Splaining or 'Splaining is a form of condescension in which a member of a privileged group explains something to a member of a marginalised group -- most particularly, explains about their marginalisation -- as if the privileged person knows more about it. Examples include (but are not limited to) a man explaining sexism to a woman, or a white person explaining racism to a black person.
Splaining is common among newcomers to an oppression discussion (though not limited to newcomers): often, within minutes of first hearing about a problem for an oppressed group, the splainer suggests that the group should "just" respond in a certain very obvious way.
On this wiki, "mansplaining" redirects to Splaining (this page).
Though 'mansplaining' is the original case of 'splaining, there are many other variants of condescending and misinformed speech from a privileged individual/group to one that is underprivileged or oppressed. These variants are named with a prefix referring to the privilege, such as "whitesplaining" in anti-racism circles or "ablesplaining" in disability circles. Many more exist and/or can be conceived, such as cissplaining, straightsplaining, wealthysplaining, thinsplaining.
Some communities have begun using phrases such as "blacksplaining" or "feminismsplaining" to discount an oppressed person's speech when they voice their concerns or experiences of racism/sexism respectively. This retort is in itself known as "metasplaining".
Geek Feminism advises to generally prefer the shorter term "splaining" because there are many variants, and 'splaining can and often does intersect multiple privileges. As a bonus, a gender neutral term circumvents claims of reverse sexism (which doesn't really exist) and avoids cisnormativity.
Splaining in feminism
Some styles of splaining include:
- observing that feminism is very new and that feminists are expecting too much of the current generation of men (the splainer is usually wrong here about the history of feminism)
- suggesting obvious responses to sexism such as ignoring it, making fun of it, fighting back, or reporting it to authorities
- suggesting to a woman that she read resources or consider joining women's or feminist groups without considering the possibility that she knows of them, has used them, was the person who created them, or may even be one of their most prominent critics
- expending great effort on crafting non-sexist interpretations of a sexist remark or action.
In geekdom, a geeksplain is when person A explains something to person B from first principles despite A not knowing B's expertise level, or even if A knows that B is an expert. Geeksplaining is gendered: women geeks are disproportionately assumed to be non-experts and splained to. Some people also call geeksplaining from a male splainer to a female splainee "mansplaining".
While geeksplaining isn't the same as having someone appointing themself as the expert on other people's oppression, it is a pervasive experience for women geeks.
Having technical information explained to a person in a very condescending way may cause a form of cognitive dissonance. A person passionate about a technical subject may want to absorb the information given. However, the nature in which the information was given may put the receiver on guard and in a state of unease, and the information may be rejected. People tend to mentally deflect insults. The result is that retention of the material is jeopardized.
In academic settings, this would be a hostile learning environment. For some students (visual and tactile learners), courses that do not follow textbooks, offer minimal slide presentation material, and rely overwhelmingly on one-on-one verbal instruction, compound the effect.
In addition, the professor can claim to have explained the material to the student before and blame the student for not listening.
Examples and further reading
- Rebecca Solnit's article in the Los Angeles Times, Men Who Explain Things, is the best known description of the phenomenon of splaining.
- Karen Healey popularised the term "mansplaining" in her post, A Woman's Born to Weep and Fret and the followup.
- Mansplaining: how not to talk to female Nasa astronauts by Laura Bates for the Guardian
- You may be a mansplainer if... by Zuska
- The Art of Mansplaining (Fannie's Room)
- CHRONICLES OF MANSPLAINING: Professor Feminism and the Deleted Comments of Doom at Tiger Beatdown
- There are molecules in the brain called neurotransmitters at I Blame The Patriarchy