Recently, there was an uproar of Twitter drama over the use of the word “mansplaining” – specifically, how the term was criticized by Notch, aka Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft. “Mansplaining is a sexist term designed to silence men via gender shaming,” he tweeted, in response to a claim that “mansplaining,” while funny, is “actually quite problematic and a real issue.”
I don’t really want to argue with Persson’s stance on the issue, because in certain ways, he’s not totally wrong. “Mansplaining,” put simply, is when a man explains something to someone, usually a woman, in a condescending way. It’s easy to see how someone could be offended by this term, because, sure, being condescending isn’t a gender-specific trait. We’ve all known patronizing people of every gender, and yeah, it’s completely annoying, no matter who it’s coming from!
However, “mansplaining” is in no way claiming that it’s only men who can be condescending. Rather, it is a term that classifies a pattern of men explaining things to women. When someone is condescending, it’s usually because they’re somewhat educated in the subject, or think themselves smarter than everyone else in the room, or even are a bit close-minded; whatever the reason, it usually boils down to something personal.
“Mansplaining” takes this and adds another level. Someone who “mansplains” assumes that the other person – again, usually a woman – must know less, because she is either a) a woman, or b) not a man.
What I mean by this is that, on a societal level, we are taught that boys automatically excel in areas that girls cannot. Mechanics, sports, gaming, economics, anything in the STEM field, and so on: women are always in danger of being talked down to, despite how much they actually know about the subject, simply because of their gender.
Arguably, there is a flipside. If there are areas that men are (wrongly) thought to naturally excel at, then of course there are areas that women are (wrongly) thought to naturally excel at, too, right? Sure – and doesn’t that mean that they can be condescending about those areas as well? Maybe, but the problem is that more feminized subjects, like fashion and makeup, are often looked down upon in and of themselves, and it’s sort of hard to be condescending about things that are viewed as gaudy and unnecessary.
This is what was meant when it was said that “mansplaining” was a serious problem – yes, condescending people in general are annoying, but where a man may or may not be silenced by this word, women are systematically being silenced as a whole.