“Lucy! You got some ‘splaining to do!”
It was one of Ricky Ricardo’s most memorable lines. But nowadays, Lucy doesn’t get to do the ‘splaining. That’s because the latest trend is mansplaining. (It isn’t really a new trend. It’s been around since Og tried to teach Raquel how to build a fire. But I digress.)
Mansplaining is really simple. It assumes that women are really simple, and that a man knows better than they do – about everything, but especially about highly intellectual subjects like politics, technology, history, economics, sports, and fire-starting. He talks down to her – sometimes literally, as it’s not uncommon for him to mansplain while standing over her. The thing is, the woman already knows the topic well and didn’t ask for any ‘splanation.
“Actually” is the signal that introduces an episode of mansplaining. “Actually, Christopher Columbus never landed in America.” “Actually, Big Ben is not the clock.” “Actually, you have to rub the two sticks together.” The mansplainer is at the same time authoritative and condescending. He may really think he’s helping, but the effect is demeaning.
The classic tale of mansplaining is that, at some kind of conference, a man lectured a woman about the subject, saying that she had got whatever-it-was all wrong. “You need to read McCarthy, et al.,” he pontificated. She pointed to her nametag. “I am McCarthy, et al.,” she replied.
Nor is mansplaining the only gaucherie that men have been accused of. Manspreading is another. Notice how men often sit with their legs wide apart. It takes up more space than necessary, which leaves less room for someone else (i.e., women). (Men say that they have to sit that way because it’s the only way they can be comfortable, but I think it’s really because they want to take the opportunity to display their package. But I digress again.)
Now, though, it seems there’s a whole lot of ‘splaining going on. The latest trend I’ve heard of is “richsplaining” – when well-off people try to tell less-well-off people how to save money. “Cut out Starbucks.” “Buy cheap sneakers.” (As if there are any!) “Eat only beans and rice.” “Go to fire sales.”
I haven’t heard of it being official yet, but I’d like to introduce the word “sanesplaining” – when people with no emotional problems lecture those who have them about the best route to proper mental health. “Take vitamins.” “Try yoga.” “Choose happiness.” “Don’t be so depressed.” “Own the fire.”
Related to that is medsplaining. Avid Googlers who “do their own research” have all the answers and are all too eager to share them with friends, relatives, and even strangers – sometimes even their doctors. “Apple cider vinegar is all you need.” “Slug slime is a magic age-eraser.” (I’ve actually seen that product.) “Blueberries/kale/kohlrabi/quinoa/chia seeds are superfoods.” “Firewalking will cure what ails you.”
Then there’s momsplaining. Everyone seems to know better how to raise children than actual mothers do. “Teach them manners.” “Teach them phonics.” “Don’t let them read comics.” (That’s “graphic novels,” boomer.) “Don’t let them set the cat on fire.”
(Come to think of it, I’m a boomer and I know what graphic novels are. Have I just invented selfsplaining? But I digress yet again.)
When Ricky asked Lucy for a ‘splanation, he wanted her to account for her own behavior. Let’s get back to that instead of spouting off “wisdom” to people who don’t want or need it. And unless you’re stranded in the Arctic with someone, don’t offer advice on fires.
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