Ok. I love the cultural backing up of mansplaining here. This is a necessary part of the discussion.
If you want to get to the really interesting part, jump to the bottom of this piece:
The attack on mansplaining attacks disabled men.
But… before that, there is a lead-up — in which I describe how spreading on the subway is either rude, or is a function of seats being designed poorly [perhaps in a racist or classist or ableist manner]. That there is manspreading [doing so when one’s body type allows for you to only take up one seat], and that it is rude when anyone does it. But that there isn’t a one-size fits all manspreading or mansplaining because manspreading or mansplaining in some cases is due to a disability and attacking it fat-shames men [manspreading] or is ableist [mansplaining].
But even before that, on mansplaining — and I assume the original poster knows all this, so this is for the benefit of the readers for whom I don’t assume anything, I want to bolster what she said. I want to support it prior to questioning the scenario of the comic.
To add to what you [the original poster] said, I heard the original Solnit piece was about Solnit trying to talk about a subject for which she was an expert in a social situation — a man kept explaining the subject to her. Finally, she asks his source: it is a source she wrote.
So mansplaining originally had a very specific context: not just assuming a woman didn’t know what she was talking about, but a man who knows less is explaining to a woman who knows more without trying to understand her background first, without framing his comments in the form of adding to, or questioning, or discussing with an expert in the field. That obviously springs from the original poster’s cultural setup, illustrated beautifully in her comic, and is easily seen by the pervasiveness of male genius in movies and other cultural artifacts. It is a thing, and it needs to be dealt with.
Now: back to mansplaining on a date. Or manspreading on a subway.
I’m expressing my view here, and I am not assuming you [the original poster] do not know this. I want to add this to the conversation.
On a subway, I don’t think anyone has a right to take up more than one seat. Obviously, we need to redesign seats to take into account realistic body shapes and sizes. The designers of the subway seats did not account for, nor did they accommodate, the obese woman who sat down on me on the subway on Friday when I was leaving extra room in my seat. Had they done so, there would be a variety of seat sizes ordered by body-type on the subway — and signage indicating you should sit in a seat which most closely suits your body size. There would be an expectation to yield your seat if someone larger than you needs your seat and you are sitting in a seat larger than you are. There would be an expectation to yield your seat if you are sitting in a non-disabled seat and you are sitting in a seat which is narrower than you are. (Maybe, to suit people travelling together, there could be four seat sizes. And so an obese person could find a seat which suits her next to her partner who is thinner. Then if other obese people get on the subway, the thin person would need to stand or politely explain she is the partner of the obese woman.)
Anyway: on the subway, I hate manspreading. I also dislike people of any gender who take up too much seat — to avoid fatshaming here, I’m going to go with an example of a non-obese person who either spreads legs or arms or belongings to take up more than one seat. When I board the subway for my 1.5 hour long commute [okay, subway, then bus], I want a seat so I can read whatever heavy book I’m lugging around. I just want a seat. If the man is manspreading, it is going it irritate me. If the woman is doing the same [not womanspreading, but taking up too much seat ]— it irritates me. Again, for now, let’s leave obesity out of this, even though in my experience a lot of the manspreading is done by obese men for the same reason obese women do it. It is difficult to cramp a body up into a seat designed too small for one’s body shape and size. I am thin, but I can’t tell you the # of times I’ve been sat on by men or women because seat sizes aren’t designed well, or fairly, even though I leave room on either side of my seat for larger people to sit next to me. I need to look up who the model was for seat sizes in the subway. The point is: man or woman: I want a seat. Is it not fair for me to expect men or women to take up only one seat, unless their body prevents that?
On a date: shouldn’t both a woman and a man obey the same rules of asking backgrounds before assuming to explain a topic? I’m not sure I know of many people fond of sitting through a 10 minute explanation on something for which they are an expert when the speaker doesn’t allow space or room for polite redirection — without interruption.
I am trying to be an ally. If in a social situation a woman observes me assuming too much and knows I am trying to be an ally, wouldn’t it be better to politely remind me that she is an expert in the subject I’m explaining to her, so we can go into a more conversational mode, so I can switch from a mode in which I assume I need to explain something? I assume that with any highly specialized topic / technical topic and with any audience, men or women, not just women. I had to teach myself to ask first. I’m genuinely used to being the guy who researches an oddly specific topic in a lot of depth for no good reason and who brings it up in polite conversation with male or female friends, and I used to assume they didn’t know. Now I ask. I don’t mansplain any more, but when I did — a polite correction which didn’t feel like placing the weight of my cultural privilege on me at that very moment went a lot further to strengthening the alliance than a curt use of a gendered term. Later, the moment could be used as a teachable moment — to explain the history and cultural artifacts possibly implicit in my assumption.
Yes, that does place the responsibility, once again, on the oppressed, not the oppressor. However, I’m dealing with a very specific situation: a social situation, one on one, with a presumed ally.
Here are places where I believe mansplaining should be dealt with more in a more pointed [accusatory, teaching, assertive, blunt] manner, not just by women but by allies:
- In a professional setting
- In a group setting
- When a woman is dealing with a person who is not a presumed ally
Unless your body type prevents you, no matter what gender you identify as, please only take up one seat on public transportation.
Unless you were born with a disability which prevents you [without a struggle], no matter what gender you identify as, please ask a person what his or her background is with a topic before assuming he or she knows more of the subject or that he or she knows less of the subject than you do.
One thing about the attack on mansplaining is not just attacking would-be allies with a history of privilege they might not be aware of in a form which does not recruit and strengthen allies — it is also ableist in some cases.
Some things considered disabling conditions prevent good social awareness [social anxieties, people on the spectrum, etc].
The attack on mansplaining attacks disabled men.
I know this is TLDR; but I wanted to bring this into the conversation.