Wednesday, February 24, 2010


So I guess the hot new word in the blogosphere is mansplaining. Mansplaining is "when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate 'facts' about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does."

My take: I find this sexist. I don't like the idea of a word that can be used against someone who disagrees with you while being male. I know it's only supposed to apply when he's being really unambiguously condescending, but including gender in the word seems unnecessary and inflammatory. Therefore, I propose a new word: "douchesplaining."

I've been 'splained to, there's no question. Just the other day I was changing an oxygen tank, quite happily and correctly cranking away at it, and a man walking by just had to drop in helpful advice like "you're gonna want an O-ring in there," oblivious to the fact that there was already an O-ring in there, and I had done this 5000 times, and it was only my goddamn job, and I'm not an idiot. But this wasn't a gender conflict incident; this was a douchery incident. I've had women 'splain to me too, plenty of times. I've caught myself 'splaining.

Do men and women 'splain with equal frequency? Do men sometimes 'splain for sexist reasons? I don't care. It's the act that's wrong, not the actor's gender. Being condescending is wrong; being a condescending man is incidental. And hey, there are some annoying behaviors that women are more frequently accused of, but I don't think anyone wants to hear them insultingly renamed after our gender. Like if "complaining" was called "bitching"... oh fuck. Anyway. We're better than that. It's fair to accuse a douche of being a douche; it's wrong to accuse a douche of being a man.

Now don't nobody douchesplain to me why I'm wrong.


  1. I've caught myself 'splaining, or something like it. I've never thought of it being sexist though, I'd happily 'splain to a man. I don't even think I'm talking down to anyone either. I literally just like explaining how things work. I can probably be fairly accused of liking the sound of my own voice and giving long explanations no one asked for, though.

    I've also heard that enjoying explaining things is a "guy thing." I don't really buy it, but I wonder how this meme got started.

    Lesse if a different browser fixes my commenting problem.

  2. That particular 'mansplaining' definition is weird to me because I'm not tempted to snark about "[X]splaining" when the situation is "privileged [X] condescendingly tells [Y] how to do something zie already knows how to do... etc." but rather when "privileged [X] butts into a conversation to condescendingly tell a member of nonprivileged group [not-X] how that person should feel/interpret their specific lived experience as a nonprivileged [not-X] person." I guess this would be better referred to as douchey-unexamined-privilege-splaining rather than ablesplaining, cissplaining, mansplaining, what-have-you.

  3. Kay - I think it's roughly the same thing. Telling someone how to do their own job is in the same family of douchiness as telling them how to think about their own life.

  4. "I don't even think I'm talking down to anyone either. I literally just like explaining how things work. I can probably be fairly accused of liking the sound of my own voice and giving long explanations no one asked for, though."

    I've been accused of being a 'splainer, more than once, but I think this is a great way to put it. I'm slightly dyslexic, so talking about a process and sequencing actually can help me get my thoughts in order. My ex boyfriend used to accuse me of douchesplaining, when in fact I was doing it for mostly my own benefit. Oh well. *shrugs* I'm a 'splainer by nature, I guess. :)

  5. Bravo! I don't see why things like this have to be given a male or female identity. Everyone can be a douche, it's not gender specific!

  6. Yeah, basically, what the Anonymouses said. The thing most women who have complained to me about 'splaining things to them have failed to understand is, guys do this to each other all the time, too.

    Yes, we explain things. It's how we make sure that everyone is all on the same page.

  7. Gosh, perhaqr, thanks for... clarifying that.


  8. Yeah, like what Kay said - I have seen it used to describe a very specific subcategory of 'splaining that DOES include by definition the man's unexamined sexism in the scenario. It is a pretty specific usage, though, and probably not terribly useful outside of certain kinds of feminist discussions. That makes this comment a bit tautological, though: "It's only mansplainin' when it's actually mansplainin'."

    Anyway, the focus would be on the unexamined privilege or uneven power dynamic in the interaction. In other words:

    When the reignin' 'splain it's mainly being a pain.

    flightless (ducking for cover)

  9. I was looking this word up recently, and I just saw someone else make the suggestion to change "mansplaining" to "doucheplaining":

    I consider "douche" really gendered! I mean, as someone points out in the comments to the "douchesplaining" suggestion, "douche" tends to be used as an insult because it's a product that comes into contact with icky female genitalia. And I find it disconcerting that so many people seem to agree that a gendered insult about a male behavior becomes "neutral" when it is modified to insult women instead.

    I'm not totally humorless: I use "douche" colloquially, just like I use "bitch" colloquially, but I don't imagine that I'm being gender-neutral when I use those terms.

    I also think that, as long as the dynamic described on this page still exists, there will be a place for "mansplaining" in the lexicon:

    I also feel, at the risk of diminishing a much more serious offense, that people coming out of the woodwork to say that women are condescending to men too, is, in these circumstances, similar to situations where the conversation about rape crime gets hijacked by men who make the point that men get raped too. Strictly speaking, it's true, but it derails the conversation. Instead of talking why the dynamic exists, the conversation becomes about the reality that women do bad things too.

  10. Flightless - Hee.

    Reema - I think "douche" is negative because of its association with an unpleasant (and unnecessary) hygiene procedure, not with women's genitals. I think anything that contacts the underparts of either gender in a nonsexual way gets a bad connotation, and it isn't necessarily gendered. "Used condom" and "buttwipe" aren't nice words either.

    And I'm not saying that men 'splaining to women isn't a problem; I'm saying that we shouldn't make it part of the verb. Saying "he's being a jerk" calls out the problem behavior more specifically and sets higher expectations than saying "he's being a man."

