“I need more evidence,” and other things that probably make you a mansplainer

Yesterday, I read a really smart piece in a new music magazine called the Quietus, about a series of comments made by an obscure dubstep producer on twitter that were, on any rudimentary level, anti-feminist in their tenor. As a long time fan of electronic music and a feminist writer, I was most interested in this debacle.

I started going to drum and bass parties when I was 18, have never stopped listening to the music and all the ways it has evolved, whether that be techno, house, dubstep, garage or UK funky. I have been in some way part of the scene for 15 years (what I’m trying to say here is I know my shit).

As a feminist writer–I am interested in the intersection of culture and gender and specifically dance music culture and being a woman in it. I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that underground electronic music, especially dubstep and drum and bass culture, is a boys’ club. The contributions of men are generally most respected–women and women of color often used as center pieces for much of their work (by way of sampling or cover art) but not the core demographic of people participating in the scene or producing and consuming the music. This would play out in mundane ways, like people asking if I was at a party with my boyfriend , men bragging about their music tastes but getting their facts wrong and not realizing I would know or pointing out the 2 women that either DJ or produce music (and are generally conventionally hot–starting to sound like the Repubs amirite?).

So, I wasn’t too surprised that the same scene that has never been particularly progressive in its inclusion of women has members that are not well versed on the politics of feminism. This is not really uncommon in music scenes and is hardly unique to electronic music, but like many women that are part of music circles, I was faced with a dilemma. I was faced with the task of critiquing people and a scene that I am not only a member of, but people I genuinely respect.

I’m not as much interested in going in to the specific details of this incident, I think the Quietus did that quite eloquently. Instead, I would like to start a working list of how to spot mansplaining in the wild–when we are out of our feminist circles, in places where we feel comfortable but are confronted with blatant moments of sexism and are made to feel like we are imagining them. This list was inspired by a very long conversation I had in a Facebook group that is a spin-off of the turntable.fm room I hang out in:

  1. This is not a big fucking deal–also known as, I understand that sexism is out there, but this is hardly an example of it–there are much worse things we should focus on so please leave my fantasy world where sexism is no big deal out of it. Trust me young lady, I know what sexism is but why are you being so dramatic?
  2. I need more evidence–often when women claim they experience sexism they are told they were imagining it and that what they experienced was hardly a moment of sexism–but maybe if they had more evidence they would be believed. Or, “maybe that guy was an asshole, but he’s just an asshole, not a misogynist.” I shouldn’t have to get punched by a DJ or sexually harassed at the club for someone to believe that I experienced sexism. Many of the things we talk about are hard to prove with “evidence” so we are faced with fighting a culture that doesn’t believe we can be sexually harassed. Often, the amount of evidence that would ever be needed to prove the “crime” would be impossible, since the mindset is so set in stone.
  3. You claim you are being persecuted by well-reasoned analysis–yet, somehow, the one bringing the claim is the dramatic one. For example, you say “all of these statistics suggest that women do not have the same level of access as men when it comes to math and science,” and the response is, “I can not believe I have been slighted by this dogmatic lesbian feminism, I am exhausted from this witch-hunt.”
  4. You don’t explain how you were misunderstood–instead get into in-depth discussions about the meaning of life, words that can be interpreted differently (like “good”) and focus on semantics. Important note: if you were misquoted, than clearly explain what you meant to say–not engage in some evasive response that makes no sense.
  5. You were “just kidding”–because clearly, you are so well versed in feminist politics that you just make fun of stuff and we should get your highly nuanced, deeply political humor.
  6. You find one woman to claim you are not a sexist–big fucking deal. Also: see Herman Cain–there are a lot of people out there that make no sense.
  7. Women are just not drawn to “x”–also known as the nature argument, i.e., ‘the reason there are no women interested in dubstep is because it is just male dominated–that’s just the way it is.’ With facts like that, who needs fiction?
  8. Where is your logix?!–despite continually presenting logical reasoning, mansplainers are often so dogmatically attached to their mental frameworks, they don’t see your logic. For example, you may say, “hmm, why is the cover of that youtube video a picture of a woman with headphones on her breasts instead of a bra–that seems pretty sexualizing and suggests a trend towards misogyny!” Response: “Woman! Can you please stop being so emotional and give me a logical explanation for how that is sexist–did that picture rape somebody?”

