One of the lovely words that feminism has created is “mansplaining”. Unlike “bromance” or “manscaping” or “murse”, which imply that men’s non-sexual same-gender friendships, untamed body hair, or fashion accessories are somehow totally different from women’s, mansplaining is not an attempt to state that men explain things differently than women. I think Karen Healey says it well:
Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.
Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!
It’s the “Well, actually…” of discussions about gender (or any topic, really). As an example of the attitude in question: I had a discussion today with a guy who thinks that he knows everything. On any topic for which you could ever dream up, he would confidently assert his opinion, stated more as fact than opinion. While I admit that he is certainly well-read, no one is capable of being an expert in every topic. But conversations with this person quickly devolve into a lesson about how you are wrong and he is right. He frequently cuts people off to interject his disagreement before even having anything to disagree about, and relays his points with didactic condescension. All-around, he is just an annoying conversation partner. Take this attitude, and put it in the context of men conversing with women, and you have mansplaining.Continue Reading
The world is full to the brim with limitless variety, and humans themselves have boundless diversity. But many people have some concept of what is “normal” that selects a small slice of this diversity and nothing else. In and of itself, categorizing things this way is not harmful; however, usually the concept of “normal” is accompanied by a condemnation of what is “abnormal”. And when people are pressured to be “normal” and any deviance is denigrated as “weird” or “strange”, the social ostracism and identity conflict that this can produce can bring immense psychological suffering. It hurts to be abnormal.Continue Reading
I’m consistently amazed at how little self-awareness people can have at times. Or, at least, I’m assuming that there are others with as little self-awareness as me. My understanding of myself seems to come in bursts of revelation rather than slow, incremental gain. As my thoughts swirl around in a storm, sudden flashes of insight appear like lightning.
The current storm in my brain has been regarding gender roles. As my understanding of feminism grows, I realize that gender roles are one of the key areas of society that must be challenged in order to provide equal status for women. But such an issue is just as applicable for men as well, since men face gender roles and norms of their own, and it would be somewhat odd to attack feminine gender roles and leave the masculine ones intact. So this issue, more than perhaps some other feminist issues, has an incredible power to unite both men and women in challenging social stigmas and oppression.Continue Reading
Prejudice is still alive and well in many areas of our society. And one mechanism that keeps prejudice alive is the perception of the accuracy of negative stereotypes. For instance, before slavery was made illegal in the US, slave owners would sometimes justify slavery by stating that God made black people less intelligent and more suited for manual labour. And of course, when they looked around, this perception was justified, since slaves with no formal education and with many years of performing manual labour generally fit the stereotype. Thus, a feedback loop was formed, where the stereotype supported the system, and the system supported the stereotype.Continue Reading
"Untitled", by Barbara Kruger
I’ve written at various times about gender issues. I’ve written about gender roles, about gender-neutral language, and about feminism as a label. I have had notes stored on my computer for months now for a post about feminism, but I never feel qualified enough to provide my insight about such a broad movement. In short, it seems clear to me that thoughts about gender issues have taken up prominent residence in my mind. So I’d like to share a few of those thoughts. I’d also like to hear what others have to say in reply, so please feel free to comment afterwards.Continue Reading
Language changes as culture changes. That is supremely evident from any cursory historical analysis. And as feminism rose and made its impact on Western culture, language changed to reflect that influence. One only needs to read books from a hundred years ago to see the change. Where once humanity was referred to as “mankind”, and where it was acceptable to refer to doctors as “he” and secretaries as “she”, now gender-inclusive language is encouraged and used. Now mailmen are postal workers, stewardesses are airline attendants, and policemen are police officers. I view this as a positive change that better reflects the diversity of the culture in which we live.Continue Reading
A while back, I got a request from my sister that I should write up something on my blog about gender roles in religion. And while I, the good brother that I am, have been trying to do so, such a topic is a difficult one to cover. The difficulty is that religion, with all its diversity, has had numerous effects, both positive and negative, on gender roles. While Hindus, for example, have goddesses that are worshiped, Islam has women living behind black veils. Such a topic would be too broad. So what about Christianity specifically? Even within just this one religion, there have been numerous responses to gender roles over the centuries of the Christian religion. But I will do my best to examine some of the answers that have been given from the first century CE until today, as well as a more general discussion about why gender roles exist and whether they are helpful or harmful to society.Continue Reading