pop goes the world: whole lot of mansplainin’ goin’ on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  30 August 2012, Thursday

Whole Lot of Mansplainin’ Goin’ On

When will men get off telling women what’s best for them?

From celibate priests to overbearing lawmakers to some of the men in our own lives, women all over the world are subjected to the unsolicited pronouncements of those who believe they are the final arbiters on issues that affect women.

It’s called “mansplaining.”

As far as I can find out, the term has been around since at least 2010. A post of February that year by “Fannie” at fanniesroom.blogspot.com says mansplaining is a result of “males possessing the privilege whereby they are largely assumed to be both default human beings and automatically competent at life.”

Rebecca Solnit, award-winning author of 15 non-fiction books, in an article posted last August 20 at motherjones.com calls it “the problem with men explaining things,” that “billions of women must be out there…being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”

It’s not solely a male thing, she said, because “…people of both genders pop up…to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories…”

However, Solnit added, “…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is in my experience, gendered.”

In the United States, just to provide one example out of a great many, Republican congressman Todd Akin recently said that women could not become pregnant in the case of “legitimate rape,” saying that their bodies “shut down” to prevent it. Apart from displaying an abysmal ignorance of basic science, this also shows a male-oriented notion that there are cases when rape – by its very definition an act of force – isn’t a crime.

I won’t even mention any local examples. Just open any newspaper on any day and read for yourself the abundance of conspiracy theories (that the RH Bill is a ploy to sell more contraceptive medicines and devices and prevent the poor from reproducing, etc.) and blanket pronouncements (such as that a secular world will promote all sorts of immorality, as if our present society isn’t already rife with it).

I wonder why some men believe they know what’s best for women, despite not having a vagina, uterus, nor a menstrual period. It’s what Solnit calls “men’s unsupported overconfidence” and the “archipelago of arrogance.”

Therefore there are some men who deride outspoken, opinionated women as “feminists”, like it’s a bad thing. How? Because feminism rejects patriarchal hegemony? Because feminists think for themselves? Because feminists see through the mansplaining and have decided to take their lives back?

Our society is still patriarchal; protection for women is inadequate and slow in coming. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262) was passed. The Magna Carta for Women (RA 9710) wasn’t enacted until 2009, only three short years ago, after being delayed for seven years.

All women’s and minority groups’ rights are hard-fought. The struggle for reproductive rights is no exception. We now see the usual pattern in such matters playing out – the conservatives and reactionaries are up in arms, kicking and screaming against any change to their status quo, while the progressives are out there making themselves heard and felt.

But as in the issues of slavery and votes for women, in time we will get to a better place. Women nowadays recognize when they are being mansplained to, when they are being condescended to instead of being engaged in genuine dialogue coming from respect and love.

True manhood lies not in having as many children or wives and mistresses as one can, nor in control and aggressiveness, but in respecting other people and acknowledging their right to live their lives in the manner they wish, and in caring properly for the people one is responsible for.

I am grateful for the men in my life who are not mansplainers, who see me as an equal, as a fellow human being – friends, relatives, university professors, colleagues. First among them is my late father, who told me when I was a teenager, “Do not allow yourself to be limited by the double standard.” I asked, “What is the double standard?” He said, “You’ll find out,” and sure enough I did, and duly rejected it as unfair and demeaning.

Because beyond gender, we are all human. And it takes all humankind working together to make a world that is kinder, one that is egalitarian, just, and free.  *** 

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