Mansplaining is Alienating Even If You Understand What It Means


So of course now I’m going to write my rebuttal to Gina’s Mansplaining posts (Part 1, Part 2) – proof-positive that we’re all cool (insert boobs joke here). I’ll take it paragraph by paragraph, as much as possible.

Mansplaining, a term generated not by Solnit but by women reading her essay, indicates that the English language had a gap to fill. We demand a term that indicates when men try to explain something to a woman, often condescendingly, when she – rather than he – is the expert in the field.

I would posit that the English language is just fine, and that the correct term we’re really searching for is “being an asshole.” Unneeded explanation happens to everyone, not just to women, as any man anywhere could attest.

The reason we’re conflating “being a man” and “being an asshole” is because we’re in the liberty movement, and there are statistically more men in it. This means that when there is an increased frequency of listening to some bore explain things to you when it’s not necessary, they, just due to probability, tend to be male. This is perfectly natural and perfectly annoying. Male assistants who work in publishing in New York, one of the most female-dominated industries in the country, are likely faced with Femsplaining. Mansplaining in the libertarian movement is little more than statistics and probability.

What’s more concerning is the addendum to this theory: “This is not a conscious decision or thought process, but rather, a reflection of the arrogance generated by a society that defers to men’s opinions over women’s because men have had more power.”

As libertarians, it’s imperative that we don’t follow this logic, which actively separates people’s behavior from their agency – that is, their ability to choose between two options. If “society,” which is a fancy word for other people, is to blame for your actions, then you are not. Proponents of individual rights must be extremely wary of this logic because it’s precisely the argument for all government intervention – it’s not their fault, it’s society’s; it’s not our fault, it’s the budget; it’s not my fault, it’s the lack of individual mandate – projecting agency onto an outside influence damages arguments that individuals have preferences and choices for which they should be responsible. Men who “mansplain” should be taken to task, but not as some collective “men” — as a person, who happens to be disrespecting you.

Gina says she has mixed feelings about the term because it can be alienating, and I would agree heartily – it IS alienating, and not just “for people who don’t understand what it means.” The more we dement language to create distinctions between men and women, the more we fight against our own cause that individuals – including women – are created equal and deserve the same respect. If we’re not getting individualism, we should know by now that the only way to get it is to demand it, everyday, in every interaction we encounter. It can be an uphill battle, but what in life isn’t?

Following the article in the comments, Gina went to pains not only to distance herself from any language that was discourteous or malevolent, but to limit arguments made by others being attached to her; her argument is simply that “the term is valid, the phenomenon real,” even if people misuse it. But that’s like saying the word “golddigger” is valid, the phenomenon real, even if people misuse it. People are only misusing the word, besides the fact that it is not a kind word. There are male golddiggers aplenty, but it has sincere and undeniable female connotations. By creating a gendered word, we contribute to an unequal and gendered view of people’s actions, and therefore, of people themselves.

Further in the comments, Gina provides a hypothetical situation where a woman is complaining about mansplaining, and someone else tells her she should have stuck up for herself. The context, here, is that the onus shouldn’t be on the victim to change their behavior. I could tell a couple personal stories here, but in the interest of not boring my readers to tears, I’ll simply say that the victim, in a non-legal, non-enforcement state situation, HAS to tell the other person where they have lacked humility or respect, because they’re the only person in a position to change anything — they’ve seen the crime, and the criminal can’t escape from it. No change is effected by waiting for someone else to force the criminal to change their behavior — and we know that government usually mucks it up, especially on such nuanced policy as those we normally discuss here — and the criminal certainly isn’t going to change their behavior without any cause or incentive to do so.