Why You Should Care About Man’splaining


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.

rebecca_solnit“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/)

more money than brainsWhen 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.”love stories book. jpg

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!

get off my lawnClinging 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

einstein no socks quote

 

Peter Cottontail Has Left the Building


cute bunnyThis week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, has always been considered the Holiest of Holy weeks to Catholics. As a child, I looked forward to new shoes and a showy hat (women still had to wear them in church, back then) and a basketful of goodies – maybe even a chocolate bunny!

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s hunted for coloured eggs at my house. Peter Cottontail has left the building, and this week was a horror show all around, with bombings in Brussels, the ramping up of panic in America over both terrorism and Trump’s continued putsch to glory, interspersed with freezing rain, a dismal outcome (for many)  to the Jian Ghomeshi  trial, a Liberal budget that projects a $30 billion deficit, and a surprisingly negative response to the new Batman vs Superman movie. Oh, and the beer and liquor stores were closed for two days.

And you can add to that the shock accompanying hearing of the death of comedian Gary Shandling.  At 66, he was far too young, and we were not ready for his genius to leave us.

You will forgive me if this has been a week I’d prefer to forget.

The loss of another celebrity, former Mayor Rob Ford, also captured attention. I’ve written about him before, and my feelings about his tenure remain unchanged. So do the feelings of those who admired him. However, Torontonians who dared to pen anything more than a non-committal noting of his passing were soundly excoriated by their fellow citizens for not prostrating at his bier with enough respect.

rob ford dead headlinesThe world press had no such strictures.

Some people will try to convince you that their way to mourn is the only and correct way. I disagree. There is no ‘right way” to mourn, and demanding fealty at the point of a disapproving moral gun does not change the past. You would think that the unprecedented two day period of lying in state at City Hall (at the request of the family) would appease the bereaved, but apparently, that is not enough. Those who revered his blustering, bumbling ways would have us re-write history, in an effort to whitewash his misdeeds, and beatify him as Toronto’s savior.

MargaretThatcher 1992It’s all so very reminiscent of the post-death canonization of Margaret Thatcher. Reviled during her tenure for her hawkish policies, key role in bringing about the first Gulf War, and advocating  for the 2003 attack on Iraq, along with her ushering in of a period where the rich got richer at the expense of the poor, her influence negatively affected millions around the world. And yet, her canonization began just nanoseconds after word of her death hit the airwaves; she was lionized worldwide in the press, her state funeral cost Britain  £3.1 million pounds, and Iron Lady statues made of actual iron were erected in places as diverse as the Falkland Islands , despite Argentina’s fury.

Meanwhile, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” raced to the top of the British charts.

There’s a price to be paid for assuming a position of power – the admission includes having your life and history scrutinized and deemed worthy or unworthy, both by those who liked you and by those who didn’t, who still had to live with the impact of political actions. It is ‘misapplied death etiquette,’ as journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, to be expected to apply the same moral high ground  we do to the deaths of private individuals as we do when considering the entirety of the life of an influential public figure.

There’s something distinctively creepy – in a Roman sort of way – about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/08/margaret-thatcher-death-etiquettefacebook judges and lawyers.jpg

Ah, but the self-anointed social media judges and lawyers would disagree.

A video capturing an incident involving a young woman, confronted with parking in a handicapped space, went viral this week. Shot here in Toronto, in front of a Tim Hortons, the video showed her reaction to being caught – privileged outrage, threats, and the throwing of two cups of coffee at the videographer.

Surprisingly, many were more incensed by the videographer’s capture and sharing of the incident, than at the belligerent aggression of the scofflaw. Despite assaulting the photographer, and driving off in a huff, aiming her vehicle at the cameraman before swerving away, these commentators believed  she should not have been confronted, but rather, that the photographer should have ‘minded his own business.’

As the video went viral, international viewers were stunned to see her rudeness … aren’t all Canadians pretty much nice and polite people, they asked?  No, some, with possibly the best of intentions, are bullies.

Bullying in an attempt to force your morality, or personal and world views, onto others, is still bullying. I have one ex-Facebook friend who blocked my posts because her nephews follow her page, and she censors what they can see. Another Facebooker resented my questioning the morality of the actions of Israel towards Palestine, despite my information having come from a Jewish peace activist living in Israel.

And the culmination of the trial of Jian Ghomeshi unleashed some of the vilest comments I’ve ever seen directed at alleged victims of assault. The women were ‘liars,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘shameful fame seekers,’ ‘femitards,’ ‘toxic bitches,’ and worse. Despite the fact that a total of 21 women had originally come forward to complain, with identical accusations, about Ghomeshi’s weird ideas on sex play, only three were brave enough to appear in court, and all three were pummeled with relentless demands to answer questions about, not just the attack, but trivial events of a decade past – what lawyers like to call ‘whacking’ – while Ghomeshi sat silent.  (ghomeshi cosby.jpg)

The judge’s decision acquitted Ghomeshi, but also noted that his verdict did not mean these events ‘never happened.’ The judge simply didn’t believe the women’s testimony, flawed as it was by misremembered events, private messages between two of the accusers, and contact with the accused after the fact.

