Isn’t this extremely sexist?Friday, December 2, 2016
Men guilty of 'mansplaining' are maddening — but we women can be worse
For the Herald
Well, thank goodness. It’s one of those infuriating things women have known about for centuries, but there’s never been a word for — until now.
Mansplaining. It’s when a man explains something to you in a manner based on the assumption that you are the dimmest (1) little creature on Earth. Not to be confused with manspreading (when a chap sits with his legs ostentatiously apart in order to communicate his alpha status), mansplaining is as patronising (2) as it is undermining (3).
Often accompanied by an irritating smirk or chuckle and a roll of the eyes, it frequently entails the gentleman speaking more slowly than usual, in order to allow the inferior female synapses to grasp the information more easily.
This wonderful word has been brought to our attention by a trade union in Sweden, where the phenomenon is apparently so widespread that they’ve had to set up a hotline to offer counselling on how to handle everyday mansplaining crises.
No doubt women will be complaining in their thousands (4) about being lectured on why you’re driving in the wrong lane, the correct way to load a dishwasher, not to mention being taught to choose the right coffee capsule by some spotty office boy (5) who practically still is one.
But while feminists are keen to appropriate mansplaining as a purely male-on-female phenomenon, the truth is that women excel at it, too.
The mother who pops out (6) to yoga leaving behind a ten-page instruction manual for her husband detailing exactly how to heat the bottle of milk: “mumsplaining.”
The woman at the school gates explaining to her ‘friends’ (deadly rivals) how she managed to get her little Benjamin into St Bighead’s (7) when there’s only one place for every 5,000 applicants: “pushymumsplaining.”
The 13-year-old who lectures her mother on the melting of the ice caps and why, really, she ought to trade in (8) her trusty Fiat 500 for one of those overpriced, environmentally-friendly tin cans (9): “childsplaining.” Very irritating, that last one.
Of course, no-one is more guilty of this than me. I am an incorrigible “wifesplainer.” There is literally nothing my husband can do in domestic matters that I can’t do better. (Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself.)
I “wifesplain” in all aspects of family life, from raising our children to choosing lamps. (He once recklessly bought one without my approval. It’s in the garage.)
But the dominion over which I am most fiercely protective is the kitchen. The poor man can’t even make himself a slice of toast without me hovering over him (10), criticising his choice of knife or telling him off (11) for using the wrong chopping-board. The truth is, though, that letting go never turns out as bad as you think. When my husband recently took it upon himself (12) to cook a thank-you supper for ex-colleagues, I was at work so had to let him get on with it. I came home to the most delicious spread.
Going back to the portmanteau that inspired this piece, let’s take a look at the services it inspired to create. Whenever political correctness goes too far, the Swedish seem to be close by, egging it on and encouraging it to go further. Last week, a Swedish union set up this mansplaining hotline, enabling office staff to report and discuss instances of mansplaining in the workplace.
Here’s an exchange that might explain its use:
Name: The mansplaining hotline.
Purpose: Allowing female workers to report their patronising male colleagues.
I think you’ll find “condescending” is a more appropriate term. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. This sense of superiority is inherent workplace sexism in action.
Hey, don’t get mad, I’m just trying to help. No, you’re not. You’re subtly putting me in my place just because you’ve been conditioned to adhere to outdated gender stereotypes. You’re mansplaining.
Have you heard of mansplaining? It’s when men feel the need to … Stop it! I know what mansplaining is. I just accused you of it. No wonder there’s a hotline for this.
Tell me about this hotline. It’s a Swedish initiative set up by trade union Unionen, which represents more than half a million workers. Whenever someone feels suppressed at work, they can call the number and seek help.
From whom? From Swedish scientists, comedians and politicians eager to get a hold of this minor yet pervasive annoyance.
Why bother? I could tell you anything about mansplaining you could ever need to know. I don’t doubt that for a moment. However, Unionen quotes an American Psychological Association study that claims men “tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women”.
Isn’t this extremely sexist? Well, the issue is being thrashed out (13) on social media at the moment. Some, inevitably, are claiming that the hotline is contributing to an increasingly polarised culture where everyone is either a victim or an aggressor.
That sounds about right. However, it could also be argued that this reaction is exactly what Unionen wanted. The hotline is a stunt (14) designed to provoke debate, which might make some men more aware of their behaviour.
Or everyone will just shout at each other on Twitter about it until they all die alone and unhappy. Well, yes, that is what tends to happen with these things. But, hey, worth a shot (15), right?
Have you heard of the filter bubble (16)? It’s a social media phenomenon where … Yes, I’ve heard of the filter bubble. Do not explain it to me.
Do say: “Don’t delay, call the mansplaining hotline today.”
Don’t say: “Let me explain what a hotline is.”
Sweden should think about setting up a men-explaining-mansplaining hotline next, to ensure that men have their voice heard too?
Adapted from a story by Sarah Vine, the Daily Mail and Women, the Guardian.
The informal use of “dim” as applied to a person indicates that the person is slow-witted, slow to understand, not very intelligent. She’s always seemed rather dim and vacant."
