How to handle mansplaining

Discussion in 'Free Thoughts' started by Magical Realist, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    I thought you might have been joking.
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  3. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Why would I be joking? You accused me of self-loathing. That doesn't suggest joking at all.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I think her point was essentially "not all men", and therefore a term like "mansplain" is an unfair gendered stereotype.

    This is not to say that the behaviour addressed in particular cases by the word "mansplain" is at all acceptable or should not be challenged - which is another specific point that she makes.
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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    I don't think I would specifically disagree with the framework you suggest; I just don't see how that works in practice―indeed, it seems another silencing of women.

    Let me both reiterate and then try anew:

    By all means, we might suggest, address the problem of being talked down to. But couch your address in a manner that doesn't demean. Because, you know, everybody knows the phrase "talk down to" has negative connotation.

    (Okay, so ....)​

    By all means, we might suggest, address the problem of how one talks to you. But couch your address in a manner that doesn't demean. But, you know, what does that mean, "problem"? Implying someone's behavior is problematic can be construed as demeaning.

    (Okay, so ....)​

    By all means, we might suggest, address the how one talks to you. But couch your address in a manner that doesn't demean A'ight, so ... tell me, sweetheart, what's all this 'bout how I talk to you? Why are you talking about how I talk to you?​

    How to address problematic circumstances when addressing such circumstances inherently offends? I've even tried conceding this might be a point of confusion―

    • After all, I'm responding in a context―i.e., American liberal―including the market viable assertion that the mere fact of complaint is often denounced as inherently demeaning. That is to say, that some people advocate disparate impact outcomes we might otherwise describe with some unpleasant term ending with -ist doesn't mean it's fair to use those words, or even propose disparate impact. To some degree, the counterpoint is that things are the way they are because that's just the way it goes, and within that framework it is rude to even suggest there is something awry. Perhaps it's a particularly American thing ....​

    ―but the radio silence on these considerations leaves me uncertain where to go next.

    No, really, if the behavior I'm describing is absolutely foreign to you, okay, great, just say so and then I understand why it's not clicking with you. But this is what I mean. This is the part that nobody explains.

    What if the only way to address a problematic subject without offending someone is to pretend the subject isn't problematic? This is the part nobody ever explains. What if the only way to have the discussion without offending and demeaning and all that is to discuss something else? To not have the discussion?

    Okay, for instance, you have heard about what happened in Tulia, Texas. Now, you can say whatever you want about not having studied the case closely enough, but here's the thing: If I ask how you would explain what happened in Tulia without invoking racism―because, you know, if only they could couch their complaint in terms that don't demean―quite honestly the point is that you can't.

    So how do we discuss the problems racism causes if invoking racism is alienating and thereby disqualifying? How do we address any problem if the implication that it is a problem is itself considered alienating and thereby disqualifying?

    How do women discuss the problems misogyny causes if implying there is a problem is perceived as demeaning and thereby disqualifying?

    How does society discuss sexism if the proposition that sexism needs discussing is perceived as demeaning and thereby disqualifying? Even calling it sexism can be problematic.

    This is what nobody who pushes that bit ever explains. And that is the problem.

    As I said: It's one thing to take the advice, but in the end what does that even mean? So let us strip out the word "seems". I said it seems another silencing of women. Let's revise that, so this becomes the explanation: Women need to remain silent about misogyny. And now we come to the part where you or someone else tells me that's not really what Denby Weller means.

    Now, some people just leave it at that. Some people go on to complain about hyperbole. But what nobody ever does is actually explain, then, what it actually does mean. Again: I would suggest that any term specifically noting sexist and presumptuous interruption and condescending explanation to a woman in any context other than completely innocent accident can be similarly denounced.

    It's not because our arguments don't hold water, or our position is doomed to fail, it's because people can't get past the note of intellectually superior nastiness that's oozing from our pores when we utter words like "mansplain".

    It seems a grotesque generalization. The only oozing nastiness Denby Weller can properly speak of is, well, her own. And I never understand why people set themselves up like that.


    Weller, Denby. "Ban 'mansplain' from the feminist vocabulary". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 December 2016. 4 January 2016.
  8. Bells Staff Member

    Could it be because you are not on the receiving end of it, so you do not notice it?

    Let's say you are at a conference and you see one speaker, let us assume she is a woman, and you know she is an expert in her field. Now, let's assume you approach her after her speech and decide to explain something within her field of expertise to her, or she is talking to you and you cut her off or talk at her loudly to explain her field of expertise. In other words, you take it upon yourself to explain something to her she already knows and you refuse or you are incapable of understanding that she already knows this or knows more than you do. As such, mansplaining is pretty much when you would offer your opinion or views about something she knows because you think she needs to know what she already knows.

