....But then I started getting this sinking feeling, the kind you got when your nine-year-old self (the one with short hair and a Sarah Connor figurine) won an argument with your brother about who got to sit in the front seat of the car, but you did it by kicking him in the shins and yelling "shotgun!" while he howled in pain. Somehow, the rosy glow of that hallowed front seat was tarnished by the knowledge that you went real low to get there.
When I called someone a mansplainer, I'd hit below the belt.
Feminists, this is our hour. These are the dark days. The world needs us, and it needs us to be smart, effective and bold.
What it doesn't need is for us to be allured by our cleverness into abandoning the rules of good argument. And this is why I'm calling for a moratorium on the word "mansplain" and its cousins, "manterrupt" and "bropropriate".
It's not just because we're tarring half the population with the same brush when we slap the word "man" in front of any verb and say it with a derisive tone. Nor is it because we risk offence. It's because this adversarial form of communication ain't working, and we need to try a different tactic. And I don't mean to sound hysterical, but the future of the world kinda depends on it.
This year hasn't been a good one for progressive, liberally minded types like us and, while the reasons are too complex to tackle in a single article, there is one I can home in on without trying very hard at all.
We're not winning enough friends or influencing enough people. It's not because our arguments don't hold water, or our position is doomed to fail, it's because people can't get past the note of intellectually superior nastiness that's oozing from our pores when we utter words like "mansplain".
If feminism is, as the T-shirt says, the "radical notion that women are people", then maybe it's time we adopted the radical notion that people are people too. Even man people. Who knows, if we use our linguistic power to sever the bullies and braggarts from the general male population, we might find the rest of mankind more receptive to our plight. Or maybe not. But at least then we'd be able to dance around the moral high ground in our pantsuits and whatever the hell undies we choose to wear, or not to wear.
We love reading about how everyone hates Hillary because she's a woman, and chortle when Tanya Plibersek calls Turnbull a mansplainer, but consider that at least some of Hillary's haters were made the day she called them a basket of deplorables. And that referring to a rare conservative politician who's happy to call himself a feminist as a mansplainer is a good way to wither the last tiny vestiges of goodwill between our kind and the people with whom we most need to engage.
By all means, challenge the men who talk down to you. Go get 'em, sister. But make your primary weapon logic, not scorn. Put that superior intellect to work on the vocab that precisely describes what's wrong with their behaviour, not the generalist sexism of a gendered slur. In case you forgot, gendered slurs are the kinds of things we feminists are supposed to hate.
Do your challenging without humiliating the other blokes in the room, who might even agree with you, if you could only couch your complaint in terms that don't demean them, too.
The thing about feminism is, it ain't over yet. We don't get to walk the low road just because we're not making progress as fast as we'd like. If you want people to change, you have to speak a language they can bear to listen to before you have any hope at all of them hearing a single word you say.
Let's banish mansplaining and start talking about the real battle for feminists.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Ban 'mansplain' from the feminist vocabulary