If you use a patronising tone with somebody, you talk to them in a way that shows that you believe you are better or more intelligent than them; you use an offensively condescending manner. Note the different spelling of “patronizing” in an American publication. When she exchanges ideas with her team, she uses a patronising tone everybody resents.
While a patronising tone makes the interlocutor feel you are more intelligent or important, an “undermining” attitude makes the other person less confident, less powerful; it has the effect of making something or somebody weaker. There’s been some rumour going on that will gradually undermine the Head’s position.
“in their thousands” (4)
This expression is used for saying how many people or things do something, without being exact. In many places in the Arctic, belugas are gathering in their hundreds / People came out on the streets in their thousands to cheer the star as she paraded by.
“spotty office boy” (5)
Especially common in the UK, “spotty” is used to describe a person with spots on their skin. In the context of the article, “a spotty office boy” is tainted with derogatory meaning, to refer to somebody very young and, as such, very inexperienced.
“pops out” (6)
To pop out means to go out, exit briefly. Notice the onomatopoeic nature of the verb. He popped out for a quick coffee break / He was in a hurry but he just popped in to say hello.
The brand name of the school in the article is meant as a joke on the word “bighead,” which describes a person who believes they are so good or clever at something that others should admire them. Dan's such a big-head! He’s always speaking about the fantastic scores he gets in his exams.
“trade in” (8)
“To trade in” is to buy something new by giving something of your own as part of the payment. We got a good trade-in price for our old car.
“tin cans” (9)
A tin can is a container made of tinplate. You’ll hear the word “tin” in British English for the same object that American English users will call “can.” Even if this publication is British, the word “can” is used for the container because it is preceded by the material it is made of, which is a homonym to the container in British English. In other words, a can made of tinplate is not a tin tin but a tin can, in both varieties.
“hovering over him” (10)
If you hover over a person, you stay close, waiting, ready to advise or interfere or to act; but sometimes uncertain of what to do. A waiter hovered at the table, ready to take our order / I noticed several reporters hovering around outside the courtroom.
“telling him off” (11)
When you tell a person off, you criticise or speak angrily to them because they have done something wrong. The teacher told me off for reading from my classmate’s test.
“took it upon himself” (12)
As opposed to “minding your own business,” when you “take it upon yourself to do something,” you do that on your own even if it means interfering in something that does not directly concern you. It usually bears this negative connotation / implication of overstepping of boundaries, as in He took it upon himself to find out what exactly had happened to the old lady but he should mind his own business if he doesn’t want to get into trouble.
A similar expression is “to make it your business to do something,” by taking responsibility to do it. He made it his business to find out who was it that had started that rumour about his colleague.
“thrashed out” (13)
When a topic is thrashed out, it is discussed thoroughly and frankly in order to solve any problem that results from it and usually until a solution is found or an agreement is reached. The committee took hours to thrash the issue out / John and Betty thrashed out the reasons for their constant arguments / It is essential that conflicting views be heard and thrashed out.
“a stunt” (14)
A stunt is something done to attract attention or publicity. The hotline set up in Sweden may effectively counsel people on the issue of “mansplaining” but many people think it was set up with the only purpose of calling the people’s attention to the matter in question. The sad incident in the writer’s life was spread as a publicity stunt to help sell her books.
“worth a shot” (15)
If something is worth a shot or a try, it deserves an attempt because there is some chance of success. I’m not sure this will work but it’s worth a shot, don’t you think?
“filter bubble” (16)
This term was coined to refer to the way in which you receive information on the Internet. Websites are said to make use of past browsing history to make assumptions on and determine what information should be made easily accessible to you. The risk you run is the restriction of new information, which might end up narrowing your outlook.
Let me put you in the picture
In other words, let me explain to you what is happening by giving you the information you need about what we are discussing. It’s obviously part and parcel of any conversation and good communication to need, require, seek and get explanations. The article describes an attitude towards explaining on the part of both interlocutors. When you study a foreign language, people are expected to have a different stance as to how to communicate and how to have a better grasp of what is going on in a conversation. Once again, idiomatic expressions illustrate situations eloquently and colourfully.
When an issue is not “crystal-clear,” or “clear as crystal,” you may “get hold of the wrong end of the stick,” in which case you do not understand the situation correctly. Your interlocutor may be willing to “shed light” on the matter by making it clearer to understand. It was hoped that whatever she contributed would shed light on the cause of the accident.
However, when you are in a conversation, you may be speaking “at cross purposes” for a while, in a way that you and your partner do not understand each other because you are trying to say different things but neither of you know this. ‘I realised we were talking at cross purposes. He had last week’s e-mail in mind and I was talking about yesterday’s message.’ ‘Yes, looks like you “got your wires crossed.’ Moreover, a person might make the situation less clear by giving confusing information, thus “muddying the waters.” The statistics you quoted did not prove your point, they simply muddied the waters.
We have a clearer picture of the reason behind the creation of the Swedish hotline. Even so, some people will be “none the wiser” (if, after hearing or reading an explanation, you still fail to understand) but undoubtedly, with many of us, the message will have “struck home” (be fully understood by everybody involved.)
Ready for a challenge? Suppose somebody asked you “Why was this hotline created?” would you be able to simply man/womanexplain?