Hopefully this can help you, as you enter the wild world of male dominated cultural spaces. Mansplainin is alive and thriving, almost comically so. I no longer get shocked or upset, I just laugh because I can’t believe the responses are so text book.

Please feel free to add more in comments.

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19 Comments

  1. Posted November 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    rationalization – (psychiatry) a defense mechanism by which your true motivation is concealed by explaining your actions and feelings in a way that is not threatening.

  2. Posted November 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    TRUTH. I had a discussion (ugh, it was via text messages, but whatever) with a male friend this morning about the Herman Cain b.s. His take on it was insanely simplistic: “Well why did they wait ten years to say anything? That is much less credible to me,” ignoring the fact that they DID do something about it, and also ignoring the fact that in the early 90s, the work place was very, very different for women as compared to now.

    Asking for “more evidence” is the very reason why many women don’t report sexual harassment. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking observation, but the fact that I had to explain that to a 22-year-old college educated male was incredibly frustrating.

    I also find that another mansplaining approach is to try to take the “devil’s advocate” position, particularly in a situation where IT IS NOT NECESSARY. My boyfriend, I effing love him and he is wonderful, but sometimes he tries to do that with the excuse that it “Creates discussion.” Honey, we can have a discussion without you trying to play devil’s advocate.

  3. Posted November 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    This is a great break-down of typical mansplaining (which suprisingly comes out of women’s mouths sometimes too). But what I *really need* is advice on how to respond. Or at least, how to calm the boiling anger that arises in me as a result of these kinds of statements. I’m not at the point where I can “just laugh”. How do people here deal with the f’d up world we live in?

  4. Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Men just like to ogle- It’s science!- wherein a man concedes that another male was being a sexist toolbag, but shrugs it off by excusing it with pseudo-science. “hey babe, men are just hard-wired to find women sexy. They can’t help it if it makes them touch women and comment on their bodies!”

    Men have problems too- wherein a man responds to sexism by saying something like “hey, everyone has problems. Somebody once called me ‘baldy’ because I have a bald head. I don’t let it get me down.” AKA: ATTENTION ALL FEMINISTS: CEASE AND DESIST ALL FEMINIST SOCIAL ACTION- APPARENTLY, BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO EVERYONE SO WE DON’T WORRY ABOUT SEXISM ANYMORE. IT’S COOL, GUYS. JUST CHILL.

    • Posted November 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      WE DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT*

    • Posted November 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      I’m not saying sexism is right but there is nothing wrong with the message “don’t let it get you down”. It’s a really good message actually because everyone (male and female) hears things they don’t like.

      • Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

        In response to complaining about the vast array of misogyny she faces, you, a man, who does not face misogyny, says “don’t let it get you down”. It sounds like you want her to shut up, stop complaining, stop trying to change things, and just grin and bear it: You want her to start smiling and pretending to be cheerful and be “fun for men to be around”.

        Maybe since men don’t have to face misogyny on a daily basis, hearing “don’t let it get you down” might be really inspirational and meaningful. But I wouldn’t say it to women in response to their complaints about misogyny.

      • Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

        In reference to most things, “don’t let it get you down” can be a mixed message. Used correctly it says “I’m on your side and I care that this is a problem”, but as Jemma notes it often sounds like you’re playing down the issue: that it’s not important enough to be upset about.

        Yes, everyone hears things they don’t like. Having privilege doesn’t make you happy, and few people are truly free from discrimination. But there’s a huge body of evidence that at every level of society, women on average get given the short end of the stick. And being supportive to someone having a bad time involves recognising the seriousness of what they’re up against. “Don’t let it get you down” needs to be tempered with “You deserve better.”

