First came mansplain, a word to describe male windbags who can't help but preach at women. Then we got manspread, the habit some men have of taking up too much space in public places. And now we have manslam, "the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them ," as well as "manterrupt" and "bropropriating."
Oh man. Enough.
It's time to stop man-izing all problematic behavior.
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Beyond the obvious reason — that it's annoying as hell — there are a number of reasons everyone, feminists included, should start blanket-banning these words from their lexicons.
For one, it commits the sin of gender essentialism, i.e. attributing one's behavior to one's gender. Is a man's windbaggery a consequence of his gender or the fact that he's just a jerk? Must we reinforce the connection between speechifying and penises? Women have long tried to undo the idea that gender is destiny, both as nurture and nature, because it limits everyone. Why bring it back? As Meghan Daum recently pointed out, both genders are capable of being blowhards.
The other problem is that "man-izing" makes criticism too easy to deflect. The origins of "mansplain" lie in a fantastic essay by Rebecca Solnit called "Men Explain Things to Me," which opens with a story about the time a man explained to her a book she had just written. That guy definitely sucks. But most men, or people for that matter, are not that deluded and deserve to be heard out. After "mansplain" caught fire, it became all too easy for women to avoid conversations with men who disagree with them; all they had to do is charge them with "mansplaining" and case closed.
(I am not innocent. I tried this with my husband a number of times until I realized that I was just shutting down arguments in which I couldn't stand not being right. It was probably the third time he said "I'm not mansplaining, I am disagreeing" that I realized he was right.)
Then there is the whole problem with confirmation bias. Look at life through a man-ized lens and you are bound to see a bunch of, well, assholes. Be careful what you look for. Especially if you are planning to slam into them while walking on the street.
Let's be clear about one thing though: men do indeed dominate conversations. Studies show that men speak more, in schools and in boardrooms, make up the majority of opinion writers, and are even more likely to get re-tweeted. Recent research found that men are more likely to interrupt women than women are to interrupt men. However — and this is important — women are also more likely to interrupt other women than they are men.
But the fixation on male entitlement creates a world in which the genders are at war, and women must spend their days stationed on enemy lines. Not only is this bound to exhaust all the energetic young women, it's also a distraction from the big issues at hand. We've got reproductive rights to protect, universal family leave to pass, and sexual violence to fight!
Sure, male arrogance is a factor in all these things, but in order to solve them we'd be better off seeking out good guys than giving all of our attention to jerks.
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