either term (mansplaining or bitching) in this situation, but that's in part because I've just grown to accept a certain level of sexism in my day-to-day life. There are only so many hills I can die on.

I would hope that in a text-based medium like MetaFilter, we trust one another to use the right words, and to know the meaning behind them.
posted by RainyJay at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But seriously, putting aside the question of whether or not any specific incident actually was or was not sexist, it's worth considering how many times a man asks himself "um, was that woman just totally being sexist at me?" versus how many times a woman asks herself, "um, did I not get that job/that scholarship/that raise/that second date/that price/respect/a seat at the table/heard/seen/included because of sexism/my gender/my feminine presentation?"

Obviously, when you zoom in on one particular incident, you immediately get confronted with the impossibility of reading another person's mind, you notice all the things you don't know, you imagine all the special circumstances that could explain or excuse the words/behavior/decision. It feels nice to be charitable, it feels nice to think of the better explanation.

But when you zoom out, you see the pattern.
posted by prefpara at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Mister_A: "Dudes I think this thread is just...
MANTASTIC!!!
"

IT'S RAINING MENdacity

HALLELUJAH
posted by jquinby at 1:10 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's too late to change the wording of that Ask, but I don't think it is any great hardship to ask that we try to lay off the gendered stereotypes. Seems like a perfectly cromulent request to me.

If we are keeping count, I am a woman, not a man, and I did not like the term mansplaining appearing in that AskMe. I find its use there lazy, sexist and inflammatory.

I also believe mansplaining may happen, though. I say "may" because although I have personally experienced what I would consider mansplaining, I also know from all my many years on Metafilter that anecdotal evidence is not conclusive proof of anything (see? she can be taught!).

I feel I have been mansplained to on this site, for example.

If you disagree--why? It certainly fits all the parameters. A man feeling he knows better than a woman is denying that woman's personal experience and condescendingly lecturing her on how wrong she is. Why not accept that I was mansplained, when I experienced it as such?

No one, according to the majority argument posited in this thread, should ever by offended by the term Mansplain, or even think it is at all derogatory, right? But I'll bet that right now MartinWisse is writing a retort explain in great detail (delicious irony) why he feels he is not a mansplainer.

Why would he care? Because mansplaining IS an insult. Of course it is!

If you feel confident that it is not an insult because you are confident that you have never mansplained, great! Maybe you are an enlightened feminist.

Then again, maybe you are just so sexist that you have been mansplaining without even realizing it. See what I did there? I femsplained.

I can argue either side, and so can anyone else, because mansplaining is a lazy, derogatory term that easily lends itself to rationalization, just like every other derogatory stereotype does.

We are not all going to agree on this site. It is ridiculous to assume that we will. It is also arrogant to assume that it is okay for your own arguments to be inconsistent and unsustainable because you are on the side of "right". Everyone thinks he/she is right!

Any term that casts an entire group of people (whether by gender, race or sexual orientation) in one light ought to be questioned. That's how we break down stereotypes. We are always saying here on Mefi that people with privilege should not be defensive when they are called out on it but should try in good faith to change sexist or racist views when they are made aware of them. Shouldn't we all be held to that standard? Just as validly as we can call those who don't like the term mansplaining defensive, we can call those who insist on such a gendered term insensitive.

The mods try to look at things on a case by case basis. I think that's sensible. I'd think we ought to, simply as human beings capable of empathy, try to only use sweeping gendered generalizations sparingly, if at all.

The OP felt mansplained to. Maybe she was, or maybe this guy explains things to everyone. Suggesting that here, in Metatalk, does not negate the OPs feelings. I think it is okay to question here (not in that thread) why such an inflammatory word is necessary to answer the question. Especially since the OP herself wonders if maybe she comes across as inexpert in some way (that info is right there in the question).

So, if we take mansplaining right out of the equation, is the question harder to answer? Nope, not in my opinion.
posted by misha at 1:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Er, how so? I disagree with you, repeatedly. I explain why. If that's not "honest", please clarify what would be (short of, er, agreeing with you).

Your explanations may be repeated, but they're not honest. You've been told a hojillion times that we're talking about specific interactions rather than entire genders, which is pretty clear. You've been offered dozens, if not hundreds, of examples from women across numerous threads as to shitty behavior, and you've discounted or minimized pretty much all of them. That means that you're either dishonest, clueless, sexist, or just a flat-out misogynist. I'm just using the most charitable reason here.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


One would hope that everyone in this thread accepts the premise that sexism, in fact, exists.

If that is so, I'm confused about the reluctance to coin and use words that describe it.


If people could come up with a word that encapsulates it's meaning. Something that isn't a mouthful of phrases that make you sound like you're talking like a dictionary I'd be all for using that word. So far I haven't come across one that succinctly communicates the meaning that it has evolved to explain.

Years ago I sat on a board as one of three reps from my workplace. One of the boards head constantly talked to women, including me in this way. It was annoying. I talked about this with the two other reps, both male and they both noticed that his 'way' seemed wonky and wrong but we couldn't put what he was doing easily into short words or context. Then somewhere during these years the word 'mansplaining' made an appearance. I specifically remember saying to them, "Here he goes mansplaining again." They laughed and one said 'great word.' No big explanations needed after that. 'Mansplain' became a useful and succinct description of this specific type of behavior that I have experienced my whole life and that my male co-workers saw happen to me on a regular enough basis that it warranted a word. In my mind the word actually helped all of us better understand the power dynamics that affected our work (very political) in a succinct way.

Until a better word comes along I will keep using it as a description if the situation warrants it.

And yes I do think it can be turned into an insult. If someone is sexist and consistantly acts in a condescending (pat on head, yes little lady ) way I will call them a 'mansplainer' (noun). I'm insulting them because they are insulting me for no other reason that I have a vagina. In this world sometimes insults are warranted and with all of the insults out there that a female gendered based and based entirely on women being less then men I'm not going to get too fussed over one seemingly going the other direction in some people's minds.
posted by Jalliah at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


You've been told a hojillion times that we're talking about specific interactions rather than entire genders

And I've replied a hojillion times that "I'm not talking about *you*! You're one of the good ones" is a bad justification for stereotyping. Your inability to hear that is precisely why you strike me as a troll.

We are always saying here on Mefi that people with privilege should not be defensive when they are called out on it but should try in good faith to change sexist or racist views when they are made aware of them. Shouldn't we all be held to that standard?

Ayup. That's what's so maddening about commenters like ArmyOfKittens: She believes that her privliege position means she can talk to others in a way she does not want to be talked to. In fact, she thinks it's hilarious to treat others as she would not want to be treated. Which is the basis of all wrong action.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Christ.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:33 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


What exactly is your argument?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what's so maddening about commenters like ArmyOfKittens: She believes that her privliege position means she can talk to others in a way she does not want to be talked to. In fact, she thinks it's hilarious to treat others as she would not want to be treated. Which is the basis of all wrong action.

Is this irony? Is it trolling? Are you not aware of your epic, appalling jerkishness all over this thread? What is happen.
posted by elizardbits at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


seriously what the fuck
posted by elizardbits at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


misha: "Why would he care? Because mansplaining IS an insult. Of course it is!

If you feel confident that it is not an insult because you are confident that you have never mansplained, great! Maybe you are an enlightened feminist.
"

I am well aware that I have done it on several occasions, but I try to be cognizant of it and avoid it. It is not a behavior that is magically purged by being feminist. If someone called me on it, I would not be insulted.

This is a common thing and it makes sense to have a concise way of describing it. Again, I'm having a hard time imagining a term that would not offend some segment of the population. It is explicitly gendered because what it describes is gendered.
posted by brundlefly at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


And I've replied a hojillion times that "I'm not talking about *you*! You're one of the good ones" is a bad justification for stereotyping. Your inability to hear that is precisely why you strike me as a troll.

"The men's volleyball team at my school smells bad."

I have included a gender qualifier in this description. Are you reading that with an implication that I am attempting to stereotype all men everywhere, or even all male volleyball players? It seems clear to me that I am describing a negative situation I have observed that is not commenting outside of that scope.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I've replied a hojillion times that "I'm not talking about *you*! You're one of the good ones" is a bad justification for stereotyping.

Which would be applicable if we were talking about a stereotype. But since I'm not painting entire groups of people with the same brush as I would if I were stereotyping, this explanation is meaningless.

Your inability to hear that is precisely why you strike me as a troll.

Thinking that trolls are people that use proper definitions and can differentiate between actions and people explains a lot.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Judging from past conversations, even if the terminology was entirely unproblematic, certain parties would still take issue with OP's characterization of the behaviour as sexist. As it is, there are two arguments going on in this thread: 1. whether "mansplaining" is a pejorative deserving of broad censure, and 2. whether the original problem described by the AskMe OP qualifies as "sexist."

Regarding 1., some men find the terminology hurtful. I acknowledge that. I wouldn't use "mansplaining" in a public forum, myself. I also posit that there is no violence-threatening, long-term, or structural harm inflicted or reinforced by using the word, as there is with "cunt" or the N-word. (If I'm wrong on this, please point it out.) So I wouldn't say it's deserving of broad censure either.

Regarding 2., this is one more example of an ongoing pattern where "Any discriminatory act experienced [by a member of a traditionally less credible / questionable / subordinate demographic group must] be provable" beyond a shadow of any doubt, questioned up the wazoo, second-guessed, and nitpicked to death in order to (in)validate the narrator's right to characterize it as discriminatory.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I agree that AOK's level of privilege is the basis of a lot of wrong actions.
posted by prefpara at 1:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm a monster.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


You're in good company.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


the list is like:

01) My upstairs neighbors
02) AoK
03) Hitler & Stalin are tied for third
04) the girl who shoved me off the monkey bars in kindergarten
posted by elizardbits at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


Are you reading that with an implication that I am attempting to stereotype all men everywhere, or even all male volleyball players?

No, but if you had said "The volleyball team smells like a bunch of men! Yech!" that would be more problematic.

I also posit that there is no violence-threatening, long-term, or structural harm inflicted or reinforced by using the word, as there is with "cunt" or the N-word. (If I'm wrong on this, please point it out.) So I wouldn't say it's deserving of broad censure either.

That's certainly true. But I think it's a problematic word, not because it threatens the person described (it's not a hate crime sort of word), but because it, like much prejudice, impairs one's ability to perceive and therefore respond to a situation. If you think someone is being condescending based on your gender, a different response is called for than if someone is just a condescending jackass.

AoK and Monster: Your absolute conviction that your privilege position means you cannot possibly do wrong is... Terrifying.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2013


04) the girl who shoved me off the monkey bars in kindergarten

Same thing happened to me. Misandry is real.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens, militarism isn't okay just because you're using an all-volunteer-kitten army. Are those kittens even properly educated before they enlist?
posted by gilrain at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh man, I STILL hate that girl.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what's so maddening about commenters like ArmyOfKittens

None of us are angels but ArmyOfKittens has a proportionally damned solid track record of talking about hard stuff while being more decent than socially necessary about the shit people toss at her for it. I do not think an argument that she's the privilege-exploitin' problem in this dynamic is going to make any headway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


Is this irony? Is it trolling? Are you not aware of your epic, appalling jerkishness all over this thread? What is happen.

Seriously, this whole thread is a jerkish mess. Insults, deliberate misrepresentations, dogmatic stubbornness and just plain old contempt all over the place.

I'm frustrated because I'm flagging stuff for breaking the rules and offensiveness even though I know comments are rarely deleted from MetaTalk (but I don't know what else to do).

I'm going to snuggle my big old Maine Coon for a while. Sheesh.
posted by misha at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


but because it, like much prejudice

Being the victim of condescending explanations by a man because you are a woman is not being prejudicial.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm a monster.


Hear the kittens roar!
posted by Jalliah at 1:46 PM on August 20, 2013


I'm sort of baffled by all of the complains that the OP shouldn't have used the term "mansplaining" either because she couldn't possibly know the man's internal mental state (was he actually doing this based on his beliefs, explicit or implict, about women?) or because she doesn't have any evidence that he is like this with women (e.g., the suggestion that the only way to know what's really going on is to take a survey of the men in the office about whether he does this to everyone). The complaint seems to be that it's wrong to negatively label a person't behavior without specific evidence, beyond your own hunch, that the particular negative label applies.

The thing is, that would be equally true of a word frequently suggested as the proper alternative, "condescension." That word implies that the speaker thinks he is superior to the listener. So, if the above criteria are applied, the OP would either have to get inside his head and find out whether he actually feels superior to her, or whether he would speak the same way to someone he feels inferior to. There's no evidence that she's done that, so we wouldn't be able to use that word either. The only difference is that since we've all experienced "condescension," we feel qualified (and thus assume that others are qualified) to read it when it happens, without knowing for sure what the speaker is thinking.

In normal, human interaction, we don't expect people to merely describe observable phenomena without inserting into it any of their own conclusions or assumptions about what those phenomena might mean. So, if I were describing a conversation with a friend during which she spoke unusually slowly and used small words, frequently inserting phrases like, "as we experts all know," and then she patted me on the head at the end, and then I described her behavior as condescending, there wouldn't really be any quibble. Because we've all had interactions like that, and we relate to them, and we experienced them as condescending, and so we don't feel the need to interrogate that description. We all know what that feels like, and we know that we would be able to identify such behavior if it were targeted at us, so unless there's something in her explanation that directly suggests that she has read the situation wrong, we don't demand more evidence, and we take her word for it.

The difference here is that many people are describing interactions that others haven't experienced, using words for it that don't fit experiences they've had. So, when a woman says that a man called her honey and explained a topic that he had no reason to know about but that she has a PhD in, and then she identifies that as not only condescending, but patronizing in a way that is specifically related to her gender and his, that was spurred by longstanding social assumptions about the relative expertise of men and women, some people bristle. Because they've never had that experience, and so they don't understand how she could identify it as such, and so they question her reading of the situation because they have never been in a situation that read that way to them.

And I think that's the value of having a specific word for the specific kind of gendered condescension that "mansplaining" connotes. Because we want to draw a distinction between just being a jerk, or being patronizing, or being a know-it-all, and this gendered thing that happens to women qua women. It's a signal to let us know how the situation was experienced by the person describing it, just like condescension is, but it tells us more than that. I would hope that part of confronting prejudice is developing an understanding that our experiences are not the only ones, and developing a basic level of trust that, just as we can identify what's going on in our own interactions, other people have the same ability, and that's true even if their experiences are different from ours.
posted by decathecting at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [84 favorites]


Your absolute conviction that your privilege position means you cannot possibly do wrong is... Terrifying.

Such privilege
Real wordl consequence
Wow
So terror
posted by emmtee at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


AoK and Monster: Your absolute conviction that your privilege position means you cannot possibly do wrong is... Terrifying.

Who are you talking to. Are you referring to Famous Monster's single only 1 there's just fucking one and no other humorous comment in this thread? Is that it? Is that the evidence of MONSTER PRIVILEGE. Please help me understand what the fuck you are on about.
posted by elizardbits at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, but if you had said "The volleyball team smells like a bunch of men! Yech!" that would be more problematic.

Listen, to be real for just one second, I just took a trip, and a few days in, I noticed that my fingers really smelled like penis (true story). It took me like a whole week to figure out that it was the soap that smelled like penis. For clarity, this was mysterious because I was not touching penis at all at any point during my trip, but the scent of penis was really pronounced. Anyway, it was the soap. Sorry if I offended any men with that sex-specific term.
posted by prefpara at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, but if you had said "The volleyball team smells like a bunch of men! Yech!" that would be more problematic.

BREAKTHROUGH TIME! The word mansplain does not in fact mean, "You are explaining things like a man. Yech!"
posted by Drinky Die at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'll believe mansplaining doesn't exist when I hear a man explain to another man how to use a power button in the course of their programming job.
posted by carolr at 1:51 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'll believe mansplaining doesn't exist when I hear a man explain to another man how to use a power button in the course of their programming job.

YES.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT YOU HOLD HOLY.
posted by RainyJay at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "No, but if you had said "The volleyball team smells like a bunch of men! Yech!" that would be more problematic."

Well, men stink. That's just a fact. There, I said it.
posted by brundlefly at 1:56 PM on August 20, 2013


decathecting, that is a helluva comment, and you articulated beautifully what many of us knew intuitively.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


decathecting, that is a helluva comment, and you articulated beautifully what many of us knew intuitively.

Seconded
posted by Jalliah at 1:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens has a proportionally damned solid track record of talking about hard stuff while being more decent than socially necessary about the shit people toss at her for it.

This and this are "more decent than socially neccessary"? A comment that consists entirely of "Hahahahahaaaargh" is talking about hard stuff? I think you're decreeing decency to be a matter of who someone is rather than what they do.

Please help me understand what the fuck you are on about.

AoC, and others, has repeatedly taken the position that it is okay to talk about and to people from a privileged group in one way, and to and about people in a less privileged group (which just happens coincidentally to include her) in another way. She, and FM, think it's hilarious to suggest that this belief---that the rules for how you should treat people are different than the rules for how you should be treated---is a bad belief. I, conversely, think history shows repeatedly that people at any privilege position can do terrible things. The only way to avoid doing terrible things is to treat others as you would wish to be treated; the surest way to end up doing terrible things is to become convinced that you are so embattled that anything you do is justified. Does that help?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, TFB: does sexism exist?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


AoC, and others,

It had to happen. They're growing up.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [48 favorites]


The only way to avoid doing terrible things is to treat others as you would wish to be treated; the surest way to end up doing terrible things is to become convinced that you are so embattled that anything you do is justified. Does that help?

This is why I try so hard not to talk down to men that I work with. I try not to explain to them things that they already know. I try not to ask them about their significant others letting them do whatever. I try to assume that they will be professional, that we can interact with one another on as close to a gender-free basis as is possible.

That doesn't stop the occasional mansplaining. It doesn't stop people from thinking I'm the secretary sometimes, from forgetting that my male colleagues and I have the same knowledge base.
posted by RainyJay at 2:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


mudpuppie: "It had to happen. They're growing up."

I'm just. *choke* So proud. *sob*
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I feel I have been mansplained to on this site, for example.

If you disagree--why? It certainly fits all the parameters. A man feeling he knows better than a woman is denying that woman's personal experience and condescendingly lecturing her on how wrong she is. Why not accept that I was mansplained, when I experienced it as such?
"

In that example, it's not actually your life experience that Martin seems to be objecting to — it's your judgment about SkepChick's life experience. You were taking your life experience and substituting it for Skepchick's, which, to be fair, is something a lot of us do (substituting our experience for another's), and is sometimes reasonable, sometimes problematic.
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seriously, I know it's a weird term, but it's a weird term that literally every single woman that I have talked to has understood. It's that time during set strike when the fathers told us how to handle the flats and power tools, despite the fact that we had built the fucking sets. It's that time some guy decided I couldn't know anything about food history, despite having spent months researching British agriculture, or that time a man four years my junior decided to brush off a table of women on the hiring committee as "lunch with the girls" and explain his prowess at every type of computer...despite not knowing a single Linux distribution.

But sometimes you don't want to drag out every anecdote, you know? You could probably nitpick at those and find something that doesn't sit right. I don't think they were "just jerks" or "just being condescending." To me, in those situations, it was demeaning. It let me know that the guy had no respect, whatsoever, for my work, for my education, for my job. That's what the act of mansplaining does. That's why it's a term many people have found useful and concise. I'm sure there's a better one, but we haven't found it yet.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


This thread is heartbreaking.

Holy shit people, I was a part of that AskMefi, I read it with no prompting or MeTa biased. The OP asked "what to do about mansplaining" not "is this mansplaining?"

IT DOESN'T MATTER WHETHER THE GUY WAS ACTUALLY MANSPLAINING OR NOT. Not one ounce, not one bit. The OP didn't provide a plethora of examples for us to comb over and decided if it was actually mansplaining, because that wasn't the question.

Frankly, had the OP provided examples, she may have been in an even worse position as it's apparent that there's a full Jury here who would really like to analyse her situation for her and decided if she is correct in her lived experience. Not every question is an XY question. Not every question need to be investigated to find The Absolute Truth. She said it was a sexist interaction, what possible reason could you have for doubting this? Why doubt her? Why even think to doubt her based on no evidence?
posted by Shouraku at 2:13 PM on August 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


This and this are "more decent than socially neccessary"?

Honestly? In the face of the nth retread of this song-and-dance you habitually put on in threads about this stuff, some arch sarcasm as the worst examples of behavior seems pretty on-the-even-keel, yes.

I don't know why you dig this same trench again and again and then wonder why it's poorly received; we've talked to you before about not turning threads into ThatFuzzyBastard Has Opinions About All This showcases, and you keep doing it, and it's actively problematic. I can understand if for you it's just a point of principle that you are compelled to be vocal about whenever you feel like you see something on the horizon that brings it to mind, but for everybody else it's just you fairly consistently wandering into threads and Doing That Thing Again, and you have got to cut it out, period.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:13 PM on August 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Also, TFB, please note: in your first comment addressing me in this thread, you told me what I believed. Up until that point I'd been trying to explain my point of view, which I thought sufficiently similar to that of many others that it might be useful.

I think it's a little rich you're attacking the way I've engaged when that was your first move.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:14 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]



I am not going to get into this discussion, except I will use threads like this with select posts highlighted when someone asks me what the definition of Mefisplaining is
posted by Leth at 2:14 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard, before you post, read decatheting's comment and think about it for a moment. Good will come from it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:15 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This and this are "more decent than socially neccessary"? A comment that consists entirely of "Hahahahahaaaargh" is talking about hard stuff? I think you're decreeing decency to be a matter of who someone is rather than what they do.

It's hard for me to figure out what is the most socially acceptable response to how you are treating her in this thread. Well, not really, it's just that I feel the moderators might feel differently about the acceptability of my choice of words and I endeavor to avoid annoying them when I can see it coming. So let me just phrase it as, in my view you deserve to have severe and offensive words of insult directed towards you. These words would of course be properly prepared to be free of racial or gender based offensiveness of any type.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:16 PM on August 20, 2013


I think "Hahahahahaaaargh" is a perfectly valid response.
posted by brundlefly at 2:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


MetaTalk: Hahahahahaaaargh
posted by brundlefly at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


No one, according to the majority argument posited in this thread, should ever by offended by the term Mansplain

I don't think that's the majority opinion in this thread at all.

I like prefpara's comment. And I think there have been plenty of comments that amount to, "I don't LOVE it, but I'm not going to automatically condemn it and it kinda has its place."

The only way to avoid doing terrible things is to treat others as you would wish to be treated

But what if the way you wish to be treated is "with due consideration of the privilege in question"?

Fair treatment does not always produce symmetrical actions. Asymmetry is not proof of unfairness.

Contemplate that on the tree of woe.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"AoC, and others, has repeatedly taken the position that it is okay to talk about and to people from a privileged group in one way, and to and about people in a less privileged group (which just happens coincidentally to include her) in another way."

Anyone who does not believe this as it is literally written is an idiot. It is entirely reasonable to describe, say, the Christian Right as overbearing, entitled assholes, while describing non-Christians as none of those things. You've made your thesis so broad as to be absurd.

"She, and FM, think it's hilarious to suggest that this belief---that the rules for how you should treat people are different than the rules for how you should be treated---is a bad belief."

The rules (social conventions) for how I should be treated for saying, "nigger" to a black man are different from how a black man should be treated for saying, "nigger" to a fellow black man. Suggesting otherwise is, in fact, hilarious, because it requires an idiotic refusal to allow social context to determine norms and politeness. It is a standard that literally zero people adhere to.

" I, conversely, think history shows repeatedly that people at any privilege position can do terrible things."

This is not actually the converse of your prior statement. You have constructed a false dichotomy in order to argue that your interlocutors are unfair; it does not withstand even casual scrutiny.

"The only way to avoid doing terrible things is to treat others as you would wish to be treated;

This is not the only way, nor is it a sure way to avoid doing terrible things. It's easy for a person to, say, feel that their own cultural traditions are not worth respecting, e.g. Christianity, but in arguing that they are treating another as they would wish to be treated, i.e. not respectful of cultural traditions, they can act in a terrible way. Further, many of us are operating from the assumption that we would like to be called on our bullshit, and are helpfully calling you on yours.

the surest way to end up doing terrible things is to become convinced that you are so embattled that anything you do is justified.

You do not have to feel embattled to believe anything you do is justified; it's hard to describe you, or men in general, as embattled, and yet there's a stunning sense of entitlement that undergirds your arguments.
posted by klangklangston at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


These threads are so similar, and they happen again! And again!

The last one was interesting because of its differences, though. There was no individual woman to question in this same way - no single one to push up against the wall and demand bona fides. The Solnit thread had dozens and dozens of women giving their evidence of mansplaining having happened to them - it was kind of an avalanche of evidence. So in that thread, the tactic was different - pretty much "mansplaining is a bad term because it responds to one evil with another" - instead of the gaslighting dilemma game of "you must prove it to me - only you never can prove it to me because I'll just say you can never be in another person's head."

had the OP provided examples, she may have been in an even worse position

Yes - and not least because even if she is the only person he ever does or did this to, and even if he did it to a guy or two as well or even a lot of guys, it is still mansplaining.
posted by Miko at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


It takes more than one person to turn a thread into The Me Show. It may be perfectly appropriate to admonish the "Me" user, but it does seem counterproductive to admonish him for continually commenting and then pat the crowd on the back for egging him on.
posted by cribcage at 2:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Some gifts just keep on giving, eh?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:23 PM on August 20, 2013


Good grief. Like it or not, is it so hard to understand that the term "mansplaining" is shorthand for "a man explains things to a woman, because consciously or not he assumes, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that he knows more than her about a subject, yet he does not engage in the same behavior toward other men"? Because that's exactly what it means, and it's a fucking mouthful. I think it's a stupid sounding but entirely useful term, if brevity is your object.

It's not a stereotype. It's not describing all men. Of course it's a gendered term, because it describes gendered behavior. If the man in question treats all humans with the same amount of unwarranted condescension, the term would not be appropriate. People can be insulted by a term describing a behavior they don't engage in, but why would you? Life is too damn short. FFS.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Hey, TFB: does sexism exist?

Yes.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, the only second-known example of sexism was cooked and eaten by a tourist in Greece. We may not see another instance of sexism for years.
posted by klangklangston at 2:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


and then pat the crowd on the back for egging him on.

I don't think I've patted anyone on the back for egging him on; I defended ArmyOfKittens as basically not having gone nuclear by responding tersely and sarcastically a couple times when TFB held those comments up as some sort of counterpoint to the idea that AOK's been a lot more decent on the site than he had implied.

To be clear: I would be stone-cold thrilled by a lack of egging-on, and have discouraged it an awful lot in the past. I may not have clearly restated that in here—I'm riding herd on two different very busy Metatalk thread this afternoon, things might be blurry on my end—but it pretty much stands as a given. It stands in this thread as well, and, yes, less responding to things that you find obnoxious just for the sake of responding is almost always a good thing.

But I'm also not going to worry overly much about disclaimering a "cut it out" about a specific pattern of behavior to avoid some sense of asymmetry. He needs to cut it out, and that's not contingent on everybody else suddenly collectively managing not to be provoked by it. Crappy behavior is crappy behavior, and we're at the point where it is clearly not a self-repairing situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Hey, TFB: does sexism exist?

Yes.
"

Okay, so we've established that, in simple terms, a social system exists that advantages men by disadvantaging women. Women have comparatively shitty pay, less prestige, fewer positions of power, and so forth. Obviously intersections complicate this.

With this on the table, then, we can start naming the mechanisms of sexism. And given that sexism doesn't just float down from space to settle on random people but is taught and enforced -- by women as well as men, yes, but to the primary benefit of men -- then that means we need to talk about men's behaviour towards women. And if we start identifying that, then we're naming men's behaviour. Do we agree so far?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


By the way, why isn't the term "macho posturing" ever called out like "mansplaining"? It seems to me that shorthand for a gendered behavior is more widely tolerated in the aggregate if it's something that men and women have been first hand recipients of.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:43 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, why isn't the term "macho posturing" ever called out like "mansplaining"? It seems to me that shorthand for a gendered behavior is more widely tolerated in the aggregate if it's something that men and women have been first hand recipients of.

Because if it happens to men, it is a real, generalized human experience. If it happens to women, it's a special case for which there must always be another explanation.
posted by scody at 2:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


She, and FM, think it's hilarious to suggest that this belief---that the rules for how you should treat people are different than the rules for how you should be treated---is a bad belief.

Okay. Couple things.

1. It was a joke about my username. Go back and read it again. Read what I posted and then read the comment immediately before mine and then read the username under the comment I made. Do you see? Do you get it now?

