Helen Nianias | Contributing writer | Tuesday, 24 May 2016

What is Mansplaining? A Brief History In Memes

What is Mansplaining? A Brief History In Memes

The Debrief: Mansplaining, broken down, meme by meme. Or the ultimate womansplanation of mansplaining.

Illustration by Jacky Sheridan

Women may have a rep as the “talky” gender, fishwives blathering on, targets of the song “Rabbit” by Chas n Dave. But the fact of the matter is that it’s often men who just won’t stop talking.  

Research on this dates back to the 1970s, but a recent study found that men are much more likely to interrupt women during conversations. Male participants in the study carried out by George Washington University interrupted more when talking to a woman than a man. A 2012 study also found that men take up as much as 75% of conversation space in work meetings.  

While it’s always helpful to have science as a back-up, this just proves something we already knew - that we are spoken over, spoken down to and constantly interrupted by men. 

In public life, men just won’t STFU. All-male panels are a case in point, including this brilliant sausage-fest hosted by PayPal that was literally about promoting diversity. 

Mansplaining - or the manologue - is the curious social phenomenon whereby a man explains something to you, at great length, assuming that you couldn’t possibly understand what they’re talking about. Even if you’ve got a PhD in the topic under discussion, if you don’t have a willy it’s assumed that you probs won’t understand it fully, so they need to go all GCSE Bitesize on you. I once had a man talk to me in great depth about an article he’d read about the refugee crisis, assuming I didn’t understand it. I had written that article.

So here’s mansplaining, broken down bit by bit, meme by meme. The ultimate womansplanation of mansplaining. 

Mansplaining: The Definition 

Ahh, the Urban Dictionary. Spitting truths we simply cannot handle since 1999. This hotch-potch of user-generated definitions for modern words states that mansplaining is: ‘Stating accurate, verifiable facts. Especially when these facts are inconvenient to the feminist worldview, or contradict feminist talking points. 

‘It is often used by a feminist who makes an incorrect claim in support of their narrative, and someone responds with something refuting the feminist’s claim, which she (usually it’s a she) cannot counter. 

‘By claiming “mansplaining,” she tries to pretend to have invalidated her opponents claim, even though she has not addressed it at all.’ 

God, men’s rights activists are funny aren’t they?

Mansplaining: The statue 

Leg up on the bench in a way that says 'I know you will only make 77% of my salary and you have no choice to not listen to me,' this chap is quite clearly interrupting whatever interesting reading the lady was doing and she is now a captive audience. Perhaps he’s lecturing her on whatever she’s doing her dissertation because he once saw a tweet on a similar topic. 

The person who originally took the picture on a university campus in San Antonio Texas, Ash Hernandez, sent the photo to a friend who posted it on Twitter and sent it viral. A spokesperson for the university told the New York Times’ Women In The World that the statue was about friendship between students: 'We are deeply saddened that this image of friendship has been misconstrued as a symbol of sexism on social media. Nothing could be further from the truth.' 

Mansplaining: The Book

Mansplaining is not just limited to visual art. In 2014, Rebecca Solnit published the book Men Explain Things To Me, which Lena Dunham described as ‘the most clarifying, soothing and socially aware document I’ve read on the topic this year.’

The 2014 Isla Vista massacre is used by Solnit as a case in point of the dangers of mansplaining and male dominance. The massacre was carried out by frustrated teenager with a gun who went on a rampage, setting out to kill young women because he believed he was owed sex and adoration. Solnit argues that the ultimate problem with mansplaining is ‘the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”’ 

The Republican politician 

Sometimes the only way to cut through the insanely complicated tradition of how the US elects its representatives is with a meme. The 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee was not popular with many feminists due to his stand on abortion – not wild about being told what to do with their bodies by a bloke. So they responded with a Tumblr. Oh, and by re-electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the last election. That’ll learn him.

The Australian politician 

Ah, Australia - you are so much more than TimTams, regressive human rights policies and ‘Roo Guards. Earlier this year, a baffled male politician - Mitch Fifield - was called out by weary female politician Katy Gallagher for answering her questions in a ‘slightly patronising and condescending way’. 

Gallagher said: ‘I love the mansplaining. I'm enjoying it.’ To which Fifield responded: ‘?????’ and then deployed the old double-standards-reverse-sexism tactic, to which many of us have become accustomed to and appalled by.

‘If you're putting the word 'man' in front of some description of what I'm doing, you're doing that which I'm sure you're very much against, making a sexist implication about how I'm conducting my role,’ he said.

Nice try, Mitch, but no cigar.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in: 

'The Internet Can't Go On Like This' - What's Next For Everyday Sexism's Laura Bates? 

What Gives Piers Morgan The Right To Say What Is And Isn't Feminist?

Here's Why Shakespeare Was A Kickass Feminist

Follow Helen on Twitter @helennianias

Tags: Feminism