There is literally nothing that some guy, somewhere can't find a way to mansplain — even mansplaining itself. And recently, advice columnist Amy Dickinson had the best response to a mansplainer in "Ask Amy" who attempted to mansplain mansplaining. It was a thing of beauty, so come. Let us bask in the glory of this magnificent clap-back.
Mansplaining as a term was originally inspired by a 2008 essay by Rebecca Solnit entitled "Men Explain Things To Me," in which she described an encounter when a man tried to condescendingly tell her all about an important book that was just published — that Solnit herself had written. The term is generally used as a label for any time that a man explains, often in a condescending manner, something that a woman already knows, making the point that he really shouldn't assume she needs it explained in the first place. And if you think that Solnit's example is clearly the most egregious, a recent comment made to advice columnist Amy Dickinson might just take the cake.
The whole thing began when Dickinson advised a woman who was concerned her husband was cheating. After hearing the numerous warning signs the woman had observed, Dickinson concluded, "I’d say that your husband has some mansplaining to do."
Despite the fact that Dickinson was clearly using the term jokingly and certainly wasn't accusing anyone of actual mansplaining, someone took offense to her use of the word. In a response, someone who identified themselves as Mark R. Bates of the National Coalition For Men, which identifies itself as a men's right organization, took issue with the term. (The National Coalition For Men did not immediately respond to Bustle's request for comment on whether or not the person identifying themself as Mark R. Burns is affiliated with the organization. There is a Mark Burns listed on their website as a member of the board of directors.)
Dear Amy: You used the word “mansplaining” in your reply to “Perplexed.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Mansplaining is a sexist word used by feminists to shut down any debate with a man if they think they can’t win with their argument.
Your use of it in your column is offensive to anyone who is capable of a logical discussion.
Regardless of who this commenter might be, Amy Dickinson did not take his attempt to mansplain mansplaining without pushing back. Instead, in a post on her website entitled "Amysplaining Mansplaining," she replied with the following:
Dear Mark: Others complained that I had misused the word “mansplaining,” but you are the only person to mansplain while doing it.
“Mansplaining” is a slang term used for when men co-opt ideas, thoughts or concepts generated by a woman and then re-explain these concepts back to her in a highly patronizing and “expert” way. (See above.)
Dickinson explains to Bustle in an email, "I received a lot of responses to my choice to use the term 'mansplaining,' responding to a letter in my column." While she says that she reads all of the responses she received, she notes that this one definitely stood out. "I chose this particular comment because it contained an almost magical dynamic," she says, "a man mansplaining mansplaining."
And a lot of women are loving Dickinson's no-nonsense reply.
Dickinson tells Bustle that this isn't the first time she's been mansplained to, and that she's encountered the problem in both her personal and professional life — though it's not something she gets overly worked up about.
"I don't think 'mansplaining' is a particularly serious issue, certainly given other issues that genuinely hurt people," she explains. "But I do think that being aware of this habit does help women and men think about how they communicate."
And indeed, people do generally get a long a lot better when you don't assume the person you're talking to is either uninformed, unintelligent, or just doesn't know what they're talking about. The fact that men certainly seem more likely to assume this about women is unfortunately, but still something we should fix.
In the meantime, here's to shutting down mansplainers, whatever they may attempt to needlessly lecture us about!
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (2)