    Another way it can happen is if you decide to explain something to her, uninvited and where you have no business explaining it to her, because you have no idea whether she knows or not. The flowchart is very good at explaining it.

    Why do you feel the need to inform a woman about pregnancy at first sight, without an invitation from her for you to inform her about pregnancy? Are you her doctor or treating physician? Has she been in an accident and you are first on the scene and you are informing her about the risk to her pregnancy in offering her first aid? If the answer to questions such as those is no, then once again, why would you presume to inform a woman about pregnancy without her asking you to inform her or without a need for you to, such as if you are her doctor or you are giving her first aid after an accident, for example?

    Are you her treating doctor? Are you monitoring her pregnancy? Are you her midwife?

    No, we do not carry stickers on our faces. But aside from that, what gives you the right to accost a pregnant woman, for example, to inform her about pregnancy when you are not her treating doctor or midwife? Why do you think you should offer your opinion or inform her about pregnancy when she has not asked you to?

    And what if she is in a lab and she has not asked for your suggestions? Are you her teacher? Professor? Are you in a teaching position where you role in that lab is to teach students? I mean, you say you have never seen it come up, but you just gave an example of how you could be mansplaining... Ironic, isn't it?

    You really should read up on it. Please.
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    There's no problem calling out patronising behaviour by individual men who are engaging in it. Nobody is arguing that to do so would be to unfairly demean them, and nobody is arguing that it would be inappropriate to comment on their behaviour.

    Denby Weller's point, if I understand it correctly, is that using the word "mansplaining" tends to cause collateral damage, in that it not only labels the behaviour of the particular man as inappropriate (which it is), but also implies that this is a trait that is common to men in general (which it may or may not be).

    That is, the word moves the complaint from a targeted, justifiable one based on an individual circumstance, to a distributed, unjustifiable one that basically says "All men are pigs", or something similar.

    So, Denby Weller's advice is: address the problem of being talked down to. But couch your address in a manner that doesn't unfairly demean all men. Because that is a form of sexism, and it is ultimately not very helpful to anyone.
  10. Bells Staff Member

    Isn't that stating the obvious though?

    In fact, isn't Denby Weller's advice condescending in and of itself, because she is stating the obvious?

    It reminds me of the "not all men" brigade that comes out to argue against women who want to fight harassment like street harassment or sexual harassment.

    Most importantly, Weller's ideal is to not hurt feelings, to remain somewhat meek, in our place, try and make our voices heard using language that won't offend men by using the 'not all men' argument.

    For example:

    If you want people to change, you have to speak a language they can bear to listen to before you have any hope at all of them hearing a single word you say.

    Let's banish mansplaining and start talking about the real battle for feminists.

    Where do I even begin.

    "Speak a language that they can bear to listen to" because otherwise, they will not hear a word we say? Wow.. So what language do women speak that men will listen to? It's telling women that we have to mind our place, and our position, be complaint and hope like hell that our meek and polite words are noticed by the men around us. It tells us to not be aggressive in defending our rights, but to be ladylike, behave and use words that men identify with women. Worst of all, it says that mansplaining and the issues surrounding it (such as in the workplace, for example) is not a real battle for feminists. Mansplaining in the workplace is exceptionally detrimental and demeaning to women in their places of employment.

    Mansplaining is part of a pattern of behaviour, it is but one fragment, but it feeds attitudes towards women that feeds the sexism and bigotry. Telling women that we should only be speaking in a language that men can "bear to listen to", because any other words or language that does not fit into the little box that women apparently belong to in regards to how we speak will simply be ignored and not heard, because men cannot "bear to listen" to what we say if we step outside that box. I should not have to explain just how demeaning that is in and of itself.

    In those two sentences, Denby Weller is basically telling women to be complaint and hope men can "bear to listen" to us. The rest of the article is basically mansplaining.
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    But it doesn't imply any such thing, to a listener of good faith. Something found disproportionately and characteristically in men, and labeled accordingly, is not something characterizing all or even most men. That's an error of logic by the listener - the speaker may well consider the possibility of such an error, but is not responsible for it.

    Furthermore, the need is for a term that is not limited to the particular event and person, but labels an instance of a common pattern as belonging to that pattern - a different meaning.
    The target is the instance of a pattern, as an instance of a pattern; the key circumstances are specifically not individual, but take their meaning from the context of that pattern - how is that to be targeted without involving the pattern?
    There is no way of addressing the matter that will not demean all men in the ears of some men. How many men is the cutoff for acceptability?
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I cannot speak for Ms Weller, so I'm going to stop here. Her article is available online and linked above if any of you would like to take issue with her directly in the comments section.
    cluelusshusbund likes this.
  13. wellwisher

    The left has created a system of dual standards. If a male referred to women-speak as manipulative nagging, this would be called sexist, since it does not apply to all, even if it applies to some women. But the other way around; mansplaining, gets a pass, due to the dual standard. The dual standard creates social problems because it does not follow the standard of equality and equal rights.

