surinenglish

Mansplaining

The American writer Rebecca Solnit tells the story of how once, at a party, a man approached her to ask about her literary career. She mentioned her latest book, about the British photographer and researcher Eadweard Muybridge. She didn't get the chance to explain much more. Her companion interrupted her and asked, in a badly calculated attempt to show up the writer's ignorance, if she had heard of the "most important" book that had been released that year about Muybridge. The end of the story is easy to imagine: the book that this audacious chap - she calls him "Mr Very Important" - was talking about was hers. The anecdote is, undoubtedly, the most embarrassing that the writer describes in her article Men Explain Things To Me, that she later turned into a book.

Her case is often brought up as an example of "mansplaining": behaviour, generally that of a man towards a woman, where he explains in a condescending or paternal manner things that she already knows (perhaps even better than him).

We could act blonde, as the former president of Madrid Cifuentes said, - "When you act blonde in a meeting with men you achieve more," (April 2017, before she was caught with a dodgy Masters degree and shoplifting) - but who hasn't been in a situation, perhaps not as extreme as Solnit's but similar, and out of politeness endured the boring speech so that the peacock could open his splendid tail feathers.

Mr Casado (Partido Popular leader) offered a text book example of mansplaining last week. "I think that it's good for pregnant women to know what they are carrying inside: an autonomous life." Read the sentence again. I don't even want to delve into the ideological issues - that no woman should decide to have an abortion under external pressure, he said - I'm just suggesting we look at how he explained it. It's good for them to know, ie they don't know, or they don't know enough, or perhaps they need us men to show them or guide them so that they know what they have to know; because I do know or I know more than them and that's why I explain it like that, to make it clear that among women there is ignorance about what I'm talking about and, of course, know all about.

Casado isn't explaining how cumulonimbus clouds are formed, nor the physical training required to conquer Everest, matters in which he may or may not be a great expert. No: he wants to explain to us women what we are carrying inside our wombs when we get pregnant. Fantastic.

By the way the Fundéu (the Urgent Spanish Foundation, which offers advice about how language is used) has come up with Spanish suggestions to avoid the Anglicism of mansplaining. They tell us to call it "condescendencia masculina", or male condescension, if the context permits. That's about right.