What is mansplaining?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
mansplain, v. Of a man: to explain (something) needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, esp. (typically when addressing a woman) in a manner thought to reveal a patronizing or chauvinistic attitude.
The irony is not lost on Perspecs News that this article explaining the phenomena of "mansplaining" is written... by a man. A man mansplaining about mansplaining - what a perfectway to illustrate the need for International Women's Day.
The word came up in Prime Minister's Questions this week when Theresa May accused Jeremy Corbyn of "mansplaining" when the Labour leader mentioned International Women's Day to tee up his question about Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It is not the first time it has appeared in the House of Commons - former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh used it twice in 2016 - but it is the most high profile use in Parliament.
It has been a 10-year journey for the word, starting life in the murky world of internet comments and eventually making it to the Palace of Westminster, the heart of British democracy. The commonly cited birthday of the idea is 2008, when Rebecca Solnit wrote "Men Explain Things To Me" published first at TomDispatch.com and later in the Los Angeles Times. She recounts a party where a man aggressively explained a recent book about 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge. She tried in vain to tell him that she had, in fact, written that book.
The American writer did not use the actual word, but her work was the catalyst for its coinage. When it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in January, their team of lexicographers found the first documented use of “mansplain” in August 2008 - a month after Solnit's article. It was used in an exchange between two bloggers on Livejournal: electricwitch, an artist from the Netherlands, accused count-vronsky, who has since deactivated their account, of mansplaining.
While the word may be relatively new, The Atlantic observes, the idea has been around for decades. In the same publication, Lyman Abbott, a prominent New England theologian, penned an article in September 1903 called "Why Women Do Not Wish the Suffrage". He argued that he spoke on behalf of the silent women.
In retrospect, The Atlantic writes: "See, even though the women in question haven't said anything about it, Lyman Abbott totally knows what they want better than they do. Any woman in favour of suffrage just doesn't get the true female experience as well as he does." It is the perfect example of a mansplainer.
The word could, however, be on the way out. Slate's Benjamin Worth argues that the internet has ruined one of our most useful terms. He writes: "Along the way, mansplaining has morphed from a useful descriptor of a real problem in contemporary gender dynamics to an increasingly vague catch all expression that seems to be inflaming the internet gender wars."
Katherine Connor Martin, the Oxford University Press' head of US dictionaries, argues that it was not a hard decision to add the word - even if it's on the way out. The general rule of thumb for the dictionary is that words should be around for at least a decade before they're included. "Even if mansplain stops being used after this year, there's no doubt it has been a very important and influential word and concept in the second decade of the 21st century", she said.