For women of every political stripe, the decision was flawed, and the system biased. At City Hall, one naked protester was unnecessarily and roughly tackled to the ground, her nipples scraping the pavement as she was dragged away by the police. Despite nudity being legal in Canada, the uptight citizens must not be discomfited by the sight of a woman’s breasts.

From a story released by the CBC: “While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case.”

By implication, stating that “many within the legal community” support the decision, dismisses by extension those who found the decision as to be  ill-informed. In actual fact, many of those who have criticized the decision are academic and legal scholars.

Am I biased? Perhaps. Or is the system itself flawed? At the beginning of the month, a report filed by the Criminal Lawyer’s Association found that women were leaving the field of criminal law in dramatically high numbers, due to systemic discrimination.

 “It found low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff as some of the reasons so many women are leaving private practice of criminal law,” reported Maureen Brosnahan for the CBC. “Many women also reported a lack of respect and being treated differently than male lawyers by court officers, police, crown attorneys and judges. One reported being called “little lady” repeatedly. Others said they were chastised for asking judges for time to pick up children from school whereas their male counterparts who made similar requests were not rebuked.”

Whether or not it is possible to change how sensitive cases are handled in an atmosphere where women are routinely marginalized, it’s still time for an honest reappraisal of how sexual assault cases are conducted in Canada, especially in the face of the numbers.

“In Canada, the low rates of conviction for sexual assault are an indictment of the system itself. As a 2014 Toronto Star article revealed using Statscan data from 2004 and 2006, 460,000 women self-reported sexual assault: 15,200 reported to the police, 5,544 charges were laid, with 2,824 prosecutions and 1,519 convictions. Again, that’s almost a half million self-reported assaults, and 1,519 convictions. Something is deeply wrong.”

 Understandably – and not because we are stupid or legally naive, but because 1 in 4 women has experienced a sexual assault in her lifetime, and has a strong personal stake in how this case concluded – many women were incensed at the Ghomeshi decision.

Enter ‘mansplaining.’

Either unable or unwilling to see how angry and hurt many women are by the Ghomeshi decision, mansplainers flocked to the posts women made about their feelings on the ruling. “Read the decision,” they intoned, as though we were either too stupid to understand, or blind to the many gloatings of those who’d ‘called it’ from the beginning, and who were dancing in joy at both the decision and having been proved right.

Hey! Your side won! Now could you take your foot off my neck so that I can sympathize and empathize with women who feel as I do, stunned at the inevitability of once again, being re-victimized  post-assault?

Are you so utterly deaf to the agony of people in pain that your only recourse is to repeat incessantly that ‘justice has been done?’  willful blindness

Or as one woman keened in her blog, “How can you be so blind? How can you insert yourself into a woman pouring her grief out, to tell her that legally, she has no case? That what happened to her, didn’t factually happen. To throw a smothering blanket on the fire igniting in her. She has no reality. The law is the reality. It is the neutral, the official record. It is gas lighting on a massive scale.

So I know perhaps the evidence wasn’t there, or that the burden of proof wasn’t met. And I don’t fucking care. This isn’t about this one case. This case was inevitable, like watching a lemming marching to its doom.

It’s every fucking time. Every time. The mundanity of the oppression, the predictability of the reaction, the backlash that follows. “      (https://afateofpossibilities.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/this-isnt-about-the-ghomeshi-case/)

It is indeed gaslighting. It’s telling people that their emotions are invalid, that what they see and feel has no wegaslighting2ight. It’s a way to keep those who disagree with you off balance, wondering if perhaps what they perceive isn’t real, casting doubt on their mental stability, pointing to others that agree with YOUR beliefs as proof that THEY are in the wrong. It is psychological abuse. And it’s an ugly way to treat anyone.

The overwhelming miasma of this week – at least for me – has been one of outraged, self-righteous, phony, morality gone mad, and overwhelmingly imposed upon all in its path. Think as I think, believe as I believe, abandon your own truths and take on mine.

Whether it be Trump calling the beleaguered city of Brussels ‘a hellhole,’ or Cruz demanding strict policing of American Muslims in their own neighbourhoods; police manhandling protestors, or judges calling women deceitful and self-serving, it’s not been a good week to have a high Emotional I.Q., and a low tolerance for sanctimonious public principles forced upon the social order by the court of public opinion.

Speak-your-truth Ghandi

 

(first published  March  27/16 (bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/roxanne-tellier-peter-cottontail-has-left-the-building)