2. Never - never - try to tell anyone what I think. You have no clue what I think.

3. In fact, just to make this easier: Keep my name out of your mouth entirely.

That will be all. Thank you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:51 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The arguments defending "mansplaining" sound amazingly similar to the defense of "Gyp" or the Confederate flag not being racist.
posted by bongo_x at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do we agree so far?

We do. Where we disagree is your assertion that any bad thing a man does to a woman is sexist (that is, done only because she is a woman and not done to men).

We also disagree about your assertion that discussion of sexism (or anything) can only proceed when men are careful not to use gendered language about women, but no such proscription applies to women speaking about men (that is, saying a man is "mansplaining" is an insult only to that particular man, whereas saying a woman is "bitching" is an insult to all women).
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:53 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The arguments defending "mansplaining" sound amazingly similar to the defense of "Gyp" or the Confederate flag not being racist.

The arguments in support of the claim that fairies are real sound amazingly similar to the arguments in support of the claim that dogs are real.
posted by emmtee at 2:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


They do?
posted by bleep-blop at 2:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Totes, bongo! I am so sick of having to explain to people how "Gyp" is a word used by the white minority to describe their racist oppression by privileged members of the Romani majority.
posted by prefpara at 2:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Brain need help.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where we disagree is your assertion that any bad thing a man does to a woman is sexist (that is, done only because she is a woman and not done to men).

So, maybe my reading comprehension is failing, but I don't see where any of the things you're describing happened in this thread. I can tell you feel very strongly about this, though.

The specific idea behind mansplaining (or viroviating, which I think just sounds cooler) is that it is a man explaining to a woman how she should be acting. It's not any bad thing any man does to any woman; it has a specific context and meaning.

And that is what's happening here, on a meta-level.
posted by RainyJay at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "We do. Where we disagree is your assertion that any bad thing a man does to a woman is sexist (that is, done only because she is a woman and not done to men).

We also disagree about your assertion that discussion of sexism (or anything) can only proceed when men are careful not to use gendered language about women, but no such proscription applies to women speaking about men (that is, saying a man is "mansplaining" is an insult only to that particular man, whereas saying a woman is "bitching" is an insult to all women).
"

Where have I asserted any of that? I just searched my username in this thread and I can't find it. Can you quote me, please?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


The arguments defending "mansplaining" sound amazingly similar to the defense of "Gyp" or the Confederate flag not being racist.
-
Use of the word mansplaining is a symbolic part of my cultural heritage, though there may be the unfortunate baggage of mass death of Americans because of defense of slavery attached, it is in fact an expression of historic regional pride.

Don't think it fits.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where we disagree is your assertion that any bad thing a man does to a woman is sexist (that is, done only because she is a woman and not done to men).

We also disagree about your assertion that discussion of sexism (or anything) can only proceed when men are careful not to use gendered language about women, but no such proscription applies to women speaking about men (that is, saying a man is "mansplaining" is an insult only to that particular man, whereas saying a woman is "bitching" is an insult to all women).


Weird. Literally the only place in this thread where I can find these assertions is right in your own comment, TFB.
posted by palomar at 3:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Where have I asserted any of that? I just searched my username in this thread and I can't find it. Can you quote me, please?

This is where TFB quotes something you said, and then explains what you *really* meant by it.
posted by rtha at 3:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


bongo_x: "The arguments defending "mansplaining" sound amazingly similar to the defense of "Gyp" or the Confederate flag not being racist."

*boggles*
posted by brundlefly at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you would be okay with someone posting "My supervisor is bitching at me"?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:11 PM on August 20, 2013


So you would be okay with someone posting "My supervisor is bitching at me"?

The following is my own opinion, I am not speaking on behalf of any other MetaFilter users:

Yes.
posted by RainyJay at 3:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A quick site search for AskMe questions that use "bitching" suggests that people use it all the time and people generally find it unremarkable.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:14 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


We also disagree about your assertion that discussion of sexism (or anything) can only proceed when men are careful not to use gendered language about women, but no such proscription applies to women speaking about men (that is, saying a man is "mansplaining" is an insult only to that particular man, whereas saying a woman is "bitching" is an insult to all women)."

Where have I asserted any of that? I just searched my username in this thread and I can't find it. Can you quote me, please?


I'm not going to be like most other people in this thread. I'm not going to say that death threats are inexcusable. Because if your whole fucking life is a death threat, then you have no power and no escape. Some rando kicks off in your direction and you relieve a small amount of the frustration and anger and fear by telling him you hope he dies, your tweet coming as a direct result of the awful things he's saying? I'm not going to blame you. I'm not going to criticise you.

Good for you. Survive.


Death threats from trans people to non-trans people are okay. The other way around is (I think we all agree) totally not okay.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:15 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Context! Do you scan for it?
posted by planetesimal at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


what
posted by rtha at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


This just took a fucking bizarre turn.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh. Thanks to the search feature, I just realized I've used "bitching" derisively 4 times on mefi (I usually try to use the gender-neutral "griping" instead), but I've used "bitchin", as a way to say that something rules, 25 times.

BADICAL
posted by Greg Nog at 3:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Huh. Digging through other threads and taking comments out of context to support your argument about comments in this thread doesn't really help bolster your argument.
posted by palomar at 3:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm uncomfortable with how personal this suddenly feels.
posted by prefpara at 3:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


So you would be okay with someone posting "My supervisor is bitching at me"?

Bitch is a word with a complicated history that has often been used as an abusive slur. Mansplain does not have that history unless you feel there is some rampant misuse of it when it is not accurate. Can you not frame your argument without using a word that does not really compare?
posted by Drinky Die at 3:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


TFB, you have just conceded your entire argument, though I'm virtually certain you're not aware of it.
posted by scody at 3:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "So you would be okay with someone posting "My supervisor is bitching at me"?"

I would be. But even if I thought it was misogynistic, it has been explained in this thread again and again that mansplaining is not a slur against men but a specific type of behavior that is by definition gendered, so they would not be comparable.
posted by brundlefly at 3:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Um.

I want this thread to be about shibe again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've been really trying to give you a chance to put down the shovel in here, TFB, but it's you doing it or me doing it for you at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want this thread to be about shibe again.

NOT EARL SCHEIB-IST

posted by scody at 3:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


scody: "NOT EARL SCHEIB-IST "

oh my god that's going on my tumblr
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


this thread needs a relaxing dorite
posted by elizardbits at 3:30 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I read that as "relaxing dorito" and I was like, dude, I'm way ahead of you.
posted by palomar at 3:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Death threats from trans people to non-trans people are okay. The other way around is (I think we all agree) totally not okay.

Trans people are sometimes murdered for being trans. I am not aware of a case of a trans person murdering someone because they are upset about what they said online. There is an appreciable difference between words linked with action and words linked solely with frustration. I don't think it is a special case there that a death threat may not be taken seriously when it is obviously not serious, people say "I wanna kill that guy!" in a non-literal way all the time. I've said it because of fumbles in football games. We take it seriously when there is a reason to. It's not about who someone is beyond how that impacts the level of seriousness of the threat. You are being ridiculous if you are intending to frame AoK's argument as an allowance for trans folks to make serious death threats.

Social issues are not simple matters you solve with one sentence leading questions. You will have to think beyond, "If you can say mansplain I can say bitch! Otherwise it's NOT FAIR!" to get anywhere here.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I read that as "relaxing dorito"

I see you're provlem here
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is beginning to feel like TFB has a standing grudge against AoK for being a trans person with opinions. I feel like comment-mining in this specific instance is creepy and borderline threatening.
posted by gilrain at 3:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


As someone who was honestly and sincerely trying to discuss some contrarian viewpoints earlier I want to go on record that I'm not okay with the way this has gone now. Blech.
posted by Big_B at 3:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


While doing dishes I came up with a few new words. My criteria is that it has to be easy and quick to say and convey the concept I'm going after in my own mind. It also has to have something that points to the gender dynamic in it but maybe not as blatant. I've come up with.

patriarcasplaining

patriorating

phallicorating

phalliccondencension

phallic superiorizing

phallusaggrandizing

patri-bloviating

penialsplain enhancing
posted by Jalliah at 3:56 PM on August 20, 2013


I don't think "bitching" is great but it's better than "grousing."
posted by grouse at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


"I've said it because of fumbles in football games."

I have literally murdered hundreds of refs and umps. I AM A MONSTER.
posted by klangklangston at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


privilsplaining
posted by Big_B at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My best try so far is "explaitriarching." Which sounds like a wet dump.
posted by prefpara at 4:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


In an academic environment: patriarticulate
In a business environment: powerpontificate
Not mine, but for more casual use: broviate
posted by gilrain at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2013



Ooo. I like powerpontificating. It's fun to say.
posted by Jalliah at 4:20 PM on August 20, 2013


ARG! It'd either be power-pontificating (compound noun) or powerficating as the portmanteau. Neither is as good as "mansplain."
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2013


Trans people are sometimes murdered for being trans. I am not aware of a case of a trans person murdering someone because they are upset about what they said online.

Perhaps in a Brian De Palma film. That can confuse anyone, to be fair.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Again, as rtha says: If you are not demanding evidence of every askme* that the OP's mom really is nosy, their boyfriend really does flirt with other people, their boss really is disorganized, their web dev really doesn't know how to use a ticketing system, or their food really is rotten, then ask yourself why you demand the evidence in this case.

*i.e., every AskMe that you, Brandon Blatcher, read; this clarification is apparently necessary since you previously dodged the question on the basis that since no one reads literally Every Single AskMe Ever, the premise of rtha's question is therefore false.


Hey discussions go better when you don't assume the worst in others. No one is attempting to dodge anything or rules-lawyer (as you suggest below).

Whether rtha meant everyone or just me in particular, my point still stands. It doesn't make sense to ask that a person question every instance of an AskMe in order to...what, have the right to question this particular one? That makes zero sense.

Please do not rewrite my comments to fit what you think is occurring here. We can talk about this if you want, but this isn't the way to do it.

Please do not admonish me.


Then don't rewrite my comments, simple as that.

I can see what's occurring here, as can others. You are attempting to rules-lawyer and hair-split the conversation so that a meaningful conversation about sexist behavior is derailed by using the exact same tactics that are under discussion -- that is, you are insisting since you, a man, cannot see sexism in a particular instance, then a woman's assertion of experiencing sexism must necessarily be called into question. This is not mitigated by the fact that you are willing to concede that such sexist behavior might exist sometimes, somewhere, while explicitly refusing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt in this instance. All because she didn't supply you with a long enough description of her colleague's interactions with other colleagues, both male and female, in order to meet a burden of proof that you have decided she's obligated to meet before she earns the right to be taken seriously.

For the nth time, sexism is totally possible in this situation and may have occurred. The details are sparse, so to my eyes it's not definitive. Either way, it's not that important and I took the fact that she was bothered to answer her question seriously. You disagree and have said a lot of stuff about what I'm thinking or possible reasons for my beliefs and statements. You're incorrect. If you want to know reasons, ask. If you just want to fling accusations, that's your choice to make.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The details are sparse, so to my eyes it's not definitive."

To the broader point, though, there's no real evidence to contradict her interpretation in the question either, and therefor the most good faith reading is that she has accurately described her situation. You're getting pushback because it seems like you're mistaking where the burden of proof lies — the onus would be to disprove her interpretation if you don't think it was sexism, not to prove sexism against a presumption of none. It may not be definitive, but for the question, it is adequate. It is not definitive that it is not sexism, and for the question, that presumption is inadequately supported.
posted by klangklangston at 4:43 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have to admit, I don't love the word. First, it's kind of cutesy, like "man cave," a term I hope to never type again. Second, the most dedicated mansplainer I've ever known was my older brother, and he just was that way to everyone -- male or female -- so I'm not sure the behavior is directed solely at women.

on the other hand, people know what it means, it serves a useful purpose, and no one made me Master of the Lexicon. Honestly, if we're going to purge English of neologisms, could we start with something less worthy, like, perhaps "going forward?"
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could we literally throw the use of "literally" to mean "figuratively" into the sea?

I'm not going to give you advice about that noise you claim your car is making until I see solid evidence that you do, in fact, own a car.

This could be amazing.

"I'm having trouble with my girlfriend."

How can I trust that you know a girl?

"I keep inputting my Filevault security questions, but one of them is not coming up right. I have tried varying capitalization and spacing, but I can't get it to accept it. But I know this is the right answer - I have it written down. What is my next step."

Backing up your assertion that you own a Mac. That's your next step, sunshine.

"I have this unusual rash..."

If you get any good answers MeMail me. Please.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Could we literally throw the use of "literally" to mean "figuratively" into the sea?

I think we're supposed to throw it into the turnbuckle, actually.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:50 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I'm having trouble with my girlfriend."

I got 99 problems, most of them with the word "trouble."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:51 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I'm having trouble with my girlfriend."

How can I trust that you know a girl?


I think we've already been amply shown how radical skeptics have trouble seeing women.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Could we literally throw the use of "literally" to mean "figuratively" into the sea?"

I was figuratively using "literally" for ironic emphasis.
posted by klangklangston at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: "Second, the most dedicated mansplainer I've ever known was my older brother, and he just was that way to everyone -- male or female -- so I'm not sure the behavior is directed solely at women."

If that's the case, I wouldn't call him a mansplainer.
posted by brundlefly at 4:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, "mansplainer" and "crashing bore" are different things, really.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, it wasn't... boring, exactly. Just condescendingly inaccurate. Perhaps "punditing" would be closer.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2013


Mehlucidating, perhaps.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


You're getting pushback because it seems like you're mistaking where the burden of proof lies — the onus would be to disprove her interpretation if you don't think it was sexism, not to prove sexism against a presumption of none

That's sort of the problem. I don't think there needs to be a burden of proof or trial or what have you. Am surprised that noting there's nothing definitive there has sparked such an outrage and people resorting to "she used the word mansplain, isn't that enough?!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2013


You know when you've been mansplained to when two adult males have an adult discussion of X topic in front of you, an adult female, and one or both then turn to you and restate what they just said in monosyllabic words and simple sentences.

It only makes it more rich if you know more about the subject than either do.
posted by halonine at 5:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think we're supposed to throw it into the turnbuckle, actually.

Haha, I missed that thread thanks for pointing it out. CM Punk is now my favorite current wrestler, I may actually start watching wrestling again over this.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:06 PM on August 20, 2013


Anyway, this is an utter derail. My original point, that I don't like the word all that much, but I get what it means, it serves its purpose, and my only real objection is aesthetic rather than the ridiculous notion that its existence as a concept demeans men, so I think people should use it should they feel the urge. And I am modestly baffled by the stubborn rage it engenders. But that's challenged privilege for you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Second, the most dedicated mansplainer I've ever known was my older brother, and he just was that way to everyone -- male or female -- so I'm not sure the behavior is directed solely at women.

This is, I think, where a lot of people kind of trip over the point. A lot of times, I'd maybe even say most of the time, people who "mansplain" are condescending to lots of people, regardless of the gender of the person they're talking to. So, how can that be sexist?

Well, for one, these people are almost always male. They're almost always male because the culture around them rewards arrogance and brazenness in men, so affecting that posture produces a cultural bounty. The encouragement and foundation for that mode of behavior is solidly rooted in a patriarchal notion of power hierarchy.

Second, no one ever said that people do this "solely" at women and therefore that's "mansplaining". General patronization (see, we can even say "mansplain" in derived Latin, so what's the big deal with the new word?) is a behavior that occurs between men and men or women, much less frequently between women and women, and least frequently between women and men. But when it is a man speaking to a woman, this mode can take on added power, because now the patriarchal source of that behavior has located its natural element.

It is easy to say, "well, he does it to everyone, so he's an equal-opportunity offender". But that presumes a gender-blindness, for lack of a better word, that doesn't exist for the woman in question and certainly doesn't exist in the culture at large. When white people do this to me with regard to a racist or racially-charged encounter, it doesn't matter how much they think they are being race-neutral; it's impossible to be race-neutral in a white supremacist culture. Similarly, one cannot remove the patriarchal gendering of that interaction simply through some pat belief in equality. One can attempt to minimize its influence, and that should be a worthwhile goal, but no one can escape their own context, however distasteful.

Now, that isn't to say that your brother was automatically engaging in a sexist mansplaining with women; he may well have been egalitarian in his tedium without any overt gendering of power. It is, however, to say that it is extremely easy to fall into that mode, because the surrounding culture invites that pattern of interaction as a default, and it is to say that members of the majority tend not to notice the prevalence of that pattern because they are empowered by it and because it is a very comfortable default. Those without privilege in the given context are made aware of the prevalence of a very harmful pattern indeed, which is why they tend to be much, much better at identifying it early and tend not to get this wrong very often.
posted by Errant at 5:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


I don't use or hear mansplaining much, and while it bothers me slightly as we surely don't need to create new gender divisive stuff, I'm a bloke so feel I have little standing to complain against sexism. But I can understand the point of principle that says if you expect high standards wrt sexism, demonstrate them.

In my circle, there is "having a boy look" which is shorthand for glancing in the pantry or clean clothes basket then saying where is the sauce/socks, rather than finding them yourself.
I admit to taking devious pleasure in accusing my female partner/friends of having a boy look when they do it, so I can see where the appeal comes from turning tables a little.
posted by bystander at 5:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The really funny thing is if an AskMe poster had said "My supervisor keeps bitching at me, how can I make her cut it out?" I'd probably respond: "Your use of gendered language to describe her behavior suggests that you might be (perhaps unconsciously) making her feel like you have a problem with her gender, and she's reacting negatively. Before you start going after her, try examining your own behavior and make sure you're treating her with the same respect you'd treat male colleagues, and see if that changes things."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:21 PM on August 20, 2013


Why is that funny?
posted by Drinky Die at 5:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, dude. Stay down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical that you really would say anything about someone's "gendered language" if someone said their supervisor was "bitching at them". You may indeed suggest such an asker would be the source of the problem, but I really, really doubt you'd say anything at all about gender being a factor.

Not because I am in your head and know you personally - but because we've had Askmes like that and no one's brought up "you are speaking in a gendered way" at all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is easy to say, "well, he does it to everyone, so he's an equal-opportunity offender". But that presumes a gender-blindness, for lack of a better word, that doesn't exist for the woman in question and certainly doesn't exist in the culture at large.

I totally agree. My cut-off is not whether a guy does it to other men, but whether he does it to men who are higher on the professional hierarchy than he is. Does he drone on condescendingly to his male boss or the male CEO? Then I'm ok saying he's socially awkward or overbearing or boring. Does he only do it to people he thinks are lower status, including people at his same professional level with whom he's jockeying for position? Then he's using these interactions to reinforce his position over his listener, which I think fits exactly into what "mansplaining" implies.
posted by jaguar at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't use or hear mansplaining much, and while it bothers me slightly as we surely don't need to create new gender divisive stuff, I'm a bloke so feel I have little standing to complain against sexism.

It is not the naming of a thing that creates divisiveness. That existed even before a thing has a name.

Of course you can stand against sexism as a man. You suffer from its weight, as do the women in your life. It is not a gender-restricted battle.
posted by rtha at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


if your hip, new short-hand term has a large group of people as part of the term, and then you have to explain that it doesn't apply to everyone in that group, maybe it's not a useful term.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or maybe any potential misunderstanding will be reduced over time as more people are exposed to the definition by people patiently explaining it.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or, hey, maybe we should change it to "dicksplaining." Because I somehow doubt as many men would be willing to self-identify as a dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2013


Maybe a privileged class will squirm any time a mirror is held to their own unconscious habits and bad behaviors, regardless of the mirror's gilding.
posted by gilrain at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [37 favorites]


...Yes, that was flip, but seriously, cupcake, I suspect that the men who are least likely to "mansplain" would already understand that the use of the word "man" in the term doesn't necessarily mean "every one with an XY chromosome or those transitioning to the male gender identity is automatically assumed to be a perpretrator of this offense world without end Amen".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


if your hip, new short-hand term has a large group of people as part of the term, and then you have to explain that it doesn't apply to everyone in that group, maybe it's not a useful term.


Thing is it's not really new. I first came across it around 10 years ago. It was in pretty common usage as a short hand way of talking amongst female friends about the sexist stuff we all dealt with on a daily basis in our work. Male folk who sometimes joined into those convos had little problem understanding what it meant in context of the wider conversations. No doubt it's jargon.

I barely ever heard it beyond those more insular type of conversations but what was interesting was that most females had no issue understanding what it meant the first time they heard the word describing the action.

For whatever reasons, in the past few years it seems to have made the jump into more widespread and mainstream use. I expect a lot of jargon and slang starts this way.
posted by Jalliah at 5:43 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


if your hip, new short-hand term has a large group of people as part of the term

It doesn't, so we're good.
posted by rtha at 5:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not all men manhandle or manipulate, and plenty manage not to mansplain either.
posted by ambrosia at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I can't help but feel a bit skeptical that you really would say anything about someone's "gendered language" if someone said their supervisor was "bitching at them".

You're incorrect about that, but whatevs.

maybe we should change it to "dicksplaining." Because I somehow doubt as many men would be willing to self-identify as a dick.

Since we've decided that naming behavior according to insulting words for genitals is cool, perhaps "cuntsplaining"? Seems nasty to me, but you're making the rules.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:53 PM on August 20, 2013


if your hip, new short-hand term has a large group of people as part of the term

It's weird that dudes go to Burning Man. You'd think they have a better sense of self preservation.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Equal parts WOOSH and "Holy shit, dude, WTF?"
posted by zombieflanders at 5:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not all men manhandle or manipulate, and plenty manage not to mansplain either.


probably want to check your etymology round about now
posted by unSane at 5:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it my imagination, or is the strategy to relaunch the same arguments every ~100 comments, perhaps under the theory that no one will notice that they have been thoroughly answered and just go "gosh, you're right" this time? No wonder people get snide....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Okay, I don't even know anymore, I guess take the day off and think about some of this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Since we've decided that naming behavior according to insulting words for genitals is cool, perhaps "cuntsplaining"? Seems nasty to me, but you're making the rules.

If only we could come up with a different word for dicksplaining that didn't have this crass genitalia reference...the complaints about it would stop.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


perhaps "cuntsplaining"?

I'm glad cortex got to this before I did.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


It's threads like this that make me want to leave MeFi forever, fwiw.
posted by unSane at 5:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, how is it we ended up with the canard of the "humorless feminist," when objective evidence shows that it's the "defenders of masculinity" who lack any sense of proportion?

Oh, right, privilege can't stand not being taken seriously. Privilege is supposed to mean you get to make the "jokes" and insist everyone else "needs a thicker skin." Yeesh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Jesus, dude. Stay down.

Kids in the Hall?
posted by klangklangston at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


probably want to check your etymology round about now
manhandle (v.)

mid-15c., "wield a tool," also, late 15c., "to attack (an enemy)," from man (n.) + handle (v.). Nautical meaning "to move by force of men" (without levers or tackle) is attested from 1834, and is the source of the slang meaning "to handle roughly" (1865).
Story checks out.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's threads like this that make me want to leave MeFi forever, fwiw.

Please don't, thx.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:03 PM on August 20, 2013


I did some recon. "Mansplain" and "mansplaining" seem to have hit print and internet culture in a big way in 2010. We have a Feb 2010 Urban Dictionary entry to largely thank for a lot of that; the first uses of the word on MeFi (in 2010) link directly to the UD entry. I can't actually surface a specific usage in Google Books before about 2008. It appears to have started as verbal culture in small circles and blown up to the web around 2010. This essay from 2009 suggests that most readers are by then "already familiar with the term."
posted by Miko at 6:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember encountering the term in 2005 or earlier.
posted by KathrynT at 6:06 PM on August 20, 2013


It's threads like this that make me want to leave MeFi forever, fwiw


This is nothing. You should have witnessed the discussion that happen at a council I sat on about the problem of several members, including the chair who consistently talked over and/or ignored what women members said during our discussions.

This thread is like frolicing through flowered meadows in comparison.
posted by Jalliah at 6:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a mention on the site Fandom Wank from 2008. It's the first listing in the Wiktionary citations list.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


....And for context, this is the comment that precipitated it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]



Thanks Miko. That pretty much matches my un researched experience with how it developed.
posted by Jalliah at 6:10 PM on August 20, 2013


It wouldn't surprise me at all if the term had been coined by Tim Allen ca. Home Improvement's heyday. And yet here we are.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember encountering the term in 2005 or earlier.

I absolutely don't doubt it, I just can't substantiate it in print culture earlier than 2009 without a lot more work. There are a lot of colloqualisms that take a surprisingly long time to surface in print.

It almost sounds like the kind of thing a standup comedian might have come up with that stuck.
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2013


I'd have thought a thread wouldn't be enough for a person to hang himself with, no matter how long.
posted by jamjam at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or what mudpuppie said.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2013


I'd have thought a thread wouldn't be enough for a person to hang himself with, no matter how long.

Turns out if you wrap it enough times....
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd have thought a thread wouldn't be enough for a person to hang himself with, no matter how long.

Some people are not content with merely losing an argument once, evidently.
posted by scody at 6:15 PM on August 20, 2013


Privilege is supposed to mean you get to make the "jokes" and insist everyone else "needs a thicker skin." Yeesh.

I don't understand the point you are trying to make here. It is the proponents of the term mansplaining who are complaining that others are too easily offended by the term.
posted by misha at 6:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'know, it's just occurred to me - there's another "man[schmeh]" term that I actually sincerely don't understand why it's been coined, and I actually think may be a bit more damaging, because another perfectly good word already existed to convey a similar meaning - and that word is "Man cave."

"Man cave" has always set my teeth on edge, but I couldn't really put into words why. And this thread has finally crystalized the two problems I have with it -

1. "Man cave" implies that it is the only room in the house where a man can "be himself." And if you think about it, doesn't that imply that the woman is a fussy nag who won't let the man have a say in his own home, or that the man is a wimpy pushover who is yielding control of the house except for this one lone room? And doesn't it imply that the stuff that a guy would be doing in a "man cave" is stuff a woman wouldn't want to do? Like, "oh, of course a woman wouldn't want to shoot pool/play video games/lift weights/jam with guitars because that's man stuff so it goes in the man cave"? Isn't that a really gendered way of looking at things?

2. And anyway, what's wrong with the perfectly good word "den" to refer to that particular room?

The more I think about it, the more I think that "man cave" is actually worse than "Mansplaining". And yet...."mansplaining," a word that refers to a specific act, gets shunned, but "man cave," a word with even worse implications, gets bandied around all the damn time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


It's interesting that the Rebecca Solnit piece "Men Explain Things to Me" that a lot of us have referenced was published April 2008, and it never mentions the word "mansplaining."

Here's a post from 2012 on the origin, A Cultural History of Mansplaining:
According to Know Your Meme, the word first showed up online about a month after the LA Times piece, in the comments section on a LiveJournal community. Awareness increased slowly but steadily, mostly on feminist blogs, until it was suddenly all over the place: a Google trends graph of searches for the word is mostly a straight line until this past summer, when in August it appeared in a GQ political blog titled "The Mittsplainer" as well as an xoJane.com post critical of the word. There's another even larger jump in October, perhaps linked to the birth of Mansplaining Paul Ryan.
I wonder if maybe it really didn't exist before 2008ish. One reason it feels like it's always been around is ....well, it's always been around. We just didn't call it that.

In fact, here is some of my favorite 1970s mansplaining.
posted by Miko at 6:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if maybe it really didn't exist before 2008ish. One reason it feels like it's always been around is ....well, it's always been around. We just didn't call it that.


I know I used the word circa 2005ish. Don't have a clue where I heard it. I just remember having a good laugh when I did and others laughing at it when I used it to describe Mr. Xs behavior during a board meeting.
posted by Jalliah at 6:25 PM on August 20, 2013


Let's schedule the "man cave" MeTa for sometime early next week - that would be best for me.

(Seriously though yeah it is pretty gross!)
posted by Corinth at 6:25 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be great to find some earlier evidence.
posted by Miko at 6:26 PM on August 20, 2013



This was in Canada. So maybe it's sneaky Canadian thing that spread to the US.

Blame Canada!
posted by Jalliah at 6:27 PM on August 20, 2013


Men use the term man cave, it's not a term that was created by non-men (aka women) to describe them. At least when I hear it, that's how it's used. And a den is usually part of the house that anyone can use. A man cave may as well have a "NO GIRLS/KIDS ALLOWED" sign on it. But when I was growing up, that was sort of what "workshop" meant.

It's practically a marketing term nowadays. Since you can buy things for it, it's automatically designated non-offensive by some sub-demographic. Not that I disagree about the weird genderedness of it.

