Ive recently waded into a debate – some might say minefield – over the term ‘mansplaining‘ which infers arrogance and misogyny as inherent to masculine identities. While the debate has its light-hearted side (with a friend of mine pointing out that the term is simply more catchy than ‘systemicallyembeddedmasculinities-splaining’) it also reflects a certain discrimination which I feel strongly about addressing.
The unique quality of the term is that it is a discrimination against men on which men are not allowed to comment. Indeed, if as a self-identified man I dare to comment that such terms as ‘mansplaining’ appear to me rather sexist and generalised, then I am automatically deemed to be a sexist mansplainer myself. This post in itself will surely be read as such too!
Three paragraphs in and I can already sense many of my friends and colleagues rolling their eyes in dismay. Especially those who have experienced systematic discrimination on account of being self-identified women on a regular basis and are now champing at the bit to denounce what I have to say. But still, let me try and clarify my argument.
As I have suggested in our debate, such terms seem to me only the obverse of similarly sexist terms against women having ‘natural’ characteristics. For instance, discriminatory remarks that women are better at cleaning or child-care, or that women are emotionally weak etc… These generalisations are clearly not acceptable nor accurate and reinforce a structural inequality through their discourse. Yet for me, terms such as ‘mansplaining’ only spout similar generalisations towards men.
Men can be arrogant and can be misogynist, certainly. But so can women. And so can men towards other men. Furthermore, doesn’t such a term deny to self-identified men the ‘right’ to a basic human characteristic: to be arrogant, to be over confident, to utter a careless remark, simply because they have fallen to a bad day or are an arsehole.
So let me clarify before I am torn to pieces: there is an undeniable inequality between genders in society which (in my opinion) needs to be overcome through a structural overhaul (but it seems that even asserting my political opinion in this way turns me into a sort of ‘mansplainer’). As a self-identified man, am I not allowed to assert my argument without being discriminated against as sexist? Yes there are some men who think they know it all. But is it fair to attribute this to a male identity (which includes all self-identified men) and not simply a detestable personality?
I hope I am not an arrogant or misogynist person. I guess there is no way for me to know for sure without people pointing it out (maybe I will receive some comments on here). But even if I am, this is a flaw in my personality not my identity, and such sexist generalisations will only reinforce a unequal gender binary not overcome it.