This week, I came across the term ‘mansplaining’ – a great word for that tendency of men to explain things to women, including what women think.
An article in Prospect magazine cited Rebecca Solnit as having popularised the term in a 2008 essay about a man she met at a party in Aspen who explained her own book on the Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge to her.
The notion immediately brought to mind the brilliant ‘Amazing Invisible Woman’ sketch in The Fast Show in which a woman suggests a solution to a practical problem to a group of men (often involving cars or directions). She’s met by silence. Then one of the men repeats her advice word-for-word, and is heard!
Early years learning
This tendency isn’t simply the preserve of adult males. We start ‘em young. On repeated viewing of the Netflix series If I were an Animal (a generally brilliant programme, I hasten to add) with my five-year-old son, I began to notice a pattern.
The narrators are two children, a slightly older boy and a slightly younger girl, interacting as a brother and sister. They talk about the animals’ lives rather like young David Attenboroughs. But I began to notice that the boy almost always provided the information.
The girl would give each animal a name, say ‘awwwh, isn’t she cute?’ a lot, and generally gush and giggle at their antics. She would also ask lots of helpful questions: ‘Why is that snow leopard digging a hole, Tim?’ To which her brother would provide the insightful science. ‘Well, Emma…’
After reading the Prospect article on Rebecca Solnit, I realised this innocent little dialogue has a name: mansplaining.
While we’re talking about little boys, turns out Boys Don’t Like Flowers