Some People Use The Word Mansplaining In A Way That’s Sexist And Cliche
Ok, so the social media topic was Star Trek: Discovery, where Sonequa Martin-Green played a starring role as First Officer Michael Burnham. The African American actress rightfully gained applause for her role in that position. But then came a number of tweets which seemed to imply that there had never been a black woman in space on television before.
So, this fan of the original 1966 Star Trek Television series took to Twitter to issue a gentle reminder to Black Girl Nerds, the media organization who’s content I love and mission is long overdue, that Sonequa Martin-Green was, by far, not the first sister in space. Of course, that title goes to the very awesome Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, and not just for the original series, but also for all of the movies, save for J.J. Abrams remake, where her character was represented by Zoe Saldana.
Rather than push aside or forget Ms. Nichols, she should be revered as “the first,” and not forgotten.
So, I point this out via Twitter and someone I don’t know or will name chimes in accusing me of “mansplaining”.
The definition of “mansplaining” is, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “at its core, a very specific thing. It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.”
In my case, and as I pointed out on Twitter, I’m a fan of the original 1966 Star Trek Television series, and so I was taking up for Ms. Nichols. Guess what? I could have been a woman and done the exact same thing. In fact, I received a number of retweets and likes for my tweet coming to remind all of what Nichelle Nichols did.
Then, there was one sister who comes up and accuses me of “mansplaining” – and as one who tires of clichés, that one sent me to the moon. It’s overused. You have women and men telling men that they’re mansplaining something, but it only takes a little thought to realize that their complaint, or attack, is sexist in itself.
Part of this process of the mis-use of mansplaining is due to social media itself. There’s such a rush to judge others via the medium that the persons who do it don’t even stop for one moment to think about the appropriateness of their claim. So intent are they are scoring what I call “insult points”, that all logic goes out of the window.
What results is an effort that’s sexist. Just because the person appears to be a man (on social media, you don’t always know), the responder slaps the mansplaining word, and thinks they scored insult points, and made themselves look like the cool, hip defender of whatever act they think is being put on women. In other words, all the effort to make themselves feel good by putting the other person down.
Well, word up: I wasn’t putting down Black Girl Nerds at all – just giving a friendly shout out for Nichelle Nichols. Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean a knee jerk response like mansplaining has to be the order of the day.
Moreover, mansplaining, or what the blogger Rebecca Solnit described in her essay called “Men Explain Things to Me”, can just as easily be called “youngsplaining”, where a younger person talks to an older person as if the older person is out of touch with current life. Or, it can be called “whitesplaining”, where a white person, a man or woman, talks down to someone generally black or ‘of color’ because they don’t think the person of color can possibly understand or know something about a practice (like, say, golf), that’s commonly the province of someone white. (Or “blacksplaining” in the case where the person’s black – just take “white” out of “whitesplaining” and replace it with “black” and you get “blacksplaining”.
Whatever the case – mansplaining, or youngsplaining or whitesplaining or whateversplaining – the act is done to talk down to the person on the other end of the ‘splaining, and is wrong. But in our zeal to right a wrong should not mean that being sexist (in the case of mansplaining), is OK. It should not mean that being ageist against young people is a good counter. And it should not mean that being racist against someone white is the right way to go, because it’s not.
You know the best thing to do? It’s to stop having a categorization for every behavior we may perceive we don’t like from someone. If we as a society were far less neuotic, we would not be havings these problems in communication, anyway.