I originally wrote this for Bob Segarini‘s “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog, way back in June 2014. (https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/roxanne-tellier-agree-to-disagree/)
The subject of ‘man’splaining’ has come around again. So, with a little editing and updating, I’m diving back into the subject. Enjoy! 😉
I am incredibly blessed to work with a crew of like minded, intelligent, non-biased writers at DBAWIS. We support and cross reference each other because we respect what each of us brings to the blog table, whether or not we agree. We can have spirited conversations and never once drop to the venomous level of “Jane, you ignorant slut,” as ridiculed in 70’s Saturday Night Live’s Point/Counterpoint skits.
Respectful, intelligent, informed conversation is not typical fare these days, least of all on social media, which is geared to the quick fix, knee-jerk reaction and funny cat memes. I once would have blamed the suspicious and cynical responses on Facebook on the ease of misinterpreting the written word, but find a similar pattern emerging in the spoken word world, rising from the primordial ooze of talk radio and conservative television posing as ‘news.’
Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me, has been all over the media this week, talking about her latest book, and explaining the frustration women experience in dealing with the sort of pompous, asshat male who half closes his eyes and leans back into his chair, preparatory to delivering his most holy and righteous words to the ignorant female before him.
The bigger truth in her words is that ‘man’splaining,’ as she calls it, does not just apply to women.
Why You Should Care About ‘Man’splaining’
If I disagree with you on an issue, it’s not because I’m a woman/less educated/a lefty liberal, it’s because I’ve thought about the issue, and come to a conclusion. That my conclusion does not match your conclusion does not make my thoughts wrong or naive. I do not need to be told that your conclusions are right and mine are in error. They are MY conclusions, based on my research.
If more information comes to light, and I change my stance, based on the new facts, that is not flip-flopping, that is having the ability to accommodate additional points, understand their bearing on the issue, and come to a new conclusion that assimilates ALL that is currently known.
Opinions are lovely … but they are not facts.
It’s not just women who’ve experienced being lectured on ‘the facts.’ But in this case, Ms Solnit’s original blog post touched a nerve in readers, and went viral. In her words, “Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life. The infamous incident I described — in which a man talked over me to explain a Very Important Book he thought I should read that it turns out I wrote — happened five years earlier in 2003.”
“Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
“After my book Wanderlust came out in 2000, I found myself better able to resist being bullied out of my own perceptions and interpretations. On two occasions around that time, I objected to the behaviour of a man, only to be told that the incidents hadn’t happened at all as I said, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest — in a nutshell, female.” (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174918/)
When you have people of wealth and/or power who are used to ‘man’splaining’ to women, it’s not very long before they decide that they’re also qualified to talk to everyone about other things they haven’t a clue about, as long as they deliver the info in a deep and stentorian voice, brimming with confidence and dominance .. about ‘legitimate rape,’ the age of the planet, or how science and scientists have it all wrong, because … The Bible. And they are not just talking to women – these speakers do not discriminate. No, they are talking to the general public, be they male, female, young or old. Anyone, in fact, who will allow their nonsense to enter their ears and fester in their minds.
Arrogant pedants who claim to have the only and last word on subjects they haven’t any real grasp of, quoting other crackpots and faulty science, barefacedly stating their own point of view as infallible and verifiable fact. And we – those of us who find it easier to simply accept, and even to share, unverified info, rather than look for the real story – pass those ridiculous opinions along to yet more gullible readers, who simply swallow down the pap, and allow twisted thinking to grow in their guts like deadly bacteria.
Elizabeth Young in her introduction to Plain Pleasures, the collected stories of Jane Bowles. “Up until the 1970s women were discounted and despised,” she writes. “They were, en masse, classed with children in terms of capability but, unlike children, were the butt of virtually every joke in the comedian’s repertoire. They were considered trite, gossipy, vain, slow and useless. Older women were hags, battle-axes, mother-in-laws, spinsters. Women were visible in the real world, the world of men, only while they were sexually desirable. Afterwards they vanished completely, buried alive by the creepy combination of contempt, disgust and sentimentality with which they were regarded.”
It didn’t end in the 70’s. In June of 2014, the women of The Talk were cackling about the audacity of older people having sex and romance in their lives. Do these women not have mirrors or calendars? Plastic surgery and Hollywood diets will only work for so long. They too will age, sooner rather than later. Perhaps they believe themselves immortal, but, if we are lucky, we will all eventually face our senior years. Are we doomed to be not only ignored but ridiculed for daring to continue to live and love?
It’s not just men who purvey these diatribes… there isn’t a shortage of women who like to swagger with the best of them, despite either sex’s words coming off like the ramblings of an aging Fonzie. I used to love Christie Blatchford when I first read her columns, many decades ago. I can’t read her now. Although I’m sure she occasionally writes something that I could relate to, the overall tone of her writing smacks of a belligerent street punk.
In the states, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and many more far too pugnacious women toe the party line, siding firmly with the doctrines handed down by elderly, white, entitled, Conservative men… hold the phone! That’s it!
Clinging to the idea that your gender, wealth or power makes you somehow magically smarter than those around you is like sitting under a flashing neon sign that points to your head and says, “old guy.” And not a nice old guy that we can learn the mysteries of life from, but a nasty, old, half-cut, pre-civil liberties era relic that snarls, “get off my lawn!” at every passing child … or idea.
You should care about ‘man’splaining’ because those men are lecturing to us all, on the television, on the radio, and in print, in the same ignorant, self-serving manner, to anyone that will listen and swallow their bitterness. They want to educate us to their misogynistic revelations, promoting their own insecurities and doctrines as facts, and encouraging fear in those who lack their own level of confidence and privilege. But sadly, those who choose to blindly accept the gnarled half-truths and bigotry inherent in these decidedly non-empathetic screeds may one day find themselves on the wrong side of history, pawns to the sociopathic ramblings of greedy, old men.
Man’splaining dismisses the reasoning capabilities of others. It imposes the rational of another, at the expense of the individual. The only defense is to think for yourself, and own what you think. Don’t swallow whole what some would like to spoon fed you. Don’t let yourself be ‘man’splained.’ Make your life the product of your own study and morals. The brain, like any other body part, needs to be exercised; use it or lose it.
“Research shows that older adults have lower scores on a measure called “self-discipline.” By the time they reach their later years, individuals feel better able to express themselves rather than being hemmed in by society’s proscriptions.”
How very sad, when the freedom to finally speak your truth is considered a lack of self-discipline … kind of makes you wonder whose judgments are being weighed and on whose scale