Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures in Mansplaining

Where to start... Where not to start... Is there a way to start? Mansplaining is... dammit, I'm already mansplaining. Umm... women who... crap, there I go again. Actually, no, this is not mansplaining, but I find that such statements are quite often labeled as such incorrectly. So what is mansplaining? I will use a quote so that I do not have to be accused of misunderstanding it or mansplaining it myself:

"to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing."

By this definition, I must be condescending or patronizing in order to mansplain something. Hopefully that is not how my article comes across. In fact, by this definition, even women can mansplain if they are patronizing or condescending toward men or even to other women as they explain something. The "man" in mansplaining does not mean that a man must be doing the explanation. It apparently derives from the fact that it is typical of men to explain things in a condescending tone. Fair enough.

So hopefully it is clear that I am not mansplaining about mansplaining simply because I am a man. But let us be quite clear that this is a derogatory term by associating men with being patronizing and condescending in the same way that it is derogatory to say someone hits like a girl. Not to mention, it is often used in a way that is quite patronizing and condescending meaning that the speaker of the word is often being entirely hypocritical. Before I go any further into the woes of the poor little boys whose feelings get hurt but such word usage, let me explain that I fully understand that women have it worse. This is not a contest to be won, but if it were then women would win hands down. Yes, women have it harder than men. Capiche?

In fact, it is for the sake of women that I write this article. I am not entirely concerned with the upset men as much as I am concerned for what this means for women. If we attest to the fact that the world is predominantly run by men and that women are unfairly treated as a vast intertwined cultural phenomena, does it not make sense that the promotion of change in favor of women is going to be highly dependent on the whims of men? If we do not care for the sensibilities of men and if we "mansplain" how they just don't get it, do we really expect them to respond positively in favor of women? Heck no. Nobody wants to be a part of a movement that they believe despises them. It may be fine to threaten the reputation of a company to get change, but if we threaten the character of a man, they are likely to become all the more steadfast in their position. In fact, that is human nature and not merely manly behavior. Unless we are extremely aware of it and attempt to avoid the pitfall, we are all dangerously willing to dig our own grave of incompetence when someone argues with us.

Having explained all this, I would like to present what I see as a significant problem with the feminist movement of which I support. Not because I am a man and because women are doing it wrong, but because I care deeply for fairness of all humanity and I think this has increasingly valid merit. The long and the short is, we need to stop being condescending toward men. Absolutely. It is hypocritical, rude, wrong, and extremely harmful to the treatment of women.

I believe quite strongly that many feminists are indeed rude and patronizing to men and that men feeling attacked has less to do with misinterpreting the words. I have had many experiences myself where I am accused and ridiculed as a typical shallow male despite being entirely on board for women's rights and even being an active support of them. So allow me to share my most recent adventure in mansplaining albeit fairly minor.

Someone posted this snippet of a conversation as a meme to Facebook. It has no names so I am calling them John and Jane:

John Doe: Instead of claiming to not hate men, think about why so many people think you do
Jane Doe: This is literally an explanation of why. Men grow up in a world where men are always more important than everyone else. Refusing to go along with this and actively prioritising women feels like hatred to men who conflate their unearned position of power with their identity. Maybe instead of obediently supporting the status quo, you should put some critical thought into why so many men get irrationally angry when women want to be treated fairly.

This post receives likes and shares because people take the response of Jane to be a homerun retort against John. But let us dissect this a little further. We know nothing about John other than the fact that he has an opinion which seems similar to what I am explaining: that feminists behave in ways that make men think they are hated by feminists. The response is actually a mansplaination indicating that John does not critically think, that he mindlessly supports the status quo and that he is one of the many men who irrationally get angry just because women want to be treated fairly. Granted, Jane might be right in this case and it is hard to tell without the rest of the conversation and a personal knowledge of John, but if she is wrong and if she is making an assumption which I assume she likely is, then this response is quite rude and uncalled for. This is an example of the very kinds of behavior that make men feel as if they are hated by the feminist movement. Again, we cannot know either way from this meme without more backstory.

What I do know, however, is my response to the meme and the response I got back from it. I responded, "I dunno. I think it's the verbage of things like manprivilege and mansplaining along with claiming men are the ones at fault. It sounds like attacking rather than joining hand in hand to recognize and solve the problem." I had posted nothing before this so anyone reading would know nothing about me. The response I got was, "lol that's a classic example of mansplaining." As we just learned above, this is not mansplaining by me whatsoever. It is merely my opinion. The opinion of a man. And a rather valid opinion as the response shows with its own condescending retort. While my feelings are not hurt and I do not hate women or feminists for this response, and even though this is only one person in this one particular instance, this is a very common response that I get when posting my own ideas about the movement. Mansplaining is used against me as an indication that my ideas hold no value because I am a lowly male in the movement.

This example is fairly weak, I know, but this is just one itty bitty minor example in a vast array of episodes I have had with feminists over the years. I am short on time, but perhaps I will revisit this article and add better examples. I simply went with what was readily available.

When I scroll through a feminist's Facebook feed, I really have to ask the question, "What is most beneficial for the future of women: demeaning men or uplifting women?" I found six posts similar to this one which complains about men and their "delusions". There was nothing uplifting about women at all. No support, no advice, no ideas, no conversation about the issues, or anything about uplifting women--simply complaints about men which is actually one of the very things feminists want to remove portrayal of in media: women talking about men. And then the question gets asked why men think they are hated by feminists. Well, because they are treated like dirt, obviously. Unless, of course, such men do not oppose a single thought within the feminist movement. Men having their own opinion in the feminist movement is met with disdain--I would expect women of all people to understand how that feels since that is a common problem they face. They should know better than any man how terrible it is to be shut out and unheard due to their gender and they should use that to fuel their compassion and understanding when dealing with men even if so many of them do not deserve it.

The movement will grow and it will be successful. Women will eventually be treated and depicted fairly. I absolutely believe this. It is simply a matter of time. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we wish to speed or slow the process. We can make it take longer or we can do what makes it go quicker. Personally, I believe kindness will speed it along much faster since individuals are going to be far more likely to jump on board when not accosted. We can be rude to organizations and media all we want, but we ought to be kind to individuals. This is a grass-roots movement, after all--we need the grass! So let's stop cutting it down already.

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