    Picture if you had two children, one who is favored by the mother and the other who is forever in disfavor. The favorite child can lie, cheat, steal and call names and the mother will make excuses. The unfavored child will get blamed, even for things done by their sibling. The unfavored will not get proper credit for good things he does, since this might hurt the feelings of her favorite child. The result will be conflict. The favorite child will become the bully and aggressor, who the mothers calls victim, so he can get away with it. The other child will become the victim, who is called the bully; land of dual standards. The Democrats use the philosophy of divide and conquer. The dual standard is meant to be a social wedge used to divide culture.
  14. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    Were you an a disliked child?
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The arguments posted here can be dealt with here. I'm sure whoever her audience is there can deal with things in that venue.

    For all I know she really is addressing a small and defined group of nasty, snotty women with an inflated sense of their own intellectual superiority, who really are referring to all men and all men's explanations when they use the term, who really to set out to demean all men from their perch of noxious presumption somehow. That's far from the case here or in general, though. It certainly is not inherent in the term itself.

    Around here, mansplaining comes under whatever heading dogtrotting, jaywalking, worm turning, and the like, belong: A useful and descriptive term, easily comprehended from its base in commonly observed reality.
  16. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Already illustrated scenarios in which I've been "splained" to, and never felt the need to put a gender on it. It's a sexist term, really.

    Unless I'm doing it because she's a woman or because of some presumed sense of superiority, there's no reason for the term. Your example relies on the assumption that she knows her own field perfectly and that I can have nothing to offer, which occurs in no field that I know. My field, for example, is vast and contains hundreds of thousands of workers, each of which has a different array of practical knowledge even on the selfsame subject. Am I commenting on her paper particularly? Is it on her subjects? How exactly can peer review work now, if males commenting on a manuscript submitted by a female can be dismissed as "mansplaining"? I've received innumerable and unbelievable comments on articles I've submitted, some of which displayed stunning ignorance. Can I dismiss some of these on their gender? Could I do it if I were female? Can my female grad students dismiss these reviews? Why or why not? How does this differ from the above?

    Here's an example that illustrates the problems with your synthesis as it concerns the multifarious array of transmitted knowledge that actually came up recently: a professor was telling me about her animal populations. I've seen some of her presentations and I knew that her tests had failed to achieve statistical significance. I also knew, since she was telling me at that moment, that she was using animals from a stock that had actually apparently been contaminated by another strain of the same species, which resulted in a bit of a kerfuffle within various communities, and about which I knew, having known some of the major players. I suggested a specific statistical solution she might want to investigate that might take advantage of this potential problem. Now: I'm a geneticist. She's from a different discipline in biology. Had I the right to tell her about this issue? It reaches into her discipline and area of expertise, in which I am no expert. Was I "mansplaining"?

    And moreover it has to be said that your conclusion is that I can have no useful information to impart because I am male. This is outrageous. People of the same sex as the example above are apparently free to condescend or to not. If I do it - whether out of ignorance or ill will - apparently this begins to approach a hate crime. How is this a reasoned result?

    The central word in all this is presumption. How do you know the scope of the other's knowledge? One can't, without information. How would one find this out? Condesenscion is a better term that already exists and can be universally applied without the reference of an intersectional power structure. Calling the basis for something up front is impossible without further information. Surely there are indeed nefarious actors who do look down on women or other members of various groups for reasons of prejudice, but such a term can also be used to deny the intellectual, political and social agency of others. Your example - and the entire topic - is indexed to sex. Why this differentiation as opposed to others? My parents and elders talked down to me when I was younger. I bridled under it, yet lived; and it would be fair to say that I carried a certain degree of resentment. But this was based on longstanding patterns. How could I relate such a pattern to another with complete fidelity? How could they judge on my issue in my place?

    But beyond all this, the issue of contention is usage. Who is using this possibly weaponized term, and to what end? Are they expert in its usage? Are they familiar with the situations in which they comment on to the extent that they can reliably use this term? Who is rating them on their competence, and when? It's an argument terminator and used in precisely the same way: and as such, it's not intellectually defensible.

    The flowchart image has failed, but probably references the above dynamic. You're inferring that which cannot be inferred without solid reasons for doing so, which requires extensive background information on the protagonists and/or the subjects. How can the term 'mansplaining' then be used conventionally?

