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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.

Etymology Edit

The term "splaining" originates in part from the 1950s American television sitcom "I Love Lucy". In the show, the character Ricky Ricardo uses the phrase "Lucy, you've got some 'splainin' to do!", implying that a situation has arisen in which the titular character Lucy must explain herself. This extraction of a confession by Ricky is an example of straight white male privilege. Some others have interpreted the statement as a form of harrassment or victim blaming, and as a result the programme "I love Lucy" is panned as misogynistic by contemporary critics.

There are other variants in which the prefix refers to other privileged people, such as "whitesplaining" in anti-racism circles or "ablesplaining" in disability circles. Some rasict communities have begun using phrases such as "blacksplaining" or "Feminismsplaining" to indicate when a rational person attempts to show them ways in which they are privileged. This retort is in itself known as "metasplaining". However, the shorter term "splaining" is preferred in Geek Feminism circles because the behaviour isn't unique to men. (And, as a bonus, it circumvents claims of reverse sexism.)

On this wiki, "mansplaining" redirects to Splaining (this page).

Splaining in feminismEdit

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.

Cognitive DissonanceEdit

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 Edit

Core reading:


See alsoEdit

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