"Mansplaining" Critique Really Upsets Men, Who Are Usually Too Busy Feigning Concern For the Subjects of Women's Memoirs
In the wake of our re-realization yesterday that the executive class of Apple is an all-male revue, there are (at least) two interesting woman-related discussions going on up in the Internet. One involves manplaining. The other has to do with how men treat women when they write about things. And they are sooo related. Let us begin with Awl pal and comedian Julie Klausner, who is meeting lots of concern from men about how the people in her book will be represented. Um, Julie asks: what about me?
All I will say is that I've done a few interviews this week about "Le Book," and if one more guy asks me how I think the people in my book will react to my writing about them, and was it revenge and did I use their real names and aren't I worried, I might crack like Mink Stole in Desperate Living. Because, first of all, who am I, Babs Walters writing Audition? I am nobody who slept with anybody. There are no boldface names, just pseudonyms and other details I added to protect the characters in my stories after consulting with Penguin Legal and my own lawyer who is Jewish, by the way, in case you need his contact info. Important: It's MY real name that's going on this thing-I'm the one putting myself out there, in whatever cross hairs, looking the most like an idiot, if anything, or at least the most vulnerable and honest and ideally ridiculous because HEY EVERYBODY I AM DANCING AROUND AND TELLING JOKES A LOT IN BETWEEN THE STUFF THAT IS SAD. Meanwhile! Nobody protected me when I was in the thick of these situations; and look at John Edwards, or don't, look at David Letterman, whom I have always IDOLIZED as a comedian, and who had to be told over the weekend between his glib announcement about doing "creepy things" and his apology to his wife and staff that he actually may have hurt some people and needed to apologize?
And Emily Gould, who has her own book of essays coming out this spring, cosigned this very concisely:
Many dudes – and some ladies who have internalized dude values – hate it when women write honestly about sex. They get angry. They express their anger by feigning concern for the men these women have supposedly hurt, as if books are supposed to be produced under ethical conditions, like Murray's chicken.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Internet? A woman wrote about mansplaining. This, as you know if you are a woman, is when a man explains reality to you in a way that is intended to overrule what you very clearly know is actual reality, or to tell you things you have already said, or to tell you that what you are doing right is wrong.
You may not be surprised to hear that this did not go so well with men! When Suzanne Franks tried this idea out at her science blog, she got lots of amazing responses ("May I send this definition to my colleague Roger, who stood over me while I changed my tire, telling me exactly how I was doing it wrong even though I did it perfectly in less than five minutes?"), but then…. some MANSPLAINING HAPPENED.
Kate Harding rounded up her commenter mansplainers, who flipped out a bit. (THESE MEN WERE HAVING THEIR FEELINGS DISMISSED!)
But the comments on her own site are pretty great, including the story of the boyfriend who explains why a woman should not be knocked out by an especially bad period. And, this one:
Mercifully I know only one habitual mansplainer. He is a gay mansplainer who has never, even in the interest of medical science/curiosity/drunkenness, Done It With A Lady. Yet this did not prevent him from mansplaining to me, (A Lady), that "women don't actually like sex they just pretend to in order to keep men happy". He also once assured me that I could not possibly reach my own g-spot on the basis that another Lady told him she couldn't reach hers. (At which point I may have Lost It and shrieked, "Hel-lo? Who's got the minge in this room, chummy? Oooh, I rather think it's me!" (in a decidedly unLadylike fashion, though, to be fair, I was drunk).
Obviously, each of these hundreds of ladies are totally wrong but I don't have time to set them right just now, because I'm so very busy.