  5. Posted November 18, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I’ve never liked the word ‘mansplaining’; I really think we need a different one.
    I completely agree with what’s been said and its worth talking about, but what does this have to do with men? It’s about people (As Mika said men or women) defending sexism with self-defensive cack. Unless men=sexists and sexists=men, or ‘mansplaining’ is something provably done by a large percentage of men and no women, it’s a fairly stupid name for it.

    I feel the subsequent “your language influences your worldview, and how your message is received” discussion isn’t necessary here, but you can see what I’m getting at.

    Also I wish I was starting off with a less negative comment. I’ve always liked Feministing.

    • Posted November 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always found it an unwieldy word to say aloud. I think the words “condescending” or “patronizing” convey this idea, if not specific to conversations about sexism. Although maybe tellingly “patronizing” has roots in the Latin “patronus”, which is also masculine…

      • Posted November 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, definitely Condescension. Also, now I’m thinking about it, ‘getting brushed off’, ‘denial’ and ‘silencing’. I guess ‘patronising’ may reflect poorly on fathers, but well-established words can get off the hook unless they’re really offensive. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing Latin’s given us.

    • Posted November 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      “Unless men=sexists and sexists=men, or ‘mansplaining’ is something provably done by a large percentage of men and no women, it’s a fairly stupid name for it.”

      No, men do not =sexists and sexists do not =men. However, an uneven gender power dynamic (aka sexism and male privilege ) is OFTEN operative in these discussions.

      And most of the time the sexism is on the part of (some) men in the conversation. It is not exclusively (or all) men who make these kinds of arguments, but it very often is men.

      Part of the dynamic being discussed here involves male privilege –the fact that the ‘splainer feels even more entitled (possibly subconsciously) than he otherwise would because he is talking to women and/or feminists (who our society teaches are always more falliable than men). This is part of why I do not totally object to the term “mansplainer.” I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of it, particularly in male-dominated geek spaces.

  6. Posted November 18, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    @Daniel – Is your post performance art? If not, please read the post, particularly the 2nd point, and think about irony.

    • Posted November 19, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      My contention isn’t with Sam’s analysis of misogyny. That’s ALL true and as I said it’s important. But implying misogyny is “a guy thing” is wholly inaccurate and unnecessarily divisive.

      Also, mocking my position rather than showing consideration, and countering it with thoughts of your own, is dismissive. As Samhita notes, if someone says something’s sexist, their argument should ALWAYS be given room.

  7. Posted November 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I think this explanation of the term “mansplaining” is the best I’ve seen:

    “Mansplaining isn’t just the act of explaining while male, of course; many men manage to explain things every day without in the least insulting their listeners.

    Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.

    Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!

    Think about the men you know. Do any of them display that delightful mixture of privilege and ignorance that leads to condescending, inaccurate explanations, delivered with the rock-solid conviction of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation?

    That dude is a mansplainer.”

    Quoted from/ more at
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/01/it-looks-like-were-going-to-have.html

  8. Posted November 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    A man mansplaining about mansplaining? Methinks the point’s been made in spades :)

    • Posted November 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      Me, right?

      I don’t feel I was condescending; I didn’t ignore the opinions of the person I was replying to, I agreed with them unanimously. Casual, even unintentional misogynists (who are certainly no less dangerous or at fault than vehement supremacists) ARE very prone to tuning out things that upset their worldview; I’ve seen that enough times and it makes me angry too.

      If that’s not how I came across then I’ll apologise. I only raised an issue about the language.

      “Patriarchy hurts men too” says… everyone round here; part of the way it does that is by characterising all men as aggressors and all women as innocents (or least harmless). That oversimplification hurts people. With that in mind, is there really any reason to use the word when there’s other ones that mean basically the same thing?

      This is probably the last I have to say about it, because let’s face it, this isn’t the wage gap. But then, people say that about the wage gap: that’s what ‘mansplaining’, or whatever one calls it, is.

      • Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

        We can’t just ignore the fact that men by and large created misogyny, and men by and large perpetuate and maintain misogyny.

    • Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      Aww, I was about to pop in with that same comment, well done.

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