Mansplaining is Alienating Even If You Understand What It Means

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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.

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About the author

Lindsey Dodge

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Lindsey Dodge is professionally contrarian and the editor-in-chief of Wollstonecrafty.com, a blog where women can read about Beyonce and libertarian politics in equal amounts and free of judgment. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia’s Publishing Course, she now works at a non-profit advocating for free markets for all people. She has a column in the Detroit News on women and public policy, and her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Heartlander Online, and NakedDC.com, where she collaborated with NakedDC’s editor-in-chief on the election-season Tumblr, Hey Girl It’s Paul Ryan. Her greatest intellectual influences are Jane Austen and South Park. Her great loves are her fiancé, Peter, and seasonable weather.

  • IHateFatChicks

    You’ll note that you allow comments and she doesn’t. I wonder why. :)

    • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

      Except that the comments are open at the end of the piece, on part 2. You’ve actually already made comments.

  • ManWithPlan

    95% of the time that I have seen “Mansplaining” being used, it is when a man has an opinion that a woman disagrees with, and rather than presenting a reasoned rebuttal, she is pulling the gender card to shame him and shut down debate.

    • IHateFatChicks

      Truer words were never spoken. I merely walk away from half-wit women like that. Let them fail.

      • supcat

        nice username jackass.

        • IHateFatChicks

          I aim to please, fatso. Face it, no one really likes fat women. Especially me. :)

    • AuntMerryweather

      95% of the time I see people slipping statistics into their anecdotes, I assume they’re full of crap.

  • Andrea Castillo

    Many mature thoughts here – well done!

  • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

    I kind of wish you had responded a bit more to this argument:

    “It was not my intention to say that every single man is always affirmed in
    their opinions by society at large. That is, of course, quite silly.
    Men are criticized and disagreed with often. However, the nature of that debate and disagreement is often quite different than that of women by men.

    For example, even if men experience being interrupted (which, of course,
    they do), they are interrupted far less than women are. There is data on
    this in this thread and elsewhere. In particular, men interrupt women
    more often than vice versa, men interrupting men or women interrupting
    women.

    [There was data supporting this elsewhere. I’ll put it here:

    “Researchers have found that men interrupt women considerably more often than women interrupt men.” Janet Shipley Hyde “Half the Human Experience” 7th
    edition, 2007. p.156

    “Early studies on interruptions and related phenomena seem to indicate a
    larger tendency on the part of men to interrupt in cross-sex
    conversations while in same-sex conversations no significant differences
    were found. ” http://www.linguistik-online.de/1_00/KUNSMANN.HTM ]

    This suggests to me a gender-centric phenomenon. Even if we assume that men
    and women experience an equal percentage of times right vs. times
    wrong/times with expertise or experience and time without, you still
    have a significant percentage of men interrupting women when they are
    wrong and women are right, and that’s a big problem. The prevalence of
    this phenomenon leads to the term mansplaning.”

    And keep in mind that those data sets are with the general population, not just libertarians.

    It doesn’t matter, at least to me, whether we WANT something to be gendered or not. If it is, then it is. And to say it’s not or to not use a gendered term just because we don’t like what that implies strikes me as a somewhat juvenile attempt to stick one’s fingers in your ears and pretend not to hear when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear. There’s a good bit of evidence, both mass anecdotal and controlled data to suggest that there is a gender-based problem there, and I think we ignore that to our peril.

    Culture does affect the way people think, and being libertarians doesn’t make us immune from it. It should, though, make us more accepting to changing those cultural affects we have fallen prey to, because it runs against the values we hold dear.

    • Chris Moore

      So do you have a problem with the term “golddigger”? I just find the less we label, the more we promote individual liberty. Stereotypes are not necessarily wrong per se, but by promoting them, by giving them an extended shelf life, we indirectly promote them.

  • Snoozeri Lostio
  • M__K

    I was completely with you up until this point:

    > “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.”

    I’m not sure that it is “libertarian” or even rational to suggest that people don’t have unconscious prejudices. There are definitely cognitive processes that unconsciously influence our thoughts and decisions. To argue with that would be to more or less discount the entire field of psychology, which seems a little ridiculous.

  • IHateFatChicks

    The entire “mansplaining” term is an invention of fat, unattractive, bitter, angry, half-wit feminists looking for something to complain about since men find them utterly unappealing. It’s that simple. It’s a non-issue.

    • Another guy

      Thanks for speaking all men–we appreciate it, as our opinions are entirely uniform across individuals, thus your generalizations regarding men’s beliefs are entirely accurate and valid. The examples you’ve shown are both mature and flattering to men. Your argumentation style really demonstrates how inaccurate the claims is that men behave like boorish assholes when confronted with different ideas.

      Thanks again for justifying the weakest part of a feminist argument. You have validated the concerns of the feminists with whom you disagree. You have shown that people are ready to sink to that sink low by being so inarticulate and inflammatory. Hopefully everyone realizes how much of a fringe voice you are and resumes the standard level of reasoned debate.

      Next time, speak for yourself, you little shit. Until then, avoid talking to women. I hear gay is reaching the mainstream, though, so luckily, options remain for you sexually. But I’d avoid women with attitudes like the ones you espoused above. I suppose it doesn’t matter because you go after with them with or without consent to show everyone how much of a real man you are. There are many holes to go fall in–choose one and proceed there immediately. You and Gullible White Cattle would have fun there together. In the butt.

      • IHateFatChicks

        So, how’s the whole “transgender, gay thing” working out for you so far? It must bell to be relegated to your box of tissue and lotion and to be so unfuckable and pathetic. :) You’re the kind of white knight ass kiss doormat who never gets laid, ever. And, if you do, it’s from some sloppy, corpulent beast who’s BMI is well over 26 and even she’ll charge you the going rate.

        • Another guy

          An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”, short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy, more precisely an irrelevance.

          Would you like to produce some intellectual content, or are you content suckling at the teat of hard-working content producers? Believe what you want. If you want people to listen, you have to reason and explain. For lack of intellectual content, everything short of that is like being a crying baby–primal, obnoxious, and unsuited to mature society.

          • IHateFatChicks

            You’re pretty verbose for a white knight, virginal, unfuckable, pussy, doormat, loser. What’s it like to attend a Star Trek convention dressed up like a klingon? You better keep your box of tissue and lotion handy. Remember, you can always switch hands when you want it “kinky”. :)

          • Charles Shell

            Are you for real? I’m trying to figure out the statistical probabilities of so many cliches in such a short time-frame and it’s causing my ears to bleed.

            You’re sounding like the guy who kicks sand in the face of the skinny guy in the “Charles Atlas” ads off of old comic books.

            To give it the right “oomph” you should include a “Haw! Haw!” comment.

            Go on. You know you want to.

          • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

            I would recommend not feeding the troll.

  • GonzoI

    It’s always good to see someone call out these idiotic new sexist terms that crop up, particularly when they aren’t the target of the sexism. Adding “man-” onto the front of a word or making a portmanteau with it like this is something out of a bad parody (Futurama’s, for example). It does nothing to promote change, it only entrenches those who need to change. Thank you for calling this out.

  • Greg Books

    Could you elaborate on the notion of “asshole?” Aaron James developed a theoretical framework in “assholes; a Theory”, and Robert Sutton published “The No Asshole Rule” in 2007.Both describe asshole behavior as an abuse of power. Because of their plainspokenness, both are very useful in sparking reflection and discussion with students. But both may be examples of mansplaining.

    Thanks

  • Be129

    It’s great to hear from a person and not a gender.