From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Mansplaining is a portmanteau of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining and means "to explain something to someone, characteristically by a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing".[1][2][3][4] Lily Rothman of The Atlantic defines it as "explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman". [5]

Many people consider the term to be pejorative, sexist and patronising to men.[6][7][8][9][10] Its use remains controversial and people who use it may find themselves categorised as sexist and a misandrist. Because of this some moderate feminists consider the term unhelpful to feminism and advocate for its use to be stopped.[10][7]


Solnit's original essay went further, discussing the consequences of this gendered behavior and drawing attention to its effect in creating a conspiracy of silence and disempowerment.[11] Solnit later published Men Explain Things To Me, a collection of seven essays on similar themes. Women, including professionals and experts, are routinely seen or treated as less credible than men, she wrote in the title essay, and their insights or even legal testimony are dismissed unless validated by a man.[12] She argued that this was one symptom of a widespread phenomenon that "keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence."[13]

Mansplaining differs somewhat from other forms of condescension in that it is specifically gender-related, rooted in a sexist assumption that a man will normally be more knowledgeable, or more capable of understanding, than a woman.[14]


Splaining and the verb splain have existed for more than 200 years and were originally simply colloquial pronunciations of the words explaining and explain. Since some time before the first written evidence in 1989 of a shift in meaning, they have increasingly referred to condescending and often extensive or verbose explanations. Since then, the word has been increasingly prefixed by words to refer to who is doing the splaining, of which mansplaining was the first. This remains the best known form of splaining, and it has inspired terms for many more,[1][15] but in some cases the term is also or mostly used in the original positive sense of "explaining", for example gaysplaining.[16]

The neologism[17] mansplaining showed up simultaneously in multiple places, so its origin is difficult to establish.[17] In an essay titled Men Explain Things to Me, Solnit told an anecdote about a man at a party who said he had heard she had written some books. She began to talk about her most recent book at the time, on Eadweard Muybridge, whereupon the man cut her off and asked if she had "heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year" – not considering that it might be (as, in fact, it was) Solnit's book.[18]

The word is thought to have been first used in 2008 or 2009,[19] shortly after Solnit published her April 2008 blog post. In it, she did not use the word mansplaining, but described the phenomenon as "something every woman knows".

A month later, the word appeared in a comment on the social network LiveJournal, and its use has grown since.[5] It soon became popular among feminist bloggers, and then in mainstream cultural commentary.[5][17] It was included on The New York Times' 2010 word of the year list,[17] nominated for the American Dialect Society's most creative word of the year honor in 2012,[4] and added to the online Oxford Dictionaries in 2014.[20]


Since 2010, journalists have used the word to describe people including the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney;[21] Governor of Texas Rick Perry;[22] MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell;[23] various characters on the HBO drama series The Newsroom;[24][25][26] music executive Jimmy Iovine;[27] Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull;[28] actor Matt Damon;[29] and consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader.[30]

In 2013, said it was adding both mansplain and the suffix (libfix) -splain to its dictionary.[31] Its announcement read in part: "In addition to being creative, this term, particularly the -splaining part, has proven to be incredibly robust and useful as a combining form in 2013." noted that the meaning of mansplain had changed somewhat since 2009, from "intense and serious to casual and jocular", while older -splain words still have "heavy cultural and political connotations and are often added to the names of politicians".[31]

Mansplaining has also engendered parallel constructions such as womansplaining, whitesplaining, rightsplaining,[32] and Damonsplaining.[33][34]


The usefulness of the term has been disputed. Given its gender-specific nature and negative connotation, Lesley Kinzel described it as inherently biased, essentialist, dismissive, and a double standard.[35] Author Cathy Young called it "a pejorative term for supposedly obtuse and arrogant male arguments on gender, apparently now also applied to female dissent".[36] As the word became more popular, some commentators complained that misappropriation and overuse had in some instances diluted its original meaning.[37] Liz Cookman writing for The Guardian says that the term "reeks of gender essentialism – the idea that specific physical, social or cultural traits are native to a particular gender" and considers it degrading.[7] Joshua Sealy-Harrington and Tom McLaughlin write in The Globe and Mail that the term has occasionally been used as an ad hominem to silence debate. They suggest that faulty arguments should instead be refuted.[8]