I think that whole designation originates from the idea of mens/women's spheres, something Miko and I were talking about at the last meetup. Post-industrial society meant that men were working outside the home and so the home became sort of by default the sphere of women. i haven't read anything about this in a while, so my memory is hazy and maybe Miko can jump in. So men would have to carve out a place in the home that was outside of this sphere.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the point you are trying to make here. It is the proponents of the term mansplaining who are complaining that others are too easily offended by the term.

To go back to the dichotomy that has come up a lot in this thread, people want to compare the use of the word to the use of the word "bitch" in various forms. I think it's fair to say people don't need to have the same level of skin depth in regards to gendered slurs as they do to words that are more neutral in historical use and tone.

I think a guy is being too thin skinned if they feel words that criticize potential sexist behavior are as offensive to them as potentially serious slurs. Asking that an equivalence be noted between the two things just hits it home. If this was "Dick" v. "C-word" or whatever it would be a more complicated topic, but with mansplain I just can't see room for much debate.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Men use the term man cave, it's not a term that was created by non-men (aka women) to describe them.

Nah, I know - it just strikes me as even worse somehow nevertheless. And it actually always struck me as something that the people on Trading Spaces or one of those housing design reality shows came up with during a production meeting rather than an organically occurring Thing.

The context of the discussion here just prompted some tangential pondering on the word.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 PM on August 20, 2013


Yeah, that is a great connection you make between the development of separate spheres and the "man cave" concept, Jessamyn - I wouldn't have thought of it, but I totally agree that is part of what's going on. SUpporting that idea, you see how in the classic 20th century "ideal house" what's depicted as the man's world is the garage, the BBQ patio, the shed, the yard, the basement, not the living spaces which are almost by default gendered female. Except for maybe the one recliner chair with the ashtray by it.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting thoughts, Jessamyn. Growing up Dad had his workshop and although we weren't kept out of it, we knew it was Dad's space. My Mom had her sewing room. We had our rooms and everywhere else was shared space. It was pretty typical for my friends father's to have their workshops as well.

I wonder if the whole 'man cave' idea evolved out of the household workshop space idea as more households and men became less likely to have places where they fixed and built things. My Dad's workshop was the fixing place as well as where he did model train and plane stuff. Also over the years, 'workshops' may be becoming less gendered. My house has a workshop but it is most definitely a shared space. Not like it was when I was growing up.
posted by Jalliah at 6:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


everywhere else was shared space

But I think it's interesting to think about how "shared" it was. Using my house growing up as an example, my dad had a basement workshop. My mom had her desk stuck in a corner of the dining room. Beyond that, we could call it all "shared space." And yet, my mom had less of her own dedicated space. At the same time, it was mostly her sense of aesthetics and decorum that governed how we kept the house - how it was decorated, what we could/couldn't do in certain rooms and when, how often we needed to pick up, what "clean" meant, etc. My dad was certainly involved and interested in decisions about how it was arranged, what art to hang, etc., but in one sense this space was shared but in another sense my mom was probably more empowered in determining the appearance and condition of all the "shared" space than anyone else was.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on August 20, 2013


Just on the actual phrase, it looks like "man cave" may have gotten a big pop culture boost with John Gray's Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus; that was early nineties, so that may have been the thing to really bake the phrase into the cultural/marketing substrate. Although I feel like it was more like the last decade or so that it really started being this inescapable reference.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:48 PM on August 20, 2013


Huh. Good food for thought, y'all.

Still, though, it still feels that "man cave" falls short of the "workshop", because the idea of a "man cave" seems to be more...immature? You know, some manly bullshittin' around may have happened in a workshop, but it feels more like it was....grown-up manly bullshittin'. Tinkering with tools and building things. Whereas the "man cave" feels more like...overgrown boys' stuff. You could actually produce something in a workshop, whereas a mancave is more openly and nakedly a Peter Pan room.

Which may be good or bad; I don't know. I still think it smacks of a marketing decision, but am rapidly coming to the conclusion that that's just a thing with me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is starting to be a really interesting conversation. Thank you for that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I mentioned above, I'm handy and can fix things. Our garage houses our washer and dryer, a shitload of boxes of papers that my partner won't throw away, and all my tools and half-finished projects. I spend time out there when the weather doesn't make it unbearable.

My partner (also a gay woman, to my good fortune) refers to it as my Man Cave.

I'm okay with that, despite the erroneous "man" in there, because it comes closest to describing how the garage fits into my day and my psyche.

If my calling it that ever became offensive to an underrepresented or historically oppressed group, I'd find another term for it. I'm okay with facetiously calling it my Man Cave though, and risking the wrath of Man Power.

(Unless I'm at a meetup with Miko and Jessamyn, in which case I would certainly struggle to come up with a more erudite way to describe the hovel to which I retreat after work.)

This is starting to be a really interesting conversation. Thank you for that.

On preview, seconded.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You looking for the word "manchild" EC? ;)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2013


The more I think about it, the more I think that "man cave" is actually worse than "Mansplaining". And yet...."mansplaining," a word that refers to a specific act, gets shunned, but "man cave," a word with even worse implications, gets bandied around all the damn time.

I hate the term "man cave", but I especially hate any man who refers to his little hobby or relaxation area as a "man cave". You're not inventing a new kind of ultra-strong iron in there just so you can learn to bend it, it's where you keep your fuckin' Xbox with nothing but Madden and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and you watch football games with your "mates" and there's some kind of framed, signed sport jersey on the wall and a Baywatch poster and a trophy from that one time you did a thing, and your bullshit rum bottle collection, and a fridge with nothing but light beers in it, and it smells like bad dick and I hope you fucking die in there after your wife leaves you for somebody more interesting.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


the garage, the BBQ patio, the shed, the yard, the basement

ADD FIFTY CATS AND THAT IS MY MAN DREAM HOME
posted by Greg Nog at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


If my calling it that ever became offensive to an underrepresented or historically oppressed group, I'd find another term for it. I'm okay with facetiously calling it my Man Cave though, and risking the wrath of Man Power.

Heh; I just thought it ironic when it came to which term the Professionally Indignant faction took umbrage with. Also I regret the fact that the word "den" is going endangered now because I always thought it was such a cool word when I was a kid.

...Yes, I have indeed always been a little strange.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2013


i don't like the term man cave either.

while the term may have been around for a while, it's only recently gotten more widely known. or, at least that's what this google trends graph says to me.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2013


The workshop discussion is interesting -- and one I was just having with a friend a few weeks ago about domestic space. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, all the men in my family (grandfathers, dad, uncles) had some sort of workshop. Now, for some of them this was due in part to the nature of their work (paternal grandfather was a sign maker; maternal grandfather was a cabinetmaker; dad is an artist and makes his own frames, and also used to make signs), but I also think that some of this came out of a typical postwar DIY practice for millions of men. In fact, it may go back even before WWII; I'm reminded of all the "Build Your Own Radio Receiver!!" ads in magazines back in the '20s and '30s I used to see while I was doing research on radio history in grad school.

Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying that whenever I walk past the carpenters shop at the museum where I work and smell that gorgeous scent of sawdust, I get more nostalgic than I can ever explain.
posted by scody at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Still, though, it still feels that "man cave" falls short of the "workshop", because the idea of a "man cave" seems to be more...immature? You know, some manly bullshittin' around may have happened in a workshop, but it feels more like it was....grown-up manly bullshittin'. Tinkering with tools and building things.

Workshops are anti-consumer. You're fixing things that should be thrown away and replaced! Or building things you should have bought! Or tinkering when you should be out shopping!

Man caves are all about buying shit. Big-screen tvs! Gaming consoles! Video games! Manly overstuffed leather furniture!

So I'm guessing that advertisers and sponsors are gonna be way happier with shows, magazines, etc. pushing red-blooded manly men man caves over hippie-commie workshops.
posted by jaguar at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


Manhood is not defined by ability to build things. People in relationships should have spaces to do their own things in ways that may not work as well in the shared space. Most men don't build things for hobbies as much anymore, they have other pursuits. The space for those pursuits has a jokey name that may suggest problematic gender essentialism, but there isn't much reason to judge manhood based on perceived maturity level of hobby choice.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]



Now that I think about it my house was similar (Miko's comment), beyond my Mom's sewing room. My Mom pretty much ruled what came in and out and how it was kept.

In my current house the aesthetic part falls mostly to me. Not that I don't want my husbands input, just that he's less interested beyond talking about what he likes and doesn't like. The cleaning aspect is pretty much him though. He's much more neat and tidy then I am. lol

We still have a spot set aside just for him though. This was my doing as I felt the rest of the house was full of my stuff. I have lots of hobbies and just generally way more crap. The whole thing is one big Jalli Cave. We just call it his office.
posted by Jalliah at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2013


Clearly the man cave should be the manhole...
posted by jferg at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Den" is a great name.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ADD FIFTY CATS AND THAT IS MY MAN DREAM HOME

also a deep fryer and a bouncy castle
posted by elizardbits at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


And now I have the theme song to "2 1/2 Men" stuck in my head, but with "den" instead of "men."
posted by jaguar at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Workshops are anti-consumer. You're fixing things that should be thrown away and replaced! Or building things you should have bought! Or tinkering when you should be out shopping!

Man caves are all about buying shit. Big-screen tvs! Gaming consoles! Video games! Manly overstuffed leather furniture!


This is a great observation.
posted by scody at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really I'm hoping that the aging-up of the D&D generation will lead to more folks who just say they have e.g. a Lair.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 PM on August 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Most men don't build things for hobbies as much anymore, they have other pursuits. The space for those pursuits has a jokey name that may suggest problematic gender essentialism, but there isn't much reason to judge manhood based on perceived maturity level of hobby choice.

Well, then, if we give "man cave" a pass because "there isn't much reason to judge manhood based on perceived maturity level of hobby choice," why do we take umbrage with "mansplaining" since it also doesn't give reason to judge manhood in toto based on an unfortunate habit held by a subset of individuals?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Workshops are anti-consumer. You're fixing things that should be thrown away and replaced! Or building things you should have bought! Or tinkering when you should be out shopping!

Man caves are all about buying shit. Big-screen tvs! Gaming consoles! Video games! Manly overstuffed leather furniture!


Whoa. That. Wow. :)

"Den" is a great name.

See, in my house, the 'den' was what other people would call the living room or the family room. It was the big room with the couch and love seat where we kept the biggest TV in the house. A small, token bookshelf, yes, but mostly it was about the TV and the wet bar.

My parents still live in the house I grew up in, and that room is still called the den. And my dad's shop is still the shop. And my mom's sewing room used to be my brother's bedroom.

And so it goes, I guess?
posted by mudpuppie at 7:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man caves are all about buying shit. Big-screen tvs! Gaming consoles! Video games! Manly overstuffed leather furniture!

I guess if my husband was really interested in all that sorts of stuff he scored when marrying me. I'm the one who has all the gaming stuff, bought the surround sound speakers, the big screen and the leather couch. I'm the one who would put a small fridge in the living room for drinks and snacks if I could.

I see the 'man cave' stuff on TV and I'm all over it.
posted by Jalliah at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never realized how many of our words for domestic spaces make us sound like we are members of the Clan of the Cave Bear.

As somebody who has an unhealthy interest in cavemen, I approve.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:02 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, then, if we give "man cave" a pass because "there isn't much reason to judge manhood based on perceived maturity level of hobby choice," why do we take umbrage with "mansplaining" since it also doesn't give reason to judge manhood in toto based on an unfortunate habit held by a subset of individuals?

I don't give man cave a pass on the gender essentialist language. I am criticizing the idea that a modern man pursuing a gaming hobby is in some way less manly than one pursuing woodworking.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just want to say that decathecting's comment is the best explanation of mansplaining I have ever seen, I flagged it as fantastic and I think it should be sidebarred.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2013


Jalliah, those are just poor, cheap substitutes meant to hide the deep, draining emptiness that you feel every time you realize you're genetically unable to mansplain.

It's a cry for help, really . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am criticizing the idea that a modern man pursuing a gaming hobby is in some way less manly than one perusing woodworking.

Can we agree that it's at least less productive? And if not, can we get some Ron Swanson in the house?
posted by mudpuppie at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2013



Actually....

Right now my husband is away and will be for several more months. I moved my computer to the coffee table after readjusting my couch so I can sit on it while computing and see the big screen. It's sitting in the middle of the room. Everything I use is now in arm's reach.

I think it's going to suck when he comes home and I have to disassemble my living room lair. It's so perfect right now!
posted by Jalliah at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "Could we literally throw the use of "literally" to mean "figuratively" into the sea?"

Totes!
posted by Big_B at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2013


Can we agree that it's at least less productive? And if not, can we get some Ron Swanson in the house?

Eh, productivity is one aspect of home life discussion but not the only one. My Pop was a master woodworker and would of course build furniture and fix stuff but most of what he did was art. Is art productive? Depends how you define it, but it's good for the soul. Gaming can have positive impacts on life in the right situation with the right friends and there can be some brilliant moments you remember forever. Productivity doesn't define a man or woman.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most men don't build things for hobbies as much anymore, they have other pursuits.

So, it's also kind of interesting to see the rise in maker spaces and the like, which are social, shared, out-of-the-house versions of the Popular Mechanics/DIY workshop. So either we no longer see this as appropriate stuff for home, or we want to be more social about it, or we just want many more and fancier toys than we can individually afford. And they're slightly less gendered probably - slightly - than the workshop was. I don't feel out of place in a maker space; my presence in my dad's or grandfather's workshop on the other hand was by special invitation.
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Every kid was welcome in Pop's workshop. All of us boy and girl were welcome to come learn and build stuff. And breathe in massive amounts of second hand cig smoke. At least most mancaves I've encountered lately require you to go outside. :P )
posted by Drinky Die at 7:15 PM on August 20, 2013


i am posting from inside a pillow fort
posted by elizardbits at 7:15 PM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, productivity is a funny thing. I mean, I've spent a lot of time painting my house. It's good old-fashioned DIY home-improvement work, it's physical, I'm doing a thing to my house with my hands, applying a skillset I acquired from my dad when I had to help him paint our house as a kid. But about the only thing I've gotten out of it is the time spent listening to albums and podcasts and I guess a little bit of muscle tone and a little bit of tendonitis.

Compare that to sitting around at a computer screenshotting Next Generation and photoshopping little heads into squares and making up fake dialogue and posting it all on a website a few times a week. It's seriously the least like anything I've ever seen someone do in a workshop, but I get a hell of a lot more satisfaction out of putting it together, I feel like I got a lot more done than taking off old paint and then putting new paint back on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I assumed that "man cave" was a backformation from "caveman", and it's where dudes go to regress and act like Fred Flintstone (because I also assume we're talking about stereotypical cavemen, not actual people who live or lived in caves). Since Fred was basically living the middle-class suburban white male early 1960s lifestyle, it's just another repackaging of that particular nostalgia trip plus primitivism.
posted by gingerest at 7:18 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"No, but if you had said "The volleyball team smells like a bunch of men! Yech!" that would be more problematic."

When I was still in college I had this friend who'd graduated a few years before and had this super high powered Wall St. finance job with an all-male office. He proudly took me to his office once after-hours to show it off, and that office smelled like men like nothing else I have ever smelled, even when I worked at a gym and had to clean the men's locker room. The smell of it was overpowering, it was crazy, it was definitely the smell of men. So uh, yeah I'm not sure where I was going with that, but something can definitely smell like a bunch of men.
posted by cairdeas at 7:28 PM on August 20, 2013


I would like to call it the brohole please.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for house space, my mom has a darkroom, and my dad has an office now, but growing up he never really had a dedicated space. The basement has always kinda been studio space as long as I can remember, and my dad's big hobbies are reading, playing with computers and watching TV, all of which could be accomplished in common areas.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on August 20, 2013


I hate the term "man cave", but I especially hate any man who refers to his little hobby or relaxation area as a "man cave". You're not inventing a new kind of ultra-strong iron in there just so you can learn to bend it, it's where you keep your fuckin' Xbox with nothing but Madden and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and you watch football games with your "mates" and there's some kind of framed, signed sport jersey on the wall and a Baywatch poster and a trophy from that one time you did a thing, and your bullshit rum bottle collection, and a fridge with nothing but light beers in it, and it smells like bad dick and I hope you fucking die in there after your wife leaves you for somebody more interesting.

Wow, what a hateful comment. Talk about your stereotyping! Sexist much?

What's wrong with wanting some personal space of your own? Some of us are introverts, you know. And where is it written that you have to be productive at all times to be considered mature? And what's wrong with watching football with your mates or even having signed sports jerseys if want to? I have signed books and I think they are awesome.

I have no clue what "bad dick" smells like, either. Is it anything like spotted dick? Because yeah, that stuff is nasty.

Back on topic: My son has a mancave, though he doesn't call it that. It fits, though, because it is dark and secluded like a cave. It is, in fact, where he keeps his Xbox, and also his laptop (he's on Steam a lot these days). Now that he lives in another city, it is no longer in our house, though. That room does not define him, exactly, but it is definitely HIS space.

In his case, he has a vision issue that necessitates his mancave. His eyes are so lightly pigmented that bright light bothers him and can actually cause him pain in the form of really bad migraines when he is overexposed to it. He wears sunglasses, naturally, outside, and sometimes even in brightly lit fluorescent rooms (I had to make sure his school understood this when he was younger so they wouldn't assume he was being disrespectful by wearing his sunglasses inside).

Now me, I am the opposite of my son. I get depressed, with a capital D, and darkness is double plus ungood for my mood. My recent Lupus stuff really hit me hard, because even though sunlight wears me down physically, it does wonders for uplifting my mood, and avoiding the sun is not something I like to do.

My son's dark little cave would depress the hell out me. So it is not like I am a fan of his mancave. But I certainly don't feel the need to belittle him his personal space. Jesus. What the hell is that all about?
posted by misha at 7:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I assumed that "man cave" was a backformation from "caveman", and it's where dudes go to regress and act like Fred Flintstone (because I also assume we're talking about stereotypical cavemen, not actual people who live or lived in caves).

An, but Dick Clark literally has a Flintstone house. And it is for sale!
posted by misha at 7:52 PM on August 20, 2013


So, I just realized that we use "man cave" as an omnigendered descriptor in our house. My wife's crafting niche is her "man cave", as is my little nook of bookshelves.

We also tend to refer to the kind of television-watching NO GIRLS ALOUD football rooms of others as "boy caves", because they are immature and not as carefully awesomized as our full-grown MAN CAVES.

In summary, clearly The Cave is a male artifact in our household, which must be nurtured into full adulthood, at which point it is a Man Cave.

However, Caves may have inside them anything that rewards obsession, which in my wife's case is a fairly horrifying collection of Twilight paraphenalia along with her engineering texts, a working 1954 Singer sewing machine that she hand-rebuilt, and a gradually growing set of high-quality hand tools.

I should probably point out at this point that my wife works in construction, so, in our house, dump trucks and front-end loaders and cranes and similar are all considered girl things that MAY be played with by boys if they ask nicely.

We also had an embarrassing conversation at one point in which I shamefacedly asked her to please stop fixing everything because, despite being an evolved man and a diehard opponent of the patriarchy, despite overthinking on my part of plates full of beans, and despite my best efforts, it still mattered to me that I could, you know, fix things like a dude is supposed to.

I am not proud of that moment, but it was at least honest.

To her infinite credit, she heard me out, and now we occasionally have moments where she deliberately steps back and lets me bash on the plumbing and make grunting noises and show off my MANLY SKILLS with a pipe wrench. Then she pats me on the shoulder and says "aren't you HANDY, I could NEVER have done that" even though we both know that's a flagrant lie, and I get a discreditable little glow around my heart because MANLY.
posted by scrump at 7:53 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


....Misha, I don't think that anyone is slamming the notion of people having personal spaces, only the terms we use for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Scrump, drive up here and play in my female-ish man cave any time. I'm sure we could learn a shit ton from each other.

And boo-yah, that's the way it ought to be.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:01 PM on August 20, 2013


DOES IT HAVE CATS
posted by scrump at 8:04 PM on August 20, 2013


Two of them, with varying degrees of tool-prowess.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:07 PM on August 20, 2013


Purrrrrrr-owess?

Sorry.
posted by jaguar at 8:10 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I typically use my man cave for watching NFL Whiparound Coverage, polishing my throwing axes, shakuhachi practice, reading fantasy fiction, day-glo body painting with my buddies, and sometimes if I'm by myself I try on fishnet stockings and twerk to Dead or Alive or KMFDM. So yeah, even though the woman I love is always welcome to share time with me there, as it's quite cozy and we both find it really comfortable, I totally agree, "man cave" is a good way to describe it.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My cave is not very cave-like, being outdoors. But that's where the smoker and the grill are, so...Outdoor cave.
posted by rtha at 8:14 PM on August 20, 2013


Wow, what a hateful comment. Talk about your stereotyping! Sexist much?

I don't begrudge people having their own special space for things, but what I do begrudge is people who enjoy things that I don't, and that when people who enjoy the same things I enjoy enjoy them the wrong way. Schmucks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:16 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd love a cave. We actually have an unfinished attic floor above us, and I'd love to set up a cave space there for art and woodworking projects and sewing and making things. It's a little cold in winter/hot in summer, but it would be decent. My last apartment actually had an unfinished room like that with a perfect workbench in it, but I never really made use of it. Part of the fantasy of having a workspace is the fantasy of having loads of time for making stuff.
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that's where the smoker and the grill are, so...Outdoor cave.

I know MetaTalk recipe derails are verboten, but I would appreciate smoker recipes. If there's any way to make this happen....

Part of the fantasy of having a workspace is the fantasy of having loads of time for making stuff.

And part of the reality is never actually finishing anything. :( :( :(
posted by mudpuppie at 8:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Step into my man-cavern. These are my man-stalactites. Roll a spot check to detect traps. Ha ha ha, just kidding, get out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Still, though, it still feels that 'man cave' falls short of the 'workshop', because the idea of a 'man cave' seems to be more...immature?"

Yeah, I think that's a big part of it.

I mean, I'm deeply uncomfortable (and I mean that literally — I get an unpleasant sensation and wiggle in my chair) with these gender essentialist ideas about men and women and, especially, how men and women relate to each other. I've said this before in other contexts, but it applies here, too, with this women as masters of the house, or the sewing room, or the kitchen, and men with workshops or "mancaves". I feel very alienated from our culture's gender roles and defined separate spheres of influence — I've never really considered myself anything other than cisgendered, and I think that in most respects I'm pretty cisgendered, but lately I've been thinking about what "genderqueer" means.

Anyway, I have trouble with the whole core assumption implicit in these ideas of separate spheres of household influence that are based upon gender roles.

But in addition to that, mancave makes me feel icky because it reinforces several different things at once, each of which I find very toxic. For one, it's this larger phenomenon in our culture right now where men are regressing into perpetual adolescents (or, more accurately, there's a sort of cultural yearning by men to return to adolescence) while feeling resentful of women being responsible "fun-killing" adults, in conjunction with women not being allowed to be "adolescent" and not-so-responsible as adults but rather the role model is the women who is somehow a successful professional and a super-mom and basically self-actualized. There's something really messed-up with this, it's something I've been preoccupied with for years now, and it's the theme of all these stupid comedies.

Secondly, though, it implicitly asserts that women cannot be interested in any of the things that men typically "do" in their "mancaves". Which one-part nerdy things like video games, and one-part sex (like porn or, hell, masturbation), and one-part prized techy gizmo possessions, and one-part nerdy collector things like albums or whatever. Most of the women I've known, especially those I've been involved with, have had most or all of these things as interests. Really, I've had rooms that were just like mancaves, but me and my female partner spent a lot of time in together.

And there was a third point that I managed to forget while I was typing.

Finally, I want to make a special effort to praise prefpara. In a thread with some outstandingly good comments (and I would like to call attention to each one, or at least each person, but there's so many), prefpara's comments have been particularly good. Really, really good.

It's been touched on only a few times in the thread, but I think that there's an underlying issue in this that is very important, and that's whether mansplaining means to some people something that isn't dependent upon a gendered context, and whether that usage is a good or a bad thing. I fall into "bad thing" camp — I think the term has a specific meaning for a specific male-female interaction, and, further, it shouldn't be applied to "that sort" of behavior in male-male or other contexts. But I think that implicit in, for example, Brandon Blatcher's argument is the possibility that the AskMe poster was using the term more broadly, and not intending to describe a specific sexist interaction. I disagree with this position, but I think it's worth nothing that although it's clearly a tiny minority's viewpoint, there's been at least one or two commenters in this thread who think of mansplaining as something more broad.

I do think that Errant makes a really good point that this sort of general condescension, when done by men, is a behavior that exists (with regard to its acceptability and such) within the context of sexism and sexist gender roles, so that in some sense it's true that this sort of general condescension is a kind of mansplaining when men do it to other men. But, well, I think it's better that we not use the word in those contexts because then it undercuts the arguments that we use to explain how the male-female thing really does happen and that it's a problem. There's nothing the people on the other side of this debate would like better than for us to break mansplaining out of a specific male-female interaction.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Part of the fantasy of having a workspace is the fantasy of having loads of time for making stuff.

This is so, so true.
posted by ambrosia at 8:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyway, I have trouble with the whole core assumption implicit in these ideas of separate spheres of household influence that are based upon gender roles.

Listen, I'm not endorsing or prescribing this assumption. The talk here references the scholarly discussion about what has existed. How that persists, or doesn't, today, is interesting and fine to talk about, but don't mistake that for people thinking that these are great, usable, and normal ways to be today. But even if they're not, that doesn't make centuries of semiotics of domesticity evaporate.
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know MetaTalk recipe derails are verboten

Memail me, if this thread doesn't go into recipeland otherwise. I got good answers here, and Greg Ace - who is the reason I got the smoker, because I was at a meetup at his house and he has one and I was all WANT. NOW. - has been an inspiration and resource as well. Oh, and? The show BBQ Pitmasters. Not so much for their competition-specific recipes (relying on a lot of injecting of marinades) but for temp, time, technique, and wood recommendations and ideas.
posted by rtha at 8:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find the term mancave even grosser than the term mansplain largely for the reason Ivan mentioned about gender essentialism. I at least find that mansplain is more, well, useful, since it describes a phenomenon that doesn't lend itself very well to another term. Mancave=den as far as I'm concerned.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2013


"Listen, I'm not endorsing or prescribing this assumption."

Oh, I didn't think you were. I actually didn't really think about this with regard to anyone in the thread. I was expressing my discomfort generally, in the sense of "living in this culture". Maybe in a little while I would have gotten around to wondering if anyone here was endorsing this view, but I certainly hadn't, and still have not.

But I'll say that I sort of feel like ... well, I don't know how to express this. I guess the way I want to describe this, which is problematic and I'll apologize for it after, is that about some of these gender assumptions and gender relations, I have always sort of felt like I think that people with autism feel about social interactions and expectations of the non-AS world. Or even that I sometimes wonder if I'm AS because I feel so mystified by this. Because it seems like even other people, like mefites here who are feminist/anti-sexist and not really conforming to traditional gender roles still accepts some of these things, but even if that's not the case, they seem to be far more aware of them, like I am aware of a certain kind of conservatism because I grew up with it, even though I'm not a conservative. A lot of these gender things for me I don't even understand that way, I'm 48 and I still have moments where I'll witness some interaction, or watch a movie that's built around some assumptions, or whatever and I'll think, I don't understand that at all. But unless I'm AS and don't know, I obviously can't understand what it means to be autistic and so I oughtn't presume to use that as an analogy. But it's the best I can come up with. And it's honestly how I've often thought about it.

I mean, bottom line and I've written this before but I really, really mean it, as a man, I don't think of women as being any more different from me than anyone else — which is to say, I accept that there are experiences that I have never had and therefore a view about being in the world that I can't really know, but I assume that about all sorts of people. I get as far as I can with seeing things through their eyes as best I can while assuming a fundamental kinship with each given person, to greater or lesser success. So I guess what I'm really saying, is that despite all the things that I readily recognize as being very different life experiences that women have that I have not had, I still mostly don't think of women as "other" relative to people that I feel have had very big differences from me, such as people in very different cultures or different times or whatever. But it just feels like a whole bunch of people in our culture, the majority, really fundamentally "others" the opposite gender. I feel really alienated from that. To me, the people who think this way are alien and "other".

That all may be entirely irrelevant to this thread and this sub-discussion of mancaves. I've just been thinking about my own gender lately — maybe I feel as alienated as I do because I'm not cisgendered. But I'm so egotistical, I always just thought that "male" was how I felt and everybody else were playing at some exaggerated and weirdly restricted thing that was some stupid modification of "male". Except that in the last five years, and especially the last year, it suddenly occurred to me that in works of art, from music to narrative fiction, I always prefer female artists and protagonists and actually identify more readily with female protagonists. It just now occured to me to wonder about that. I mostly had just thought that, as I just wrote above, it was because male roles have all this baggage attached that I don't like and can't really relate to and that female characters just seem like more well-rounded people to me. And I also sort of always thought that I don't really like certain things about men because my dad was an abusive asshole and I sort of project that onto men generally. I don't know. I'm kind of confused about all this lately. But I know that "mancave" gives me hives.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich: Precisely as you say, and I'd actually go further and say that the heterosocial interaction is not the same as the homosocial one, such that "mansplaining" is genuinely different from rote patronization. Men are largely engaged in hierarchical battles great and small, while the naturally sexist tendency is an assertion of dominance over the "weaker sex".

