Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Mansplaining" Mansplained

I like thinking about 'mansplaining' because it's not that I could go either way on it, so much as I go both ways on it.

And it bothers a lot of men, though I don't know why it should. I can sympathise but not empathise.

Fact is, mansplaining is good or bad in my view, based on context. Good as a consciousness raising exercise/feedback exercise to make somebody aware of their own hubris, often subconscious, habitual behavior.

Specifically when 'mansplaining' is used in reference to a man explaining to a woman what it's like to be a woman, or a feminist, what feminism is. More generally there's a faux pah whenever a non-expert presumes to explain to an expert the experts domain of expertise, either relatively or absolutely.

I'm absolutely pro-that usage of mansplaining, negative reinforcement evoking embarassment. Though in my limited experience of the general phenomena (I once had new recruit I had to train up to take over my old job, and he had this almost pathological habit of trying to teach me what I was needing to teach him) The act is committed as a result of obliviousness. It can be hard to interrupt a man on a roll. 

And here is my limited sympathy: having been a member of my high-school debating team, I've personally experienced being lauded and applauded for making shit up and sounding authoritative about it. MBAs at Harvard have 'air-time' as an assessment criteria (how much attention a student in class can command for themselves) and I'm sure with everything I know of business school, if the Harvard MBA is doing it, it will trickle down in some form to a condoned behavior in every business class and culture. 

I still have bad habits from my own education, the lazy shorthand of making arguments pre-faced by 'research shows...' there's no research, none I would ever bother to verify. It's just a dick move to try and sound convincing, or present opinion as fact.

The thing is, there's so much positive reinforcement of this behavior out there. That's the limits of my sympathy towards men who find themselves getting bitten suddenly in a context that every other time they've been getting a pat on the head for it. That and those TV adds where a family has a doofus know it all dad, but everyone else humors him, leaving him oblivious to the fact that mum or kids are really running things. That cliche isn't based on nothing, I've witnessed the family hostage to a doofus playing the traditional role.

The plain and simple fact is that mansplaining is bad, experts should not have to take lessons from non-experts. That's the wrong way round, the flow has to go from expert to non-expert. Informed opinions to the uninformed. 

Ironically, I've experienced the inversion of mansplaining, often in feminist blog content. Specifically reading original research that explains to me what it is to be a man. This doesn't make it equivalent, it just suggests that the error of assymetrical insight is common to just about everyone. Mansplaining to me should be a matter as banal to deal with as when right wingers try to explain the arguments of left wingers and vice versa. The only complication is that given the narrow political spectrum available to most voters, left and right wingers are kind of equal, where men and women are not.

There are many ways though, down in the detail of what it means to be human and genetics and all that shit that men and women are equal. And as men and women are equal in intelligence, so too are they in stupidity. 

It's just a fact, a bunch of people aren't good at arguing, just as a bunch of people are pretty worthless at the martial arts (or other martial arts). 

And mansplaining gets misused as something to throw at a man asserting any argument, whether it be within his domain of expertise or not. A tit-for-tat tactic in effect if not intention, resulting in men feeling dismissed and getting pissed off and dismissive as a result. And if the patriarchy is the one enjoying all the privelege, any tactic that results in dismissing feminist voices is a bad one.

At best, you wind up with men being selective about the feminist voices they listen too, and that is not ideal. Particularly if they select out any voices that use or refer to mansplaining, because mansplaining has good and instructive uses.

But as a man explained "If you want to gather the honey, don't kick over the beehive" the man being Dale Carnegie and his expertise being 'how to win friends and influence people' which really isn't gendered at all. 

I would speculate that a rich source of progress for feminism and equality is getting the patriarchy to create feminist spaces within its territory, mainly the collective mindset of men. And I suspect it's probably easier than anticipated because most men don't identify as misogynists, and the advantage of privilege being invisible to those who possess it, is that we don't realise and aren't invested in our oppressive behaviors. 

Until you consciously characterise somebody as an oppressor, where people often live down to your expectations. But there's a counterpoint, and hence why I go both ways. I've never had to fight oppression myself, and thus I don't get to say how. So if you want to overuse mansplaining, use it as a weapon rather than a tool of instruction, knock yourself out.

The empiric method really only gets to say whether you should or shouldn't do so. 

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