OOf the many blows exchanged between aspiring Tory leaders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, perhaps the most surprising were accusations of “aggressive mansplaining” by the former Chancellor of the Foreign Secretary’s camp.
Sunak’s interruptions in Monday night’s one-on-one debate, his speaking out on Truss, his “screaming private school behavior” were condemned as “desperate” and “unseemly” by Truss supporters.
Sunak’s team fought back. Yes, the debate was lively. But it was “insulting” to suggest that Truss could not look after herself in a “tumultuous” debate, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab insisted. Others said Sunak was simply explaining the flaws in Truss’s proposed fiscal policy. Nothing sexist there.
So when does the simple act of explaining become the much busier “mansplaining”?
According to the OED, the verb “mansplain” is defined as “of a man: to explain (something) unnecessarily, authoritatively or condescendingly, esp. (usually when addressing a woman) in a manner intended to reveal a condescending or chauvinistic attitude”.
Or, as Catherine Mayer, co-founder and president of the Women’s Equality Party, journalist and activist, sums it up: “In its strictest sense, mansplaining is explaining to women things that women already understand perhaps better than men. speaker.
“Mansplaining can be quite funny. I know we get angry about this. But, one of the perils of being a co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party is the number of men who rush to tell me how to do, or not do, feminism,” she said. .
“But, mansplaining is a huge, constant thing. And there are a lot of them right now.”
The term was first coined in 2008, following an essay by American author Rebecca Solnit titled Men Explain Things to Me in the Los Angeles Times, in which she described a time when a man had explained a book without acknowledging that she had written it herself. This led to the term, which was initially adopted on feminist blogs, with steadily growing usage. Now it’s mainstream.
Mansplaining, Mayer said, is “very much part of the larger culture that places different value on what men and women say. Men have big ideas, and what they say is given importance that it may or may not have. Whereas women with big ideas are told they are pushy or discussed, and their ideas are either co-opted or ignored. And the structural exclusion of vital ideas and perspectives is one of the reasons politics is so broken.
She hasn’t watched the Sunak-Truss debate, but thinks the two are “hopeless candidates.” And that being so, she says, “it potentially confuses the issue of malpractice” in this case. “Trussanomics” – or Truss’ economic policy – was unworkable, Mayer believed. “And so, it’s likely that she gave Sunak some leeway as well as a mansplanation.”
Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price had no such hesitation, tweeting: “Most female MPs have been charged with guilt and discussed in debates. Never a worse example than right now on the BBC.
Manterrruption goes hand in hand with mansplaining. And Sunak definitely interrupted.
Asked about BBC Breakfast, Truss supporter Simon Clarke MP said: ‘He certainly interrupted Liz a lot’, although he refused to use the word ‘mansplain’ saying only: ‘I’m not going to tie d ‘labels’. Sunak supporter David Davis, however, saw it as the cut and thrust of healthy debate, saying, “Sometimes it’s important to jump in on debates.”
Manterruption is “certainly part of the same culture,” Mayer said. “Being assertive is good. Talking to others is not. It’s sort of borderline mansplaining.
Robert Lawson, associate professor of sociolinguistics at Birmingham City University, said the Sunak-Truss debate would inevitably see an increase in the use of the hashtags #mansplaining and #manterruption on Twitter, as such events spark debate on the issue.
“Then it becomes a debate around ‘what is mansplaining? Has he definitely mansplained? Is this just a case where he was explaining something and he’s a man? And so this debate is about what constitutes mansplaining and what doesn’t,” Lawson, co-author of an academic paper titled Gender Politics and Discourse of #mansplaining #manspreading and #manterruption, tweeted.
The definition of mansplaining in the field of sociolinguistics is “a condescending, condescending explanation” for someone who we can “reasonably expect to have some degree of expertise or knowledge in this area”, he said. declared.
“These kind of ‘masculine’ terms are part of a larger strategy around how we actually speak and draw attention to some of the most problematic elements of how men communicate, and whether they communicate like that. , what can be done about it? ”
But, while she thinks that could mean a positive outcome from Monday’s debate, Mayer is less optimistic.
“One of the other things I’ve learned from activism is that it’s extremely important to make people aware of certain things so that you can change them. But that’s just the first step. You also have to make them care, and in our polarized world, those kind of hashtag debates, instead of making people care [an issue] in terms of having a moment of revelation and thinking that I’m going to change my behavior, it tends to reinforce people in the behaviors they already had.