Think about all of the ensembles where a "weakest", "runt" kind of man is part of the cadre -- The Seven Samurai / Magnificent Seven, Red Dawn, Major League, to name a few movies. In all cases, the runt is accepted when he a) understands and exalts his lowest place in the pyramid, and b) manages once to act above his station, usually dying in the process. In most of those cases, even the runt has a higher status and degree of expertise than any woman present. In every event, it is very, very difficult to imagine that runt role being played by a woman in an otherwise unchanged cast, and that is because we culturally come to accept that the best woman is at best on par with the worst man.

A woman couldn't play that role, because a woman would have to be twice as good to be accepted in the first place, and even then they would exist on a parallel plane and not really in competition with the men on the same ladder. There is a current trend towards showing "strong" women in ensemble pieces, which is good, but those women still aren't people with flaws or an arc.

What does that have to do with mansplaining? If the best that a woman can ever be is parallel and begrudgingly accepted, always as an exception to the general rule of what women are like, it's very hard not to hear the message that women at their best are inferior in any way that matters to a man in question. Why wouldn't you then take every opportunity to demonstrate your most rudimentary knowledges on up? At best, you're helping a person overcome the nearly-intractable handicap of their gendered birth; at worst, you're reminding the best of women of their place, below the lowest of men.
posted by Errant at 8:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, I don't really consider men and women very fundamentally different at all, either. Most of the frustration I have with stuff like this is that there is a structure in place in which various people perceive and act on an imagined difference, and to some degree some people accept and embody and perform those varying differences either as unconscious or conscious choices - and as a result at moments like the one in the OP's post we suffer for it, when the differences aren't (all?) really there, or if they are, they're at last partly manufactured through social processes.

I'm aware of the assumptions maybe more than some others because they rankle and seem idiotic and poorly founded, and yet I/we've had to suck them up. Also, until recently, the idea of making choices about this stuff wasn't all that viable.

I mean, looking at mansplaining: it's infuriating because someone is implying that a kind of difference exists between you that doesn't exist. Often the reality about the knowledge or experience gap is exactly the opposite of what they think.
posted by Miko at 8:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Workshops are anti-consumer. You're fixing things that should be thrown away and replaced! Or building things you should have bought! Or tinkering when you should be out shopping!

Man caves are all about buying shit..."


You have captured exactly why I look at distaste my brother-in-laws neat cave with TV, stereo, fridge (in the shape of a beer can) and the trail bikes and gear stored in it, while I feel so warmly to the little messy corner with my tools and workbench. This feeling even persists when the fact is he is much more talented with his hands, is a professional tradesman, and I sit at a computer all day.
posted by bystander at 8:59 PM on August 20, 2013


Any interior design has some elements of buying shit to make the room pleasant.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:02 PM on August 20, 2013


(Pop's lathes were expensive as hell, much more expensive than Nana's TV. When he bought a new one he donated them to schools because they couldn't afford them)
posted by Drinky Die at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ivan F: Some people are not giant fans of "cis" and "trans" terminology because it upholds the notion that gender is binary. Even though I reject both gender essentialism and binary gender, having been raised (like almost everyone else) steeped in the cultural tradition of explicitly dichotomous gender, I am profoundly confused about the alternatives. I don't know what being a woman means, if I reject the trappings and constraints of femininity and the whole mother-vagina-generative-principle thing. I really only know how to be me, not how to be female.

In some ways, it's easier to go along with what society says a woman (or man) should be than it is to try to figure it out empirically. Lucky for me, society keeps me motivated by being systematically and inescapably shitty to women.
posted by gingerest at 9:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


If trans* rights is, politically, (and, I stress, politically, not personally or biologically or psychologically, because all of the latter are much too nuanced to be covered by my ignorant ass), the idea that people are the gender they say that they are, then while I find it academically useful to describe cis- and trans-, I end up mentally excising those prefixes as regards people. A person who says that she is a woman is a woman. A person who says that he is a man is a man. I admit to some mental difficulty with the intersex/genderqueer people, because I just have a really hard time understanding what's happening there, and that's almost certainly some enslavement to the gender binary button, but my shortcut is to say that people are who they say they are.

Which, to bring it back on topic, is why mansplaining is so insidious in its effect, because the entire purpose is to say that women are not who they say they are and do not know what they say they know; they aren't to be trusted. It is the same philosophy that produces an increasing fear of the vanishingly rare false rape accusation and the enabling of domestic abuse time and time again. People are who they say they are; the things they say happened to them, happened to them. Sure, you'll run into the very occasional liar, but even that person has a story that is true and of which you don't know.

Without some faith in the person qua person across from you, the only story you'll hear is your increasingly stale autobiography. That's part of why mansplaining sucks: it is an arbitrary and unnecessary refusal of personhood.
posted by Errant at 9:23 PM on August 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I resent that kitchens are considered women-only because I believe buttermilk pancakes is an inalienable human right.

I also resent that caves are considered man-only because who DOESN'T want a space dedicated to the hedonistic pursuit of comfort? It doesn't have to be a cave, it can be a backpack full of books and a tree in the sunlight. SAME THING PEOPLE. Actually, if I could make Skyrim function outside in a sunny tree-like environment I would pick that over resting my broken computer against a wall indoors 8 out of 10 times, but I digress. The point is, feeling good is awesome. Too much of a good thing and so on, but I find it really weird that some people would think women wouldn't want a Total Relaxation Zone the way that men do.

Though as we know, relaxation alone is not enough. That is why buttermilk pancakes exist, to provide us with some semblance of routine, effort, and mastery so that we may then lapse back into our state of contented comadom.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:30 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope the phrase "trans" goes away one day because the notion that people are capable of changing their bodies to match their internal genders becomes super commonplace. Same way I feel about terms regarding various modes of sexuality. I generally only like kissing women, but there are a myriad of reasons I don't feel perfectly comfortable referring to myself as straight. It suggests a rigidity that simply doesn't exist.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:32 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


some men find the terminology hurtful. I acknowledge that.

Most of the time though, those men turn out to be repeat mansplain offenders themselves, so if the shoe fits.

Ordinary blokes might be offended the first time they encounter it, but that's partially because all of us will have that little wince of "I don't do that, do I? Christ, I do." If we're honest.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


resent that kitchens are considered women-only because I believe buttermilk pancakes is an inalienable human right.

I also resent that caves are considered man-only because who DOESN'T want a space dedicated to the hedonistic pursuit of comfort?


That's a paradox because by that definition the kitchen is my mancave.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:38 PM on August 20, 2013


(I should probably clarify that I identify as a cis woman, because to do otherwise is appropriative of the genuine struggle and oppression of people who have to cope with the permanent sensation that their socially assigned genders and even their bodies don't match their gender identities. My gender confusion is that my sense of identity as a whole doesn't match the gender options that seem to be available. Mostly I try not to think about it, which again is a social privilege.)

Anyway. Man-caves! If they're about marketing, of course they're about buying shit. That fits in nicely with my Fred Flintstone idea - if it's about that mid-century suburban middle-class white man nostalgia, you have only to look at Mad Men to see the connection to consumerism.
posted by gingerest at 10:03 PM on August 20, 2013


My man cave is a cave that I drag men into by their long, flowing, Fabio locks.

Am I doing it right?
posted by Kerasia at 10:08 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I also resent that caves are considered man-only because who DOESN'T want a space dedicated to the hedonistic pursuit of comfort?"

But it's striking, isn't it, that women really aren't allowed to want this?

I'm not totally with you on the "hedonistic pursuit of comfort", but I do think that the essential difference between the "workshop" and the "mancave" is self-indulgence. It's an allowed self-indulgence.

Sure, the workshop in the past and the two beers with the fellas at the bar after work or whatever were implicitly places marked out for male self-indulgence, but it was implicit, that was the subtext and it had a slight stigma attached to it insofar as it was self-indulgence and not — as made explicit in previous comments — "constructive" or "productive". The thing about the mancave is that it's explicitly a place for men to be self-indulgent.

Culturally we're at this weird place now where men are demanding/expecting, and our culture is endorsing, a space in the home that is set aside for men to act like teenage boys. I can argue — and I will argue — that's there's nothing inherently adolescent about enjoying video games or watching sports or having a beer-can-shaped trashcan or whatever, but surely that is how our culture sees these pastimes/interests/behaviors.

And so that raises the question: a) why is there this cultural trend to see men as adolescents who are forced to behave as adults and therefore need a space where they can "be themselves" and "be comfortable"; and b) why aren't women allowed this kind of space? And I think the answer to (b) is partly because while our culture actually implicitly and sometimes explicitly endorses the inherent value of stereotypical adolescent male interests, it denigrates stereotypical adolescent female interests. So even if women wanted to indulge their inner adolescents, which I'm not sure they do (right now in our culture), they wouldn't be allowed to because that's a frivolity too far.

The larger answer to both questions, in my opinion, is that despite how much sexism there still is (and, holy cow, I think there's still a lot of it) in our culture, there really has been some significant progress made and women's gender roles have changed quite a bit. They've expanded in the direction of many of the things we previously associated with men and are highly valued, such as vocational accomplishment and education and such. They've not changed so much in other respects, I think that the super-mom and some other things associated with the traditional women's realm of the home have remained the same, or even weirdly become more intense since the 70s. But the common theme in our culture now about women is that they are expected to be super-women. Successful at school, successful at work, and successful at home. So I think it's good that the female gender role has expanded, but I also think that it's expanded in some ways that have a hidden timebomb, and maybe that's no accident.

At the same time, the male gender role hasn't changed almost at all. I certainly don't think that this is a zero-sum situation, but I suspect that many men feel that this is zero-sum and therefore as the female gender role has expanded into areas that were traditionally reserved for men, men feel weirdly constrained because their roles haven't changed much at all. And the response to this constraint is a kind of regression, so we have the manchild in his mancave.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:47 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The things women like as teenagers aren't described as childish even though grown women have been doing them forever.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:56 PM on August 20, 2013


> "I also resent that caves are considered man-only because who DOESN'T want a space dedicated to the hedonistic pursuit of comfort?"

But it's striking, isn't it, that women really aren't allowed to want this?

I think the stereotypical portrayals there are like: bubble bath, day spa, poolside, vacations in general to a degree.
posted by bleep-blop at 11:04 PM on August 20, 2013


But it's striking, isn't it, that women really aren't allowed to want this?

Nonsense, they must be laughing alone with salad somewhere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


But it's striking, isn't it, that women really aren't allowed to want this?

I don't understand what you mean by 'allowed', Ivan. Could you elaborate?
posted by Kerasia at 11:09 PM on August 20, 2013


I think it should be sidebarred.

Just FYI, we're pretty much never going to pull out a really nice comment from a long contentious MeTa thread and put it on the sidebar, no matter how thoughtful and right on it may be. Didn't want to disappoint anyone, but also wanted to set expectations accurately.

In my mind, I think of that "the wave and the cave" thing that was popular in pop psych for a while. I'm sure other stuff predated it but it was talking about what they saw as the typical gender responses to conflict. Women go to their "wave" and talk to a bunch of people and connect over it. Men go to their "cave" their fortress of solitude and mull things over.

And, as many people have said above, these distinctions are not so cut and dried for me personally (I'm a cave type and I have a real-life workshop which is sort of neat, though I have my dad to thank for it) but it seems to be a thing people to, to describe what they perceive of other people doing and I think the cave behavior possibly predates the cave naming convention. See also: den, study, library, smoking room, game room, etc.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:24 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


While having a quick shower (nothing to do with this thread), I realised that women have desired, and been encouraged by our sisters to find a "room of one's own".
posted by Kerasia at 11:27 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I don't understand what you mean by 'allowed', Ivan. Could you elaborate?"

I think that relative to men and the mancave, there's a stigma attached to women wanting the same thing. That's a supposition that originates in the observation that our consumer culture is not likewise endorsing a space in the home where women can do the equivalent thing that men are doing with a mancave.

A Room of One's Own is quite appropriate even though, as I understand it, it was a metaphor. Because insofar as women have their own private space in their homes, it's a space defined by the patriarchy and involves "women's work". The kitchen, a "sewing room". Or a space devoted to the accoutrements and tools of beauty. Or the nursery.

What it's not is a place set aside for women that exists for their own pleasure and self-indulgence as defined by themselves.

Maybe the garden qualifies, but I'm not sure. I bet Miko could tell us a lot about the anglo-american cultural history of the home garden. My sense is that there's a distinction between the decorative and vegetable garden and gardening within the context of a Victorian notion of what upper-class women can acceptably do for leisure.

But mainly what I was aiming for was the evolution for men from workshop to mancave and how there arguably was some gender symmetry with the workshop/sewing room, there's not at all a symmetry with the mancave. In the way in which the workshop evolved to the mancave, there's not a similar evolution for women, there's no female counterpart to the mancave. And I think that's because of what is different about a mancave compared to the workshop. Whatever it is that men are being allowed to indulge themselves in with the mancave, I don't think women are similarly being allowed to do. Perhaps there are examples such as bleep-blop provides, each in isolation, but I think there's great significance in the mancave being a dedicated, 24-hour a day, room/area of the home specifically dedicated to male self-indulgence.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:46 PM on August 20, 2013


So even if women wanted to indulge their inner adolescents, which I'm not sure they do (right now in our culture), they wouldn't be allowed to because that's a frivolity too far.

I'm not sure about that. I'm having trouble thinking of any stereotypical female adolescent interests that disappear at adulthood. Hair, makeup, clothes, celebrity gossip, personal gossip, boys, crafting, baby-sitting (maybe that's a vocation), a few specific sports. In the stereotype, adult women are expected to develop interests in child-rearing, cooking, cleaning, and housecraft, but otherwise they're allowed to hang onto those (dull) adolescent interests. I don't know if we're denied teenaged frivolity so much as that our teenage years are about rehearsing for our adult role.

A Room of One's Own was a polemic about the very lack of such spaces available to most women, and the disastrous implications for developing as a full human being capable of work and art. I wouldn't take it as evidence that women have been encouraged to seek such space.
posted by gingerest at 11:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Compare that to sitting around at a computer screenshotting Next Generation and photoshopping little heads into squares and making up fake dialogue and posting it all on a website a few times a week. It's seriously the least like anything I've ever seen someone do in a workshop, but I get a hell of a lot more satisfaction out of putting it together, I feel like I got a lot more done than taking off old paint and then putting new paint back on

That's the dillemma of the internet generation in a nutshell. I feel far more guilty not posting on my blog or here than I do about not doing essential repairs to the home, because instant feedback.

It's so easy to keep pushing that lever to get the reward online that it's a miracle anybody can still get anything else done.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:07 AM on August 21, 2013


"I'm not sure about that. I'm having trouble thinking of any stereotypical female adolescent interests that disappear at adulthood."

Yeah, when I wrote that I only had the sense that women weren't being licensed to do what men are doing with the mancave, but I had trouble coming up with what stereotypical adolescent female interests are, other than boy bands, that is much different from what stereotypical adult female interests are. And, well, I'm not sure about boy bands being any different at some level of abstraction.

So after Drinky Die and bleep-blop's comments, I sort of wanted to hear from women about what you think about it.

Given what you said, and it seems right to me (as a man, from what little I really know about the experience of adolescent girls, which is much less than I know about the experience of adult women — I have a sister, but by the time she was an adolescent, I was long moved away from home), that's a very interesting line of inquiry, isn't it?

I mean, we all know that girls in general have always been encouraged to have interests that were playacting and implicitly preparing them for their adult roles — but specifically looking at adolescence in this context and in contrast to what's expected of adolescent boys, is new to me. From my perspective, it seems like at adolescence, this emphasis on preparing for the adult female gender role just intensifies for girls while, in contrast, there's still a lot of of space and time devoted to adolescent boys doing the things that adolescent boys like to do that really is not a rehearsal for the adult male gender role or about sexualized interactions with girls/women.

But this wasn't always the case, right? I mean, even in the recent past. It's just post-WWII that the typical male adolescent experience wasn't mostly focused around work of one sort or another. I guess this is a bit problematic because there's the whole evolution of universal education from the Civil War era to the WWII era and beyond, which complicates the story.

Postwar adolescent girls also gained more scope for childhood sorts of interests, like boys did, but since the childhood girl interests were oriented on preparation for the adult female role, the adolescent girl interests were still centered on that. Weren't/aren't they?

I don't know. This is really bugging me now because I intuit that one big part of what really bothers me about mancaves — that adult women are not presently allowed to be, well, childish and self-indulgent in some sense — is in some sense also true and has been true about adolescent girls. Is it? I feel like a lot of people would say that the stereotypical adolescent girl is quite self-indulgent and childish, but I'm aiming at something more subtle and specific that has to do with your point about girls having interests that are rehearsing the adult female gender role. Or learning to navigate sexualized interaction with boys/men. That is to say, adolescent girls may do those things in a childish and self-indulgent way, but it's still not as childish or self-indulgent as it may seem. Like, perhaps, boys playing at war. Boys may take to those kinds of interests and activities and pursue them in very childish and self-indulgent fashion, but underneath it is a societal message and preparation for what will be, or may be, expected of them very soon.

Hmm. I'm feeling a bit lost. Maybe I'm too long from my adolescence and am childless. I'm not sure that I can explain what I recall, or if I recall, what was expected of me as an adolescent, and I certainly am at a loss with regard to adolescent girls at that time. And now? How much has changed? My intuition is that it's changed far less than I would have expected it to have changed if you'd asked me in 1990 when I was 25. But what do I know about adolescence anymore? Not much, I have to admit.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:34 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

My man cave is a cave that I drag men into by their long, flowing, Fabio locks.

Am I doing it right?
No. My long, flowing, Fabio locks are fragile enough already without somebody dragging on them. It's even odds who sheds more in my household, me or my cats.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:39 AM on August 21, 2013


There is a ton to unpack there. I don't really know how to address it because it's hard to separate out what is kids having fun and what is preparation for adulthood. Is playing sports fun? Or is it to teach you teamwork skills that help you in adult life? Or competitive skills to help you do better in business or any other field? Or training for a longshot dream career as a pro athlete? Or maybe a way to make someone physically prepared for the more likely job that involves a lot of manual labor? I think you could probably deconstruct any childhood hobby like that.

Adults should do what adults find fun, and there should not be social pressure against it unless it is harming others, regardless of the origins of the interest. I don't know if women are feeling pressure against it in their home lives on a wide scale and would also be interested to hear more on that. It is slightly bizarre how far afield we have gone with this topic though. I think it would be a better discussion in context of a quality FPP that laid some better groundwork as a starting point.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:48 AM on August 21, 2013


That's a very good point. I guess I'm kind of deluding myself that this thread is about something interesting rather than yet another crazy-making rehash of mansplaining and the "but men are being oppressed" gambit.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:10 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Notice that all of the "female adolescent interests" mentioned thus far are about how to be more attractive, or about who is attracted to whom, or about child-rearing. In this context, a patriarchal man is expected to provide, by himself, shelter and comfort and security. In return, the woman spends her stereotypical day thinking about how to please her man, or about how others please their men, or about raising their shared child/children. If you needed a stronger indictment of patriarchy, consider this: the desired and stereotypical home revolves entirely around the male's wants, needs, and desires, and that isn't sufficiently satisfactory for the average man-child hierarch. It is the height of arrogance to construct a habitat according to one's whim, populate it with servants and scions, and then decide that there is no room for one. Of course there isn't. All the space has been filled by one's need for power.

Women aren't "allowed" a similar space to the man-cave because women aren't allowed the independent agency that suggests that this home was of their making too. They are too frequently interpreted as the good-judgement and well-mannered extension of the man's taste. This is why the "power behind the throne" stereotype is so respectably prominent: not because the wisdom of women is acknowledged as fact, but because the wit of a woman accrues to her husband as praise and to herself as evidence of danger.

Why don't women get to have woman-caves? They would first have to own, legitimately in the eyes of a chauvinist society, an independent stake in their own comfort and welfare. But a chauvinist society cannot trust women. So, back to the kitchen, that's their place, into which anyone may walk without opprobrium and the function of which is servitude.

Funny aside: that's why "make me a sandwich" jokes are actually the fucking worst. Hilarious!
posted by Errant at 1:12 AM on August 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


One of the stereotypical interests of young girls and women that I haven't seen mentioned yet: horses.
I've seen arguments that stated that riding horses is a way for girls to learn how to interact with a creature that's physically bigger and stronger than you are. This could be seen as a way of learning how to interact and negotiate with a male partner in the future.
And that actually seemed to make some kind of sense to me.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:21 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it's a pretty decent preparation for learning to ride a motorcycle later on. *grin*
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:22 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notice that all of the "female adolescent interests" mentioned thus far are about how to be more attractive, or about who is attracted to whom, or about child-rearing.

I don't really think so. Sewing, for one. I could think of all kinds of examples of things my sister liked that while boys would be encouraged to engage in too are also clearly interests for a stereotypical girl. Playing music, riding horses, painting pictures. I haven't seen any patriarchal forces preventing my sister from continuing these hobbies, in her own set aside room or common areas. It's just that the horse room is in a separate farm several miles away. (That is a single case and not something to base conclusions on though)

I think economic/technological/societal factors outside of gender may play a role here. If you have a bigger house and less children, you are more likely to have rooms to yourself. It just seems natural that everyone in the family should have that kind of space if the room is available and you can afford to design it. With the internet changing the way we interact with media separate rooms may make sense. We don't have to watch the same small TV together if we don't want to.

If there are forces that leave women in a shared room while men get a male specific room, that is a problem. But I don't know if that is the case. I really just see mancave as a pretty jokey term and not exactly an exclusionary zone for women outside of the essentialist language in the name.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:27 AM on August 21, 2013


A large online seller of electronics has a blog/forum site that's called the Mancave. I wrote an email to the people who maintain that site, asking them whether it was their intention to exclude a large part of their potential market straight away.

The answer I got was pretty predictable:
- Women don't tend to buy elecronics and components anyway, so we don't really care.
- But if you're a woman who buys electronics, why don't you show us some of your projects.

I was all, no thanks. I don't want to buy admittance to your boyzone by proving how worthy I am. >:-(

They are still using that name. I'm not buying any of their stuff anymore.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Teaching girls to sew is to prepare them for being a good homemaker. That is definitely about making them more attractive as a partner.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:37 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, let's remember that, historically, practice of the arts and of home remedy were marriageable qualities and evidence of a proper upbringing. Put another way: would a hypothetical brother be positively acknowledged for commitment to sewing or knitting? If not, why not?

The problem I have with "man-cave" is that it illustrates a modern bias towards fleeing the uncomfortable universe. I'm an introvert; the idea of refuge is not alien to me. But a man-cave is not simply a hideaway; it is the place in one's house where one can "be a man". First, the idea that one can only express true manhood by oneself or around other men is shoddy at best. Second, how does such a one retreat into primitive manhood? Watching something, playing something, drinking something. There is something pernicious about the idea that relaxations are "man" activities, which reinforces an arbitrary action assignment on the basis of gender.

Second, where is the popularly attributed space for women? A couple friends of mine were posting back and forth yesterday about how sometimes they just lock themselves in the bathroom because the kids are just too much for a minute. Do they not deserve a woman-cave? The first one ended her post with the plaintive query "Other people do this too, right? I'm not a bad mom?"

Do you think a man saying "these kids are too much, I'm going to the cave" would experience the same anxiety over propriety and child-rearing reputation? If not, why not?
posted by Errant at 1:47 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Too-ticky, I was going to mention horses too. For me, and I think many females, horses were numero uno in our adolescent lives, followed by boys, music, dancing, makeup etc (not necessarily in that order). It varies, of course, depending on your locale, both national and cultural. And yes, horses are a gateway ride to motorcycles!

I got my first horse at 13. He was 17.2hh. My 17 year old douche brother leered and said "that'll be the biggest thing you'll ever have between your legs."

Umm, actually, I think one of the main interests of adolescent girls (and boys?) is friendships and belonging to peer groups.

When talking about womens' space in the home, in relation to man caves, we are omitting the very large number of women who live alone by choice - thus the whole house/flat etc is their space.
posted by Kerasia at 1:47 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Teaching girls to sew is to prepare them for being a good homemaker. That is definitely about making them more attractive as a partner.

Maybe that is part of it, like teaching boys to be interested in cars is to prepare them to be a good stereotypical husband who can maintain and repair mechanical things, but both hobbies go far deeper as skills practical for single life and personal expression. I really can't think of any hobby, male or female, you can't break down this way.

Put another way: would a hypothetical brother be positively acknowledged for commitment to sewing or knitting?

I don't know. Personal anecdote again, my Dad encouraged me to learn how to sew because during boot camp he saw fellow marines making a ton of money because they were the only ones around who knew how to do simple fixes. That stuck with him for decades. That of course implies it was not a commonly taught skill for boys, but I bet it was more common fifty years ago than today because it is such a good practical skill when you can't afford to just buy something new.

it is the place in one's house where one can "be a man". First, the idea that one can only express true manhood by oneself or around other men is shoddy at best. Second, how does such a one retreat into primitive manhood? Watching something, playing something, drinking something. There is something pernicious about the idea that relaxations are "man" activities, which reinforces an arbitrary action assignment on the basis of gender.


I don't really see any of that communicated by the phrase. I see it more as a particular man's ideal space without implication that it is the only place he can express his manhood or that only men can or would want to participate. I don't think it is a word with a really concrete definition though so it may mean different things to different people.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:03 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one problem with the queries and comments about man caves & female spaces, fixing cars or sewing etc, is that we are reporting stereotypes or advertising archetypes. We all know people who do not fit these moulds and yet they are not outsiders in general amongst their gender.
posted by Kerasia at 2:15 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really don't think that making your daughters more attractive as housewives was 'maybe part of' the reason why so many girls were traditionally taught and encouraged to sew and knit. I'm sure it's been the main reason for many centuries.
Yes, it's also a great skill to have when you're single, but when did parents ever intend for their daughters to stay single? And do you really think they cared all that much about self-expression?

Mind you, I'm not talking about recent times in the westernised world.

This might be an interesting and relevant read.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:59 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was responding more to the present tense there, I'm not really qualified to bring an informed opinion on the history of the skill over centuries.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:16 AM on August 21, 2013


Yeah, it's interesting that horses are seen as a female thing and especially a child/teenage girl thing, because as a hobby it doesn't line up with much else that's coded 'girl' - it's physical, outdoorsy, messy, and it requires a decent amount of knowing how to use your own strength and how to assert yourself.

When I was younger and spending all the time I could down at the stables it felt like stepping into another world, where the expectations around us were totally different. Be physically strong enough to do all the hard work and heavy lifting that comes with horse care; don't be squeamish around mud and crap and injuries and getting horse drool on your collar and hay seeds in your hair and dealing with all the rats/mice/spiders around the place; have an assertive enough tone of voice that you can communicate "do NOT fuck with me" to a bigger, stronger animal that's trying to push you around; learn to use your body as a tool rather than an ornament; be fearless enough to get right back on the horse again when you fall.

Me and my friends did some really reckless, stupid stuff when we were teenagers out on the horses without any adults around. Racing each other, daring each other to skid down near-vertical paths in the hills, "I could do that riding backwards - watch!", that kind of stuff. We brought the horses in from the fields sometimes by leaping on bareback, hanging on to the horse's mane as tight as we could, and yelling "GO!", knowing the rest of the herd would race along too and knowing we had tight turns and streams to cross and no way to slow down or stop. Looking back on it now I am surprised none of us ever got seriously hurt. But I don't think there was any other area of our lives where we got to be so sure of ourselves, so fearless and so powerful. It went against so much of the How To Be Female training we got the rest of the time. It was amazing.
posted by Catseye at 3:18 AM on August 21, 2013 [23 favorites]


Yeah, when I wrote that I only had the sense that women weren't being licensed to do what men are doing with the mancave, but I had trouble coming up with what stereotypical adolescent female interests are, other than boy bands, that is much different from what stereotypical adult female interests are. And, well, I'm not sure about boy bands being any different at some level of abstraction.

So after Drinky Die and bleep-blop's comments, I sort of wanted to hear from women about what you think about it.