In February 2016, the term sparked an argument between two members of a committee of the Australian Senate.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b '-Splain' predates 'mansplain'. Let us explain.,
  2. ^ Mansplaining,
  3. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (18 November 2014). "Clickbait, Normcore, Mansplain: Runners-Up for Oxford’s Word of the Year". Time. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Zimmer, Ben (5 January 2013). "Tag, You're It! "Hashtag" Wins as 2012 Word of the Year". Visual Thesaurus. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Rothman, Lily (1 November 2012). "A Cultural History of Mansplaining". The Atlantic. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Bissell, Hugh. "Use of the term "Mansplaining" is pejorative, and you should be ashamed for using it". Daily Kos. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c Cookman, Liz (12 February 2015). "Allow me to explain why we don't need words like 'mansplain'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 
  8. ^ a b McLaughlin, Tom; Sealy-Harrington, Joshua (15 April 2014). "Arguments should not be silenced because of their author’s race or sex". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 13 February 2016. 
  9. ^ Conifer, Dan. "Mitch Fifield accuses Katy Gallagher of sexist hypocrisy over 'mansplaining' criticism". Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Young, Cathy (2016-07-04). "Feminists treat men badly and it's bad for feminism". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  11. ^ Men Explain Things to Me; Facts Didn't Get in Their Way - 13 April 2008, essay, Rebecca Solnit
  12. ^ Helen Lewis (4 July 2014). "The Essay That Launched the Term "Mansplaining"". The New Republic. 
  13. ^ Mike Sonksen (11 June 2014). "On Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me". Cultural Weekly. 
  14. ^ Jaschik, Scott (16 October 2012). "Calling Out Academic 'Mansplaining'". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Mansplaining" Spawns a New Suffix by Mark Peters,
  16. ^ Welcome to Outward by J. Bryan Lowder and June Thomas,
  17. ^ a b c d Doyle, Sady (1 May 2014). "Mansplaining, Explained". In These Times. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  18. ^ Solnit, Rebecca (13 April 2008). "Men who explain things". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  19. ^ Robinson, Anna (1 December 2012). "The Art of Mansplaining". The Nation Institute. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  20. ^ "New words added to today include binge-watch, cray, and vape". August 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Cogan, Marin (1 August 2012). "The Mittsplainer: An Alternate Theory of Mitt Romney's Gaffes". GQ. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  22. ^ Weigel, David (27 June 2013). "Mansplaining the Mansplainer: Rick Perry's Accidental Abortion Honesty". Slate. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  23. ^ Ioffe, Julia (8 August 2013). "Dear Lawrence O'Donnell, Don't Mansplain to Me About Russia". The New Republic. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  24. ^ Stuever, Hank (11 July 2013). "'The Newsroom' vs. 'Honey Boo Boo': Which one really gives us more to think about?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  25. ^ Weigel, David (5 August 2013). "Trying to Tolerate The Newsroom, Week Four". Slate. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  26. ^ Greenwald, Andy (16 July 2013). "Death by Newsroom". Grantland. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "Dear Jimmy Iovine: Women Don't Need You to Mansplain Music to Them". Observer. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  28. ^ "PM accused of 'mansplaining' ... but what does it mean?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  29. ^ "Bustle". Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  30. ^ "Ralph Nader Mansplains Monetary Policy to Janet Yellen". Daily Intelligencer. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  31. ^ a b Solomon, Jane (6 December 2013). "Word Watch 2013: -splain". Retrieved 24 November 2014. The possibilities are seeming endless on the -splain front. This gives reason to believe that -splain is not just a temporary fad, but rather a stable new addition to English along with its libfix cousins like -gate, -pocalypse, and -zilla. 
  32. ^ Zimmer, Benjamin; Carson, Charles C. (2013). "Among The New Words" (PDF). American Speech. 88 (2): 196–214. doi:10.1215/00031283-2346771. (subscription required)
  33. ^ 'Damonsplaining': Matt Damon accused of insensitivity BBC News, 16 September 2015
  34. ^ Justin Wm. Moyer, Matt Damon has more ‘Damonsplaining’ to do — this time about alleged anti-gay comments Washington Post, 29 September 2015
  35. ^ Kinzel, Lesley (16 August 2012). "Why You'll Never Hear Me Use the Term 'Mansplain'". XoJane. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  36. ^ Young, Cathy (29 September 2013). "Is the Patriarchy dead?". Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  37. ^ Hart, Benjamin (20 October 2014). "RIP "mansplaining": How the Internet killed one of our most useful words". Salon. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  38. ^ Ireland, Judith (11 February 2016). "'What?': Katy Gallagher explains mansplaining to Mitch Fifield during fiery estimates showdown". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 

External links[edit]