Every time I write about mansplaining, a handful of men tell me the word is sexist, but I think what they mean is that mansplaining doesn’t happen much at all.
Yesterday I bit into a green apple that was rotten and full of worms. Are all apples rotten? Nope. Are all green apples rotten? Nope, but that didn’t stop mine from being full of worms. You could say I’m giving green apples bad publicity by telling you this story. Lord knows there isn’t enough offence in this world, but dammit, my apple was what it was, and it wasn’t a mango. It was a damned apple. Did that experience put me off green apples for life? Not a fuck. I love green apples.
The definitions of words don’t form in a vacuum. They evolve on the back of experiences that are universal enough to gain real meaning to an entire demographic. Mansplaining is a word that formed because condescension wasn’t doing its job: because it’s usually, if not always, specific to a particular type of male: the type who assumes that we wimmenz don’t know shit because we have vaginas, not brains. Mansplaining is sexist by definition.
That said, it’s not a generalisation about all men. It’s a behaviour. That’s why dictionaries call it a verb instead of an adjective. It isn’t a character trait belonging to all men just like wormy apples aren’t always green and green apples aren’t always full of worms. In simpler terms (and yes, I am probably mansplaining right now) mansplaining is the worm, not the apple—the sickness, not the gender.
In even simpler terms, I really like men. I don’t like sexist behaviours or worms in apples. The vast majority of the men I know are not sexist. The vast majority of the apples I buy are worm-free so I tend to get by pretty well without painting all men and apples with the same brush.
So why not take the ‘man’ out of mansplaining? Why not just call it condescension? Because if mansplaining was condescension that had nothing to do with misogyny, the word would not exist. Nobody would have needed it. I just know there’s a logical fallacy in there, but I can’t quite put my finger on which one. I think it has a “hoc” and an “ergo” in it, though.
This is where you’re meant to accuse me of sexism, of course, because pointing out sexist behaviour is sexist, doncha know?
There is a great divide between being on the offensive and the defensive. If the apple doesn’t like being called rotten, it should have walked into the fridge on its own damn legs. The black mark in the mansplaining debacle is the mansplaining behaviour, and not the label for that behaviour.