Lots to think about. Thinking back I never had stereotypical female interests as a child or a teen. (70s and 80s) I started a comment about what is feminine interest vs not and then remembered that as a pre-teen I was called a tomboy. Made me go hmmm.

I loved rough and tumble play, climbed trees and was always getting into trouble on my bike. As a younger kid I play-acted war type games (Star Wars, James Bond) and at school would play more with the boys then the girls. I even got chosen to be on the boys team during 'boys chase the girls'. What many girls did I found boring. The only 'girl' thing I can recall getting into was sticker collecting though boys did that to. I played with computers and studied things on my own. I set up my own little study lab in my closet. For many years refused to wear a skirt. I built things with legos and played with Star Wars figurines. In elementary school I even decided and made people call me by a masculinized version of my name. I was proud of my tom-boy moniker.

Thing was I never wanted to be a boy. I just wanted to be able to do 'boy' things and have it be accepted and that meant taking on, unconsciously the tomboy persona. When high-school came along I ended up going through quite a lot of angst when the whole liking boys thing came a long. Since not having partaken or caring that much about girl stuff like hair, makeup and clothes I felt inadequate and went through those years just not thinking that any boy would ever be attracted to me. I wasn't 'girl' enough.

Even with all that happening I never gave up what interested me. I still played with computers, played D&D and got into snowboarding right when it was getting started. The first year I snowboarded my friend and I were the only girls doing it on our local mountain. We even had mountain celebrity status because 'Holy crap. Look it's a girl!!" In highschool I hated, and I mean really hated the tomboy thing. I started wearing skirts as a way to combat it. I wasn't a 'tomboy' goddammit. I was just a girl! I did do a lot of crafting and learned to sew. Mainly because my Mom was and still is a big crafter and something was always going on in my house. I learned to build basic things and use tools again mainly because my dad was always doing things and would let me help. This wasn't typical among my female peers though.

I'd like to think a lot has changed since then but even in my 40s many of my main interest are still gender more to male. Computer gaming, building things with wood and tools and even fixing things. People at my work last year were simply amazed that I got up on my roof, by myself and fixed a leak. Snowboarding, which in my 20s, became my jobs is more gender equal now but it still has a 'male' thing to it. I sew and craft still but it's one of the many things I can and like doing. I wonder if I was to place young me into today if would still be looked at as being a 'tomboy'. If so that would be pretty sad.
posted by Jalliah at 3:42 AM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]



Oh I was also really into outdoor things in high school. I stayed in Girl Guiding and joined Venturer group when it became co-ed just because of all of the camping and hiking. I learned survival skills and was proud of my skills of being able to go out in the woods and live comfortably. I think of that in a less gendered way though, probably because I was doing it with other girls. Most of the other things I did were skewed male and I was always the one or one of very few females that did it. This included most of my jobs. I seemed to gravitate to male heavy work right from the get go of my working life. In many cases I liked working with males rather then females. I liked living with males more then females. It was easier and more comfortable. I'm still that way to some extent.

I realize now that this isn't just because of my interests but possibly because I was more socialized to more male oriented groups from a young age. This makes more sense now. I've sometimes wondered why I felt this way.
posted by Jalliah at 3:59 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I loved rough and tumble play, climbed trees and was always getting into trouble on my bike etc

Just to tell you, Jalliah-wrangles-with-bears, how much I love this whole comment.
posted by glasseyes at 4:06 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought about including horses, I really did, but I wasn't sure whether that was a race- or class-bound exception. I've long thought that the appeal of horses is the intoxicating combination of respect and obedience from an animal larger and more powerful than your parents or any boy you know, with freedom of movement and the excuse for physicality. (Also horses are pretty and you can plait their hair if they feel patient.)

And, as I implied earlier, I am not and haven't been all that fired up about stereotypical girl pastimes, either. I'd rather read than almost anything, and all I need for that is a book and relative quiet. So I am a poor resource.
posted by gingerest at 4:28 AM on August 21, 2013


I've certainly learned a lot about MeFites stereotypes of men from this thread.
posted by unSane at 4:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Both those two comments — Catseye's and Jalliah's — are outstanding. I'm having trouble finding the right superlative. Both were well-written, fascinating and enjoyable to read, and contain much food for thought.

One just off-the-top-of-my-head thought I have about girls and horses is that maybe there's something about girls and women and horses that appeals to men and so it's an acceptable interest/activity in our culture for girls and women even though, as Catseye so eloquently describes, it's so unlike everything else girls are taught about how to be female?

My intuition is that it involves something sensual and visceral about horses and horse-riding that is a hop, skip, and a jump away from sexuality — not when men ride horses, perhaps tellingly, but about women and horses. And it's not the obvious stuff. Maybe it's that, too, but I think it goes deeper and is more subtle. I mean, isn't there whole truckloads of stuff written, by men, about the mystique of women and horses?

"Thing was I never wanted to be a boy. I just wanted to be able to do 'boy' things and have it be accepted and that meant taking on, unconsciously the tomboy persona."

This is typical, in my experience, of women describing their childhood experience of being regarded as a "tomboy". And I note that often men who write girl characters get this wrong — they assume that it's explicitly about taking on the male role and rejecting the female. But women with this experience usually say that they were just doing the things they wanted to do and resented that other people, adults and other children, assuming that this meant that they wanted to be boys.

One thing that your comment evokes in me, as a man, is that my own experience (which probably should not be assumed to be representative) as a boy is that there wasn't even for me that mental/cultural space to do what you did, to do what "tomboys" do. I know that male counterparts to you exist, I've read/heard men describing doing stereotypically feminine activities as children and adolescents just because that's what interested them, and that they were labeled and scrutinized for it. But my own experience was that I was not comfortable with a fair portion of what I was expected to do as a boy, but I was comfortable with other parts and was very, very stereotypically boyish in some ways — but, overall, I was dissatisfied, I didn't "fit". Of course, this was true in all the things that don't have anything to do with gender, I don't feel like I've fit in anywhere in my entire life, the closest I ever came was at St. John's College and the irony there is that I was older and married and lived off campus and so was an outsider of sorts there, too. Still, no, I specifically mean that I didn't feel like I fit with what was expected of me as a boy. Some things, sure. Other things, no.

But I had no mental space for any alternatives. What the girls were doing was invisible to me. It's telling that I still vividly remember when I was seven and some neighbor girls showed me how to play hopscotch and I was astonished at how cool and difficult a game it was. I did learn something from that, but it didn't open the door for me into what girls did. There just wasn't the cultural space, at least as I perceived it at the time, for me to do anything other than partly fit in with being a boy and partly not fitting in with it in the sense that I was uncomfortable and/or just didn't participate with some things (as opposed to finding non-boy alternatives).

What I'm trying to get to in this is to say that in my naive, ignorant male way where I am actually quite clueless about what it means to be a "tomboy", being a "tomboy" sounds awesome to me. I very, very strongly identify with the tomboy characters in narrative fiction, insofar as identifying with child characters, I identify with tomboy characters far more than boys and girls that fit the traditional gender molds. And I think that I sort of intuit, perhaps wrongly, that being a tomboy means being the things that are boy-like that I actually enjoy but also being able to be the things that are girl-like that I identify with and which set me apart from the other boys. I mean, there isn't a route for boys to get to that space you were in as a so-called "tomboy". It feels to me like if boys embrace a role that isn't the traditional boy role, they go mostly to the traditional girl role and discard almost all of the boy stuff. But tomboys don't actually do that, in my observation. Some do, of course. But it feels like the tomboy role is more of a pick-and-choose thing.

In trying to explain this, I'm suddenly having flashbacks to a thread last year or the year before about the sex testing of female athletes. There's an asymmetry that has everything to do with the fact that being male is the higher status. Girls can be tomboys because of course girls would want to do boy stuff, right? So it's "allowed" for girls to deviate from the traditional role, and to do so in various ways. But boys can't move down in status by being girl-like, you either have the male status or you call it into question and you lose it entirely. It's all-or-nothing. Even if tomboys get flack for it, there's not remotely the stigma associated with boys doing girl things.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also resent that caves are considered man-only because who DOESN'T want a space dedicated to the hedonistic pursuit of comfort?

See, yeah, this is why "den" works better because it's still cave-evocative (foxes and wolves have dens, after all), but it doesn't necessarily code to either gender. I know it's kind of had a "living room" context as well - I encountered that too - but even there, I always heard it as being a more informal space - I know houses that had a living room and a den, where the "living room" was a more formal space for entertaining guests - kind of like the "front parlor" from some 1800's houses - and the "den" was where the family was hanging out just itself. So it was still a sort of homey cozy comfy space.

I really don't think that making your daughters more attractive as housewives was 'maybe part of' the reason why so many girls were traditionally taught and encouraged to sew and knit. I'm sure it's been the main reason for many centuries. Yes, it's also a great skill to have when you're single, but when did parents ever intend for their daughters to stay single? [...]Mind you, I'm not talking about recent times in the westernised world.

Well, maybe something from recent times kind of fits - the whole notion of "home economics" as a field of study was something that got introduced to the world - or, at least, got re-embraced and pushed like crazy - in the 1950's, after World War II. And that was largely to re-enforce traditional female roles - because all the GI's were coming home from war and needed their jobs back from the women who had been doing them in the meantime. The thing was that a lot of the women, having actually tried STEM jobs or manufacturing jobs for the first time, were all thinking "hey, wait, I kind of like this," and weren't all that keen to leave. So a lot of that mindset that Betty Friedan ultimately spoke out against was a calculated effort to get women back out of those jobs so men could have them again, and this got picked up in schools to ensure it stayed that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even if tomboys get flack for it, there's not remotely the stigma associated with boys doing girl things.

Maybe because when girls are viewed as tomboys the assumption is they will "grow out of it", whereas with boys going "girl stuff" I think the fear is "O NOES GAY". It's always interesting to me that parents are usually more upset about a baby boy being misidentified as a girl than vice versa.
posted by billiebee at 6:01 AM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I call my studio/ makin' stuff/ copmuteratoring space my "man cave."

It keeps my random projects and assorted obsessions from exploding all over the house. It is where I go to tinker and build and destroy. The "what's (s)he building in there" there. The source of mysterious thumps, whirrings, and occasional chemical smells.

I suppose I call it a "man-cave" because it's where I go to act like my Dad, though there is less ill-advised juggling and more booze.




Yes there are cats.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:27 AM on August 21, 2013


Re: Ivan F and your comment about the garden as potentially a female space of personal pursuit: that is a really interesting idea, and I hadn't really considered it before. One thing that definitely went on among upper and upper-middle class women beginning by the early 1800s was that women became increasingly involved in the natural sciences as a genteel pursuit. The home "kitchen garden" had generally been part of the women's responsibilities in Western homesteads for centuries, furnishing not just food but medicines and cash crops as well, but for women who did not need to work at family subsistence, people saw an acceptable alignment between their interests and knowledge about plants and the expanding world of natural history research. Some of the earliest good work in maritime botany and oceanography, for instance, was done by elite women. And the cultivation of a decorative home garden seems to perhaps go along with that. I'm starting a project now on Celia Thaxter's garden, and I think she's a good exemplar of the way a garden space could provide a wholly engrossing project which could win women a fair amount of renown in certain circles, give them a public role, let them build knowledge and expertise and teach and share that without shame, etc. I do think the garden may have functioned in the way you suggest for affluent women.

Many of the other projects/pastimes of women have a long history of being practiced by elite women as "accomplishments," in the Victorian term. And their distinction from subsistence work of the same kind is important. For instance, I was amused to see the note about "sewing, riding horses, painting pictures" - all of which got a pass as acceptable activities for women even during the strict gender-behavior lockdown era of say 1820-1950ish. Sewing was something poor and middling women did to clothe their family; the better they clothed their family, the better their expression of status. But elite women sewed as well, though they sewed much less pragmatically - they hired out the making of their clothing, but they did decorative embroidery and worked on each other's high-value wedding trousseaus, (often just adding monograms and trim to piecework done by workers) and other mostly sentimental gifts. Painting pictures, and other forms of fine art, was also acceptable, to a point. I think Little Women gives a pretty good narrative about that - it was acceptable to pursue artistic accomplishment, acceptable to work with great teachers and get training, but a little more sketchy to take the step into exhibitions, though some exceptional women did. Playing music was another endorsed accomplishment. The guitar and pianoforte were primarily women's parlor instruments before the 20th century - it wasn't considered especially manly to play either - and again, the venue to display talents was generally in the home, not in the concert hall. Teenage girls throughout the nineteenth century received a lot of direct instruction in these things - needlework, art, music, and often foreign language (French mostly) as well. And horse riding was certainly considered a worthy pursuit of upper-class women and definitely connected i the contemporary literature with physical conditioning in a genteel way and 'management of the great beast' noted above. The overtly stated purpose of that kind of education was to add refinement and accomplishment, make the girl a better prospect for marriage, make her a talented and skilled complement to her husband, and allow her good training to redound upon the family honor. In short, the skills women were encouraged to learn weren't for her alone, they were to improve overall family status in families led by and represented by men.

It is interesting that even today, these remain acceptable and encouraged women's interests, whether Martha Stewart is doing the encouraging or an indie craft blogger is doing the encouraging. It's not hard for women interested in these things to get plenty of mentoring, praise, and encouragement. These are solidly within our gender traditions. When I was a teenager, I was interested in some of this but I was much more like Jalliah - I really identified with that 'tomboy' description. I craved adventure and like physical challenges and exploration. I joined an all-girls backpacking group with my Girl Scout council and learned how to long-distance hike. We were usually the only such group around it was considered a fairly butch and somewhat unattractive thing to do by my other friends, but it was one of my major pursuits as an adolescent. Another was writing, which I did with an immense dedication, and found good encouragement there, and that world at the time wasn't especially gendered one way or another. A third was music, though instead of playing an orchestral or parlor instrument I learned to play rock guitar, which was gendered male. In the 80s it was a rare thing for a girl to walk into a music store and buy equipment - one of the reasons I'm so sensitive to mansplaining is that I got a shit-ton of it in music stores when I was 14 and 15 and 16; I was a relatively accomplished musician, but it was beyond the imagining of a 22 year old music store guitar guy that I could possibly even belong in the building, let alone know what I wanted. So I would say that some of the stereotypical female interests are supported in adolescence by the broader culture, but if your interests take you in directions that are gendered more male, it's quite a bit lonelier and you are/were likely to encounter less support, fewer kindred spirits, more opposition.

The other note I"m struck by is that you start to think that almost anything was OK when it was confined to the domestic sphere. It's when women leave the home grounds to do things on the public stage that they tended to be quashed. Great to be an actor in a drawing-room drama; awful to be an actor on a public stage.

If there are forces that leave women in a shared room while men get a male specific room, that is a problem. .

The difference between the spaces is still worth looking at - it's not just a question of whether both men and women have retreat spaces that afford them privacy. Having a "sewing room" seems different from having a "man cave." A sewing room, or study, is more like a workshop - some production process is expected to be happening there. The "man cave" is generally imagined as entirely for leisure and entertainment. What is a female-gendered space that is designed entirely for leisure and entertainment, with absolutely no veneer of usefulness or productivity to justify its existence? Do we have one?
posted by Miko at 7:12 AM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


the whole notion of "home economics" as a field of study was something that got introduced to the world - or, at least, got re-embraced and pushed like crazy - in the 1950's, after World War II

It got pushed like crazy then, but home economics had its roots in the late 1800s with people like Catherine Beecher, who argued that scientific thinking and learning should undergird house management. She was sort of trying to create a way for intellectual women to feel their work was valuable and to find satisfaction in the routine of the household. Home economics found a big following in the 1880s-1920s among well-educated, often college-educated women, who could have a career or at least a strong interest in the sciences without seeming to depart from the domestic realm, because what they studied was the home. I think it was really just re-enlisted after WWII because of the need to drive women back out of the workforce, and convince them that they were going to find it rewarding and intellectually satisfying.
posted by Miko at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, that's a more accurate way of referring to it - it was indeed a thing before World War II, but it was seriously promoted with a full-court press after World War II.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on August 21, 2013



Miko, Ivan, Empress et al. I love this topic and want to respond to your posts. Unfortunately I have things to do for the rest of the day. I'll check back later and see if it's still going. If not just wanted to say I'm interested in and appreciate all your thoughts. Interestingly one things I'm doing today is going to a local museum. One of the exhibits is supposed to be a history of the home and the domestic sphere in this particular area. Fits right in with some of this discussion.
posted by Jalliah at 7:26 AM on August 21, 2013


ricky ricardo
posted by clavdivs at 7:44 AM on August 21, 2013


Yeah, it's interesting that horses are seen as a female thing and especially a child/teenage girl thing, because as a hobby it doesn't line up with much else that's coded 'girl' - it's physical, outdoorsy, messy, and it requires a decent amount of knowing how to use your own strength and how to assert yourself.

Of course even in the stereotypically repressed fifties there was some room for different interpretations of femininity and masculinity, but the main reason perhaps why horses were an acceptable pursuit was because these were traditionally reserved for the upper classes, the landed gentry, who always had more leeway in gender assumptions. The horsey (spinster) aunt of the upper class hero is practically de rigeur in 1920ties novels.

And in modern times, I'd guess only a minority of horse obsessed girls actually got to ride horses, with most just fantasising about them?
posted by MartinWisse at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2013


broubliette
posted by en forme de poire at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


but [home economics] was seriously promoted with a full-court press after World War II.

During WWII in the UK, as a direct result of rationing and the need to not waste food or clothes.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:15 AM on August 21, 2013

And so that raises the question: a) why is there this cultural trend to see men as adolescents who are forced to behave as adults and therefore need a space where they can "be themselves" and "be comfortable"; and b) why aren't women allowed this kind of space?

The larger answer to both questions, in my opinion, is that despite how much sexism there still is (and, holy cow, I think there's still a lot of it) in our culture, there really has been some significant progress made and women's gender roles have changed quite a bit. They've expanded in the direction of many of the things we previously associated with men and are highly valued, such as vocational accomplishment and education and such.
(Chopped up Ivan's quote a bit, to not make this too long.)

I think this phenomenon is very much an American trend, though it does have its echoes in modern British pop culture (Men Behaving Badly frex). Because what I think has happened in the US and to a lesser extent the UK, which hasn't happened on the same scale in European countries like France, Germany or the Netherlands, is both a) a politically, engineered backlash against second wave feminism and its influence on the larger culture and b) the practical necessity of having both adults in the traditional nuclear family work outside the house to make ends meets as wages have largely been stagnant since the early seventies.

So while back in the sixties it was possible for the middle class or higher ranks of blue collar working men to make enough to maintain their families, from the mid seventies onwards their wives had to work as well to keep the family going. Economics forced American families to become "feminist" in that both parents had to work. This of course fostered resentment, the famous eighties backlash and in general perhaps a larger resistance to feminism as a cultural and political force than in Europe, but also a greater awareness of it.

Here in Europe meanwhile, this need was less great, there were better social safety nets and a more muted form of capitalism, so countries like Holland and Germany are somewhat backwards compared to the US with regards to the percentage of the female population that works outside the house.

Coming back to where we were, this means also that there has been much less need to soothe the wounded ego of the middle class male with man caves and societal approval of "childish" pursuits.

(Yes, this is all very broad brushed and handwavey)
posted by MartinWisse at 8:33 AM on August 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think that's a very insightful and incisive analysis, MartinWisse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:13 AM on August 21, 2013


And in modern times, I'd guess only a minority of horse obsessed girls actually got to ride horses, with most just fantasising about them?

Can depend on where you live. Regular riding lessons are expensive, but lots of girls I know (me included) did work-for-rides for nearby riding schools or private owners, where the rides are free in exchange for a certain amount of work around the stables. Later on quite a few of us did have our own horses, either owned or on loan (where the deal is usually that you don't pay for the horse but you do pay for the stable rent, feed etc), subsidised by doing some work around the stables in return for reduced rent. Definitely more expensive and not affordable for a lot of families - although even then we were still kind of on a different level of horse-person society than the kids whose parents owned land, trailers, expensive horses*, bought stuff new rather than second-hand, did a lot of competing on the show circuit, and so on.

For kids who lived in more urban areas, I think there was less opportunity to get involved in the less expensive in-between zones of work-for-rides and hanging round stables and knowing which farmers would rent you a field for cheap and sharing some "well, she's old and she bites and she hasn't been handled much for years and I don't even know if she's broke to ride, but she's healthy!" old broodmare with someone else, so if you/your family couldn't afford regular riding lessons or ownership and expensive livery you had less chance of being able to ride at all.
posted by Catseye at 9:41 AM on August 21, 2013




Not all red-haired men are assholes, so it's not okay to refer to an asshole as a red-haired man.

Why is this so hard to grasp? Is my default position simply that I "don't get it" or that I'm blinded by a position of "privilege?"

We don't have a symmetrical dynamic to work with, because men are not systematically relegated to subordination simply on account of their sex. So, I can see that terms such as "bitch" and "dick" are not polemic, they are contextual, and not necessarily sexist. Womansplain doesn't sit across the table from mansplain, because the inequity doesn't work that way in this situation.

I see a substantial line between invoking the thought police and discussing an issue such as this. In my view, a "dog whistle" word can legitimately be used to punch up an argument, for example, by inserting the pungent phrase in place of the limped euphemism or the godawful X(letter)+word pattern. This means that the word ought to be used with care, not because the writer is too lazy to think about how to turn the phrase. An anecdote lying under this particular buzzword merits more careful consideration. Defending mansplaining as a neutral term amounts to argument by buzzword, which is a cousin to the "ism" that's (presumably) being derided. But using mansplaining as a legitimate neutral term for a particular sort of behavior encourages not only lazy thinking on the part of the writer, but leads to errors of the "red-haired man" sort. A valid argument against using this particular term in such a casual way is not centered on whether an enlightened man is able to avoid having his tender male pride wounded. Who cares about shit like that? Polemics are designed to piss somebody off. So, when you use the term, are your really going for a polemic? Or, is your intent broader?

The most honest argument I've seen so far in this thread is the one that amounts to saying that so many women are being mistreated by sexist men that it's okay to spit gender-based vituperation back at them, and fuck you if you don't like it. Yeah, well I don't like it, but not because my sensitive ego has been thumped.
posted by mule98J at 9:54 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Home Ec was promoted] During WWII in the UK, as a direct result of rationing and the need to not waste food or clothes.

True, and my apologies for not stating I was referring mostly to the US.

Not all red-haired men are assholes, so it's not okay to refer to an asshole as a red-haired man.

You're right, and fortunately that's not what is happening. Hell, even the grammar doesn't hold up: "mansplaining" is a verb, and "red-head" is a noun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


And shhh, we're talking about home ec and handicrafts and woodworking and the perceived need for differentiated spaces in the home now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Home Ec was promoted] During WWII in the UK, as a direct result of rationing and the need to not waste food or clothes.

A big thing in the US too, but at that time it was couched much differently than in the 50s- as a war effort, fighting alongside the boys at the front, etc. - not justified as the confinement of women to their own sphere, because raising home economics as the acceptable career path for women was most definitely at odds with the dire need for women to enter war production industries and volunteer roles.
posted by Miko at 10:03 AM on August 21, 2013


using mansplaining as a legitimate neutral term for a particular sort of behavior

...engaged in by men towards women.

To me, it certainly isn't neutral, but it's an accurate description. The man condescendingly explaining something to me that I already know is not just being a condescending jackass, and he's not just being a man who happens to be a condescending jackass. He's being a sexist man who sees it as natural that because he is a man he knows more about my area of expertise than I could possibly imagine because I'm not a man.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


when you use the term, are your really going for a polemic? Or, is your intent broader?

In this case, the OP's intent was to let us know she has been the target of it, and find ways to make it stop. It didn't have to do with pissing someone off as polemic - it had to do with characterizing a behavior usefully and understandably for her (presumably sympathetic) audience.

Why is this so hard to grasp?

In this case, basically because the statement you give as your illustrative example is not congruent with any statement made here.
posted by Miko at 10:21 AM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe it's because I associate "man caves" with Judd Apatow movies, but my take has been that the emphasis on needing a "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" space is being marketed to men who feel conflicted about having to deal with women in their professional environments, and the adolescent-ness of the space is being pushed on men who don't feel "manly" because they can't be the sole breadwinners for their families anymore. The marketing of these spaces has always seemed very much part of the backlash against feminism.

This is not in any way to say that those people who enjoy having such spaces or engaging in things that get dismissed as adolescent activities are individually anti-feminist, but I think the cultural shift away from work environments being almost exclusively male and from men needing to be (or able to be) adults with adult responsibilities has played a huge part in the cultural phenomenon. I mean, Don Draper wouldn't have needed a man cave because he had an office at work where he could smoke and drink and hang out with the guys.

Basically, I see it as, If women are going to go out into public and be all professionally successful, then fuck it, I'm going to watch sports and play video games all day and complain about girls.

I actually don't think women needs more spaces in which to be irresponsible but that the definitions of masculinity need to shift so that culturally, men who aren't major breadwinners still feel like adults and still continue to act responsibly, rather than retreating from the shared spaces -- and responsibilities -- of domestic life.
posted by jaguar at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The most honest argument I've seen so far in this thread is the one that amounts to saying that so many women are being mistreated by sexist men that it's okay to spit gender-based vituperation back at them, and fuck you if you don't like it. Yeah, well I don't like it, but not because my sensitive ego has been thumped.

Calling a spade a spade isn't vituperation. Naming a thing is not an attack in and of itself.

Mansplaining is short-hand for the situation I (and others) have been describing: a solitary man decides he knows more than a woman because he is a man and takes it upon himself to enlighten her. He is not typical of all men; not all men would do this. However, this man has done this to this woman due to the genders of both involved, so it is a gendered encounter.

Mansplainers are a subset of men, not all men. Not even men who do mansplain will do it in every interaction with women; it's not necessarily a perpetual mode of interaction.
posted by RainyJay at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we please, please, please not do the entire thread all over again?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:40 AM on August 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Not all red-haired men are assholes, so it's not okay to refer to an asshole as a red-haired man.

Why is this so hard to grasp? Is my default position simply that I "don't get it" or that I'm blinded by a position of "privilege?"


Well, you don't seem to get it. There are several big faults in your argument here, many of which have been brought up in the thread prior:

1) Mansplain versus manhandle. Not all men are rough; some are gentle, yet "manhandle" is an acceptable phrase that's not seen as overly representative of men.

2) It's not just referring to asshole behavior in general, it's referring to a specific behavior that can definitionally only be done by men. "Man" modifies the "'splain." Similar to how "ladyparts" refers to female genitals, despite everyone having parts.

3) Mansplain in no way equates with argument by buzzword; you have not demonstrated actual errors in usage, but only invented ways in which it could be misused. There is no evidence it leads to laziness in thinking — indeed, it's lazier to assert there is.

4) You're upset by it, but who the fuck cares? I know people who don't like the word "moist," but it's pretty clearly their problem, not the world at large. Your problems with "mansplain" are your own, and you do yourself no favors in trying to explicate them, as you continually come across as clueless and demanding that your idiosyncratic comfort be placed above the utility of the term.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2013 [27 favorites]


1) Mansplain versus manhandle. Not all men are rough; some are gentle, yet "manhandle" is an acceptable phrase that's not seen as overly representative of men

That's a good comparison. Why isn't manhandle a problem but mainsplain is (for some?)

Personally I don't use mansplain, but if someone else uses it I know exactly what they're talking about in a way that I wouldn't if they said "condescending."

So.
posted by sweetkid at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The marketing of these spaces has always seemed very much part of the backlash against feminism. "

That they also come with a weird dollop of aggression is another part of my discomfort with them. Well, and outright misogyny. More.

It always seemed really weirdly reactionary to me, and predicated on the idea that women were somehow an onerous burden on my life.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Why isn't manhandle

Just a guess, but I think this word is old enough that it dates to when "man" was also commonly used as "human", as in "mankind". I think it refers to being physically restrained by another person.
posted by spaltavian at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2013


"It always seemed really weirdly reactionary to me, and predicated on the idea that women were somehow an onerous burden on my life."

Yeah. It fails for me two different ways. That way — I have no desire to segregate myself away from women, that really makes no damn sense to me. And the other way — whatever fun things I'd do in a mancave, which has substantial overlap with some things that men who have mancaves do in their mancaves, is just fun stuff to do that may or may not appeal to all other men or all women, but I've certainly known lots of women for whom this stuff holds appeal, too. So, basically, this is stuff that would be in the living room.

And, in my past cohabitation with female significant others, this is stuff that was in the living room. Or, well, a spare bedroom which we used as a computer room and played Everquest together and played the stereo really loud and ate snack food.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:42 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why isn't manhandle

Just a guess, but I think this word is old enough that it dates to when "man" was also commonly used as "human", as in "mankind". I think it refers to being physically restrained by another person.