    Of course. Why would you possibly assume I would 'accost' a woman?:

    Similarly here:

    No, not in the slightest. For starters, I'm a biology professor and so obviously my role is indeed to teach students. Prior to this, I taught students of both sexes - but largely female, actually - in laboratory and lecture sessions in a variety of courses. This is a clearly defined role of superiority; ergo, I teach them, and they are taught. This is the nature of instructional organisation. But let's go with your best case hypothetical scenario here:

    Let's say in this event that I am neither her instructor specifically - and it is not clear why her sex is relevant in such a scenario; would it be different somehow if the student in question were male? - nor even an instructor at all. The offering of advice then falls into one of several possible categories: i) useful or kindly advice. It may well be that I have some experience she lacks - perhaps I performed a particular dissection or technique in some other class in a different college - and I wish to help. ii) Outright misogyny. Perhaps I feel that, as a female, she is unable or unqualified to perform this particular technique. iii) Other social interaction: maybe I'm trying to find an angle to invite her for coffee, or I think she might know my cousin. I'm less certain about iii) there, but (presumably) there are other impulses or driving factors that create male-female, or male-male, or female-female interaction.

    The problematic part of the entire thing, however, is this presumption of misogyny based on sex. Are the above scenarios - aside from certain biological impossibilities of the first one - equally potentially offensive if the subject (S) is male and the protagonist (P) female? Or if S is female and P female? Or male and male? Female and transgendered? Male and queer? Queer and transgendered? If not, why not? The entire spectrum falls under the term, as above, condesenscion. My intentions cannot be known, unless I have chosen to wear my top hat, tuxedo and waxed moustache that day.

    But central to all the above hypothetical scenarios is presumption. You may presume I have no special knowledge to impart. I may presume the subject does not have this special knowledge. In neither circumstance can this be known. She, as I've said already, carries no special badge to advertise her own expertise. Neither do I. Neither can the intentions of this interaction be interpreted by either party, barring special circumstances. To return to the above first example: what if I'm a new attending or GP and she's a obstetrics MD? Is her appointment purely for the reasons of satisfying insurance policy demands? How would such information end up on her chart? Some hospitals don't collect this. Is it then "mansplaining"? Or is it better in such an instance to say that there has simply been a miscommunication? Your use of "accosting" above suggests a certain hostility on this subject. Are you then a fair observer in such a situation? How do I know this?

    Please don't make presumptions to the state of my knowledge or experience so far as to fall into the practice of femsplaining, please. It's very offensive of you to assume I've never been exposed to this concept just because I'm male. Thanks.
  17. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Well I don't generally ask people whether they've been "mansplained" to. The wife has occasionally characterized a boss ignorant of the local practical processes she uses as a "dickhead", but I've done the same for old supervisors of both sexes and gender never really entered into it for me. I've absolutely been talked down to though. Who mansplains to you and on what?
  18. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    No idea, SF isn't much on the radar these fays.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

  20. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    You have definitely proven, sir, that you're not paying attention to what women are telling us.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Might be something to look into.

    Thing is: you aren't just claiming to never have been mansplained to or at (which makes sense), and never done it yourself (which is possible), but never witnessed it. In years of teaching and otherwise being surrounded by classes full of women, students and otherwise youthful, subordinate, etc, in an established and well-populated academic setting fully involved with the larger world of a Western country, you've never seen it. You question its very existence, as an identifiable behavior distinguished from ordinary condescension or inconsideration, based on it never having appeared in your vicinity.

    Now this is of course possible, in theory. But I have to say it's not the way to bet.
  22. wellwisher

    Mansplaining is due to women's liberation. There are a lot of overly sensitive women, who have chip on their shoulder, when it comes to taboo PC words and male behaviors. Therefore men can't treat women like they do men. The men have been made afraid to be more open, comical, and direct, like they do with other men. The result is you need to tone it down and act fake. Not all men are good at fake, so fake comes across as condescending, to other women, who now want to be treated like men.

    If you had just guys in a locker room, they would swear and insult each other as part of the ritual of testosterone. If you add a female to the picture, PC taboo requires that all these men now need to act differently. If they continued to act the same way, and assume the gal is one of the guys, there will be a grievance filed for sexual harassment or a hostile work place. The result are the men have to act fake, treating the women differently, often in a way that might appear condescending. It is about dumbing down to avoid hurting retribution as defined by PC. If you do away with PC rules and tell men, they won't be charged for free speech, there would be no need to mansplain.
  23. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    When women do it, we just call it nagging. We grab a beer and head toward the garage. We don't start a campaign to silence their voices.

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