  11. Saying "he's being a jerk" calls out the problem behavior more specifically and sets higher expectations than saying "he's being a man."

    This is actually a really good point, and it would kind of be nice to move away from the idea that men are assholes simply by virtue of being men; ie, that their ingrained sexism is so overwhelming that it can't be overcome. I know plenty of men who aren't sexist assholes, so it's clearly possible.

    Of course there are specific situations in which a man condescendingly (and in a sexist manner) explains the female experience to a woman. This is sexist. And it does happen a fair amount in some discussions of sexism.

    But I think the whole 'mansplainin' thing is mostly an excuse to go nya nya nya I can't hear you. And that's childish. If someone's being a sexist douche, tell them they're being a sexist douche. Don't use codewords to make yourself feel like part of some super-special in-group. It's stupid, and it never has a positive effect on the conversation.

    And it's a fucking ugly word, too.

  12. I'm not entirely certain the word itself is sexist. It describes a very particular situation where a man is douchesplaining to a woman because she is a woman. "Mansplaining" would probably be a perfectly good word if it weren't often code for "arguing with a woman while having a penis."

    My problem with "mansplaining" is that it gets used in a terribly sexist way. I'm a feminist and I'm very interested in reading about feminism, so I read a whole lot of feminist blogs and "mansplaining" is often used as a very cheap trick to shoot down (sometimes quite reasonable) arguments by men.

    If a dude says that ABC is wrong because of XYZ, whining that he's a mansplainer doesn't actually do a damn thing to refute XYZ. It's intellectually lazy. And if the dude in question actually is mansplaining, then chances are the XYZ is a pile of illogical crap, and it's much more effective to point that out than to complain that the dude in question is being condescending.

    Also, even very well-grounded accusations of mansplaining tend to derail conversations. Instead of arguing about sexism or racism or fat-hate, the entire thread turns into something like: "You're mansplaining!" "No I'm not!" "Yes you are!" "Am not!" "Are too!" And so on an so forth.

    Men who are interested in discussing feminism online could avoid a whole lot of flak by using gender-neutral or female SN's and not ever referring to their gender. And that is all kinds of ironic.

    (Feminist blogs have kind of soured me on feminism. I should stop reading them for my mental health.)

  13. Let me 'slpaine. No there is too much. Let me sum up.

  14. Whoa, Natalie Zack and aebhel are so on the money here. I've seen "mansplaining" used in the exact sexist, annoying, intellectually lazy way you indicate: Some man is taking part in a discussion on a feminist-oriented website, he disagrees with what the poster is arguing, he tries to "explain" why he thinks she's wrong (ya know, like all intellectually engaged people like to "explain" what they're thinking, instead of waiting for everyone to read their minds or something). He gets accused of mansplaining to the blog community. Often it's implied that it's sexist of him to disagree, doubly sexist to articulate his disagreement in the dreaded "explanation" format. In fact, here's an example:

    What exactly is this implying? So if you have a blog, everyone is supposed to agree with what you say, but you're allowed to respectfully disagree, but only if you're a woman? Or conversely, the blogger is willing to graciously allow men into her womyn-only safe space, but only if they pretend to agree with everything she says? Jeez, how thin-skinned. I would think as a feminist writer, if you found your opponents all had weak, unconvincing arguments, you'd be happy to point that out and wouldn't need to fall back on cliches about "mansplaining." And if your opponents actually have some good arguments, you should have the intellectual honesty to admit it.

    "Feminist blogs have kind of soured me on feminism. I should stop reading them for my mental health." Ugh, seriously.

  15. Ha! it.

    When I am the unfortunate receiver of douchesplaining it's usually from a man. I get some douchesplaining from women but it's rare. When it does happen it's just a dumb female who shouldn't really talk at all! Yes, I'm bitchin' ...not complaining.

    *ducks head and takes cover from shoes flying toward her head*

  16. I actually do agree with Hedone- when this happens to me it's almost always coming from a man, although every once in awhile it's a woman. I think it's not so much because it's an inherently sexist thing as it is because men are usually socially rewarded and women socially punished for the same basic behavior- assertive man with leader qualities vs. know-it-all bitch.

  17. Gosh, perhaqr, thanks for... clarifying that.

    Any time! :)

  18. It's a fun word to use ironically though.

  19. And it's a fucking ugly word, too.

    Thank you. This, more than anything, is why I would never use it.

  20. I like "douchesplaining" a lot more. I'm a woman, and I looooove to explain. When I'm trying to make some point or argue, I think it's logical to back it up with some explanation or evidence and tend to expect the same of others. Also, trolling is different from explaining and should just be called out as such.

    Regarding the kateharding thread that lastnightsclothes linked, I saw the "mansplainer" label being used to mean a lot of things. Example A: Any man who disagrees with the blog (unclear to me if troll or legit) and B: an abusive man who manipulates and brainwashes his partner. These are completely different things and I think it is a bad idea to throw the same word at both. We already have the much more descriptive labels "internet troll" and "manipulative emotional abuser."

  21. Sometimes I come off as condescending (That means to talk down to) ...


  22. Hey there. Love what you've been writing! I was curious about the enemies list, and took a look. Definitely enemies. Thanks for sharing these tidbits with everyone!

  23. GOD yes! I am really guilty of this. I always thought I was helping, or heading off crises before they occurred until a co-worker I really respected took me aside and explained that yes, she knew how to do her own job, thankyouverymuch.