Right, like manpower ( I looked up the layman etymology)

Interestingly, NOT like management, which seems to come from manus, or hands.

I looked this up for two seconds though so could be horribly horribly wrong.
posted by sweetkid at 11:57 AM on August 21, 2013


¡ƃɯo pɐǝɹɥʇ snıqoɯ
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Manhandle" seems a little fuzzy in terms of its early origins, it's true. At the same time, its contemporary meaning - "handle roughly" - is universally understood, and its usage specifically in reference to man as male goes back a pretty long time, almost as long as the other senses. I think it's a perfectly good analogy.
posted by Miko at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Manhandle is okay because we're used to it and it's not all newfangled and stuff.
posted by rtha at 1:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also manservant. Definitely describes a male person, and also characterizes them as being in service. Does that offend anyone?
posted by Miko at 1:10 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Womanatee, tyvm.
posted by planetesimal at 1:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of you should write essays on the "man cave" phenomena for a wider audience. There are some great insights above about the gender roles, domestic spaces, and consumerism.

If we had another room at my house, we'd give it to one of the girls. Right now, they share a bedroom. Back before we had kids, their bedroom was used as a den/computer room. Our basement could be turned into a "man cave" (it has a bar and cool 1950s wood-paneling), but instead it serves as a sewing room / place for exercise equipment / location for xc ski waxing / home for overfilled mismatched book shelves (even the bar is filled with books). The whole idea of a man-cave seems so immature. I think of it as the natural habitat of the man-child.

(I've written "man-child" a few times her at MeFi. Should I switch to something like, "immature adult who happens to be male"?)
posted by Area Man at 1:18 PM on August 21, 2013


Speaking of angry red-haired guys:
We have taken a man-vote. We have a man-date.
posted by audi alteram partem at 1:20 PM on August 21, 2013


Honestly, after this extended discussion of man-words, they are all beginning to look like smutty euphemisms...
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:32 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've written "man-child" a few times her at MeFi. Should I switch to something like, "immature adult who happens to be male"?

Ask a Faulknerian man-child.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:40 PM on August 21, 2013


it has a bar and cool 1950s wood-paneling

I had neighbors with one of those and to my mind those were just like the "adult rec rooms" where parents would go after kids went to sleep and mix drinks and smoke and do adultish things and it was dual gender. Like I never thought of the 50's-60's basement lounge thing as being a male space, I thought of it as being a no kids at night space (though my neighbors had pong, OMG) and in the 70s it was a weed-smoking space. I feel like man cave sort of implies those things (no kids) but also delineates like a male-adult-kid-only space in a way that is a little confusing. Like kid-stuff-but-no-kids-also-no-females and the cave designation is sort of an awareness that this is a vaguely neanderthal way to be but that's how it's going to be.

When I tried to look up whatever the great book was that I read about the "woman's sphere" idea and how it's been looked at academically, I couldn't track it down but I did realize there is another Jessamyn who writes on these topics a lot and now I need to go read her stuff. This is the article that came up when I lazily Googled "Woman's sphere" and jessamyn which is how I've searched my online reading lists in the past.

Sex in the Kitchen: The Re-interpretation of Gendered Space Within the Post-World War II Suburban Home in the West (link)
Cooking instruction for men was hardly a new idea. Gender scholar Sherri A. Innes and historian Jessamyn Neuhaus contend that the language of masculine cookery instruction was defensive and designed to reassure men. Their analysis used texts from the 1920s into the 1950s. Neuhaus suggested that masculine, defensive rhetoric continued into the 1950s and that Sunset contributed to such a discourse.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:48 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


'Man cave,' with its evolution from the Den and its overtone of 'cave man', the Latin cave canem, the uncommon difficulty of distinguishing a refuge from a place of exile, and the old trope of women sending men to the dog house when they misbehave have all conspired to make that Hank Williams song with the lyrics "Move over little dog cause a big dog's movin in" swirl around ceaselessly in my head.
posted by jamjam at 1:52 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


No one says "mancave" outside of Spike TV and ads for beer, do they?
posted by planetesimal at 2:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love that someone did academic writing on Sunset magazine. And that's so true about "defensive" masculine cookery writing. The whole "move over, ladies! Time to let the menz make steak with a dry rub!" thing is a very real editorial trope.

That book looks awesome for what I'm working on right now, too - grabbing that citation!

I also got a lot out of Susan Strasser's Never Done: A History of American Housework.
posted by Miko at 2:23 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


No one says "mancave" outside of Spike TV and ads for beer, do they?

Oh, yeah. I've had people touring me around their house use the term.

There's also a trend going on in historic houses right now to sound hip by reinterpreting men's spaces as "man caves," like say if you were at the Mark Twain House where his study has a billiard table, the guide might try to make him more relatable by saying "And this is Twain's "man cave." [The mention of the Twain House is a hypothetical demonstration, the staff there are great and so is the house and I didn't actually hear that there, but it's the kind of thing that I'm hearing more often from both staff and visitors at historic houses as an attempt at a contemporary analogy.]
posted by Miko at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Next time I go to Hearst Castle I want to see if they refer to a man cave there. "And this is the actual cave, made from 25 tons of salt crystal imported from the Himalayas, that Mr. Hearst made when he needed to get away from Marion Davies. It is believed that Charlie Chaplin gifted Mr. Hearst with the specially constructed Sloe Gin Fizz dispenser in the corner, between the solid gold suit of armor and the Orson Welles dart board."
posted by scody at 2:49 PM on August 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


My intuition is that it involves something sensual and visceral about horses and horse-riding that is a hop, skip, and a jump away from sexuality

Possibly. But for many of us horse mad girls, the obsession started very young. I was three when I first touched a horse, and I was smitten from that moment. For me, I think it is more sensory than sensual. The aroma of a horse is intoxicating for me, and I can tell different horses apart with my eyes closed just by their smell.

Regarding post WWII push for domesticity and home economics etc - a lot of that had to do with getting women out of the factories and work roles traditionally done by men, but men were now away at war, and back into the home when the men came back and wanted jobs.

Can't find it now but I read something somewhere about the advent of 'whitegoods' and their actual 'whiteness' that conincided with the production of the by-product chlorine and women being forced back into the home and away from the factories, that having white goods required more domestic attention and cleaning than say, green or brown goods (colours common in places like India).
posted by Kerasia at 3:18 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, that thing where you put checkered rubber on the floor and get a clock with the logo of a defunct car manufacturer and a blue-neon-lit mini-fridge and convert your garage to something that looks like, I don't know, the waiting room at an overpriced oil-change place?

Is that a subset of the man cave thing, or is it something else?
posted by box at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2013


Next time I go to Hearst Castle I want to see if they refer to a man cave there.

Huh. That reminds me of the tradition of the grotto -- places used to have actual, artificial caves, famously including the Playboy Mansion. They were originally something used in landscaping, a sort of fabricated ruin that was very popular anywhere where there was a neoclassical tradition (fake ruins, called follies, were also popular.)

But apparently a lot of so-called man caves nowadays are actual grottos. Here's an episode of Man Cave dedicated to a grotto. Here's another grotto man cave.

I wonder if this is the Playboy influence, or if its just an example of a sort of design literalism, where if you're going to call something a man cave, it might as well be an actual cave. Sort of like how some people put sea shells in their bathroom, because there's a sort of a small ocean in the there in the form of a bathtub.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:26 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are "scrapbooking" rooms becoming somewhat common these days among women who have sufficient leisure time and money and home square-footage? I seem to read about them online a lot.
posted by nacho fries at 3:46 PM on August 21, 2013


Man, I would definitely want a man cave it were an actual cave.
posted by brundlefly at 3:46 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another thought about domestic spaces and male/female 'roles'. Australian suburbs are full of McMansions. As they take up most of the house site, the traditional male domestic workload of mowing the lawn etc has been drastically reduced while the female workload of cleaning inside has been dramatically increased. Going by the traditional roles, men have more time to spend inside the 'media room' while women have not one but two or three bathrooms to clean, and a huge amount of interior space to keep clean and tidy.
posted by Kerasia at 4:03 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]



Bunny Ultramod, those fake caves started in the Victorian age on estates with huge 'naturally' landscaped gardens. Those Vics went even further with it. For a time it was a thing to actually hire a man to be a hermit in the cave. In some cases they would hire them for years and have instructions for what they were to do when people came by. They were literally caves with men in them.
posted by Jalliah at 4:04 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is a female-gendered space that is designed entirely for leisure and entertainment, with absolutely no veneer of usefulness or productivity to justify its existence? Do we have one?

A boudoir*. Though we don't really have them so much any more, and I would venture to say that working class women never had them.

*In the US this tends to mean "dressing room", but it was used elsewhere to refer to womens'
sitting rooms. Certainly a boudoir can be used for reading or meditation as well as receiving guests.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:05 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let me introduce all of you to the The Wocave. It is the worst. Simply the worst.
posted by meese at 4:10 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


What in the blue Hell did I just click on?

(Another comparison to the mancave in folly/grotto terms might be the fake temple - like the temples of Ceres, Hercules and Apollo in Stourhead Gardens in England. These were built by 18th century aristocrats in their grounds in semi-secular imitation of classical models, but I think mainly ended up as places you went with your stag buddies to drink a lot of wine and read poetry.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2013


jessamyn: When I tried to look up whatever the great book was that I read about the "woman's sphere" idea and how it's been looked at academically

This isn't it, but this is a good overview of the historiography, from the classics (Welter, Kraditor, Cott, Rosenberg, etc.) on through more recent (1990s) scholarship. Discussion of masculine vs feminine spaces in hotels and libraries begins on p. 17.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


More seriously, regarding Man Caves...

I really liked the point above, about how the rising significance of women working outside the home led to the concept of the Man Cave. I think there's another point to bring up: even as the amount of time women have spent working outside the home has gone up, the amount of time they spend working in the home relative to men hasn't really gone down. So, consider the effect this has on society's stereotype of the woman. In the 50s, say, women were homemakers: the stereotypical image of a woman was someone who knew how to cook, clean, etc., but couldn't be trusted to buy a car or otherwise perform any of the professional activities entrusted to men. Now that women are so entrenched in the workforce, the latter half of that stereotype has (to some extent, sometimes) changed: the stereotypical image of a woman you find in commercials, comedies, etc., is of someone who is competent, professional, able to handle money, trustworthy. All the same, the first half of the stereotype hasn't changed -- the stereotypical image of a woman still is of someone who knows how to cook, clean, etc. Women are now seen as both part of the public workforce and the main homemaker.

Now, consider what effect this has on the stereotypical man. It's no longer seen as masculine to have a job, to be a professional, because women can do that too. (This isn't to say that women don't have to confront a lot of implicit bias when it comes to the workforce--our society is a long way from really respecting women as professionals just like men. My only point is, given how our society tends to give up on something being masculine as soon as women start doing it, professionalism is no longer taken to be part of masculinity.) But work around the house isn't masculine, either; that's still "women's work." Women still do the vast majority of housework in the US, which both means that men don't get to feel like they play a domestic role and also that they have more free time to waste. So, the only thing left over for masculinity to glom on to, and what men have more free time to do compared to women, is play: the video games, the sports, the beer-drinking, etc. Maybe we should construe the Man Cave as a response to some sort of masculinity panic: "Need some way to reaffirm your status as a dude? Obvs., what you need is to put time and effort into a space devoted to your playthings!"


I've posted before on Mefi about the concept of "toxic masculinity." I find it fascinating, terrifying, and sad. It's just one sign of just how far feminism still needs to go, and how much men need feminism as much as women. Our society has developed in such a way that masculinity is only really defined in terms of what it isn't: it isn't feminine, it isn't gay, etc. The Man Cave, perhaps, is a symptom of this toxic masculinity.
posted by meese at 4:32 PM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


My wife has had dedicated space to create artwork in many of the places we've lived. We've always just called it the "art room."
posted by MoonOrb at 4:33 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So is this the English version?

Shed of the Year awards in pictures: A boat-shaped den, replica Tardis and cider bar among finalists


Sheds were traditionally the hiding place for dads.

A place of peace and quiet where they could stir paint with pieces of wood and listen to the radio.

But a new generation of ‘sheddies’ have ripped up the rulebook and re-designed their ramshackle sheds with stunning results.

posted by Drinky Die at 4:37 PM on August 21, 2013


meese: "Let me introduce all of you to the The Wocave. It is the worst. Simply the worst."

Oh, man. Yeah, I've seen the TV ads for that. Abominable.
posted by brundlefly at 4:57 PM on August 21, 2013


Our society has developed in such a way that masculinity is only really defined in terms of what it isn't: it isn't feminine, it isn't gay

Yeah, this is fascinating to me too, meese. And a collary is how we define women by their relationship to men. Both these identifications are so insideous that we have to work really hard to identify them in our own perceptions. It is even prevelent in this thread where we are trying to unpack stereotypes. For example, the conversation about mancaves is predicated upon there being a woman (or family) in the house that a man needs to isolate himself from.
posted by Kerasia at 6:01 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a (totally unsourced and unresearched) hypothesis about American masculinity. Throughout the 20th century, we had multiple generations of American men who left to fight foreign wars. World wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and to a lesser extent the First and Second Gulf Wars. It wasn't everybody, but it was a lot of people, enough to have a big impact on culture.

Everyone I've ever spoken to who has been in combat says it changes you in difficult ways. And in the case of American involvement in these wars, the fighting was all happening thousands of miles away from their homes and families, so the folks at home didn't have the same understanding of the horrors of war that, say, the folks in London and Canterbury and Dresden and Tokyo did. So because that gulf of understanding was so deep -- and I'm speaking in very wide generalizations here -- the men who were returning from war abroad just. . . didn't talk about their combat experiences, much.

The result of all this is that we had a substantial percentage of the male population coming home changed by combat. For generations! Your grandfather fought in WWI, your father in WWII, you fought in Vietnam. . . we created a culture where "to be a man" means "to suffer from PTSD." And again, it wasn't everybody, but it was enough to affect the culture, enough to normalize that behavior. And what is American manly-man masculinity like? Emotionless save for anger, brooding, strong and capable, hard-drinking. To keep your horrors bottled up inside and never let them see you cry. It really does sound like a checklist of the symptoms of traumatic stress.

I dunno, I'm not a sociologist, I could be way off base. But I do feel like this has some merit.
posted by KathrynT at 6:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [33 favorites]


I disagree that women were not allowed a place to indulge themselves and that is why only men have man caves (or dens) in the home given over to idleness.

I think that historically traditional gender roles meant that while a man retreated to a den or a mancave in the home, a woman found refuge outside of it.

It makes sense that, in a time when men typically worked outside the home, a man's sanctuary would be away from that workspace. His home was where he went to get away from all the responsibility that dogged him through the work day. A man's home is his castle and all that.

On the other hand, the woman's workspace was the home. Thus, women would go out to get away from their responsibilities. Usually, this meant going to a salon to have their hair done (now we have blow dryers and hair products) or having coffee or lunch "with the girls" while the kids were at school or similar.

One positive aspect, actually, about narrowly defined gender roles was that although one's role was definitely constrained, it was much less fuzzy and more absolute than today. When roles are so clearly defined, a measure of respect and an assumption of competence is accorded to those who perform the accepted roles (at least to all outward appearances).

Women were expected to run the household, everything from the decorations to the grocery budget, and because this was the expectation, services were built around making this easier for women to do from their homes. Milkmen came to the house, groceries were often delivered, doctors made house calls to see to the sick children and family members. Men may have looked down on "women's work" as being beneath them, but they accepted that women were experts at everything home-related, and deferred to their judgment on those things. Women were judged by their ability to nurture their family, the cleanliness of their homes and the good behavior of their children, while men were judged for their ability to provide for the family (the bigger the house, the nicer the car, even the more fashionable his wife was, the better a man looked in comparison to other men).

Getting out of the house and into the workforce was a necessity for stifled, repressed and intellectually unchallenged women feeling isolated by those constrained roles. Unfortunately, their lives were also made harder because, with gender roles less defined, the societal framework supporting them also fell apart.

Men's roles have changed some--men are more active participants in child-rearing, which is fantastic.

But still, women's roles have pretty much just layered on top of each other. Studies indicate we still find ourselves feeling like we need to keep the place clean, we often do the lion's share of the grocery shopping, cooking and errands anyway, we still feel guiltier than men when we are away from our kids, and now we also feel the need to contribute financially as well. What's more, we have less of the conveniences built around our roles than in the past because now our roles are so different that society hasn't adjusted accordingly.

Maybe we don't have women caves as much because we really need several of them spread out all over the place, not just one. ;)
posted by misha at 6:16 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


we created a culture where "to be a man" means "to suffer from PTSD." And again, it wasn't everybody, but it was enough to affect the culture, enough to normalize that behavior.

Oh my god. You basically just explained a couple of generations of dysfunction in my family.
posted by scody at 6:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


For a time it was a thing to actually hire a man to be a hermit in the cave. In some cases they would hire them for years and have instructions for what they were to do when people came by. They were literally caves with men in them.

I want this awesome job.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:37 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "For a time it was a thing to actually hire a man to be a hermit in the cave. In some cases they would hire them for years and have instructions for what they were to do when people came by. They were literally caves with men in them.

I want this awesome job.
"

You might be in luck, though there's something of a sign-up commitment. More on the eremetic vocation.
posted by jquinby at 6:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe we don't have women caves as much because we really need several of them spread out all over the place, not just one. ;)

My dad has a workshop in the basement, my mom has a craft room (currently a whole room, but in the tiny house I grew up in, it was a little nook in the upstairs hallway.) Each uses it as a personal space to pursue a hobby.

Meanwhile, my Grammy had a full bar in her basement - complete with white leather barstools and upholstered bar, tiki-themed glassware, giant mirror, and a huge Schlitz statue that lit up and turned. Also, an Atari 2600 for practicing blackjack. My Grammy had a mancave, but it wasn't a guys-only concept back then.

Informal entertaining spaces and his/hers alone-time workshops have always been with us - every sitcom family in the 50's and '60s had a den where Dad worked at home or entertained his buddies. I'm kind of at a loss as to how it became so berserkly over-gendered in a "No gurls allowzed!" kind of way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


we created a culture where "to be a man" means "to suffer from PTSD."

There is merit to that. Definitely; very interesting.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might be in luck, though there's something of a sign-up commitment. More on the eremetic vocation.

I would read the shit out of a post about this and other hermitry.
posted by amorphatist at 8:26 PM on August 21, 2013


I was all set to be all "RAR I bet there are no lady hermits!!" but I was wrong and this story is fascinating to me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:33 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now I'm wondering if there are any (former?) hermit mefites...
posted by amorphatist at 8:38 PM on August 21, 2013


I was all set to be all "RAR I bet there are no lady hermits!!" but I was wrong and this story is fascinating to me.

There were a fair number in Christian history. Sarah of the Desert and Julian of Norwich are a couple that come to mind. Julian was an Anchoress which is considered to be hermit like.
posted by Jalliah at 8:45 PM on August 21, 2013



This week I've actually started reading up more on many of these women. It's quite fascinating as many were considered prolific thinkers and respected during their time. They left society where they had no voice and gained a voice in society.
posted by Jalliah at 8:51 PM on August 21, 2013


Jalliah, have you read about Hildegard of Bingen?

I found her through her music, but her life itself was fascinating.
posted by winna at 9:25 PM on August 21, 2013


Jalliah, have you read about Hildegard of Bingen?

Yes! She is another one I've started to learn about. What an amazing woman. I'm patiently waiting for my library to get in a book which has many of her letters. Apparently there are over 400 letters that have survived and it's one of the largest collection of personal letters for that time.
posted by Jalliah at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it okay if I nominate this thread for Permanent Exemplar Thread When Someone Asks Why MetaFilter Is Awesome?

Because, jeez, you guys. This is the essence of why I keep coming back. This is what I wish my life was like every day. Just learning and hearing and watching. This is how you human, goddamnit.
posted by scrump at 10:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Jalliah, you might also be interested in Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


scrump, I am always particularly amazed when a contentiously nasty and overheated thread suddenly goes through a phase transition and results in a conversation like this.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:20 AM on August 22, 2013


See also the Carthusians - in essence an order of hermits, and probably the most ascetic group in western monasticism.
posted by jquinby at 3:59 AM on August 22, 2013


Jalliah, you might also be interested in Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.

The first stanza of one of her most famous poems seems relevant:
Hombres necios que acusáis
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis ...
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:59 AM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


And what is American manly-man masculinity like? Emotionless save for anger, brooding, strong and capable, hard-drinking. To keep your horrors bottled up inside and never let them see you cry. It really does sound like a checklist of the symptoms of traumatic stress.

This is a fascinating comment, but I think it slightly misses the mark. To my eyes, society inculcates these qualities in men so they'll be good soldiers when the time comes to go to war. They're not the result of combat, they're the prerequisite for it. Can soldiers suffer PTSD? Sure. But anyone who's a victim of violence can. And in a country in which the abuse of women is so rampant (stalking, rape, domestic violence, murder, terror attacks on women's medical facilities, all while a good portion of the police and government look the other way), women who haven't been in an official war are just as likely to have PTSD as men who have.

I of course agree with the premise that having half the country be killing machines on demand impacts culture / FUCKS UP EVERYTHING.
posted by january at 5:03 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Briefly back on the 'splaining question - sorry to de/rerail)

So, I saw a use of the 'splain just now that seemed to do a very good job of capturing its utility, from an article by Dennis Upkins:
In fact, since coming out, I’ve only had maybe four whites comes to me in good faith and ASK whether or not homophobia in the black community being worse is true rather than WHITESPLAINING to me that it is.
Upkins is talking about people who have no rational reason to conclude that they understand a situation (the attitude of the African-American community towards homosexuality) better than him (a queer African-American man) telling him, rather than asking him, about the attitude of the African-American community towards homosexuality.

In that context "whitesplain" feels like a very accurate and very economical tool to communicate a particular phenomenon. It's a neologism, but it's a neologism in part because it's a situation that historically nobody registered as problematic and therefore needing to be identified. For much of the history of the United States, white people explaining things to black people without contemplating that black people might already understand those things as well as or better than them was just explaining. Because the knowing-better was a given.

At some point in a glorious post-racial America, "you are being condescending" or indeed "you are teaching your $grandrelative to suck eggs" might mean exactly the same thing - but at the moment it doesn't.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:35 AM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seconded, this thread is a great example of big reasons I keep returning to MeFi. The sense of isolation I have as a "strong woman" (quoted because it's what I'm actually called by people here) dissipates and I can feel like a member of humanity as opposed to an ostracizable oddity.

The sensations surrounding horseback riding remind me of what I loved in bicycling as a kid (and still love); the sense of utter independence and empowerment. Even better when you know bike repairs. Then the only thing that can stop you is lack of water/food/injury. Even then... like other women in this thread I too grew up knowing outdoor survival skills, and more than once, when my urge to run away from home [abusive family] became stronger than usual, I would hop on my bike, lie to my parents that I'd be back soon, "won't even need a water bottle!" and ride for miles to one of the springs friends and I had found in our boondocks part of the state. In Oregon there are often edible berries, too. Peace and quiet amongst the giant Douglas firs.

I had a cousin (male) who was an amateur competitive cyclist, he lived across the valley. Four years older than me, but I was able to keep up with his racing bike on my 20-year-old Japanese steel road bike. He had to push hard out of his training cadence to get rid of me. I was never able to join riding groups, long tiring sexist story (it will intersect with the OP though). In short, I was an uppity girl who didn't know what she was talking about; "she thinks she could be a CYCLIST, ugh, she's just riding a bike" was said many a time.

I recently began working in offices closer to home, perfect for getting into the groove of commuting by bike. So I've started looking into a road bike for that. In so doing, I used the French Wikipedia to pick up terminology so I don't go into my bike shop to be all, "you know, the thing you put your hands on, I want one that is curved, but not curved up, the one used for road bikes, not time trials, ya know?!?" (translation: drop handlebars are called "une cintre de course", which I never would have guessed because the French translation for "handlebar", more generically, is "guidon", however I DID guess that since French is a stickler language with nouns, it would be something specific. Phew.) In part because I was still indoctrinated by family, their discourse supported by the "proof" of my "genuine racing cyclist" cousin, I figured a more modest bike such as a randonneuse (touring bike) would be best for my commute. It couldn't be a city bike or a hybrid, since I at least knew myself well enough from my mountain biking to know that I'm a climber who also likes to go fast, and so need something closer to a true road bike, that can also hold panniers. Well. The French article on cyclotourisme brought tears to my eyes with this self-evident explanation:
"Le cyclotourisme consiste à découvrir des sites, des paysages, des lieux ou aller à la rencontre des populations en utilisant le vélo comme moyen de locomotion. Pourtant, nombre de cyclistes croient faire du cyclotourisme simplement parce qu'ils ne participent pas à une compétition de cyclisme. La recherche d'une performance, quel qu'en soit son niveau, est une pratique simplement sportive, dans laquelle toute notion de tourisme a disparu."

Translation: "Bicycle touring consists of sightseeing and meeting new people, while using a bicycle as the means of transportation. However, many cyclists believe themselves to be tourers simply because they never take part in bike races. A desire for performance, at any level, is an athletic pursuit, in which any concept of tourism [as a foremost leisure pursuit] is no longer present."

Translation-translation of the meaning of the French: "If you are riding your bike because you want to ride your bike, and that is the reason unto itself, you are an athlete."
It's a shattering sensation, recognizing when gendered condescension has gone so profoundly deep.

As a kid you do the same things as others, but slowly the others self-define as "boys". You're still doing the same things, but now people define you as a "tomboy" so long as you're young enough. Once puberty hits, though, "tomboy" tends to fall out of use. Now you're really othered. You're still doing the same things. But you're not. "Let me explain to you that what I [man] am doing is more important/more real/more genuine than what you [woman] are doing." And you wonder, because it's systematic, it's not overt, you wonder if, when you were a "tomboy", did you miss out on special classes or competitions or something? Were there training sessions you didn't participate in and that's why people who were once your friends and teammates are now able to say they're different? Because you still see them as friends, so obviously you're not going to assume they're NOT able to say, if they're telling you that you don't know the whole story, it's because they're ABLE to, or so you assume. It just gradually gets worse, because you can't see that the secret story is, they're being told they're men, and that men are stronger and better than women. Because that goes on when you're not around. And you don't know it, you guess at it, you slowly start suspecting it, until it smacks you upside the head one day. Sometimes literally, with an abusive father or boyfriend or husband. "Goddamned uppity woman. Everything they say about you is true. Irrational bitches."

And so a woman who's cycled all her life, who repaired friends' bikes, who's always repaired her own, who rides with a computer and pumps her arm when she sees that steep climbs she once rode at 8kmh she's now doing at 12kmh, who's never participated in a bike race because she rides for the love of it, not to win, is able to be convinced that she is NOT AN ATHLETE.

And at age 37 she reads a simple Wikipedia entry and sees decades of lies fall apart in front of her. She realizes that no, all those people, all of them, they're doing the same things. They're riding because they love it, they want to. Some of them compete because they want to win; another desire, different, but not inherently superior. And what of all the men who don't compete?? "I never saw them as non-athletes... god!! How did I believe that nonsense for so long?" Competition does not make a pursuit sacred. The pursuit is a pursuit, in and of itself.

And you just wish someone, somewhere along the line, had had enough self-awareness, and it can be in any area, whether sports or science or anything, to say, "hey, what you're doing is great. It's fun, isn't it? Want to share some more about it / do some together?"

I've never understood sexism for that very reason. Shunting aside half of humanity. It's like, do you have ANY IDEA what you're missing out on by doing that? Any idea whatsoever? People who think "feminine" is somehow equivalent to "stupid" and/or "incompetent" and/or "worthless" are so utterly impoverished in their experiences, it is truly sad. I am not being ironic or trying to score burn points here. It is genuinely sad. The longer I've been single, for instance, going on 9 years now, the less being ostracized as a woman bothers me. Why? Because my life is so rich! I don't ostracize others; I befriend people who are tolerant. (Not perfect, not "the same", far from it – tolerant.) Knowing so many wonderful people, and being ABLE to live life on my terms, which are modest (but hell are they ostracized in strange ways as soon as I talk about them with sexist folk, see: being a woman), is the reward in and of itself.

Someone (a man) told me yesterday how to ride my bike in winter, when I came in from a first commute on my mountain bike that morning. And that if I had to walk up the hill by our offices, obviously I wasn't a true cyclist, I needed some sporty French workout buzzwords that went in one ear and out the other as soon as I recognized the gentle-because-assumed-superior preachy tone. In reality I was more an out-of-shape cyclist who had minor knee tendon injuries she didn't want to worsen from having ridden an out-of-whack city share bike the day before, but he wouldn't have known because he didn't ask, he just assumed I was a hopeless woman who needed benevolent educating. When I asked him, he had never ridden a bicycle. Or a motorbike. And suddenly he was pissed off, just at the question. Soon as he couldn't feel superior, the tone changed. You get used to that. I wanted to say, "well, at least I asked you the question." Instead I shrugged.

Later that evening, I rode home. Free. To my two cats. Who tipped over my bike in the living room. "The tires have ALL THE SMELLS!!!!" they both said with their sniffy noses and perky tails. Then my fluffy Coon appropriated my jersey as I showered, and got happy-drunk in his favorite human's smell, purring like a cat who's smoked a joint, tummy in the air, dangling rear paws caught in the bottom elastic. Kooky sweetheart that he is.

The older I get, the more actions I take to live my life without the potential-reducing effects of mansplaining. Because as I hope was abundantly clear with the cycling comments, they weren't just comments. Actions were taken: opportunities were shut off. My brother got a new road bike, I didn't. My cousin got to be in cycling teams; I didn't, I was actively badmouthed to them, which came around to me, their belief in rumors justified in their minds due to their own sexism; they never saw me ride. But now, as an adult, I go to stores where my questions are answered. Usually they're family-owned – so much the better. I chose a plumber-electrician who listens and takes me seriously, as well as doing great work. I work for a boss who values my input and trusts me. Friends are awesome.

Some dude wants to tell me how to ride my bike? I can go to my favorite website and ramble about it with people who've been there and done that and get that it stinks and why. His loss. He could've learned something, if he wanted to, but he didn't. He wants and creates a life in what he sees as a masculine fortress, thinking that fortresses are impenetrable and superior. And they are. They're cut off from the reality that surrounds them. I get to ride my bike home. Free.
posted by fraula at 5:58 AM on August 22, 2013 [65 favorites]


Can I go back to talking about bad-ass medieval Christian women for just one second, just to tell Jalliah about Hrotsvitha?

I learned about her in theater history class and she seemed pretty damn bad-ass. Today she is regarded as the first post-ancient-world playwright. Not the first such female playwright, the first playwright. It was like, the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans had their theater, and then Rome fell and no one really did much with plays except for the dramatic structure that church worship occasionally takes, and then Hrotsvitha came along in the 10th Century all "wait, let's start writing plays again" and there we are.

And even better - she had great comebacks for her critics. She'd usually write about the salvation of sinners - you know, telling a story about so-and-so and their life of sin and evil and such and then in the last couple scenes they'd turn their life around - and she sometimes got some flak from people who thought that a woman shouldn't even be thinking about some of the things her characters did, much less writing about them. And her response was basically that, well, you wouldn't get why her characters' renunciations were a big deal unless you actually saw how bad they'd been, so, there you are. She also got some "where the hell does this woman get off trying to be a writer" flak, and her comeback to that was pretty much "yeah, I'm a woman, but I also happen to be the woman that God gave writing talent to so suck it." (Okay, I paraphrased that, but that's pretty much the message.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ooh, couple more historical notes:

"RAR I bet there are no lady hermits!!"

Aside from the ancient and Christian hermits mentioned here which are new to me, I think there is a pretty strong American equivalent to "lady hermit," and it's widows. Bear with me a minute. Before the early 1800s or so, women had no legal identity of their own as the default. They could not buy, sell, or own property, vote, sign legal documents like wills, etc. Until you were married your father or older brother or other male relative legally represented you and had to support you. When you were married, your husband legally represented you and had to support you. Of course there were all sorts of problems with this system, but that was the system. There was one exception, and that was for widows. If you had been married, and your husband died, you actually could inherit his legal status and become self-representing as an individual entity. You could own things, sell them, do business, and decide how your own wealth would be divided or given away when you died. So the interesting thing about this is that widowhood, quite opposite from being some sorry state, was a relatively empowered condition for women in the common law. Widows could (and often did) take over their husbands' businesses under their own names, or start their own ventures. The fortunate ones made money. Almost universally, women who were widowed once never remarried. Why would they? They were much better off as widows. Meanwhile, men almost always remarried. So there is a lot of stuff in the popular culture about the "Old Widow [Whomever]," who is this sort of otherish figure who lives alone and has money and has opinions and doesn't live with a family and wields some degree of social power - that's not just an imagined stereotype. They may not have been "hermits," in the sense that they didn't retreat from society, but if they did live alone and avoid further complications with marriage, they had the independence and freedom that no other women in the society had.

The sensations surrounding horseback riding remind me of what I loved in bicycling as a kid (and still love)the sense of utter independence and empowerment

Another historical note: a lot of historians cite the advent of bicycling as a major contributor to early 1900s feminism. There was a lot of handwringing about how girls couldn't be controlled any more because they could just spin away to the country roads and woods and get up to who knows what, with their beaus or just friends, and how cycling was too physically exciting, what with that hard seat between the legs and all. And there was a lot of celebratory pop culture material about how wonderfully free and sporty cycling was. Plenty more where those links came from.

Someone (a man) told me yesterday how to ride my bike in winter...he just assumed I was a hopeless woman who needed benevolent educating.

Similar experience last December: I was volunteering to give these Christmas historic house tours in my town, and the house I happened to be touring was that of a local schooner captain who does short day-sails. I had been interested in this vessel a bit because I am a sailor who has worked aboard several square-rig and schooner vessels. We struck up a conversation about the schooner he runs, and I asked if he ever accepted volunteer crew (most do). He looked me over and said "Well, we do, but it's not for everyone. It's very physical, you know. The lines and everything, there's a lot of weight on them. You have to be tough and physical. Some women can do it, but you really have to work at it." His whole air was skeptical and dismissive, and he assumed I didn't know anything about what I was asking, even though I dropped enough technical language that he should have seen that I did. This pissed me off no end, because I have sailed much more difficult-to-operate vessels than his little schooner, I'm far more than capable of walking on there right now and crewing by myself, and because he didn't even bother to ask me about my experience. He just assumed I needed to be cautioned based on the impressions he had of me standing there in my Christmasy outfit. It is sad, as fraula says, to have people imagine things about you without seeking an understanding first, based on their gendered assumptions. And I asked. I had the temerity to approach him and ask for an opportunity. How limiting is the world when most girls and women don't even feel empowered to ask for these opportunities - and are discouraged in this way when they do? I'm very fortunate that my early training experiences were on vessels where sexism did not reign, or this kind of experience would have kept me from a pastime that has been one of the major sources of accomplishment and joy in my lifetime.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on August 22, 2013 [26 favorites]



Oh dear there goes getting more work done....

Fraula Amazing comment thanks so much for sharing. I read a lot that I can relate too. You comments about not being considered an athlete was a lightbulb moment. As I said in my previous comment I started snowboarding as a teen and in my 20s in was my main job for seven years. I taught for 7-8 months of the year and taught people how to teach. I did it because I loved it and was able to combine a passion with work. Thinking back it was pretty common for the athletics of it to be equated with guys doing it but I rarely recall getting the same moniker. I didn't compete either. I just wasn't interested.

I now remember the time when I had an injured knee and my doctor was able to get me into see a big wig specialist in less then a week. The specialist even came in early (6:30am) to fit me in. When I thanked him profusely he said "It's no problem. I have a soft spot for professional athletes who depend on things working to live." At the time I thought it was the most bizarre thing to say. "Me a professional athlete? Well...okay'. I had an operation, which was video taped and afterwards he asked my permission to use the video in his teaching and research. Ends up I had a funky injury that he's only seen in football players and it was unique enough to disseminate further. I thought 'hey neat' and said to use it however he wanted. Didn't think much more about it until now.

While reading your comment I thought, "Hey wait a minute. Oh dear lord, I WAS an athlete! Why in the hell did I never really see myself that way?" 0.o

I feel a bit silly now but now I get why the doctor said that and why my knee video would actually be important to him. So thanks so very much. I learned something big about my personal history today. It's bizarre but it makes much more sense now.

Hugs.
posted by Jalliah at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


At my office we use "womansplaining" to describe the act of explaining mansplaining to someone who has just mansplained, especially in front of their colleagues.

When done well this has been successful at diffusing any tension post mansplaining being challenged, but also point out that you (or I) are sometimes (inadvertently) condescending when you (or I) tell someone exactly how they are being condescending in front of others, and then moving on to a more productive conversation about respectful communication.

The truth (for me, a woman who has experienced mansplaining quite enough for a lifetime, thanks) is it is exhausting and frustrating to be mansplained to a lot. And the response to mansplaining (from me) tends to be less courteous the more it happens. And women are sometimes sick of being the polite people who hold back and don't say when we are offended--because this is also gendered--and doubly so when someone has been run. Even more, sometimes it is important to name negative behaviour in front of others, because being seen to put up with sexist behaviour (over and over) can change the whole tone of your workplace for you.

I suppose, and fair enough, guys don't enjoy having the patriarchy brought up every time they do something wrong. (Does anyone enjoy being told they are being a jerk and also 10,000 years of patriarchy? My experiments in the field suggest no).

In an ideal world we would all use non violent communication in every situation. In the real world we are more flawed than that, and more interesting.
posted by chapps at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"yeah, I'm a woman, but I also happen to be the woman that God gave writing talent to so suck it." (Okay, I paraphrased that, but that's pretty much the message.)


Love it. Thanks.

What I've learned so far is the "God gave me this...so suck it,' is a pretty apt, modern but apt way of paraphrasing what several of these women said. I've only looked at a few so far so but I think it's a pattern.

According to my basic understanding in the medieval Church rules, women were able or allowed to speak on big ideas of theology through a direct connection with God. Men were able to speak and teach their ideas through book learning and education in different fields. They also didn't necessarily have to seclude themselves and go into a monastic type situation either. Women had to, because in order to connect with God in that sort of way you also had to be virginal and pure blah blah.

On first glance some of these women's writings are rather off putting in this day and age. They talked about how they were the weaker sex, would never set themselves on the same level as learned men who were so much more capable and just generally spoke about how women obviously weren't like men who we all know are so much better. "I am but a humble, women of the fairer sex' sort of stuff. Ugh. However many like Hildegard a Julian talked and wrote about the importance of the feminine and even referred to God and Jesus using mother and feminine descriptions and commented on the importance of the female in the cosmos and society in general. There actions, especially Hildegard's speak for them too.

I doubt we'll ever know how much each of them bought into 'women's place' and stature at the time or whether they truly believed that women weren't intellectually capable of this thing or that and how much of their 'I am but a humble, weak woman talk' was more with a calculated understanding of the way things were and what was necessary to do what they did. The times really wouldn't allow them to do it any other way but within the context of what the church allowed. They were able to create agency and have power by playing unconsciously or consciously with what avenues were available at the time. Hildegard was a one intelligent woman and I like to think of her as being "Okay I'll play the game. I am but a humble women, of the weaker and intellectually efficient sex. God speaks through me. My words are his. He told me this...now suck it.'

Interestingly Elizabeth I spoke this way a lot. I think in her case it was quite calculating. She purposely created the image of the "Virgin Queen" thus pure in spirit and connected with the divine. My words are connected with Gods desires. So yeah...this is was we want. If you don't like it. Suck it."
posted by Jalliah at 8:32 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can I go back to talking about bad-ass medieval Christian women for just one second

Sure, if I can talk about Nicola Griffith's upcoming novel about a bad-ass medieval Christian woman?
posted by MartinWisse at 8:40 AM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll always recall an interaction I saw at Plimoth Plantation. For those who don't know, it's a living history site in Massachusetts where people in costume play the specific individuals who set up an early colony there, who now are called the Pilgrims. You walk into their recreated houses and talk to the characters and are basically immersed in the time period. So I was in a house at the same time a bunch of Dutch tourists were there, and a male character started a lengthy and complicated discussion about some kind of naval standoff/intrigue between the Flemish and Dutch and Spain or something, to do with various princes and passage and fishing rights and recent wars and treaties and stuff, and all the visitors in the room were pretty much bemusedly going along with this because it was far too arcane and of the 1627 moment for any of us to have even a ghost of an opinion about. The man directed one of his rhetorical questions at a Dutch woman - "shouldn't it be fair to allow so-and-so their fishing rights, when it was done by Prince Whoseewhat in 1512?" or something - and, flustered, she laughed, shook her head and shrugged and finally said "don't know - I am just a simple woman." And the male character took it completely in stride, held up his hand gently and said "of course, goodwife, I mean no offense as of course you haven't the education blah blah and I am sure you are a worthy woman, etc " and carried on talking to others.

Though living history isn't the same as history, I remember really feeling a lightning bolt at that moment - it seemed like a very authentic type of interaction, and her response a very genuine one for a time when you were kept out of discussions of political import, not given formal education, and not asked for your opinion. I am just a simple woman. I don't know why she chose to say that, but it rang very true and seemed to echo with centuries of self-abnegating humbling before men. At the same time such disclaimers are a terrible sign of oppression, it was also probably a very practical tool to keep out of trouble for appearing too opinionated or assertive when the consequences for that were serious.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sure, if I can talk about Nicola Griffith's upcoming novel about a bad-ass medieval Christian woman?

I am so stoked for that.
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2013


"It is a painful word for some men to deal with. That is also deliberate. I am a man who likes to think of himself as a bit of a feminist but nevertheless I have been just as guilty of mansplaining in my time as most men of my generation (I'm 42). The process of getting my head around the word and the idea that there is nothing wrong with the word - even if it is has sometimes quite rightly been used as a slap in the face to me personally - has been highly educational and - I hope - ultimately beneficial. I do my level best not to indulge in behaviour that could be characterised as 'mansplaining' any more. I don't claim that I can always do it. But I try."

I'm a little late to the party but, Oh God yes, THIS.

As an academic I make my living figuring out difficult concepts, often ones no one has figured out before, and then explaining them to people - often but not always in structured and formalized ways. I would be so so much worse at just about every aspect of my job if I still carried around with me all of the subconscious assumptions about what women aren't likely to already know well, or what men are likely to know well, or the value of female achievement, or the spaces women get naturally afforded in conversation, or the relevance that male attraction should have to pretty much anyone who isn't the attracted dude or someone similarly attracted to him that I did before I went to a liberal hippy college in the middle of nowhere where that shit didn't fly. The effect that consciously fighting this shit has had on labs I've taught is fucking magical and quantitatively measurable in student scores. Being careful to call on both men and women when they look confused while staring intently at the slides, to challenge women especially who know what they’re doing to explain things to small groups for me, to challenge men especially to form good questions, to use the results that women get especially as examples to follow, and looking female students in the eye as an instructor just totally changes the dynamic of a classroom to the benefit of everyone involved in ways that are hard to describe.

I am both still constantly amazed at how much I keep needing to learn and incredibly grateful to how deep the concept of mansplaining cuts into the inter-related collection of fucked up yet unspoken and invisible ways in which women get fucked over constantly to the detriment of all of us.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


Sure, if I can talk about Nicola Griffith's upcoming novel about a bad-ass medieval Christian woman?

Thanks for pointing it out, I pre-ordered!
posted by taz (staff) at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2013


Jalliah, I always saw that as a clear way of undercutting the men who would use that stuff to dismiss them as well as clearing a sphere in which they could argue that they had superior authority.

A book that you might like is Caroline Bynum's collection of essays Fragmentation and Redemption, if you've not already read it.

And you just wish someone, somewhere along the line, had had enough self-awareness, and it can be in any area, whether sports or science or anything, to say, "hey, what you're doing is great. It's fun, isn't it? Want to share some more about it / do some together?"

This brought tears to my eyes. It would be nice to live in a world where I didn't have to qualify my enthusiasms in relation to my gender, to minimize what I do and enjoy to fit preconceived roles for a woman or have to start out battling condescension because I'm female.
posted by winna at 9:07 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


At the same time such disclaimers are a terrible sign of oppression, it was also probably a very practical tool to keep out of trouble for appearing too opinionated or assertive when the consequences for that were serious.

Yes, especially when the consequences could realistically be, being paraded around in various shaming rituals, losing everything, thrown out of your community altogether and death.
posted by Jalliah at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being accused of being a witch because you were a woman who knew too much/knew the wrong things/lived the "wrong" way was also no fun.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first time I heard the word mansplaining, I was being accused of it by someone who apparently didn't quite understand the meaning of the word -- I was overexplaining something and I was a man, but I was not being accused of overexplaining to a woman because she was a woman. This led me to get pretty defensive about it. I have since come to understand that "true" mansplaining is inherently a gendered thing and the "man" part is less out of place than I thought. But I'm inclined to think that if the form of the word lends itself to just that sort of misunderstanding, it's less than ideal.
posted by makeitso at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2013


I know a fellow who uses the word "pacific" instead of "specific," but nobody argues the word itself is the problem.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:36 AM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Accusations of witchcraft never really went away, it just became less about the mystical and more about the sexual (which is what it really was all along). It lives on in slut-shaming, body policing, the need for "credibility checks" whenever a man is accused of rape or harassment (and automatic assumption that he must be innocent), "legitimate" rape...the list goes on and on.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


But I'm inclined to think that if the form of the word lends itself to just that sort of misunderstanding, it's less than ideal.

Whether or not it's "ideal," not one critic in this thread, or in previous discussions, or really in any conversation about the problem, has come up with a term that works better.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Being accused of being a witch because you were a woman who knew too much/knew the wrong things/lived the "wrong" way was also no fun.

No doubt.


I have feeling that a women in the 13th century might run into trouble for not only speaking but writing down things like this without some sort of powerful backup.


When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man's seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman's sexual organs contract, and all the parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can hold something enclosed in his fist.



I watched the German movie Vision last week. Hildegard dictated a lot of her writing. There's a scene where she is saying this to the priest who was a longtime friend and supporter. He turns from his pen and paper and gives her the funniest look. "You want me to write...wha?? Yikes'. It cracked me up.

Here's an excerpt from a letter to a Bishop that is an example of her humble way of speaking. She corresponded with big wigs, Bishops, Kings and even the Pope on a regular basis.


A wind blew from a high mountain and, as it passed over ornamented castles and towers, it put into motion a small feather which had no ability of its own to fly but received its movement entirely from the wind. Surely the almighty God arranged this to show what the Divine could achieve through a creature that had no hope of achieving anything by itself.


It is quite beautiful poetically but taken on it's own is pretty cringeworthy. Many of her letters I have read have something like this in them and then go on to request something, tell them something she doesn't like (she was big on making comments about church corruption) or giving advice in response to question they had asked.
posted by Jalliah at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Language itself is less than ideal, but it's what we've got.

w/r/t the discussion about women, witchery, slut-shaming: Just learned bout this new exhibition, "Witches and Wicked Bodies," now running at the Scotland National Gallery of Modern Art, which deals with some of these ideas as components of female imagery.
posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I looked over that a few weeks ago; it looks terrific and I'm furious, as I sometimes am, not to be in Scotland to see it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2013


One of the things Hildegard was famous for in her time (according to the liner notes of one of the Anonymous Four albums of her work I have somewhere) was being able to predict the coat colors of calves from the colors of cow and bull, and I have often wondered whether she knew more than she could say or just more than it was politic for her to say, and whether a certain famous Austrian monk might not have been anticipated in his work by another, earlier cleric-- and by more than 600 years.
posted by jamjam at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Its not so differently complex than Mendel's pea plant system(PDF), though importantly cows don't breed nearly so fast as peas, this is totally plausible.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:12 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread makes me so happy now.

I (unintentionally) took a fascinating class in medieval feminist theology in college, and our instructor highlighted the language that women used to challenge male authority, pointing in particular to Hildegard and Heloise. She definitely was of the opinion that self-deprecation was a conscious political choice, meant not only to create a space in which women could be heard by appealing to a direct connection to divine authority, but one in which they would be safeguarded from accusations of heresy or worse -- appealing to male earthly authority in hopes of minimizing a perception of threat and/or invoking the obligation to protect.

I wrote a paper for that class on Hildegard, one of the few from college I remember to any degree, because she was such an interesting subject. From my limited interaction with her work, I remember thinking that my instructor was probably right, but good luck trying to figure it out definitively, because she was a mystic and did have sense of being profoundly subject to the divine.

***********
And now for something completely different: Kate Beaton's velocipedestrienne.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:06 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


She definitely was of the opinion that self-deprecation was a conscious political choice, meant not only to create a space in which women could be heard by appealing to a direct connection to divine authority, but one in which they would be safeguarded from accusations of heresy or worse -- appealing to male earthly authority in hopes of minimizing a perception of threat and/or invoking the obligation to protect.

This makes a lot of sense as a specific strategy. I mean, the level of Hildegarde's intelligence is astonishing -- not astonishing that she possessed such intelligence, of course, but astonishing that she was able to develop, display, and deploy it without being accused of (and quite possibly executed for) witchcraft. In addition to all the other awesome accomplishments mentioned about her already, Hildegarde invented her own secret alphabet/language -- which almost certainly would have been more than enough for virtually any other woman to have been killed.
posted by scody at 2:35 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now Hildegard and bicycles are mashed together in my head. I need to learn to draw better as I have a picture floating around of Hildegard the badass nun, riding around the countryside, talking about small feathers and telling people to suck it.
posted by Jalliah at 3:28 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Worrying about witchcraft is a bit of an anachronism for Hildegarde, I think. She lived in the 1100s, a time when official church teaching was actually that witchcraft didn't exist. Witch-hunting didn't really take off until the 1400s.
posted by zompist at 4:30 PM on August 22, 2013


That's a good point. There were certainly plenty of injunctions against witchcraft during that period of the Middle Ages, but persecution for heresy was far more typical. Witchcraft started being lumped in with persecutions for heresy starting in the 13th and 14th centuries, but you're right that the full-on witch hunts didn't really begin in earnest till the 15th.
posted by scody at 4:43 PM on August 22, 2013


I think it likely women with ideas were harassed and assaulted in the 12th century just as they were in the 15th, irrespective of the grounds for prosecution.

This thread. It's interesting (and grim) to realize that the cultural trivialization of women's athletics runs so deep that it affects the way even regular women who want to participate think of themselves. Any halfway aware person knows that women's sports are less funded and less attended. But to realize that many women who are demonstrably athletes and experts don't even think of themselves as such! Wow.
posted by gingerest at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, is fraula's comment great. In fact, I just flagged it as "fantastic", which I rarely do. (And I experienced a moment of anxiety after I did so, worrying that I may have selected the choice above or the choice below accidently.) Also, Miko's sailing-related story is a perfect little encapsulation.

If I might digress just for a second, since this from Blasdelb struck a chord for me:

"Being careful to call on both men and women when they look confused while staring intently at the slides, to challenge women especially who know what they’re doing to explain things to small groups for me, to challenge men especially to form good questions, to use the results that women get especially as examples to follow, and looking female students in the eye as an instructor just totally changes the dynamic of a classroom to the benefit of everyone involved in ways that are hard to describe."

I was fortunate in several respects in that my introduction to feminism was via a truly remarkable woman who'd been a friend of mine right at the end of high school (she was actually the best friend of a former girlfriend). Utterly brilliant, national merit scholar, perfect SAT score. She was a year behind me in school. She had her choice of all the best schools, ended up at Bryn Mawr, majoring in physics.

We became very close after we got together during respective xmas holiday visits back to our hometown at the end of 1983. She was a freshman at Bryn Mawr, I was living in Dallas.

We corresponded through that year, and by the following xmas holiday at the end of 1984, she was a sophomore, had come out, and had been fully radicalized as a feminist, to the point that she was considering separatism. I'd decided to give university another try and was a freshman physics major at Texas Tech University, which was about 90 miles from our hometown.

I'd just turned 20 and she was 19, some kind of weird thing happened between us, a simpatico, something. There was a small circle of people who were brilliant, sort of weird from a small town and a small high school, though it was a university town and more than half that little group were faculty kids. Anyway, she and I shared something, a very similar way of thinking that was different from the others, less technical and more intuitive and creative, but still based in a love of math and science.

She challenged me in every possible way. And, in one form or another, she challenged me to open my eyes to sexism. And I did.

The relevance of Blasdelb's quote is that I was challenged to open my eyes to sexism, Angela had told me the various things to look for, but I understood the general principle. And so there I was, back at Texas Tech, still one of the more conservative universities in a city that's very conservative, and this was the spring of 1985. And so I began to watch how male and female students interacted, but I also particularly began to scrutinize the gender differences in student-teacher interaction.

And, of course, the gender asymmetry was huge. Just night and day.

For me, these classroom interactions were both the starting point and a sort of a model for how I began to reacquaint myself with the wide spectrum of social interactions, with a new awareness of sexism. It was like, well, it's impossible to really explain what it was like. It was like something from a novel of the supernatural, where someone puts on a pair of glasses and can suddenly sees ghosts all around them in the everyday world. It's like being born without color vision and having a surgery and suddenly seeing color. Except that in no respect was this wondrous, it was horrifying. It induced in me a kind of shocked despair. I walked around in a kind of horrified daze for months. No small part of me wanted to un-know what I had come to know. This wasn't a world that I wanted to live in. The world of my recent ignorant past was far more tolerable. This actual world presented me with a reality that I felt I might not even be able to tolerate, much less do anything to change.

I got over that, although never completely. Thirty years later, now I have a sort of low-level despair about it. The despair can kind of flare back to life by a bad MetaTalk thread, or, more reasonably, by my reminding myself that a significant portion of the world's women live in what is in effect slavery, but no one is willing to name it as such and hardly anyone really cares.

Fraula's story is a reminder that — well, I don't need to repeat it, really, because that's her whole point — her story is a reminder that this stuff is so endemic that even women who suffer from sexism have things that they don't "see", that they don't recognize as sexism until suddenly they do.

If some of the men who question mansplaining or who are defensive or offended by the term have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, then I think that stories like fraula's and Miko's and the others that have appeared in this thread and related threads might help. Because I think that it's especially difficult for men to have their eyes opened to this stuff, we're not the ones who are primarily being affected by it, we have incentives to not see, we benefit from it. It doesn't require ill-will, the ways we men benefit from sexism don't require our assent or even our awareness. Indeed, the less awareness, the better. And so explaining what mansplaining is, is a presentation of an abstracted behavior. It's schematic. It's intellectualized. The men who question and distrust feminism do so not only because they've deeply accepted sexist ideas and they have self-interest to deny sexism and argue against sexism, they do this also because very often the majority of their exposure to feminism is in the form of what seems to them to be terminology and small modeled behaviors that are expressions of a large theoretical construct. But theory is easy to dismiss, you might as well be asking some random conservative to digest a marxist model of the behavior of finance.

What can more easily be "seen", more likely to be accepted because it is less amenable to being dismissed as an artifact of questionable theory, is the simple, empirically available differentiation of behavior on a purely gendered basis. Mansplaining is an actual thing, that actually happens, and has a particular character that depends upon gender. It's observable. (And this goes back to my earlier point that it's better, as a practical matter, to avoid widening the scope of mansplaining to include male-male interactions, even if there's a persuasive argument for doing so.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's probably much too late for this, but. The past couple of weeks on Twitter have been really eye-opening, because women of color have been using a great hashtag (#solidarityisforwhitewomen, created by Mikki Kendall, @Karnythia) to share their stories about how they've personally and as a class been systematically shut out of the feminist movement by white feminists. (Intention doesn't matter. It's a system, and the slights, mistakes, and assumptions we make individually add up.) As an individual part of that system, it is really really hard to shut the hell up and listen, without defensiveness, to these stories, but it is absolutely necessary, for both pragmatic and ethical reasons, to do so. Moreover, even as rightly angry as women using the tag are, and even though the purpose is not to teach but to tell their stories, in allowing white feminists to listen, they are doing us a real favor and honor by giving us the opportunity to shape the hell up. They didn't have to talk to us at all. They had every right not to.

So I understand the impulse to respond purely defensively, with an "I never did that!" or "That's not fair!" But, even if your behavior is spotless, it's an honor to be given the opportunity to do right by people who've been wronged by other people like you. It may not seem like the term "mansplaining" is an opportunity - but ultimately, it means that women who use it recognize that men have the potential to be better than that. Ditch the defensiveness, take the compliment, and live up to it.
posted by gingerest at 6:49 PM on August 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh man, we need a word for the opposite of mansplaining, where YOU are trying to explain something to a man and it's like he's actually refusing to let your words even enter his ears. Right now I am trying to explain to a 45 year old male colleague why his Skype is not allowing us to connect on video. I know exactly what the issue is and I am giving him VERY CLEAR AND SIMPLE instructions. And he is REFUSING to follow my instructions. I'm like, "Okay, first click on the gear icon" and he's like, "Where is the link I need to click on?"
"You'll be able to get to it through the gear icon."
"I'm looking for it under file, edit..."
"It is under the gear icon."
"I think it's my laptop, I think I might need to update my driver software."
"Bill, it's really straightforward to fix this, please just click on the gear icon."
"I'm trying to call you right now, did you accept it? You were supposed to accept it."
"I did accept it."
"Are you SURE? Do you have a built in webcam?"
"YES!!!!" (I actually screamed this by accident because I was so frustrated.)

ARRRGhghghghgahahrhrhghghghghghgaaaarrrr
posted by cairdeas at 9:29 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Desktopsupportsplaining.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:36 PM on August 22, 2013


Hahahaha, I actually got him to click on the fucking gear icon and then he actually refused to click on the link I wanted him to click on, saying "this user interface doesn't make any sense, I'm just going to try calling you again." We are actually going to forego video for this meeting for no other reason than he won't follow simple instructions from me. Amazing.
posted by cairdeas at 10:00 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Desktopsupportsplaining."

It sounds like that's part of what was going on, but I think that lines like the "Are you SURE? Do you have a built in webcam?" one show something gendered going on. As is that case with mansplaining, if cairdeas describes this as an interaction where sexist preconceptions are a factor, I expect that she's likely to know.

That really must be a problem for female tech support personnel. When I managed the support department for a regional ISP in 97-98, it's not something that I ever discussed with the women who worked customer support — I wish I had.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:02 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


i think there's really some cross talking going on. some people are saying there some specific, technical definition of mansplaining, so, hey, there's no reason to be offended by it.

and then some people say "hey, if it's a special, technical term, why does it have to be such a broad brush, painting a huge group of people with some very specific thing. it's needlessly inflammatory to define a term as [broad group] + [behavior] when it is a specific behavior which may or may not be strongly predicted by being a member of [broad group]." this is essentially the point is was making with asiandriver, but obviously, many people missed that point.

and then they go on about the unimportant parts of the analogy, that are obviously different, but are immaterial, unless you feel like different groups of people deserve to be judged differently THAT"S THE WAY IT IS.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:05 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cairdeas, notalwaysright.com is full of stories from women who have this same problem with men refusing to accept that the woman knows what she is talking about. They are humourous, maddening and saddening.
posted by Kerasia at 10:10 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


and then some people say "hey, if it's a special, technical term, why does it have to be such a broad brush, painting a huge group of people with some very specific thing. it's needlessly inflammatory to define a term as [broad group] + [behavior] when it is a specific behavior which may or may not be strongly predicted by being a member of [broad group]." this is essentially the point is was making with asiandriver, but obviously, many people missed that point.

I do agree that this thread demonstrates some notable persistence in missing the point, yes.
posted by scody at 11:17 PM on August 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


"and then some people say "hey, if it's a special, technical term, why does it have to be such a broad brush, painting a huge group of people with some very specific thing. it's needlessly inflammatory to define a term as [broad group] + [behavior] when it is a specific behavior which may or may not be strongly predicted by being a member of [broad group]." this is essentially the point is was making with asiandriver, but obviously, many people missed that point."

People didn't miss that point. They discussed it, refuted it, and moved on. Your "point" with "asiandriver" was at best lackluster, and missed the the very point of "mansplain."

It's not that you didn't explain yourself well enough and we're all missing your brilliance. It's that your argument is dumb, and it's already been treated with the seriousness it deserves. By this point, you should be able to articulate the problems with it and not need any of us to go through another round of, "Click the fucking gear icon."
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


That really must be a problem for female tech support personnel.

Yes, yes, it is, as a casual browse of notalwaysright.com makes clear. (Both that and notalwaysworking.com are great eye openers if you want to know how much casual racism or sexism you encounter in day to day consumer interactions.)
posted by MartinWisse at 11:37 PM on August 22, 2013


I still remember watching mansplaining completely destroy a presentation once. It was a writer/artist festival and the Friday had been a select session for us special people on committees and things. So I'd attended one by my favourite artist and writer for children. Her work is utterly amazing and beautiful. Her session was enlightening and well-constructed and just lovely to be at. On the Saturday she was doing a similar session but for the wider audience. I attended, along with a few other repeaters, because she was so lovely.

Which was, of course, the cue for the gentleman next to me to 'help' the artist. Each time she paused he would have a 'helpful' comment or question or anecdote about the previous day's session. Each time she fumbled a word he would supply it, or correct her. Each time she used an example he would start 'hmm' and 'uh huh' as she spoke, filling in the gaps if she left anything out, and when she started using different examples he would then bring up the one from the previous night. For fifteen solid minutes. Until she stalled and he said,

"It's okay dear, this happens to everyone."

At which point she put down her pencils, began to cry and left the room. He looked around like he had no idea why she'd left, which the rest of the (predominantly female, mostly at that age where one stops giving a fuck what men think) audience and we simply impassively stared. The organiser managed to calm the artist down and she returned and delivered the rest of the presentation really well. Probably helped by the obvious disapproval of everyone in the room of the 'helpful' gentleman, the organiser baldly stating 'please do not interject or ask questions until the end' and the way each and every woman in the room spoke over the gentleman when he ignored the organiser's request.

This guy, well-meaning as he was, veteran of a female-dominated career as he was, absolutely fucked up this presentation and did the artist SUCH a disservice. I don't know that she'd done a lot of presentations (I think she said this was her first festival) and she was away from her daughter for a while as well, in a strange town. And this guy, this man, decided that not only did he know her presentation better than she did because he heard it once before, but that we ALL needed to hear him talk about it. He could not either sit down, shut up and learn (as we were there to do) or simply have the good grace to let her fumble through (which I hasten to add, she wasn't by any means but it was obvious that's what he thought).

That's the part of mansplaining that I think we have a tendency to forget as well, that it reinforces itself. That by mansplaining, men contribute to a culture that silences women, dismisses them, and does not allow them the space to work. That presumes the woman is in need of his help, and that he obviously is able to provide it.

Mansplaining is absolutely strongly predicted by the explainer being a man, based entirely on the gender imbalances that exist in our culture. Mansplaining names something that contributes to the inequalities of the world, the bigotry both hard and soft that continues to under-represent and misrepresent women to better serve a male default. 'Asiandriving' is just a pathetic bit of racist drivel with little resemblance to reality, to lived experience, or to existing inequalities and indeed reinforces the status quo of racist stereotypes. Mansplaining challenges men to listen and presume both good faith and intelligence in the women they speak to* whereas 'asiandriving' (Christ, every part of me rebels at typing that) prioritises the idea that 'asians drive like this and whites drive like that' AND that one is necessarily better than the other AND that there is some part of culture that makes it so AND challenges nothing and no-one.

*I'd probably say they need to presume good faith and intelligence MORE in a woman than a man simply to compensate for the subjective devaluing women's contributions go through.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:22 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yes, yes, it is, as a casual browse of notalwaysright.com makes clear. (Both that and notalwaysworking.com are great eye openers if you want to know how much casual racism or sexism you encounter in day to day consumer interactions.)

When I was teaching snowboarding I ran into this sort of thing fairly frequently. The absolute majority of people both men and women were perfectly fine. When I first started teaching though I would occasionally have men that I had issues with whether it was following instructions or just generally getting through too. I worked really hard at adjusting how I taught to the client and figuring out what they needed and how teach for their specific needs. It bothered me when I would have people that I couldn't figure out. At first it never occurred to me that the issue was gender related until one day I was teaching someone who got more overtly hostile and very passive aggressive. Lightbulbs blinked on. Hey wait a minute, I think this is a problem based in the fact that I'm a women! After that it was much easier to 'see.' I will fully admit that there were times when I came across one of these dudes that I had fun with it and laughed a lot inside my head. There was really nothing I could do about it. It was their problem. I knew what I was doing. I was good at it. If dude wanted to not listen and fall on his ass over and over in some sort of internal gender aggravation then so be it.

The absolute worst though was teaching some couples. I ended up having to play part teacher and part relationship referee and counsellor. It was always the same pattern. Dude would try to become co-teacher, even though he was clueless. If the women had more trouble picking things up he would try to fix it. He'd tell her different things and get super frustrated at her. There were times where the women were brought to tears. It was brutal. I learned how to literally separate them on the hill and how to deal with it as professionally as possible because I couldn't just say "Will you stfu, you sexist prick." I'd have to have quiet conversations with the women assuring her that no matter what he said, she was doing fine and to not listen to a thing he said. If the opposite happened and the women picked it up a lot quicker or ended up being a natural, ooo boy, simmering rage and frustration. On a few occasions it got so bad for the dude that he faked hurting something and 'had to take a break. I'll meet you for lunch honey' and he'd stomp off. It was really sad to see happening and on many occasions I wanted to just say, "For pete's sake. Break up with this dude already!"

One week a male friend and I were assigned to a group of young italian men who had one a free trip and lessons through some contest. I was to take a group of 4 beginners. They spoke little English so language was a barrier but that was normal where I worked. At first things seemed rather cold and even a bit hostile but in a day or so things warmed up and we had a lot of fun both on and off the hill. I chalked up the initial atmosphere as issues with navigating the language barrier. On our last night it got really emotional and the one guy who did speak better English kept thanking me over and over in a way that seemed rather odd. I found out from my friend that the guys had talked to him about it. Ends up that when they found out that they had been assigned a female teacher they actually talked about whether to request someone else because the idea of having to be taught by a girl was just something they couldn't get their heads around. At first they hated it. By the end of the week it was a non-issue. I like to think those guys were taught way more then just how to snowboard. Hope it stuck, at least a bit after they went home.
posted by Jalliah at 12:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've just had a conversation with my hug-buddy about mansplaining. He is not a mansplainer but he is a musician. Looking for a way to frame the concept, I said "you know how sometimes a female guitarist will be setting up on stage and some guy in the audience starts telling her which hole to plug her jack int...". I didn't get to finish because he said "Oh! Those dickheads!" and he understood fully what I meant and we've just spent a nice 20 minutes while he prepared dinner discussing musical, farming and heavy machinery mansplaining.

And femsplaining too. He sews. And he gets ignored, patronised and doubted each time he visits our local haberdashery.
posted by Kerasia at 2:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is femsplaining what happens when a man is with his children in public and gets lots of advice from women?
posted by Area Man at 3:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also overpraise, yes. (Definitionally, a man cannot "babysit" his own offspring.)
posted by gingerest at 3:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


That really must be a problem for female tech support personnel.


I know two help desk employees, one at a single-sex school, who get asked if they really do work there.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:12 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like how Brandon mansplained away the OP's characterization of the issue. The way I see it, it's called "mansplaining" because men typically do it, not because it's targeted at women. It just so happens that most men feel more comfortable engaging in the practice with women for other sexist reasons. The insecure tendency to over explain things the splainer often knows little about shows up here and here in some of the women in my life but it's overwhelmingly a male behavior. I'm a dude who learned to curb the behavior after dealing with enough social misfits in IT such that I realized I desperately did not want to be yet another pedantic blowhard who thinks he understands reality as a whole due to his grasp of technology.
posted by lordaych at 7:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude would try to become co-teacher, even though he was clueless.

I have seen this phenomenon a lot in other teaching contexts. It's fascinating - the role of beginniner/learner seems so difficult to occupy that these folks must, despite all reason, try to align themselves with the expert as another expert.

mansplained away the OP's characterization of the issue.

After the Solnit thread, I had two interactions with people in MeMail that were, essentially, this: "I still don't think you understood why Solnit was wrong about being mansplained to, and here's why." It is hilarious, trying to disprove that mansplaining exists by mansplaining - "you see this differently than I, therefore you must be wrong, or at least not given the benefit of the doubt, because the way I see it is inherently more worthy by virtue of my gender, and let me tell you it" - but clearly so deep-seated that the temptation to do it is almost irresistible.
posted by Miko at 8:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


> I desperately did not want to be yet another pedantic blowhard who thinks he understands reality as a whole due to his grasp of technology.

Holy crap, if more coders and engineers here would only post that on their monitors. Some of them have become caricatures of themselves over the years because of all the relentless soapboxing and preening.
posted by planetesimal at 8:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is femsplaining what happens when a man is with his children in public and gets lots of advice from women?

No, that happens to everyone in public with children (it happened to my Mom, who was in her 50s at the time and baby sitting one of her many grand-kids). Man with child is a lot more likely to get weird looks and\or creepy over praise though.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite cartoons on the subject. (And my post on the blue about it.)
posted by jiawen at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2013


So I was talking to someone about this subject and got this description that I felt may have nailed it:

"You know how no matter how old you get your parents are likely to give advice to you as if you were a child who has never encountered a situation before? They're your parents though so everybody understands why they do it, you're always a kid to them in some ways and no matter what you accomplish in life it's still their job to guide you with their wisdom. It can still be extremely irritating.

Now imagine if a bunch of total strangers gave advice to you that way because of your gender."

posted by Drinky Die at 3:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [29 favorites]


uhg, another "mansplain" askme.

this is basically a survey question, and should be deleted, IMHO.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:28 PM on August 28, 2013


Eghck.
posted by box at 5:34 PM on August 28, 2013


Mansplaining is mansplaining because it is overwhelmingly men who do it

on re-reading this: isn't it tautological?
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:01 PM on August 28, 2013


Like how white-collar crime is crime committed by people in white-collar positions?
posted by rtha at 8:05 PM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


"on re-reading this: isn't it tautological?"

No
posted by Blasdelb at 10:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is basically a survey question, and should be deleted, IMHO.

In what way is that a survey question? "I am having this problem, tell me of some strategies you have used to solve similar problems in the past" is 99% of what AskMe is about.
posted by KathrynT at 11:03 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


on re-reading this: isn't it tautological?

No. the word was coined to describe a specifically male behavior.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:47 PM on August 28, 2013


cupcake1337: Are you sure you don't want it deleted for using the word 'mansplain', not for being 'basically a survey question'?
Are you going to advocate for the removal of every question and posting that uses that word from now on?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:07 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


OOH OOH now we can talk about whether this question is reeeaaally about sexism or gendered behavior, since corb didn't actually use the words "sexism" or "gendered behavior", just "gender relations" and "talking doll" and the tags "genderrelations", "noagency", "noconsent" and "barbiedoll".
posted by gingerest at 2:39 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


uhg, another "mansplain" askme.

It's another person asking for help with the same kind of problem. I don't know why you're reading it as a survey question; the question being asked seems pretty clear:
I do not know what to say - I have tried to explain my feelings directly about this and have been, again, dismissed.

How do I better explain this concept so that people will listen? Or how do I deal with it - with strangers, but most particularly, loved ones?
Where's the 'survey question' part? If it just read "has anyone else ever dealt with this problem", maybe I suppose it would count as a survey question, but "how do I deal with it" is a pretty standard answerable non-survey question.

Also: it's another person asking for help with the same kind of problem. In both cases, it's a problem that is annoying/upsetting/frustrating the askers, and they're trying to find ways to deal with it. That is how AskMe works.

You have now called for both of these questions to be deleted. I think we all appreciate by now that you really don't like the word 'mansplaining', but can you see why it makes you look pretty unreasonable to say, effectively, "Nobody should be allowed to ask for help in solving this problem, or share strategies for ways they've dealt with it themselves, until I - someone who isn't affected by this problem - can be convinced it really exists"?
posted by Catseye at 4:01 AM on August 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ugh. Mods, can we close this thread up, because it is very rapidly becoming the "Li'l Cupcake Takes The World On" show?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:11 AM on August 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm no expert, certainly, but it feels like if you are saying a post to AskMe should be deleted several hundred posts into another thread about a different post to AskMe, your aim is not actually to make a case for the deletion of that second post to AskMe. So... yeah. I'm not sure what this comment here is likely to achieve, or aiming to achieve.

With that having been said, I'm not sure that what corb is describing there is according-to-Hoyle mansplaining, but it's certainly within the set of deeply disrespectful behaviors pulled by men on women, so potayto potahto.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:28 AM on August 29, 2013


Mods, am I hallucinating, or was this comment deleted and restored?
posted by box at 5:34 AM on August 29, 2013


"Nobody should be allowed to ask for help in solving this problem,

Cuz it's not a problem, see? If there's no actual problem that exists, then the askme doesn't exist either! Easy.

Now, coffee. Coffee is a thing that exists and I haven't had enough yet. Mmmm coffee
posted by rtha at 5:40 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rosf,

Sure it is. It's just that rather than having say computers mansplained, it's her emotions that she's assumed not to know about. Which sounds about a hundred times more frustrating.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:59 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fair enough, Gygesringtone - I guess I was drawing a distinction between mansplaining - assuming that someone must lack knowledge of a subject or discipline (usually because they are a woman), and that you are in a position to explain it to them - and this, where nobody else can have better knowledge of the subject, because the subject is one's own emotions or beliefs. They are both shitty behaviors, but one is negating somebody's knowledge and the other their self-knowledge. Possibly that isn't a useful distinction to draw in this case, however.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:10 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mods, am I hallucinating, or was this comment deleted and restored?

No, yes! It was deleted by accident earlier and then undeleted. (I think it was a problem of having two tabs open, and mistaking that it was posted in the Ask thread instead of here.)
posted by taz (staff) at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason it makes me happy that mods have the multiple-tab problem too.
posted by rtha at 7:26 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


cupcake1337: " this is basically a survey question, and should be deleted, IMHO."

It's a perfectly valid question which should not be deleted, imo. It can be answered and is not open-ended chatfilter.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if corb's question counts as a survey, then so do a bunch of your own questions, cupcake. Either you really don't understand what counts as a verboten survey question in askme or you are not operating in good faith.
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a perfectly valid question which should not be deleted, imo. It can be answered and is not open-ended chatfilter.

Exactly. I am not sure if you don't understand how AskMe works, cupcake1337, or just don't like how it works but we've been spending an inordinate amount of time lately dealing with your concerns about your particular take on how MeFi deals with sexism and related topics.

It's fine if you have questions about how we do things here (and I apologize for deleting and restoring your question I thought it was in the AskMe thread where I'd also been deleting your off-topic comments) but if you just have an axe to grind on this issue with no real goal state and an implied general dislike of the community here, I think it's worth thinking about what you're trying to achieve.

We've been trying pretty hard to set expectations appropriately as far as what is and is not okay here but this question in particular was totally okay. You can decide what you want to do about that fact but "Help me deal with a situation that comes up by finding strategies for managing it" is not a survey question at all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


corb's question isn't survey at all. It's very specific, about a specific group of people, with examples.

The word mansplain isn't going to go away just because you want it to. There are things about this site that I don't like, but they're not going to go away either so here we are.
posted by sweetkid at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


For some reason it makes me happy that mods have the multiple-tab problem too.

hey remember that time when I posted a metatalk to the wrong part of the site
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 AM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is there more cheese? I see we're not out of whine.
posted by klangklangston at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


cupcake, as a thought experiment, ask yourself if you think that question would be okay if corb had used some term of art other than "mansplain." It looks very much like you're having some kind of kneejerk reaction to use of that term, and your dislike for it colors how you feel about whether that AskMe is appropriate.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2013


Yay, another awesome example of mansplaining to offer!

My neighborhood has a popular internet group. A woman just posted about finding a bat in her bedroom. Since it's nighttime, I said that if she had been sleeping before she found the bat in her room, the rabies innoculation is recommended for people who were sleeping or otherwise unconscious or impaired in a room with a bat (since they might not notice a bat bite, since the teeth are so needle-like.)

A man in his 50's or so replied quickly. He said as far as he knew there was no such thing as bat rabies. He said bats do not "eat people," are not interested in blood, and he said, "Why bring it up? Ugh." and "Why worry about them at all?"

I replied with one sentence about how "bat rabies" was the leading cause of human rabies deaths in the US, with a link to the CDC website listing every incidence of rabies in humans in the US since 1995, and the virus variant involved (bat, dog, etc.)

He replied asking that I "cite" a bat rabies case. I told him it was in the link...

He replied expressing skepticism about the reliability of the (CDC!!!) page since it was last updated a year ago, and "rhetorically" asked, "How do rabid bats behave?"

I replied with a sentence about how unlike dogs, bats don't always display symptoms of rabies because they can be carriers without being affected.

He replied, like Socrates leading a slow pupil, "Again—how do rabid bats behave?" and included a quote from an article about someone finding a rabid bat that was acting sluggish and sick.

There was also a line in that article about how people should use caution around all other animals as well. I didn't reply, so the man topped off the convo by writing, "Other wild animals. Got that? Calm yourselves, please."

The "Got that?" and "Calm yourselves" were the cherries on top, really.

Towards the end of this sad little exchange, another man in his age group started posting news stories of rabid bats in our county. He totally ignored that guy, and directed all his replies to "proving" how anything I said was wrong and hysterical paranoia and he was "teaching" me.

I think it's significant that we all have photos of ourselves attached to our messages in that group...
posted by cairdeas at 12:07 AM on August 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


I just thought it was so great how literally moments ago, he didn't even know rabies existed in bats (until I told him), but now, moments later, he is the Expert on how rabid bats behave, compared to me, and will teach me about it...
posted by cairdeas at 12:15 AM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


[I kinda feel like maybe if I show just how alll the timmmmmee this happens - I've had more overt instances of it this week than just these two - and how freaking annoying it is, maybe some people who don't believe it exists might start to see that it does?]
posted by cairdeas at 12:23 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


P.S. The woman, after this whole exchange was over, replied to me. "Thank you for the information, much appreciated."
posted by cairdeas at 4:09 AM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


That kind of reminds me of Wendy Cope's "Poem Composed in Santa Barbra"

The poets talk. They talk a lot.
They talk of T. S. Eliot.
One is anti. One is pro.
How hard they think! How much they know!
They're happy. A cicada sings.
We women talk of other things.


I know, misandry. But.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:14 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


And that poem reminds me of this scene from The Hobbit...
posted by cairdeas at 4:25 AM on August 30, 2013


Wow, cairdeas, what an asshat that guy was!

I know you can't say that in the group, because neighbors and all, but do you want me to go call him a douchecanoe for you? Because I am totally up for that.
posted by misha at 7:13 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mother has a very similar rabid bat story except hers is all about arguing with a guy from the Mass. Department of Health about the rabid-seeming bat that she found in the house. This was before bat-rabies was as well known, to be fair, but the lengthy "don't you worry about it little lady" argument ended with her freezing the bat and mailing it to them (surely a bioterrorism crime nowadays) where it was found, lo!, to have had rabies. She still gloats about that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:43 AM on August 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Ahh Misha, I appreciate it. If he acts up in the future I'll let you know. :D

Jessamyn: my mind is blown that your mom actually mailed someone a frozen rabid bat. In real life. I feel a bizarre tinge of true jealousy that I will probably never be able to say that I have done that. Even the college-aged people I know who revolve their lives around thumbing their noses at the squares with their transgressive, lifestyle performance art, have never come close to doing anything that wild.
posted by cairdeas at 8:02 AM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


A man in his 50's or so replied...

...another man in his age group started posting...


It sounds like you feel the age of these men is important to the story. Is that the case?

(By contrast, in the Ask that triggered this Meta, the nettlesome man is younger than the woman he is pestering.)
posted by nacho fries at 9:01 AM on August 30, 2013


It sounds like you feel the age of these men is important to the story. Is that the case?

I can't speak about Sudden Bat Expert Man, but there is often a very paternalistic streak to mansplaining that can be exacerbated when the male in question is older than the woman.

By contrast, in the Ask that triggered this Meta, the nettlesome man is younger than the woman he is pestering.

Which serves as a good illustration of the pervasiveness of the phenomenon of not taking women seriously, yes.
posted by scody at 9:07 AM on August 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Jessamyn: my mind is blown that your mom actually mailed someone a frozen rabid bat.

Even as we speak, Hallmark is doing a cost/benefit analysis of Possibly Rabid Bat Day.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:28 AM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


"I can't speak about Sudden Bat Expert Man, but there is often a very paternalistic streak to mansplaining that can be exacerbated when the male in question is older than the woman."

I also optimistically hope that this is something that is more a marker of older men, who were socialized with different norms in a more overtly sexist time.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jessamyn: my mind is blown that your mom actually mailed someone a frozen rabid bat.

She is totally good news/bad news mom like that. One time she got mad at a place she and my dad were buying a second hand car from (something about how they were going to take a personal check and then at the last minute didn't take a personal check) and so she paid for the car in unbanded (like took the bands off after she got the money from the bank) singles and five dollar bills and sat there watching the desk lady at the car dealership (who did not make the "we won't take that check" policy, naturally) count them all. I must have been eight and all I could think was "this does not totally feel like winning." Since she got cancer--she is okay for now--the number of stories about putting someone in their place by saying "Aha, I have cancer, you were a jerk to someone with cancer!" (like the people at the DMV who wouldn't bend their "no you need a new picture for your license, even though you have bad chemo hair right now" policy, later rescinded) has gotten a little out of control. Righteous, yes, and I applaud her generally being an advocate for herself and making the best of a bad health situation. At the same time, I like a good zing as much as the next person but seeing her triumphant zeal at sometimes indiscriminately sticking it to the man has made me reconsider my own choices about how to respond to other people being jerks.

this is something that is more a marker of older men, who were socialized with different norms in a more overtly sexist time.

And only some of them, yes. My SO and I were talking about trying to delineate just who it is who calls us by endearments other than our friends/family (after an older guy working in a discount store called me honey in a totally "this is super normal" and also non-creepy way) and we came up with

- female waitresses (seems normal to most people I know)
- older men in service-type jobs (the guy at the transfer station, aka the dump does this to me all the time and for some reason it's funny not awful)
- any age men in sales (more creepy, not enjoyable)
- Jewish folks I interact with when I am with my (Jewish) family
- men in Eastern European countries

It's like it used to be a game that everyone was playing and more and more people have opted out of over time. So people sort of understand how the people who started out playing it may still be playing it but it makes no sense when new people who should understand that it's an archaic form of interaction suddenly adopt it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:38 AM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


It sounds like you feel the age of these men is important to the story. Is that the case?

It is for me. Speaking only from my own experience, not only have older men done this to me more, there's a different quality to it. It's way more assertive/aggressive, defensive, and angry. Assertive/aggressive, in that the man is way more likely to just jump in with absolute statements about how I am wrong or what "the facts" really are; aggressive in that he is much more likely to call me names, insult me, or imply bad things about me just for disagreeing. (About things like bat rabies! Doesn't have to be a delicate topic.) He is much more likely to characterize me with "crazy woman" traits - being hysterical, stubborn, angry, etc. - when I'm just calmly disagreeing and he is the only one in the interaction who is angry or emotionally worked up. He is WAY more likely to assert that I'm committing a social wrong/upsetting other people/making a scene by disagreeing with him -- even when he is actually the one making a scene.

Defensive and angry in that he seems to take it as a personal insult for me to disagree with him, and be very angry with me for it during or afterwards; will come away from the interaction acting as if (or sometimes telling others!) that I have wronged him, even if he's made insult after insult towards me and I've done nothing more but continue to disagree. Getting angrier and angrier that I won't just shut up and let him be right, and dare to continue expressing that I'm saying -- after he's repeatedly made statements to "shut down" the conversation and get me to cry uncle (and here I'm talking about group conversations where I have just as much right to be there --- or conversations between me and someone else that didn't involve him at all in the first place!!!).

In a nutshell, in my experience older men have been way more likely to act as if they're being personally insulted if you don't shut down after they thought they shut you down; it seems like their goal is to get you to just shut up about what you think as soon as possible; they are way more likely to try to aggressively shame you into doing that, whether it's with direct insults or social shame.

Now, I have also gotten this from younger men for sure! But just in my own experience, younger men who mansplain are more likely to be the blabbing clueless know-it-all type. If you disagree they might not believe you at first, and they might even openly laugh at the idea that you could be right where they are wrong. And they might do the group of brogrammers thing where everyone acts like your work isn't as good when they know it's yours, and acts like it's the most brilliant thing ever when they don't. I haven't experienced as much underlying ANGER and aggressiveness.

But that's only my experience in my own life. It could definitely be different for different people.
posted by cairdeas at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


He is WAY more likely to assert that I'm committing a social wrong/upsetting other people/making a scene by disagreeing with him -- even when he is actually the one making a scene.

Thank you, cairdeas. That is an excellent explanation. And I've seen it, too. It's almost comical -- the guy going all Daffy-Duck, sputtering in rage, while the woman just calmly stands her ground...and then the guy tries to to say *she* is the one being irrational.

The age-factor is interesting to me, since my recent attempts to date in that age range (vs. dating younger people, as I've done in the past) have exposed me to sooo much of that entitled rage. It makes me sad. I don't experience it in the workplace, or in my social life, but in courtship, it has been very much in my face. (It's also very front-and-center on the internet, but I'm thinking here more in terms of off-screen interactions.)
posted by nacho fries at 1:44 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


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